Is Etsy Dying? – Skinny Artist

Is Etsy Dying?

Etsy is a dream come true for Artists (isn’t it?)

Etsy is widely known as one of the premier websites for selling arts & crafts online. They essentially took eBay’s shop concept and focused it squarely on the creative niche so you no longer had to sift through lawnmowers in order to get to beaded lanyards.

According to the site, there are now over 7,000,000 items currently available for sale. These days it seems that every artist and crafter with a bedazzling gun, has opened a shop on Etsy. In fact, as of the middle of October 2010, there were over 249,000 active sellers, and according to our own highly non-scientific poll here on the site, almost 14% of you said that you are currently selling items on Etsy.

According to their own statistics in September 2010, Etsy sold 1,466,039 items for $26.6 million.  Now if my English-major math is correct, this works out to an average selling price of about $18 per item with about a 20% inventory turnover (7 million available items – 1.46 million sold) in the month of September.  In other words, it would appear that the company is doing quite well for itself as a marketplace for low-priced handmade crafts and collectibles.

[Update: Interestingly enough since this article has been published, Etsy has removed their “weather report” page cited above that shows their sales statistics and I have been unable to find this information anywhere else on their website.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions here…]

So what’s the problem?

A friend of mine recently asked me my opinion on whether or not she should open an Etsy shop to try and sell some of her handmade jewelry online.  As a regular on the Art Fair festival circuit, she was looking for an additional sales outlet especially during the slower winter months.  Of course she had heard about Etsy before, but she had always been hesitant to sign-up after hearing more than a few Etsy horror stories about not-so-ethical sellers purchasing items from artists and then turning around and selling copycat designs in their own shop.

Putting aside this issue of unscrupulous copycat designs for the moment, does Etsy still have a viable future as a limited niche marketplace or has the handmade craft craze come and gone?

Now I’m not about to suggest that people are going to suddenly stop making felt hats for cats or crochet tea cozies, but I do think that the days of anyone setting up an Etsy shop and consistently making money with it may be over. . . that is if those days were actually ever here at all.

Taking a closer look at the numbers

Before we dive into the numbers here, let me preface all of this by reminding you that Etsy is a privately-held company and is therefore not required or very likely to publish any numbers that could potentially reflect negatively on their business.  In other words, we can safely assume that they only release the “good” numbers and very few of them at that.

So we take what little they give us and begin to make some assumptions about their business from there.  Please keep in mind that if you are expecting some well-researched and statistic driven journalism here–this ain’t it!  This is little more than the imaginative ramblings of a math-averse English major so take from it what you will.

Here’s the numbers according to Etsy’s own website for 2010.

  • January 2010: 242,028 new members signed up – 20.1 million dollars of goods were sold in January; roughly 21% lower than December
  • February 2010: 236,034 new members signed up – $20.2 million of goods were sold in February; roughly 1% higher than January
  • March 2010: 246,834 new members signed up – $22.4 million of goods were sold in March, roughly 11% higher than February
  • April 2010: 236,040 new members signed up – $22.4 million of goods were sold in April; (0%) roughly the same amount from March
  • May 2010: 239,340 new members signed up – $22.9 million of goods were sold in May, 2.2% higher than April
  • June 2010: 233,167 new members signed up – $22.1 million of goods were sold in June, 3.5% lower than May
  • July 2010: 260,267 new members signed up – $23.8 million of goods were sold in July, 7.7% higher than June
  • August 2010: 278,208 new members signed up – $25.5 million of goods were sold in August, 7.1% higher than July
  • September 2010: 280,538 new members signed up -$26.6 million of goods were sold in September, 4.3% higher than August

The biggest question that comes to mind after reading through all of these numbers is:

What exactly are all of these new members doing once they sign-up?!

Are they buying? Are they selling? Are they doing anything?

Think about this for a moment.  According to their statistics here, they are averaging almost 250,000 new members a month but it would appear that very few of these new members are actually buying anything.  I mean why exactly would you sign up to become an Etsy member unless you had already picked something out that you wanted to buy?

Since they don’t seem to be buying, does this mean that the majority of these new members are planning on opening up their own shop to sell their own creations?

Etsy (perhaps wisely) doesn’t divide up their new member numbers between buyers and seller accounts.  I would have to guess that the official line would be that since every new account is technically a “buyer” account, reporting this kind of distinction would be impractical.  While this may be true, because there is an additional seller account “sign-up” (aka give-me-your-credit-card-number), it would be fairly easy to report how many new seller accounts had been created each month.  Now since they’re not telling us what’s really going on, deranged Liberal Arts majors with overactive imaginations like myself, begin to create these half-baked scenarios about what might actually be going on behind the scenes. . .

Wildly Speculative Scenario #1 – 90% Buyers  10% Sellers

Let’s assume for a moment that almost everyone who signs up for a new account on Etsy is planning on buying something.  As I mentioned previously, why would someone go through the trouble of signing-up for a new account unless they had already picked out something they wanted to buy?

The only problem here, is that if you look at the actual sales growth numbers, it seems a little hard to believe.

According to their own statistics, over the first ten months of 2010, sales have increased roughly about 5% a month on average.  This seems okay until you realize that the company has been adding almost a quarter-of-a-million new members/buyers each month.  In fact, Etsy has signed up over 2.2 million new members so far in 2010 and had an increase of $6.5 million in sales, which may sound like a lot of cabbage until you actually do the math and realize that works out to about $3 a person.  Since we already know that the average selling price of an item is about $18, we can assume that a lot of these new members aren’t making any purchases at all and that doesn’t even take into account the thousands (millions?) of members Etsy had already signed up before 2010.

Wildly Speculative Scenario #2 – 50% Buyers  50% Sellers

Okay, let’s say that maybe half of these new members aren’t planning on buying anything at all. Maybe they just want to open their own shop and sell their arts and crafts. On the surface, this theory would appear to better explain the company’s so-so sales increase.

So if  we imagine for a moment that half of these new members who signed up in September were buyers, that would mean that the other half (~140,000) would become potential sellers.  So then our question becomes, how many new sellers were added between September and October 2010?  Was it anywhere near 140,000 people?

Because Etsy doesn’t officially publish the number of active sellers they have from month to month, I only have the numbers from the last two months to compare.

According to their website they had approximately:

239,000 active sellers in Septemeber 2010

249,ooo active sellers in October 2010

Net increase of 10,000 sellers or roughly about 4%

So even if you factor in those new members who plan to someday open an Etsy store but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, you still have somewhere in the neighborhood of 130,000 new members unaccounted for.  Unless of course, these new members really are opening their new shops, and it’s the current Etsy sellers who are closing down their shops and leaving in droves. . .

If this is the case, what’s driving these previous sellers away?

  • Is it the lack of business?
  • Is it the problem with copycat sellers?
  • Is it the competition or the fact that there are too many sellers?
  • Is it the lack of promotion or traffic to their shop?

What should I tell my friend?  What would you tell someone if they asked you about opening a store on Etsy?

What can we take away from all of this speculation? (if anything)

Even though we can’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, it is fairly obvious that either a lot of people  are signing-up for an Etsy account and then doing absolutely nothing with it, or these new members are simply replacing the current members as they continue to leave en masse for whatever reason.

Either way, I would caution you to be very careful about putting your entire online presence in single marketplace whether it’s Etsy, eBay, DeviantArt, or any other online site.  As technology and the online environment continues to change and evolve, no one knows if today’s Etsy will become tomorrow’s eToys.com.

Even if they do survive, who knows if they are going to want you as a shopkeeper six months from now?  I have heard far too many stories of Etsy shops being shut down literally overnight for one reason or another.  Always remember that when it comes down to it, it’s still their “shop” and they have the power to close you down if they feel like you have somehow violated their “terms of service”.

This is one of the reasons that I always encourage artists to create their own online home first and then branch off into these other social media sites and online marketplaces.  Use these websites like the tools they are, and not as your complete online identity.  Remember to always send your visitors to your own website first and then link out from there to your Etsy shop, Twitter, or Facebook page.

[2013 Update: So has Etsy’s policies and customer service gotten any better since this article was originally written?  Here’s a hilarious new video created by Ming & Ingrid called “The Etsy Inquisition” that may help you decide for yourself. You can read more about their own harrowing experience in their post “Etsy’s Reign or Terror
Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know?]

 

Are you a member of the Etsy community?

Even though Etsy may not be giving us the full picture, I would like to hear from you about your experience with Etsy as either a buyer or seller.  Give us the inside scoop and let us know if you think their current business model is going to be able to survive long-term.  Do you think that it’s still a good place to sell your artistic creations online?

I would also be interested in hearing from those of you who may have once had an Etsy shop and closed it up for whatever reason.

  • Are you currently selling (or buying) your art on Etsy?
  • What do you think are currently the biggest benefits or challenges to running a successful Etsy store?
  • How have things changed since you’ve been there?
  • What advice would you give someone who might be interested in opening up their own Etsy shop?

Tell us what you think!

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

i just launched my website from which i will have my own store
i have never had any success with etsy
tho i know it looks like other do…
like everything there are secrets to making this kind of thing a success
apparently i lack that knowledge…
good post!

    Drew

    Hi Mary, thanks for stopping by and taking a minute to share your thoughts with us :)

    I admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about Etsy before doing the research for this article. You’re right, however, that we always seem to hear about those big Etsy success stories in the media, but I’ve never actually met anyone who is making more than a few bucks a month on average. Maybe they really are out there somewhere, or maybe these Etsy masters are just another one of those “friend of a friend” urban legends.

