There is no doubt that when it comes to selling handmade items Etsy are the giants of online marketplaces, but is it as easy to sell on there as everyone makes out and is it worth your time and money?
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of becoming and Etsy seller...
Normally there is good reason why something becomes a leader in their industry. Here's why selling on Etsy could be a good choice for you...
- Its Reputation. Even if you're not in any art or craft business chances are you've heard of Etsy. Often referred to in blogs, magazines or even on TV, Etsy is the handmade alternative to eBay.
- It's User Friendly. To list an item is pretty painless. Choose your header, price and keywords, upload you photos and write your description.
- Its Community. The sheer number of people from around the world using Etsy whether for buying or selling means there are always people to ask if you get stuck, friends to meet and an audience to tell your opinion to.
- It's (Relatively) Cheap. Now I snuck in relatively there because it depends on what you're comparing it to. If you wanted to give selling handmade a try but weren't quite sure if it's really for you, using Etsy could be ideal. There are fees (see cons) but compared to setting up your own website from scratch or some of the other online venues (*cough* eBay), the fees aren't too bad and you only pay to list an item and when an item sells.
- It's International. There are sellers (and buyers) from all over the world.
- It's Interactive. With built in social buttons and favourites, it's a great way to get feedback on your items even when no-one buys. This also encourages people to stay on your page longer leading to a higher conversion rate (more sales :P)
- It Allows Digital Products. Some online venues (again *cough* eBay) don't allow the selling of digital, or, downloadable products but Etsy does! If you have created a knitting pattern, cardmaking image or other product that can be emailed to your customer, Etsy will let you sell it. This is fantastic as it allows you to sell the same creation multiple times and is in a sensepassive income.
Whether we like it or not there is no such thing as perfect *sigh*. With the good comes the bad and these are the things you need to watch out for on Etsy...
- It's swamped. It's popularity is also it's downfall. While it's wonderful to have a large audience of potential buyers, it's also easy to get lost in the crowd and highly competitive. One of the first things people do in tough economic times is look for ways to use their skills to make some extra cash. There is definitely more sellers than buyers on Etsy.
- It costs. Whilst Etsy can be a more affordable way for many to set up a business the fees are still there and you need to keep an eye on them. Especially if you outside the US, as though you can show your own currency on your listings you will still have to accept payment as US Dollars which Paypal and banks normally charge a conversion fee for. The basic fees are 20 cents per item listed and 3.5% of the selling price when an item sells.
- Its groups are not much more than free advertising. Now don't get me wrong the community on Etsy is huge and very helpful, but most of the groups in particular are often full of people plugging their own listings and not interesting in genuine conversation...sad but true.
- It doesn't allow HTML. Many may class this as a Pro but I've put it in the Cons because not being able to customize your shop and listings (other than your shop banner that is) can make you look less professional and easily forgotten in my opinion. This is one where eBay does win!
- It's not an 'easy alternative'. I used to sell art on eBay and used to do quite well actually but the world has changed! Back then (about 10 years ago) it was easy to just list an item and wait for the sales/bids. It is much more competitive online now and whichever route you choose you need to accept that you're gonna have to learn about marketing and networking. Many people think that Etsy is how eBay used to be...list an item and wait for the sale...and you may get a couple of sales that way but if you are looking to build a business you are still going to have to work hard at it. Many find they spend more time marketing than making products to sell in fact.
- Tips For Promoting Your Etsy Listings
Take advantage of an easy site to sell your crafts, vintage items and supplies. Learn how to promote your store and make your items more enticing to customers.
There are of course many other options for selling handmade online. I only found out about another one of them this morning in fact.
You may find one of these online marketplaces suit your needs more than Etsy:
Whichever path you choose for selling your handmade items I wish you luck! I personally found it took much time away from my writing which is my first passion (closely followed by painting) but there are many very focused and very successful sellers on there. If you need any help getting started Tim Adam at Handmadeology really knows his stuff and there's a wealth of helpful information on the Handmadeology Website.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Etsy whether you are considering trying it for the first time or have lots of experience with it, so please do let us all know below!
Thanks for reading :)
Ken Burgess from Florida on March 25, 2019:
Great article, not being someone who crafts things, this was news to me and quite informative.