      Riley

      There was a time I went through the same when my sales never rised up and that was very discouraging. But after a friend suggested to join Storemate.com I realized that was a Etsy alternative. For your sales to shoot up and to have the traffic driven to your website, you must try this place! Unlike etsy and artfire they are not restricted to handmade stuff. I get to promote a wide variety of products to a bigger audience (all design buffs).
      The best about storemate is, I get to help out my customers in real-time using their ‘Talk-About’ feature. Helping out with questions on custom options, shipping queries etc in realtime. I even passed on exclusive discounts to them during these help-out sessions, which turned casual enquiries into quick sales and followers for me.
      I have been Storemate’s “Featured Designer” for 3 weeks, straight! ( My proud moment!) :D

      Hi,
      I am one of those success stories. For me Etsy started as an outlet for my hobby and over the last couple of years turned into a full time job.
      The way to succeed is to find a product that is unique, not a mainstream design. Etsy buyers come here not for the bargain, but to look for something different, especially made for them. Personalized designs are one of them.
      You have to be really dedicated to this. You can’t do it, when you have time. You have to invest time in developing the product, creating a look for your shop, good images, good description and then once you are done with this, you have to keep expanding and updating the shop.
      This is the key to success for every new business, not just Etsy. Whatever you start, you have to invest something, whether it is money, time, or skills.
      https://www.etsy.com/shop/AntoArts

    Katie

    I know that feeling! I’ve actually made about $400 since the beginning of October, but that’s obviously not enough to pay the bills :) I just can’t quite grasp what makes some people able to get it going, and others cannot. Ha, and like SkinnyArtist says, I only know of a friend of a friend who’s actually had decent success.

    By the way, Mary, how affordable is it to start your own site? I always assumed domain space was outrageous, which is why I attempted Etsy. Good luck!

      “By the way, Mary, how affordable is it to start your own site? I always assumed domain space was outrageous, which is why I attempted Etsy. Good luck!”

      Maybe I can field that one. Had my own site since 1998.

      I think you can still find free web hosts. (not sure, it’s been awhile.) I did that for several years. But there are many limitations to those. (Ads, page code limitations, can’t use it to host images, zero support.)
      Finally I found a service called wisesource.com I pay about 125.00 a year for the site space and 15.00 for the domain name. To me it’s worth every penny. Support it outstanding and I can do what ever I want, set it up any way I want, load as many images etc etc… without anyone telling me I violated some dumb rule or shutting me down with no discussion what so ever.

      Advantages to your own site,
      it’s yours and you will be the only star of the show. You can do with it what ever you want. Upload images, or even use it to host images (should you sell in ebay for example.) You can set it up as a store. Mine is not, more of a see what I do look here kinda thing. With links to where I do sell. I use mine when I want to send friends and family a big batch of photos. A simple “no follow no index” meta tag prevents that page from ever landing in a search engine. I send them the link and viola. Easier than attaching stacks of pictures they then have to download. And…. UNlike facebook, when I want to delete it, it’s gone. Also my site comes with some dandy stat tracking tools. (Found more than a few hyjacked pictures that way.)
      So if someone does hyjack something I can either delete it, or swap it with something else easy enough.
      can’t do that on any of the big sites. I’ve been off etsy for over a year now and I STILL am getting hits on sold items that show up in google. Once you put something on any of those sites? Kiss it goodbye. You have no more control over the content.

      Disadvantages, Getting it “out there.” Doing your own marketing and SEO is a royal time consuming pain. And if you do set it up as a store you really either need to hire someone who knows the latest things google is doing, (no one really does but some spend enormous amounts of time trying to stay on top of it so they can call themselves experts.)
      Or… do that yourself. Search for something, then try to figure out what the top sites are doing right.

      Advantages of being on an etsy, artfire, ebay or what ever, THEY do the marketing. They will get a whole hell of a lot more traffic than any personal site can.
      Now is that good? All depends. Yes a site like etsy will get more traffic, but think of it as a huge ant hill. Your still just one ant in it among all the other thousands of ants all trying to be seen. But one ant on an ant hill is more likely to attract the ant eater than one ant all alone on a beach.

      What I would suggest to anyone is do both. If you can’t afford a full size site, find one of the freebies, or one of the cheap ones, even if they only offer you a few pages of space. And get your own domain name. In fact, I’d do that first then use that domain name on every site you sell on. “branding.”
      This makes promoting much simpler. Put ONE domain name on a business card. And on that site you can still promote what ever site you sell on. Even if your site is a store. List some stuff on your site and other stuff on one of the big guys. (not the same stuff. That will hurt you with google.)
      Then when a site gets incredibly stupid like etsy did, and you move. You won’t have a ton of old cards pointing to an uh oh page. Simply change your own site to point to where ever you are next.

        Wow. $125 a year. That’s a lot of money. You can go with Godaddy for waaay less, I only pay around $50 a year, and if all you’re trying to do is set up a small online presence for yourself, say maybe a basic site with possibly a blog and links to your etsy, heck even an online store (and don’t expect to be the next ebay, or etsy), most people and organizations can get by with a basic package, and Godaddy has really good support.

        I say this is a web professional. I’ve been with a lot of “affordable” hosts, and Godaddy is just one of the best hosts all around.

        That “wisesource.com” site looks shady, and looking at their hosting packages, WOW that’s a bad deal. Really bad deal. I’d avoid them like the devil. The thing is, most hosts tend to beef up the things they offer so it sounds great to the end user. Most websites will never come close to use up a gig or two space limit, and they never will have enough visitors eating up their bandwidth.

        Think about it. Even if you did use up all your 2gigs of space and can’t even update your blog anymore, that means to use up your entire 30gig bandwidth for the month, users would have to download your entire site 15 times. Most inididual pages on your site (images included) only eat up less than 100k (1/10th of a meg, which is 1/1000th of a Gig).

        Anyways. I just don’t want people getting screwed over. So go with Godaddy, because although their stats are beefed up like everyone elses, they offer a good service. I should’ve gone with them myself from the start instead of bungling around with bozos for nearly a decade.

          Well I’ll tell ya, I did totally free sites for several years before someone clued me into wisesource. And they have been my host before Godaddy sprang up.
          Reason I pay so much for what little I use? Support! I have yet to find ANY business with such fantastic support. And no, I don’t get any form of referral. Neither did the guy who told me about it. The suggestion was made to email the guy and just ask a question. I did on a sunday night no less and got a reply in minutes.
          The site almost never goes down and if it does he sends out a letter to everyone explaining why, and what they are doing about it. (I think in the past oh, six years it was down for ten min for an upgrade. Everyone was warned ahead of time and it took place at about 2am.)

          Besides, Godaddy was just boycotted not all that long ago for supporting SOPA & PIPA. Officially they changed their position on it, but privately? Who’s to say.

          Naaa. I’ll stay where I am. Great support is worth paying for. If only more businesses would catch onto that. (staying on topic here, ETSY! Those morons don’t even own a phone. Never answer emails, they blow rotten beans.)

          Bett

          Godaddy is awful. In addition to Jenny’s comments on the subject, the owner kills elephants under the ridiculous excuse of feeding poor people in Africa, and their ads are full of soft-core porn.

        You can get a domain name through gold puma for fifteen dollars a year and then host it on weebly for free. Weebly has unlimited bandwidth and storage for free. http://www.grandmapattisscents.com I am just setting up my site but that should give you an idea of what I mean.

          Yes, I use Weebly too and my domain name is through GoDaddy – both have been great services for me. Thanks for letting me know that Weebly has unlimited bandwidth and storage for free as well – I haven’t had time to read up on what they offer but it’s good to hear it shared by someone. With regards to Etsy – it seems pretty saturated – I have been on for 4 years and so very few sales – still trying to establish an online presence – I have been fortunate that through Facebook and the several social groups that are supported by people locally, I have been able to advertise my wares that way – it’s been good and it’s free!

        If Jenny’s words strike a chord, you should take a look at IndieMade. (Full disclosure: I work for the company!)

        IndieMade is a hosting platform that is specifically designed for the needs of crafters. It has a store, blog, photo gallery, event calendar, and more. You don’t need to know any HTML, you don’t need to get a hosting company, you don’t need to use your own domain unless you want to, and it’s easy to use.

        The store is full-featured, with an inventory tracking system, orders database, invoicing system, and all that stuff. And you can quickly get up and running because it can import your existing Etsy products. Better Etsy integration is on the way as well.

        The standard plan is $11.95 a month (it can go as low as $4.95 a month but that limits you to 10 products), and there’s a full 30-day trial. And the site is YOURS; no one can tell you what you can or can’t do with it. http://www.indiemade.com/features has more.

        Axel

        Cadi

        http://www.indiemade.com

        is made by artists for artists and costs $4.95 a month. You don’t need a merchant account, either, or a

        Norman Ridenour

        I have been a nearly full time artist/craftsman in two countries (two languages) for over 30 years. I have been on ETSY for four years and I sell, not near enough. ETSY seems to be the best of a bad lot. I took the list of 200 on line cites for crafts and looked at each one. In general, tacky. I tried ArtFire for a year, nothing. From my point of view, selling up scale products, buyers see the on-line shops as a kind of swap meet / bazar. Right, $18-20 is the average sale on ETSY. I have been unable to get my prices, ($100 & up) so I under sell. I cannot afford to turn on the studio lights at $20 a piece for my goods. The ETSY marketing gurus are full of it, although Malinak does admit that his advise is for the $20 seller. I had my own web site, NO visitors, Jan-Oct 2014. I continue markets but again there is a ceiling price. The basic problem is, too many sellers chasing too few buyers. Too few sellers are professional in their attitude towards their work. Too much kitsch posing as ‘art’.

        I have been a seller on etsy for 2 years. I do not know if it dying, but know there is so much up there it is hard for buyers to find one artist. I do more sales from craft fairs. There are people who do well, I do not know the secret. If you do let me know. Angela

    Jeanne

    I found this site to be informative.
    http://www.craftcount.com/index.php
    Dont’ know where they are getting their statistics from, since you can’t find any good information on etsy anywhere. I convo’ed Sinohe Terrero twice, he does the etsy weather report blog and never got an answer.
    Jeanne

I have been selling on Etsy for two years, since July 2008. I reached 100 sales in exactly one year, hit 200 sales exactly six months after that, and just reached 400 sales last week.

I sell a lot of reproductions, but I’m also thrilled that I have sold original artwork all over the world as well.

Etsy has it’s faults when it comes to my category, Fine Art. reproductions and originals are not separate searches. Under “art” you will also find wall decals (my biggest pet peeve) and any piece of jewelry or other item that has “art” in the description.

I think this is the biggest drawback for buyers randomly searching on the site.

I do drive a lot of my own traffic to Etsy thru my blog and my FB fan page, however, I think that it is time to develop a system on Etsy where new buyers do NOT have to register – just have a shopping cart feature (this is one of the nice aspects of Artfire)

Etsy is saturated in so many markets, especially Jewelry, and unles Etsy decides to promote YOU, you will probably not be seen.

I don’t think It’s a dying venue, but they need to start courting buyers thru magazines like AMerican Art Collector and stop courting sellers like they do thru craft magazines.

    Drew

    Hi Kristina!

    That’s interesting that they don’t separate original artwork and reproductions on the site. It would seem that if Etsy really wanted to expand their market into more upscale (ie higher priced) artwork they would try to make original work more of a focus on their site.

    I also completely agree with you about dropping the registration requirement in order to buy something. Nothing irritates me more as a customer than having to jump through unnecessary hoops and having to “register” to buy something from a site that I might not ever visit again (especially when buying gifts for someone else) Yes, I’m sure that they are hoping to boost their member numbers and put you on their mailing list, but why not make this step optional?

    I think you’re smart for driving traffic to Etsy from your other sites. Too many artist seem to think that because Etsy gets millions of visitors a day, they will somehow get some portion of that traffic automatically. They don’t understand that you have to build your own traffic sources, which might explain why so many sellers are eventually abandoning their Etsy stores.

    Love your website by the way! :)

      Thank you so much! I think this year I am going to really push myself to get back into Gallery Shows and Outdoor Art events. I have met many many ownderful clients on-line, many of whom I connect with regularly, but I also love meeting clients face to face.

      And yes – Etsy does need to allow shopping w/out an account. Maybe you could talk to them about that?!?

      And the Art category, overall, needs to be re-vamped. But it’s growing so fast, I don’t even know how they would start!

      Vic

      this upscale originals and higher price thing is exactly what’s killing my business… the problem with Etsy is that it’s a lot Like EBAY – lots of things for CHEAP prices. It’s getting more and more difficult to compete with the ultra low prices that many of the ETSY Sellers list their things for.

      I have had my own site since 2001 and have always gotten plenty of business there. I opened an ETSY shop a couple years ago to sell “pre-made” items that I wanted to have sales on. All my custom made items were still through my site. it all went well, until this year. This year as I see that my wedding catagory has gotten more and more cheap sellers on it… my actual website sales have plumetted. I am just speculating here… but I believe my drop on sales is due to more people searching on ETSY and finding inexpensive things. They are still looking at my site. My Google analytics shows my numbers are still good and my search results are good – but people aren’t buying they are just looking. It’s frustratings. I am HOPEING that this Etsy thing will be a fad but not too sure about that…. they may be killing my business.

        Michelle Stowe

        I agree, I have been on Etsy for over 8 months, and have not sold anything. It’s very hard to compete even with lower than average prices, when the market is flooded with people selling like items for way too cheap. I sometimes wonder why bother throwing my money away on listings, when there is some person selling an item similar to mine for half the price or less…and I have had the same problem with a lot of lookers, which are mostly other store owners, and zero buyers. And now people are selling non-handmade things like flooding the market with cell phone covers that all they did was use a POD and someone’s copyrighted image and pasted it on it. That isn’t what the site was supposed to be, and they sure didn’t pay for licensing fees (ie Marvel or Disney) to sell some of the images that are used–it’s very discouraging to say the least about it. So, my only solution is to quit the crafting business, and go back to what I originally intended, which is creating my art. I’ve sold more crafted items on my own to people who don’t have money to spend but buy it anyway offline. I’m through throwing away money on something that isn’t taking me anywhere,..

I think Etsy is a good place to start selling, because it’s simple to set up. I don’t know many people who sell over the long term who use it as their only sales tool. I used it off and on while I was working out the kinks in my personal web site—both for convenience and to build my community. Now, I rarely list anything there, because I’ve moved on to tools that fit my business better.

    Drew

    Hi Lisa!

    I think you’re right that it is a good place to start selling your work online because it’s easy to set up and it’s an established marketplace. The downside to it, as you point out, is that it shouldn’t probably be your only sales channel.

    It sounds like you were using Etsy as the marketing stepping-stone that it is, and not the final destination. I think that a lot of sellers are starting to realize this and eventually they are moving their business to either their own website or into additional markets as you have.

    Good for you, bad for Etsy.

    It seems to me that Etsy has build up this reputation in the public mind that it’s primarily a marketplace for handcrafted items, which is fine except as all of the previous comments here have pointed out, this particular market is absolutely saturated. Sooner or later, they are going to have to figure out that the potential market for handcrafted items is not infinite and look to expand their horizons a bit.

    I would have to bet that very few people go to Etsy looking for fine art. Not because it’s not there, but because the public perception is that Etsy=Handcrafted Items. I think that they are going to have to change this perception fairly soon or risk losing out to some other company that will emerge to fill that void.

      I think a lot of people view sites like Etsy through Field of Dreams goggles: if I build it, they will come. The reality is that nobody really cares if you build an Etsy shop. You really have to build a community of your own, and use many sites and tools to promote whatever it is you’re selling to be successful at it.

      There must be a market for this kind of site, though, because there are many others just like Etsy: ArtFire, ShopHandmade, MadeItMyself off the top of my head. I know artists, especially jewelry artists, who have shops in each place, plus their own web sites, blogs, Flickr, Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts, all to promote their work. Those are the folks who are making a (meager) living at their craft.

      Vic

      I think the reason many people are looking on ETSY for things is for a “deal” that’s why Etsy probably won’t do well for fine art or expensive items – as they are like an online craft show… seems to be a bunch of people selling their crafts at yard-sale prices.

      only a few are actually selling them at higher prices… but the more a catagory gets laden with cheap stuff the less the high quality items can charge, because they can not compete.

      This is the reason I only sell “sale’ items in my shop. I can’t compete with the prices if I was going to do custom. Because my custom prices are much more than what I would have to competitivley list them for on Etsy.

        MIlly

        While I agree on using other tools to create your “own customary market”. I do not agree that most Etsy sellers price points are too low. At least in the Vintage category! Ive been able to sell stuff on my shop above retail in Vintage & Antiques store.

        It does seem like a full time job to get “Etsy homepage” attention. I know very few sellers who do. If anyone has tips on this, ears wide open!

        I do find it frustrating that they removed the option to see what items sold for & when. This was a helpful tool as a seller. Its seemed to become more private. Like the author here said. They are private company, so they dont have to put it all out there.

    Margaret

    Hi Lisa,

    I want to open a online shop and was considering etsy. Do you have any advice on other companies, that offer
    very good website or online store services?

      Deb

      Actually Margaret, I made my first purchase on Etsy in March 2011 and have told many about it since then. Could it be that the artists know about it but the consumers are just catching on? I would cross-hatch with Pinterest to drive traffic to an Etsy store.

Yeah, we’re all just little fish in a big sea (well, most of us are little fish), but for someone who doesn’t want to set up a website, it’s a good enough way to have a presence online. I’ve been on Etsy for 5 years –almost since the very beginning– and I like their setup (low cost per listing, no set monthly fees) better than any other venue I’ve seen. I trust them overall.
I think it’s unfair of you to imply they’re just out to get your credit card number.
o_O

    Drew

    Hi Alisa,

    I’m certainly not anti-Etsy, although I do think that they may have painted themselves into a corner with the whole “handmade craft” thing and they seem to have some issues with copycat products, but overall I think that Etsy is a good marketplace–I just happen to think that they may have reached their ceiling as far as the handcraft market goes.

    I’m glad that you have had a good experience with them and I don’t think that they’re out to get your credit card number, I just don’t understand their need to have you register before you buy something on their site.

    Glad to see you here Alisa! :)

    Lenore

    I must express my thoughts about Etsy. I have been a seller on Etsy for A little over one year now, (www.etsy.com/shop/inspiredtoimagine) beginning in September 2014 (was a buyer on Etsy first) I am just about to reach 300 sales and I have been working everyday to build my business. It has been an incredible opportunity for me to do what I love and make an income doing so. It’s definitely not for everyone but for buyers looking for something unique and creative it’s an awesome place to shop! For sellers who are willing to dedicate themselves it’s definitely a rewarding outcome. After all I believe most websites require you to sign up with an account first. I know Amazon and EBay certainly do!

Good article. It sums up a number of my thoughts on Etsy. I have an account there, but only so I can keep up a favorites list of the stores I like. I think I’ve bought one or two things there over the last year…

I am an artist, and echo the sentiments of the above people who said that Etsy doesn’t work well for traditional visual art (paintings and the like). I use Redbubble for selling my prints – it’s much better set up for that sort of thing, and focused on fine art.

It is getting easier and easier for people without technical knowledge to set up their own sales websites, which also cuts into the growth of places like Etsy.

    Drew

    It’s nice to see you here Heather!

    First of all, I have to say that I really like your new web design. Now that you’ve become a CSS master, maybe you can help out the rest of us ;)

    From the feedback I’ve received so far from this article, it seems to confirm my suspicions that Etsy has pigeonholed themselves into this handcrafted market and once that stream of eager new craft sellers runs out, they’re going to have to play catch up with Redbubble and all of those other online marketplaces for visual artists that are growing rapidly.

    I think you’re exactly right that once these artists are becoming more comfortable selling online, they are abandoning fixed platforms like Etsy and moving towards setting up there own websites.

    Great stuff!

      Sandy

      Your article mentions collectibles but doesn’t use the term at all! Vintage is a HUGE part of Etsy now, and since this original post is about 2 years old, I’d say that a lot has changed since you wrote it. I still see a lot of those silly things like the cat hats, etc., but I also see some quality artists, some beautiful artwork, and some quality handmade jewelry. I also see some people trying to sell their wares for way, way too much money, but the ones who do quality work for a reasonable price seem to be the ones that I keep coming back to.

      That said, it seems that Etsy isn’t all bad and perhaps you need to sell what’s selling and sell it for a going rate. I check ALL OVER the web before I buy anything to see if I can find something like or or similar for a cheaper price, all while taking into account a seller’s feedback, how long they’ve been on Etsy, etc.

      So, while crafters and artists may be what comes to people’s mind initially, in some cases, I think of Etsy when I want to buy a vintage piece for my home. I also have bought artwork from a talented painter, and some hand made jewelry. I believe in promoting where you live, so I tend to buy on Etsy as much as I possibly can.

      Like I said, a lot has changed in 2 years.

Janine

I’ve been an Etsy member since Dec. 2007 (started selling in July 2008).
Etsy definitely ‘sells the dream’…and with so many people who are down on their luck financially right now, it’s no wonder that there are more new sellers everyday wanting nothing more than to make that dream come true.