Janet D on June 07, 2017:
great read abt the pros and cons... as well as the comments. so many useful tips and feedbacks abt etsy! i am thinking abt setting up a online tea, hand made cups and vintage shop for our shop in china. but it seems to me that there's quite a reputation abt chinese vendors on the etsy
Sean OCallaghan from Liverpool on December 10, 2016:
Thanks for info. Always wondered how etsy was
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on May 19, 2016:
Update: I have also closed my shop on Bonanza, for the same reason as Etsy; they went to requiring a credit card on file. Not happening, folks!
Since E-Bay has now dropped its fees to a more reasonable level, and has a certain number of free-to-list options, I'm going to try there again.
I have used Craigslist, but only for large, bulky items that cannot be shipped, and are better for local pick-up.
paint with vicki on May 18, 2016:
what about selling on Pinterest? Have you tried this? I just heard about it, but haven't looked into it yet.
fb paint with vicki
Mariana Fuzaro from São Paulo, Brazil on July 28, 2015:
Awesome article. I absolutely love buying on Etsy (I decorated my bedroom with vintage items, collect vintage and exotic items, and sometimes sell them when I get a better one of the same kind) and considered having a shop there, but since I am not in USA or Europe, do not live in an English-speaking country, not even as a second language (so it does not have many users from here) and shipping fees from my country to others are extremely high (our mailing service is extremely expensive) I concluded that there would be no use for me.
Kail Savage on June 24, 2014:
this is awesome!
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on March 05, 2014:
Pochinuk, so sorry for the delay in replying, my health has been bad recently and haven't known whether I'm coming or going :)
Thank you for your lovely comment. Yes I half-heartedly tried Etsy a while back and the cons put me off big time. I've recently given it another go though and glad I did. Marketing and what you are selling are the keys I think. This time I'm focusing on digital items (new Hub coming soon on this) which I think has made it easier.
No I haven't done paid writing before but is something I wouldn't say no to hehe. Saying that I do of course get a kind of payment through HP earnings :)
pochinuk on January 29, 2014:
Useful for anyone contemplating using ESTY.
When I was involved in curricullum development, I explored Etsy and for several of the Cons you present, I laid aside this venue.
Your article gets right to the point!
Thank you for this resource: Handmadeology Website.
Have you ever been paid to write articles on this subject?
Anita Clark from Warner Robins GA on January 04, 2014:
A good friend of mine who runs an online jewelry biz has tried several different online marketplaces, and despite the fee, is a devoted Etsy user. I have bought a few things and also like it quite a bit.
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on October 24, 2013:
Thanks for all your comments :)
Lady~ I agree, what ever business you do you have to be prepared to learn about marketing, SEO and so on. Many people think they can do without them because they don't want to learn this stuff, but it's vital for any online business! I hope your store is going well and sorry it's taken so long to reply!
Dora~ it's just like eBay, you are charged a small listing fee and thankfully Etsy is far cheaper than eBay. There are a few sites that don't charge, but they have a much smaller audience so far less chance of selling something. I think those with thousands of items in stock have built it up gradually, using profits from sales to fund more listings~ sadly most businesses require some investment.
Rosie~ it is tough when everyone seems to be a designer/maker now isn't it?
Anna~ thank you! Glad you found it useful. Do let us know if you open a shop and how it goes.
Tricia~ Thank you also! Yes it is difficult, you have to do something quite unusual to stand out...especially in popular categories like jewellery.
Tricia from Scotland on October 12, 2013:
Nice article. I also use groovycart. I have also set up a free weebly site though but as you say the market can be swamped. Interesting read though
AnnaCia on September 25, 2013:
Very nice hub. Thank you for the information. I have been thinking about opening an account on Etsy, but I am still not sure. Voted up
Audrey Surma from Virginia on September 01, 2013:
I set up shop on Etsy selling jewelry and I was not successful. Too many people selling the same products it seems.
nikashi_designs on July 20, 2013:
Love selling on Etsy and love how they really sort of control the quality and standards. Also the fee's are simple and in black and white unlike some other horrible site that starts wit E and ends with Bay. Crazy fee's, shut it down after years of having a shop. Great article.
Dora1958 on July 15, 2013:
I had recently started a shop at Esty. I was just starting out to fix my page to look good...had only posted 5 pictures & Esty charged me $1.40 & I hadn't even sold anything!!