With the ‘cheap’ 20-cents per listing and the articles Etsy publishes about people who have quit their day jobs , it’s all too easy to believe the hype.
One always has to keep in mind, though…if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We’ve all heard that one, and it goes for Etsy as well.

The 20 cents per listing is for a 4-month placement, but doesn’t include the ‘re-newing’ of your listing at frequent intervals (at 20 cents each time). Etsy’s search defaults to “most recently listed”, so those who continue to pump their 20 cents in constantly for the same listing, will have a better chance of being seen.
Often, when you search Google for a certain handmade item and those items can be found on Etsy, you will more likely get a link leading to an Etsy category or canned Etsy search result, instead of a link to an actual listing.
Say you make crochet plush animals. You have a fox listed, and someone is looking for a crocheted fox. So they enter into Google’s search: handmade fox crochet. The first two results link directly to Etsy’s internal search, which is prioritized by, you guessed it….whomever has paid another 20 cents for ‘re-newal’ most recently and fits the search description.

That’s really only the tip of the iceberg of what has been discovered by many others; just always remember to research everything you can about a venue before deciding to associate your business with theirs. User’s forums are a great place to discover what issues there are and how quickly (or slowly) the sellers’ needs are met by the venue. I emptied my Etsy shops months ago and I’m STILL learning things that make me shake my head.

Take care out there.

    Drew

    Thanks Janine for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us :)

    I think you’re right that sellers are going to eventually get tired of being “nickel-and-dimed” to death by Etsy for constantly relisting their items, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of the main reasons for their high seller turnover.

    That’s really interesting about the Google search results. The fact that they don’t link directly to your store for the product but to Etsy’s internal search engine seems ridiculous. I mean when you think about it, what’s the point of having a so-called “store” if you can’t get people to find it directly in the search engines?!

    Your advice about doing your research and checking user forums before signing up with an online marketplace is excellent. As you know, every selling platform has it’s own set of pros and cons, and you can’t leave it up to the company’s website to give you an accurate review. Always talk to someone who has used that particular marketplace before and find out what they like (and don’t like) about it.

    Thanks again Janine, I hope to hear from you again soon!

Interesting way to analyze the numbers on Etsy. I have had a shop since 2008 and I’m one of those with not a lot of sales. For various reasons I can’t do live shows, so Etsy is my only sales outlet. What I constantly question is – the amount of time I spend on marketing and SEO tasks is horrendous. I can’t imagine how much worse that would be if I sold in more online sites or my own website. I love doing my art and I love the people I meet online but I’m in this to make money and that’s not happening. So for the moment I’m stuck on making any decisions.

    Drew

    It’s good to hear from you again Felicia!

    After reading Janine’s post above, I’m starting to understand why you might be having such a hard time getting search traffic to your Etsy store. I can’t help but wonder if the way Etsy routes their Google search traffic is unusual, or if it’s like that with most of the online marketplaces?

    For what it’s worth, I honestly think that getting traffic to your own website has now become easier than getting search traffic from these large marketplace sites like Etsy. Keep in mind that Etsy’s goal with search traffic is to get as much traffic as possible coming into their site (not necessarily your store) and then keep them there as long as possible.

    My advice would be to keep focusing your efforts on building the traffic to your own blog/website (which takes time) and then link directly to your store as you have. Stay involved in the incredibly active artist community on Twitter and Facebook and keep making those valuable connections.

    Keep the faith!

This is a great post. I have an Etsy account and I am a visual artist. I opened my Etsy store in 2008 and I have had 11 sales. I opened an Artfire store around this time last year and sold 4 items in 1 month. I now mainly focus on driving collectors to my website. I sell mostly original art although I have prints as well. I have found more success just promoting my own website. When ever I sold on Etsy buyers always wanted to low ball the prices of my original pieces. Not to mention the whole re-listing game you have to play just to stay visible. I have had a lot more success just marketing myself. I paint live, do time lapsed videos, and now I’m focusing more on galleries etc etc.

I just found that the money I spent monthly trying to stay visible on Etsy was becoming a nuisance. I think it works best for people who already started out with a following of collectors or else you just get lost in the shuffle.

    Drew

    Hi Antwanyce!

    I think your comment really reflects what I’ve been hearing from artists who have sold on Etsy. They perception and the reality of having a shop on Etsy seems to be vastly different, which probably explains why long-term seller success stories are hard to find.

    Now having said that, selling anything online is a lot more difficult than it appears to be, and driving enough traffic to your website in order to convert a small percentage of those visitors into paying customers is the number one frustration I hear from all types of creative artists.

    I think you’re absolutely right that it’s becoming easier to drive traffic to your own website then it is to be able to stand out in a overcrowded marketplace like Etsy.

    By the way, I love the bold colors of your paintings. Your work has a very powerful vibe to it. Great stuff! :)

Amy

Oh darn, and just when I was going to start making and selling crocheted walnut holders! (;

    Drew

    I still think there could be a market for them, although you may want to rethink your marketing strategy because when I Googled the term “nut sack” the results were a bit . . . off topic ;)

      LOL – Some nut is probably already “marketing” them on Etsy.

      My general etsy comment will follow below.

Hi Drew!

I agree with you about Etsy dying. The end might not happen for awhile but it will happen. I’ve had a couple of shops over the past few years and I never felt any love. You have to promote yourself unless like someone said earlier Etsy falls in love with your products and decides to promotes you all the time. After awhile I thought, if I have to do it all myself, why help etsy out with selling and transaction fees. So I went to big cartel, (one flat fee a month) and now I’m soaking up all of the marketing help I can find. I have my big cartel shop linked to my website and I feel much more in control of the process.

Etsy is great to get an idea of what you want to sell and how online selling works. But afterthat, not so much.

    Drew

    Hi Rachel :)

    In a lot of ways, Etsy reminds me of AOL. Those of you who have been around the net for awhile may remember that there was a time not so long ago when AOL ruled the online world and every other internet provider was an afterthought.

    Although it seems a little hard to believe now, when the WWW was new (and we still called it “WWW”) everyone was a little afraid of it because it was new and unfamiliar. Then AOL came along and promised to not only give a safe place to play online, but they also promised to technologically hold our hand as we explored this brave new world.

    Being on AOL was kind of like being at a Sandals resort, where you were discouraged to go off of the resort and explore the “wild web” on your own. As the web evolved, however, we gradually became more comfortable with it and we discovered that life outside of the gated AOL community wasn’t that scary after all.

    I think the same will eventually hold true for marketplaces like Etsy. When we first try selling our art online, we don’t know what to do and we’re intimidated by all the technical details of setting up a website, merchant account, a shopping cart, etc… So we turn to easy selling promise of Etsy, and before we know it, our shop is up and running.

    Sooner or later, however, we start to feel more comfortable with these various online tools and we outgrow the inherent limitations of this beginner platform. We want more design freedom, we want more flexibility, and we want fewer links to other people’s products in our shopping carts. Like teenagers we eventually get tired of playing by their rules, so we pack up our digital bags and decide to head off on our own.

    I think Etsy will always have a place for the hobbyist and the artist who is setting up his or her first shop online, but I still think that its only a stepping stone towards a path of independence.

    Sorry to ramble on Rachel, but I think your path is a great example of where so many others are heading. . .

      Randi Lynne

      I know this is an old thread and I don’t really care or understand the taboo of resurrecting a thread from the dead, BUT…this comment was awesome. I’m absolutely inspired to just launch my own site. I will use etsy too though, just in case. I’m fairly knowledgable with social media and technical stuff anyway. Thank you for this amazing analogy. I’m 25, but yes, I remember the AOL! :-)

        Thanks Randi for your kind words and we’re more than happy to resurrect a thread from the dead (if for no other reason then it sounds pretty cool) It does make me feel a little better that I’m not the only person out there that still remembers AOL back when we had to walk down the information superhighway uphill both ways, without shoes, and no Spotify…. those were dark days indeed ;)

Hi Drew!

Really good food for thought here. I hadn’t given Etsy’s numbers a lot of thought…

Etsy has been great for me and I have high hopes of growing my etsy sales. But, I agree, all my eggs in one basket is a bad idea– I do need a shopping cart without links to thousands of other people’s shiny things for sale. :)

I think one reason you may see so many folks close shop is that the barrier to entry is so low. Many people open a shop without determination to make their business a success. Some of sort-of trying it out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard sellers say in the forums that they would never spend X on advertising. What if X on advertising (or some other business investment) would return 10X? I’m not sure many of them are thinking that way…

It’s also a social site– people may join and sell to be among like minded folks… It may be more of a hobby shop.

Thanks for the post! :)

    Drew

    Hi Tricia!

    I completely agree with you that Etsy has been able to attract such a large number of new members because the barrier to entry is so low. I also suspect you must have some marketing/business background which. . .

    #1: Explains why your Etsy shop is doing so well

    #2: Explains why you are comfortable using terms like “barrier to entry” and talking about the value of advertising and return on investment. Of course you are down there in Raleigh/Chapel Hill, so maybe you just absorb this kind of thing by osmosis down there ;)

    I also think your shop excellent example of how it’s not necessarily the tool, as much as it is the willingness and commitment to selling yourself as a creative artist. As you said, too many people open a shop and just expect that their customers will be lining up to buy their artwork. It just doesn’t work that way. It never has, and it never will. . .

    In the end people will take your art only as seriously as you do.

I think it’s very tough to sell Fine Art on Etsy when you take into account the average sell price per item. $18! Etsy does do a good job of bringing in traffic to Etsy. But after a buyer gets through the front door, you as an individual shop have to compete with the $18 items.

    Drew

    I think you’re right Anne because not only do potential buyers have to sort through a pile of trinkets in order to find your original art, the public perception has become that Etsy is marketplace for low-priced items. So not only is your original artwork becoming increasingly hard to find on Etsy, but people are becoming more reluctant to pay a premium for it.

    Like TheRichAnt mentioned above, more and more artists are discovering that buyers are beginning to low-ball and try to negotiate a better price for your artwork — This is the type of behavior you would expect to find at a flea market rather than an art gallery. . .

Interesting article! I totally agree with you in that having your own website as a professional exhibiting artist is critical. I would also agree that the Etsy fast money days are over (2006-2008). It’s hard to build momentum as a newer seller. Additionally, I support Krystyna’s comments above in regards to the taxonomy mess. Many of us have been lobbying for “Fine Art” to be pulled out of “Handmade” and to become a distinct 4th top-level category. There is even a petition with about 700 signatures.

Besides the conversion from being a selling-based site to a social media site (several recent forum discussions about this as a result of new investor strategy), I believe that artificial “success stories” are also being made of select sellers to entice new sellers. This is done via Etsy’s built-in advertising outlets (Featured Seller articles, repeated home (front) page exposure, and Etsy Finds, the daily push email campaign). You can view my full comments on the issue here:
http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6666500&page=28

*Note that when the topic of front page repetition is brought up, we typically see about 5 individuals vehemently defending the status quo (plus one supplier to these favored sellers). In case you weren’t aware – you can look up the # of front page appearances any shop has had by member name here in the Vault section:
http://www.craftcult.com/

“Calling out” – referring to a specific shop for any reason other than to be complimentary will cause a forum thread to be shut down, even if someone partially disguises a name. So… it’s best to check the numbers individually/off-line using the Craftcult tool when forming an independent, unbiased opinion.

    Drew

    Hi Joy!

    You’ve given some great insider advice here :)

    I think you nailed it when you said that Etsy is using a few select “success stories” to rope in these new accounts. I completely understand that they want to show off their success stories, but perhaps they need to spend a little more time fixing their site to make it more artist friendly and a little less time recruiting even more sellers to clog up the system. Maybe they should even consider closing the doors to new sellers for a month or two until thy get some of these issues straightened out and take care of their current sellers.

    Very interesting stuff!

Lily

Great article!

I have to say that I am one of the ones who jumped through hoops in order to buy something on someones Etsy… By the time I got done filling out all the bologna, I decided using their website was too much of a hassle, especially since every god damned names I wanted were taken.

My account has been set up, but I have not used it. I’ll just go to art fairs to buy my stuff. It’s best that way anyhow.

–Lily

    Drew

    Hi Lily, it’s great to see you here!

    I completely agree with you that Etsy has made it way too difficult for someone to just make a purchase, especially when you’re talking about items that are mostly non-essential in the first place.

    With over 2.2 million people signing up just this year, I can imagine how hard it must be to find a catchy and memorable Etsy username besides lily235869 these days. Based on the numbers, I’d have to imagine that you are probably not alone in the “account has been set up, but not used” category.

    Thanks again Lily for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us :)

I don’t believe that Etsy can compete with selling venues that offer a flat rate per month. Here’s why: can you imagine a million sellers renewing dozens of listings a day just to get seen in the searches? note: Etsy ranks listings in terms of most recently listed and a lot of sellers use a renewing strategy.

In crowded categories, you are likely to get seen on the front page of a seach for a few seconds now. But with a million sellers, perhaps that works out to a quarter or a tenth of a second.

The searches are also a nightmare. Check out the Hanukkah section under paper goods/cards at Etsy and you will see what I mean (thousands of Santas, hardly a menorah in sight).

Previous to Etsy, I was (and still am) selling primarily through brick and mortar galleries and shops, successfully, before I decided to give Etsy a try last year around this time.

The impetus for selling on-line was: I was feeling discouraged about the brick and mortar galleries and shops in my area opening for 6 months – 2 years and then closing, so I thought I’d set up a little on-line shop until I got a full “shopping website” up. I also know many, many artists (personally) who sell through Etsy. Some of them sell several items a day, some sell 4 items a year (none are “favorites” at Etsy, however, i.e. get promoted by them) and many thought it was worthwhile for me to try it out.

I was surprised that just about all of my sales on Etsy came from my brick and mortar customers via my website. Only 2 small sales came from browsers. That speaks volumes.

So, if I was going to park items somewhere until I got my “shopping” website up, I decided to park items at Artfire (because my customers don’t need to be a member of the company and the general searches are much better– I was feeling a bit embarrassed about sending my customers to Etsy, especially with virtually no customer service and what was reported to me personally from one of my elderly buyers as a confusing shopping experience).

My future plans for Etsy are to keep a minimal shop and use it to try new art “ideas”. In my year there, I have learned what their preferences
are (all shopping venues have preferences about what they carry and promote, even brick and mortar galleries), so one has to either go with the flow or get out.

All in all, it has been an interesting year of learning & meeting new on-line sellers, even if just cyber-ly (of which Joy Appenzeller Bauer was one).

    Drew

    Thank you so much Lise for taking the time to give us an excellent insider’s perspective here!

    I think you’re exactly right when you say that Etsy has become so overcrowded and unorganized that sellers have had to turn to such desperate tactics as renewing their listing repeatedly just to get to the front page momentarily. Sure it’s still fairly cheap (the first dozen or so times), but is this really the best way to market your creations?!

    By shifting your focus to your own website, I think you have a far better chance of building your personal brand over time and having people find you by searching for you specifically as an artist and not by searching for your product on a site like Etsy. As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this site. . .

    It’s not the art your customers are buying–it’s you the artist!

    This is the reason that it’s become so important to build your reputation online as an artist through your own website as well as with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook so that eventually people will be Googling you specifically because they know and like you as a person.

    Great stuff :)

Thank you for providing such useful information! And, as an aside, reconfirming my exit from Etsy a long time ago when it was still a crowded mess. I agree that it’s a place for people to get a cheap portfolio, but not much in the way of good exposure. I did finally get my own website and it’s going to be easier to focus on it than to wonder how to bring my art to the top on Etsy.

    Drew

    Hi Jean! Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts with us :)

    I think you’re right that Etsy has just become way too crowded to get any real exposure for your work. I also agree that you’re probably far better off focusing your energy on building up your own site, where the long-term payoff will be much greater. By the way, I love the “Snoring Dog Studio” name and the your watercolors have this incredible whimsical and dreamlike nature about them. Beautiful work!

    Thanks again for stopping by Jean and we hope to hear from you again soon.

Lana

I have a designer friend who makes couture hats, she makes them for a living and sells the average hat for about 120 bucks. She has told me that etsy is a great place to have your ideas stolen and copied. The same goes on ebay, maybe are on ebay copying other artists ,especially off shore production companies who can knock off your design and have it in the stores in no time for UNDER a buck! Most REAL artists/designers who are actually LIVING OFF the sales of their art are being butt right up next to part time hobbyists who, by the way, probably have a full time job ,but make crafty things with a glue gun and some scrap parts lying around the house as a SIDE thing for “spending ” money. This to most REAL artists is non-existent,for most of them, making a living at their art is what sustains them. Most people that buy on etsy,like on ebay ,are looking for a deal, sort of like shopping at a thrift store with no understanding that the artist pays alot in materials AND time on a daily basis. Maybe a site that existed of “juried” artworks, by professional artists and let etsy keep to the part time hobbyists! sorry if I offended anyone,but really,think about it…do a jewelry search and see what comes up! same as the MASS amounts of knitted hats and so on…maybe it is time someone steps up and makes a change…maybe that will be me!

    Drew

    Hi Lana!

    I think you’re right that there really needs to be some more internal divisions created within Etsy itself. I really like your idea of a “juried” section or even subdomain of Etsy for hand-selected premium fine art pieces that are, of course, priced accordingly. Maybe each category could get it’s own guest artist for a month or two and have them feature their favorites in that particular category.

    Great idea Lana, and by the way, don’t worry about offending the artists here with your comment — If they’ve been reading my stuff this long, they’re probably pretty much “offended-proof” by now ;)

    rosemary dingman

    I am not in the same class as most of you speaking…while i dabble in the arts a little, never would I have the talent to make a living at it. However I feel that you guys are maybe looking down your noses at the so called “hobbists” out there. Alot of people are just looking for a way to make a living, not just wanting to sell their free time creations. There’s alot of reasons that a person cannot work in the normal workforce…….. children at home, taking care of elderly parents, location/job market, disablies just to name a few. In my case I can’t venture more than 10 ft /30 seconds from a bathroom. Makes a normal job impossible and telemarketing can’t be run from a bathroom without bad sound effects. LOL I’m need to work, just have a different set of conditions to work within. I’m just trying to figure out a way to pay my bills and keep me and the stray animals fed . So if anyone has ideas I’m looking for them. Sign me out as a 60 year old still trying to paddle. Rosemary

    I am currently an Etsy seller, and have been reading all these posts re what is wrong with selling on Etsy.
    I joined in Nov. of 2010. My website is only a link to my Etsy shop at this time. I have resisted putting in my 2 cents, here because I wanted to get the feel for what others are thinking.

    When I came to your post, Lana, I had to chime in. You are “so right” about having sites, such as Etsy, having
    a well rounded “jury panel” for the different categories of media sold on Etsy. It has become impossible to make,
    your items, photograph them, list them, and pay for them over and over. Especially, when they aren’t selling quickly.

    I now feel that it is time to close my Etsy shop. Everyone is “favoriting” and not buying. I feel they are doing as we all suspect, “copying” and not buying! There should be a distinction made between those who really have talent and are
    investing their soul, as well as money, in their effort to design real pieces of art, and those who just want to blow away a few hours dittling with junk and trying to sell it.

    I have no idea, other than what friends and relatives tell me, as to the perceived quality of my jewelry pieces. I do
    know that ” I ” spend a lot of time and money trying to make a quality item, which is as unique as possible, for the
    pleasure of the buyer. I have had a few sales while on Etsy, but I suspect my prices are too high, as many have
    said, for the average Etsy buyer. I cannot sell them for less and turn a profit.

    To the persons here who complain about the poor craftsmanship and quality of some shops on Etsy, who undercut
    your prices, I ditto that as well. That will be there until someone starts and merchandises a website for “real” artists
    which must by definition be “juried”. The purchaser must be aware of the time, effort and talent, going into a quality
    piece.

    The best to all!

    PS: To Rosemary: enjoy 60! I am older, LOL! Keep enjoying your talent, God’s gifts should never be put aside!

    Judith

This article was very interesting…thanks for putting these numbers out there!

I completely agree with many points that you make. For one, getting “noticed” is very difficult and somewhat impossible for the average seller. I crochet hats and accessories, mainly for the little ones, and each time I get “featured” in someone else’s treasury, the only people who I see actually viewing the treasury are other sellers who are also featured. I have never been featured on etsy’s front page, but all too often I see sellers with much less in their shops featured. Another snag I run into is copycat sellers…they search through the etsy listings for items that are appealing or selling well, and *try to recreate them and sell for a much lower, unfair price.