I don't know how those ladies are doing it when they have like 1,000 items. "What if" they don't sell anything within the 3 months period, Esty is going to charge you regardless.
After that, I just closed it. They have my credit card on file...they were just going to keep charing me??
L a d y f a c e on April 04, 2013:
Great hub! It's very hard to sell anywhere online at all, but I've found it to be a bit easier on Etsy due to their exposure and fanbase. It does indeed make it difficult if you're in a saturated market like Jewelry or blankets or something, since there are so many vendors. But if you can find your little spot and make your shop your own, say.. beach jewelry or heirloom blankets, etc.. then you're closer to growing your shop.
Also, you really do have to do a lot of research and learning. My god. The marketing research.. sometimes I go to bed at night with SEO and KEYWORDS imprinted in my eyelids. I'm pretty sure that's with anywhere online or otherwise though.. just plain.. starting a business. I think.
I'm looking for other baskets to put my eggs in at the moment, while I figure out exactly who my customer is and why I'm so different than the others (I'm not in a market like Jewelry.. but my market is pet accessories .. and it's not bare lol)... so this article definitely helped me with ideas of where to go :)
I also totally agree with the community. I only belong to two teams, because I have no interest in self promotion groups. I want to chat with people about common interests and things I know about. So it is definitely taking some time, but I'm finding some very conversational, non-self-promotional teams to join. Just.. there are so friggin many of those ones... they tend of overwhelm.
I don't go to ebay because of their rules and fees... no thanks. lol. Etsy's not that expensive.
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on September 23, 2012:
I really liked this hub. I appreciate the pros as well as the cons. I have considered selling some of my photography on Etsy, but really don't have the time right now. My main focus is HubPages until I get it where I want it. You did give me a lot of useful information here. Voted up and interesting! :)
CZCZCZ from Oregon on September 23, 2012:
Enjoyed reading through this article. My wife and I have enjoyed buying some unique and interesting products from Etsy. She just started to sell a few items that she makes and is also listing on Etsy, I will forward this to her as there is some great advice and tips about the platform.
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on September 15, 2012:
Ooh Natasha I just had a look~ I LOVE knotwork :D You're extremely neat too, not an easy thing!
Millionare and Blissful~ thanks for your comments :D Do let us know here if and when you give selling a go on Etsy!
BlissfulWriter on September 15, 2012:
I heard a lot about Etsy, which implies that it is well visited and has good reputation. You usually want a marketplace that is popular and Etsy sounds like a good place to sell hand-crafts.
Shasta Matova from USA on September 05, 2012:
I haven't tried to sell anything on Etsy but have been thinking about selling some of my craft items. You have provided a good list of considerations to think about.
Natasha from Hawaii on September 05, 2012:
I make a lot of nautical knot work items. Coasters, trivets, doormats, and even jewelry. I also cut and etch glass, but these items (which are actually dangerous to make!) get far less love on the web. I'll be adding new resin pieces with a nautical theme within the next week. The 'personal' link icon on my new-style hubber profile actually goes to my etsy store.
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on September 05, 2012:
Thanks for your comments and votes ladies!
I hope it has been useful :)
DzyMsLizzy sorry to hear you've had a bad experience with Etsy! Thanks for sharing your story with us, it all helps for those deciding whether to try selling or not. There's such a fine line between a site having enough traffic to make sales and a site being too popular to get seen. I know a lot of sellers who spend more time promoting than making stuff.
Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 02, 2012:
Thanks so much for giving great pointers on Etsy. I have tried ebay but Etsy I will definitely look into now. It is good to see they are International and great tip re the rates for exchange. Many thanks, really enjoyed reading and learning! :-) voting useful, up, interesting and sharing!
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 02, 2012:
I originally discovered Etsy as a "FEE-Bay" dropout. At first, it seemed ok, but as time went on (I was there over 3 years), it was obviously not working for me, and it did not make one whit of difference whether I promoted my items vigorously, to the point of near-spam; promoted them only marginally or not at all. In the end, over that 3+ year time span, I sold less than 2 dozen items in total.