When I first started selling on etsy, I never ever expected to make huge sales. I am a stay-at-home-mom of two little boys, so my time is very limited. Crocheting a quality piece takes time and attention, so I admit that I could never handle mass sales. However, all too often I see sellers who started selling say, 6 months ago, make double the sales that I’ve made in the year or so that I’ve been open. I think that etsy is a fabulous outlet for someone with a hobby who wants to make a little spare change on the side, but I would never expect to make a living off of etsy. It’s just another outlet that I can use whenever I WANT to.

I have found that networking has been my best source of sales. I have come into contact with several very talented photographers, who photograph my items in exchange for their photos (the hats, etc are modeled, of course). Since I started having my wares professionally photographed sales have really increased. These photographers mention me to their clients, post photos of my pieces on their websites, blogs, facebook pages, etc, and that starts a bit of a trickling down effect. The photos make a huge difference too…if it looks good at first glance, chances are more people will click on the listing and check it out more closely. I have also hosted reviews/giveaways on various independent blogs with quite a bit of success. And I always use my own facebook page to promote sales, etc. Without all of the networking I think I would still be twittling my thumbs (literally!). I would say from experience that if your friend wants to open her shop on etsy, then she MUST NOT rely solely on etsy to promote her shop. Most serious sellers who are actually trying to make money and not win a “most sales” contest on etsy do not renew listings daily, and therefore we are not seen nearly as often as we should be seen.

I hope that etsy will realize that we sellers are not happy with the search engines they currently utilize, and therefore I hope they will try to construct a more efficient way of searching through the TONS of new items. I also wish they would go to a flat -rate monthly fee instead of the gobs of 20cents charges that we have to pay. And like many of the other readers have mentioned, I hope that etsy can allow new buyers to opt out of registration…I lose so many sales to people from other online sources who just don’t feel like signing up for an etsy account. Etsy is great, but it definitely has its flaws….

    Drew

    Thanks Samantha for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. I think your experience really echos what a lot of other Etsy sellers have been dealing with and how Etsy has simply become too large and too unorganized to be an effective marketplace for the individual seller.

    You’re exactly right that networking and getting yourself out there will always be the best type advertising for your business, especially in a creative marketplace where the personality of the artist can often mean as much to the customer as the quality of the work itself. Using Etsy primarily as a way to transact your sale, and not as a marketing “hope-you-can-find-me” method, is probably the way to go. As a checkout and payment system with low listing fees, Etsy is hard to beat. The days of having someone discover your shop by searching on Etsy, however, are probably long gone.

    It sounds like you are doing the right thing by using Facebook, various blogs, and Twitter to drive traffic to your Etsy shop. On a side note, you’ve also done a great job modeling your hats and other items on actual cute kids rather than simply setting your items on a table and photographing them like so many other sellers seem to do–so kudos to you!

    I also think coming up with some sort of tier or flat-rate monthly fee is probably a good idea that would allow Etsy to offer some additional perks listings/promotions/features to their premium customers. I would think that you could even offer some of these listing features a la carte like eBay does with highlighted, starred, and bold item listings for a small additional fee.

    Thanks again Samantha–Great stuff! :)

I am getting pretty sick of etsy. I have over 400 items I need to list and I was thinking just today, they are going to get $80.00 every 4 mths that I relist my items. That’s crazy? why should we have to pay a relisting fee again? Also, I was thinking, Etsy is trying to keep some of the venues that are able to pull sellers listings and put them on their venues, very simply too. The way I look at it; I pay for my listings, and therefore they belong to me. So if I want to list them elsewhere , I should be able to . Plus they get a commission too.
It seems like constantly I am seeing that F**king little frowning yellow face at the top of my etsy page that says, you have unpaid fees. I am sick of it. I first started with Artfire, but saw no sales hardly with it. But I am going back. I wish Artfire had the means to
automatically pull your listings to their site. It would save me a lot of money and time, that I really don’t have. My major concern is I want a site that makes good use of Google, and I know people can find my items. I have paid for optimization sites, but I haven’t noticed any change in sales. I think those sites with their little robots and spiders are a waste of money. Does anyone know what venues will pull automatically the listings from Etsy?

    Drew

    You’re certainly not alone Carolyn in your frustration. I just can’t believe that Etsy still hasn’t caught on to all of these issues with their customers. Where is the support for their current customers? Sometimes it seems that they are spending so much of their time and energy on recruiting new buyers and sellers, that it doesn’t bother them to see all of their current customers get pissed off and leave.

    Unless they get their act together fairly soon and start taking care of artists like you, I really don’t see this ending well. Sooner or later they’re going to run out of new recruits and discover that their business is collapsing around them.

    I hope you’re able to find a good alternative soon!

    Just went to Artfire website and found this info: “Are You Ready to Start Selling on ArtFire?
    Let’s get started building your ArtFire shop. Start your FREE trial now.
    CSV Import
    CSV Import

    You don’t have to spend time re-listing products that you listed on Etsy. With the CSV data from your Etsy shop you can easily import your items and make a few (necessary) edits to get started on ArtFire faster than ever.” Don’t know how easy this will be or how well it will work, but apparently it is possible to pull listings from Etsy into Artfire. I’m considering doing it; if it works I will let you know!

      Norman Ridenour

      Listings ETSY to ARTFIRE no problem. The problem for me, ArtFire does not move the goods.

Sandy Jameston

In your article you calculate the average selling price of $18 (counting shipping charges?).
Who can make anything for $18 and make a profit?
Just add up all the time to make the item, the cost of the materials, the time to photograph it, put it up on etsy, etsy costs, then if it sells coordinating the sale, packing it (don’t forget the cost of packing materials), taking it to the post office and any etc, etc. costs.
One would make more money working minimum wage for some one!

(And for all you people putting things up for $50, $100, $200 more —-forget it. $18 is the average price of an item sold.)

And the other thing you need to look into is the type of sales on Etsy.
What is the most item category sold?
Art and craft supplies! Supplies! Beads, jewels, do-dads, do-hickeys and whatevers to make things that are then (not) sold on etsy for an average of $18.

    Drew

    It’s interesting that the biggest categories of items sold on Etsy are Arts & Crafts supplies. . .

    This reminds me of those old stories about the gold rush where the only people who ended up making any money were not the ones looking for gold, but the ones who were selling the shovels and pans to the people looking for gold. In our own case here, that would be the bead merchants and the people running the selling platform itself (Etsy). As you point out, it’s NOT the Etsy sellers who are paying to list (and re-list) their items month after month all for the promise of that glorious $18 payday.

    Fortunately, the smarter sellers like yourself are starting to notice the ridiculousness of it all, and it’s just a matter of time before this giant bead-covered house of cards will fall if something is not done soon.

Mel

I want to know if Etsy can somehow slow/block traffic or get it redirected from your shop if you, for example, might have overdue fees or you go and open a shop on Artfire, open your own website or something?

    Drew

    That’s an interesting question Mel but one that I don’t have an answer for, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Etsy did have something like this in place. Any of you Etsy users have an answer to this?

      trinlayk

      there is suspicion, that like on Ebay, Etsy uses “rolling black outs” to push some shops forward, and others back… for example the smaller seller might be doing really well for a few months, sales will be picking up, and then suddenly stop. a few months of nothing, and then sale start going good again, start really ramping up and then suddenly stop.

      this can be contrary to the sellers promotional practice, contrary to holidays etc coming up… (when i look at my stats from year to year there’s no pattern that makes any sense. one year I have NO sales during the holiday season, but Jan- May sales were like mad. The next year the holiday season is insanely busy with sales, but then February as the ramp up to Valentines comes up (which was HOT the year before) suddenly nothing, as if someone shut off a faucet.

      Others have observed that they’ll be visiting with someone who’d never been to Etsy before (or testing out a repaired computer) type in their direct URL and end up on the ETSY front page instead of in the shop.

      So what’s happening when that sort of thing, and those sorts of patterns are going on?

    Even if Etsy is capable of doing that I doubt they would because if you have overdue fees they are going to want you to have the money to pay them ASAP. Slowing down your traffic would make getting their cut even slower!

dan

Let me ramble a moment. I have a brick and mortar store, a WEBsite , attend artisan shows and have an ETSY Store. I sell things through each channel and each has its issues, (talk about cost per listing then try paying the overhead of B&M Store! =) )

Now, I sell more through ETSY than my on WEBsite for the same items so the shear exposure and built in SEO does help in the ETSY environment.

But here is my AHAH! I started doing some API work thinking I would use my descriptive and inferential statistical background to find patterns in the data and then use that info to improve my own sales. I won’t go into all the details but here is an example for just about any category:

I looked at top sellers (volume not $) and quickly found (as others have pointed out) that these folks are mostly a supplier of some type or are sometimes involved in mass sales that may be questionably hand made or vinatge. A simple histogram of the data shows that these mega sales folks are , as we say, outside the normal distribution of sellers and are just doing something different.

So, you kick out that data (unless you want to be a supplier) and start poking around in other corners. I like to turn to Mr. Pareto and ask him what he sees in data. Well, it becomes apparent real quick that the volume of sales is split over a VERY LARGE number of very small volume sellers. ETSY gets their $.20 regardless but each one of these low volume sellers gets back very little.

Hey, its free enterprise system and their lots of folks are wanting the “American Dream.” When the sorting out (not worth all the trouble) does occur, I predict that few will continue to be sellers And the folks that quit will be the ones that will also be taking ETSY’s revenues down with them (remember that category is the one generating the income for ETSY)

I notice that ETSY is making strides in the direction that ETSY really is a social site. Circles, Virtual Labs, Chat Rooms, etc. That will keep ETSY alive as all these folks that are generating ETSY revenue and not sustainable, business revenues for themselves will need something to do.

And as they say, “If it feels good, do it.” =)

    Drew

    Thanks for stopping by Dan and sharing your thoughts with us. I think you’re exactly right when you say that sooner or later the bulk of the low-volume bell curve are going to give up and Etsy is going to lose their cash cow. Eventually Etsy will probably move more toward a percentage type framework (a la eBay) but as you point out, so much of Etsy’s business is low-price supplies that this really isn’t going to boost the bottom line either.

    I have to admit that I had no idea how social Etsy is becoming, but unless they are generously stocking the forums and chat rooms with happy employees, I can’t imagine the conversation evolving into anything but a giant bitchfest for disgruntled users grumbling about their lack of sales. Then again, if you can’t make them money, you might as well keep them entertained. Bread and circuses my friend!

      laine

      the chatters will be wannabee business owner who have invested nothing but think they are big shots with an online shop and along with that are braggards, posers, boasters, self glossers, and dreamers. why does anyone chat with strangers they do not know or will never know? i consider social media a brag festival of self centeredness, no one care but the socity at large wants to believe they are special.

trinlayk

I’ve left Etsy for other venues, mainly because of concerns for the privacy of my customers, and concerns about their information being Data mined.

However, I’ve noticed that with many of my customers, and Your Mileage May Vary, is that quite often someone will see my work at a show, on a website, at a friend’s house/flickr site, blog, etc… they’ll come to ETSY to buy from ME having seen my work and gotten excited about it. They register and buy from me that same day they’ve registered, usually one or two items, sometimes a shiny happy customer buys a handful of items at a time.

….and then they vanish… they often don’t come back to ETSY at all EVER, or come back the next time they need a gift, or want another of my items, and they they want to come DIRECTLY to my shop, get the one or two items that is exactly what they want… and then POOF….

so yes, there may be a lot of people registered as new users, but if the majority is like the greater number of customers that I’ve had… they come, they buy one or two things, and then THEY NEVER RETURN TO ETSY.

more and more I was hearing that it was becoming more difficult to actually get to my shop, even when the customer had my direct link… it was more difficult to browse, MORe difficult to make a purchase.

registration also included being set up for the circles (and notifications of “shop so an so added you to their circle” and other forms of spam) and other “features” without many of the privacy settings being opt in. (the default is apparently “show everything”)

they’ve responded to the privacy concerns, not by fixing the privacy PROBLEM, but by breaking the feedback function… they’ve turned feedback from a tool into a weapon…. pretty much the same way Ebay had, possibly worse.

And they keep investing time, money and energy into extras that aren’t needed, or should be at 2nd or 3rd priority and STILL don’t have a customer service hotline AT ALL. by this time a company of that size doing world wide business should have a customer service hotline that’s open 24/7/363 … but they don’t… having a customer service 800# should have been there since the site started up.

Yes, you can email, for help… but you’ll just get an auto mail telling you they’ve got your mail, and maybe eventually you’ll get an email answering a different question than the one you need answered and no way to figure out who you really need to contact. Each Help email goes to the department and not a particular person, so a follow up email will probably not go to the person who sent the one you need the clarification on…

Communication and customer service issues have plagued the company since I started selling there in 06, and admin/ownership has been informed that they really really need to take care of this gap RIGHT NOW, since that time… and they just don’t take care of their clients (the sellers) very well at all.

    Drew

    Wow, you bring up some really disturbing points here about Etsy’s complete inaccessibility to their sellers which are (or at least should be) the lifeblood of this company. You are exactly right, how could a company the size of Etsy not have a toll-free customer service hotline setup for their sellers?!

    Okay, I understand that the company may want to encourage buyers to contact the sellers directly if the item they ordered is not what they were expecting, but to not offer any real type of customer support to their sellers other than an email autobot — that’s completely absurd!

    It’s also a little bizarre that the company has addressed their customer’s privacy concerns by once again sabotaging the feedback function. This company seems to have a history of making things more difficult and convoluted over time for their sellers instead of making things easier and more intuitive as you would tend to expect.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share this with us!

I had an Etsy store for a while…made four sales in five years! I was doing mostly crocheted baby blankets and hats/scarves, stuff like that. I haven’t bothered stocking anything there for over a year, seriously contemplating taking up painting and opening a shop on Zazzle. What I’ve heard about what’s been going on at Etsy since the last time I was there really doesn’t sound good….

    Drew

    You’re right Ruth, that has to be discouraging.

    Etsy promises you this great marketplace that is full of eager buyers when it reality it seems these days it has become more like an overcrowded flea market where the merchants are jostling to get the attention of that one guy who accidentally wandered in looking for directions. . .

    Let us know if your Zazzle experience is any better

“giant bead-covered house of cards” lol!

I opened my Etsy shop over a year ago, but still haven’t listed anything. I’m not quite ready to sell online yet (or offline for that matter), but I thought it would be a first step. After a year of reading online, now I’m hesitating. I get the Etsy newsletter and follow them on Twitter and see the “Quit Your Day Job” postings. I also see the advice to new sellers: Relist! Relist! Relist! It’s worth the price!

I also hate that you can’t search Etsy for actual original art – you get all these “prints” – sorry to offend but I really don’t like printouts of artwork marketed as prints. I’ve been to printmaking studios and I know what a print is vs. a laserjet printout of a picture of a painting.

I’m not sure how to sell via my Typepad blog yet (I’m not jumping on the WordPress bandwagon) but I like the Big Cartel idea.

    Drew

    Hi Lisa!

    I think in general we are still sorting out this whole everyone-can-have-a-store thing online. In the past everything like this had to be done in a large marketplace like Etsy and eBay because that’s where the buyers were. It reminds me of the old shopping malls that are slowly falling into the abyss here in the U.S. Specialized niche stores have taken over and those one-size-fits-all departments stores are slowly realizing that their days are numbered. Highly specialized niche websites/stores seem to be the future because one store or marketplace can no longer serve the needs of everyone.

    Etsy has tried to be everything to everyone and their efforts seem to be failing. Their response so far has simply been to go out and enlist more sellers. Maybe I’m just out of touch (surprise), but when was the last time you’ve seen an Etsy commercial to get new buyers to the site? What exactly are they doing in order to get more people looking to buy something. At this point Etsy seems to be following the Amway and the other network marketing models where they focus their energy on recruiting more sellers in order to collect their money in fees instead of finding actual paying customers.

Arrrrgh Polly

Lots of “experts” write about how to sell on etsy.

There are many scam authors who have never sold or made jewelry who write articles on “how to sell jewelry”.

I’m frankly quite sick of all the garbage on the internet on this subject.

The people who are selling a lot of product are clearly too busy and unmotivated to write articles and teach others how to compete with them!

hardly any of these “experts” have ever done it themselves, let alone opened an etsy store….hmmmm.

    Drew

    I’m not sure where exactly you put this site on the internet “garbage” scale, but I do agree with you that there does seem to be an unusually large number of Etsy experts out there who have never made a dime on Etsy.

    The sad fact of the matter is that it has become far more profitable to sell books about “How to Sell on Etsy” than it is to actually try to sell anything on Etsy. The marketplace has simply become too crowded and so far Etsy has refused to organize or divide itself up in some kind of meaningful way. Until that actually happens, we’ll probably be sitting here and talking about it.

Dave

Yes,

I just closed shop with etsy as a seller. Here’s why. I originally went to etsy, because I know they concentrate on art and are very focussed on that specific aspect . It seems like every other website including ebay is focussed on everything else except art. My biggest problem with etsy is that it ironically focusses on the artist instead of the buyer. Who ‘really’ buys anything on etsy other than no one. The answer: ‘artists.’ That would work work great if artists ever had any money. You can sell something on ebay in 1/90th of the time it takes to even try to sell something on etsy. Why? Because people that actually have money shop on ebay. Don’t get me wrong, the artists on etsy give exceptional moral support to other artists and this is almost priceless. It doesn’t pay the bills though. I’m glad I did list on etsy for the time I did, but I just don’t have the time and money to spend waiting for my work to escape revolving in cyberspace compared to the real world of an actual purchase. That probably made no sense, but esty could make a huge amount of money instead of inflating their ‘almost’ annual reports, by putting more focus on marketing it to people with money who typically are not artists. Of course the flip-side is that etsy sells out to the ‘kinkadean’ dominant buying philosophies of the rich. How terrible that would be. Go figure.

    Drew

    Hi Dave!

    I think you nailed it when you said that Etsy for whatever reason seems to focus all their efforts on recruiting more artists rather than finding more buyers to actually buy the art. As anyone knows, once the customers stop coming it’s only a matter of time until the merchants/artists start cannibalizing one another. Instead of a thriving marketplace, it eventually unravels into some Darwinian experiment to simply see who can survive the longest. . .

    Thanks again Dave for stopping by and let us know if you find any better alternatives out there.

I have dumped hundreds into trying to sell on Etsy bought a new camera Take tons of pictures post all the time like they say and keep lowering and lowering prices on items it even took me 6+ hours to make On average I get about 50ish -100 views before an item ends and then a couple likes But that’s about it I get Favorited but no buys Ive had 11 sales since I started and about 5 of them were my grandmother from far away lol >.<
Basically Etsy sucks and is a waste of money I have recently been looking into other Options and Art fire seems the way to go It's not like my items suck or Are too expensive I just think that Etsy has crap as far as traffic It's mostly window shoppers and highly opinionated people I've also had people favorite an item of mine then turn around and copy me That blows!
At one point I even had 50 things at least posted at once now that is 0.20 cents a posting x 50 =10 dollars on artfire it is 10 dollars a month for as many things as you want to post and Unlike Etsy which takes 3.3 FVF Artfire Gives you everything you make from a sale!
Worth checking out.

    Dave

    Art fire eh?

    I’ll have to check them out.

    What you’re saying is entirely the reason why I closed shop with Etsy. Same with me, I had photos and I lowered the price and it made no difference. (Meow meow Kudos on that meow meow advice)

    Drew

    I think you certainly aren’t alone in looking for alternatives to selling on Etsy. I’ve been thinking about possibly doing a followup article to this post looking at some alternative online marketplaces to Etsy (like Artfire) and the pros and cons of each but I would definitely need your input on what else you’ve tried and what you liked and didn’t like about that particular marketplace. So if any of you have moved on from Etsy and are trying something else, please let us know about it and tell us what you think!

      Tere Yons

      Please do a follow up article! I’ve found this whole article and comments section incredibly interesting and informative. My entire family is made up of “struggling” artists (meaning struggling to succeed, but we all have money to live on from other sources), so I know some of the struggles of trying to sell art for a price that it is worth, but I had no idea about a lot of these new online issues. What I find so incredible is how SUPPLIES are the number one selling items! That just blows my mind, even though it seems so obvious now, especially when I think of my own family and we spend so much money on supplies to make all this “art.”