The final straw that caused me to essentially tell them where they could stuff their site, was that my 'credit card' on file had expired....(this was not news--I got rid of ALL credit cards 2 years ago, but at the prior 'renewal' time, , that was not an issue, as I always paid my seller fees via PayPal, which account WAS 'on file' with them). However, something changed in the meantime, and that was no longer good enough, and I was informed that I could not have a shop without a credit card on file.
Since I have no intention of paying the outrageous fees for a so-called "pre-paid" credit card, and for security reasons, I will NOT put my debit card information online for ANYONE, I didn't even give them time to shut me down. I closed my shop myself, and told them to "enjoy having one less seller from whom to collect fees." (And I probably put it less politely.)
I've heard of Zibbet, haven't had time to check it out yet. I had an Artfire shop for a while, and that did even less well than Etsy. I have a shop on Bonanza (oormerly "Bonanzle"), but that's a different class of goods--mostly used mass-market items. Even there, I"m lucky to make one sale a year!
So, for the moment, I'm done with trying to sell online. I have come to the conclusion that my husband is right--no one makes any REAL money selling stuff online--except the site owners, and possibly large national chains who also have brick-and-mortar stores (e.g., OSH, Home Depot, Penney's, etc.)
Audrey Howitt from California on September 02, 2012:
Great look at the issue of selling items on this site--will share this!
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on August 31, 2012:
Oh fantastic!! Thanks for keeping us updated Natashalh :D
A few sales in your first couple of months is really good! I know a few very successful sellers who didn't sell a thing in their first few months~ you're obviously doing something well. What do you sell? Please feel free to send me your link too~ I'd love to see your work.
Natasha from Hawaii on August 31, 2012:
Stopping back a bit later - yes, now I sell on Etsy! I got my store up and running a couple of months ago and have made a handful of sales. More than I'd expected, but less than I'd hoped. I'm optimistic, though!
Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on August 23, 2012:
Thank you for listing both sides of the coin. I think it is important to understand that some creative aspects of listing, like "HTML" are not apart of Etsy. I need to link to your hub too. It will help to have some other places to list art or handcrafted items.
Janine Huldie from New York, New York on June 26, 2012:
Kay, I sell on EBay, but have friends who sell on Etsy. So I knew a bit of what you were speaking of from them.
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on June 26, 2012:
Thank you :D
Do any of you sell on Etsy?
Janine Huldie from New York, New York on June 25, 2012:
Thank you for an informative hub. Definitely voted this up and shared.
Natasha from Hawaii on May 04, 2012:
I'd never heard of the other selling sites you mentioned. I haven't sold anything on Etsy, but I'd like to get in to it. Thanks for the in-depth analysis of the site! Voted useful.
mikeydcarroll67 on April 08, 2012:
You've done a good job overview all of the major points!
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on March 29, 2012:
Thanks for your lovely comments everyone :D
PJ that sounds like a good combination to me :)
Bookcraft good point~ I was more talking about those who only buy and not sell as well. There is definitely an issue with overkill for certain products...I don't know how much of this is people copying others (always an issue in creative subjects :() or just a high demand for particular products but it sure is competetive!!
Lovely M thank you :) It's always a pleasure to see your work. It's totally unique and SO much love and work put into it...you are truly talented! It does seem that selling has to be very personal nowadays...whether that's good or not I'm not sure, I guess it depends on how good we are at it :P
Thanks again all
M-ixes Jewelry on March 29, 2012:
Thanx Miss Kaz for Featuring my 'Red Poppy' Ring! *MUAH* =D) Great Article!
Selling is Hard nowadays and I've Noticed that people Like the 'Interactive' way of Selling through Social Media more; they can Have Direct Contact with you and Ask Q's. Most of what I Sell is through Facebook and Custom Orders.
Thanx again Lovely! ? Mxox
BookCraft on March 27, 2012:
This is a great article!
One issue I have with the first con: I've actually heard several times that Etsy has far more active buyer accounts then seller accounts + Etsy sellers are also Etsy buyers so there are definitely more buyers than sellers on Etsy. The problem is that there are usually a ton more sellers that sell the same thing you do.
PJ_Deneen on March 27, 2012:
Thanks so much for this in-depth explanation. I'm leaning towards Etsy and eBay for different things. I think the marketing issues you mentioned are right on and are key nowadays to doing anything online.