      I would definitely be interested in reading what you find out about Etsy and similar sites since you wrote the first article. Thanks so much for your hard work!

        laine

        businesses have money and they spend money and are usually not cheap and fickled, people/consumers on the other hand are cheap fickled and down right horrible, except for the wealthy. so i am not surprised.
        you have to get as far away as you can from consumers and lower and middle class. i sell to a lot of professionals and they can be the bad too. you have to get above incomes of 100k, they its wonderful.

          You need spell check.

Marc

Unfortunately your premise is incorrect. You identify that Etsy is taking on new people all the time but overall sales are not increasing to meet the $18 per person level. The reason for this is quite simple. Some are sellers only, but the majority are buyers, but these buyers are not all buying at the same time. In one month a certain group may buy items and represent the total sales for that month. The next month you may get a certain small percentage of crossover buyers but for the most part it is new buyers who represent the sales for 2nd month. This goes on and on month after month. It is in this way that 2.1 million Etsy people can account for a fairly narrow (but growing) sales range.

The number of individuals buying more than one item a year is increasing and as a result the buying power of Etsy buyers grows every year exponentially. Etsy is only on the cusp of their potential. Look at their financial information in comparison to Ebay and one can see the room for growth.

    Drew

    Hi Marc,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us.

    I would certainly welcome the opportunity to compare Etsy’s financial information with another online marketplace such as eBay, however, Etsy being a privately held company provides very little actual financial information about their company (of which I can only assume that you are a part of) whereas eBay being a publicly held corporation has their audited financial statements readily available. In other words, the rest of us can all only speculate what is actually going on behind the curtain because Etsy does not publicly release these figures.

    For example, you mention that “the number of individuals buying more than one item a year is increasing”. I’m curious about what percentage of buyers we are talking about, and where exactly you acquired this information?

    And even if it’s true, that still doesn’t address the concerns that have been expressed from these current and former Etsy sellers about the long-term viability of an individual seller being able to thrive in an increasingly overcrowded handcrafted marketplace. eBay continues to work because they have not only effectively segmented their marketplace, they also have a strong search algorithm in place where a buyer can find exactly what they’re looking for, and they historically have strong support tools for their sellers.

    I do hope for the sake of all of these sellers who have pinned their small business hopes and dreams on the Etsy marketplace that the company really is “on the cusp of their potential” as you say and the number of new buyers will continue to grow exponentially . . . but I still can’t help but wonder what happens if they don’t?

Drew

On a completely unrelated note. . .

Interesting article about the recent management shakeup at Etsy on TechCrunch as visitor growth to Etsy has apparently “stalled”

http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/21/etsy-shakeup-cto-chad-dickerson-takes-over-from-founder-kalin-as-visitor-growth-stalls/

Here are a couple of intriguing quotes from the article:

“Today marked a bit of leadership shuffling at Etsy, the online marketplace to buy your local hipster a handmade good, as CTO Chad Dickerson takes over the reins as CEO from Rob Kalin.”

“Etsy has been growing fairly steadily over the last few years, and a report by GreenCrest Capital, a private equity firm, estimated that the startup’s revenue will grow from $72 million to $201 million by 2016.

However, while growth potential is high, the firm said that “storefront concerns were reaching a crescendo”, with customers expressing concern over the amount of effort it takes to maintain an active Etsy storefront.

In Green Capital’s survey of ‘over two dozen prolific Etsy sellers’, more than 80 percent of sellers ‘had concerns about their Etsy experience’. These concerns also included financial considerations, competition, privacy concerns, and ‘Etsy’s lack of technological capabilities’.”

“comScore also had Etsy hovering at around 7.4 million monthly unique visitors worldwide in May, a number that has remained largely flat going back to December 2010.”

[Editor’s note: hmmmmmm. . . ]

Daniela

Yesterday, etsy changed their default search to relevancy. It will be interesting to see how that effects sales.

    Drew

    Thanks for sharing this Daniela. It’s interesting and also a bit sad that Etsy just realized that a search should almost always be about “relevancy”. If anyone notices any differences in their sales because of this switch, please let us know!

You keep saying that people are leaving in droves. This may be true but what is the real reason behind this migration?
I personally think it is because many people start up their etsy shop only to find that it takes a lot of work to manage a shop. Many believe they are going to get rich quick. They soon find out that you cannot let the store front sit idle.

Just recently etsy changed the default on the FP to relevancy. This has upset a lot of people because they were spending lots of money renewing and of course gaining visability and thus the possibility of sales. The other side of the coin were the little users who were leaving because they did not have the capital to invest in large marketing renewal programs. Thus the were only visable to the public for about four seconds then they went into the vortex.

Now however, etsy has changed the FP search and it has brought out a lot of little sellers who have a great product and will thus have more opportunity to sell.

I was upset at etsy last fall when they started the big changes. The one that got my goat was the forums changes. So I put together a small poll and put it out on the forums to see what people were thinking. Now the servey is not a real knock down mathimatical wizard computed stats type but it gave me an idea what was on the mind of the people on the forums.

You can see it here: http://etsy-extended.blogspot.com/2011/02/survey-about-etsy-2011.html

The point to note here is that approximately 88% of the respondants stated that they both bought and sold. The numbers selling only was about 7% and buying only was 4%.

I was chastised by many who said my pole was slanted. But it still showed a slice of thought of about 1000 people. I would have continued collecting responses but the cost was to much for me to personally carry.

Even after I closed the poll many people continued to respond. Strange the stats remain similar.

Food for thought.

    Drew

    First of all, thanks Terrance for taking the time to create this survey and then sharing with us. There is a lot of good information here and it certainly gives us a better insight into the Etsy community. For what it’s worth, I think every poll cannot help but be slightly biased but I think yours has a large enough response that it accurately shows the feelings of the Etsy community.

    It will be interesting to see how the switch to relevancy in Etsy’s search will affect the sales of these smaller (and quite possibly higher quality) merchants who don’t have the marketing dollars to stay on the front page.

    If you would, please let us know what you are hearing from the Etsy community about these changes both now and in the future.

    Thanks again Terrance for stopping by and sharing this information with us :)

Thank you so much. I do have a story to tell since I just left Overstock’s Worldstock as a small vendor and joined Etsy. But I’ll have to get on the computer to join your feed, my iPad is acting jittery. BTW, vendors really are freaking out about the new relevancy search, and I’m one of them!

    Drew

    I’d love to hear more about your experiences as a recent new seller with Etsy. Have you had any issues with the relevancy search tool. It seems to have completely changed the way a lot of Etsy sellers market their work on the site. Thanks again for stopping by!

P.S.

I joined Etsy about two months ago. In theory, wouldn’t it be easier for people to find you/ to become known- on a site like Etsy then with ones own website? There is a lonely feeling thinking about starting my own site….speaking of “If you build it, they will come.” Having said that I do have to market my Etsy shop aggressively and I could be doing it for my own website.

I haven’t been around long enough to make a real judgement but check out the link below. She closed down shop because of “copycats” and now sells her secret sources to anyone who will pony up the cash.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/76023249/cd-collection-with-428-image-transfers

My opinion on people copying your ideas is this: Get over it. Everyone gets inspiration from somewhere. Even you. If someone purchased something from you on Etsy to copy it…they could have done so just as easily on a website or somewhere else. I have seen many renditions of famous paintings/art. Some will pay for the original some won’t. It makes art accessible to those with money and those with little.

I am not sure I care for artfire…for many reasons. Their aesthetic appeal and the shops seem to separated- for lack of a better word. Their new banner and shop re-do is limited and unappealing.

So where are the masses moving to? I would like to hear from people who moved on somewhere else. In particular starting their own website- how has it worked out for you?

    Drew

    I think you nailed it when you said that it is lonely (not to mention frustrating) starting a brand-new website and then not getting any kind of real traffic coming into your site for those first few months. The good news is that once you do get that traffic coming in, no one (except perhaps the great Google itself) can ever take that traffic away from you.

    I think that’s one of the reasons so many Etsy sellers have freaked out when they changed their search methods. Those lucky souls who had figured out how to work the Etsy system, just got the proverbial rug pulled out from beneath them and many of them feel like they are staring over from square one.

    You’re right, of course, about getting over the copycats. Much easier said than done, but there will always be those parasitic idiots out there who have nothing better to do than swipe everyone else’s ideas. You just have to accept that as the price of doing business online. With any luck you’ll eventually have more sales (and hopefully more ideas) to replace any financial loss either real or imagined.

    I would also be curious to hear what others have to say about ArtFire or any of the other Etsy-alternative marketplaces that are out there.

Interesting, I am one of those gazillion new members between September and October 2010. I set up my shop in September last year, where I sell my artwork–primarily jewelry with some stained glass and painted glassware. To date I have had 12 sales, only 2 to strangers (i.e., the other sales were to friends or acquaintances). I am beyond discouraged at this point, and after hours upon hours of research on SEOs, marketing, keyword optimization, social networking, and dozens of other marketing issues that are over my head, I feel as though making any money at doing what I love–forget making a living–is a dream that is beyond my reach.

After a year on Etsy I have learned more than I have sold. None of this information is particularly helpful to me as a person trying to sell her own work, but it could provide some insight into Etsy’s future.

I think the biggest issue with Etsy isn’t about how many buyers and how many sellers make up its membership, but about the nature of the sales themselves. It’s not just about buyers and sellers–it’s a matter of what I believe to be the makeup of the membership responsible for buying.

Etsy has two different types of customers: shoppers looking for handmade goods, and the Etsy sellers/artisans themselves who also purchase from other shop on the site. Unfortunately, I believe that it is this last group that makes up the majority of Etsy’s sales, which means that most of the sales are going to be of supplies, not goods. To wit: I have a friend on Etsy who is a supplier of gemstones whose shop opened exactly one month after mine, and she has (I kid you not) 150 times the number of sales as I do. My theory is that If your sole goal is to sell on Etsy, then the best way to do it is to sell supplies–beads, gemstones, jewelry components, etc.–as the majority of Etsy members are artisans, not your everyday shopper. I myself purchase most of my supplies for my creations through Etsy, and I suspect that most of the other artisans/Etsy members do as well. So I would not be surprised if Etsy’s sales, were you to examine them closely, would be made up primarily of art/crafting supplies sold to other members of Etsy, most of whom are probably there to sell the items they make from these supplies.

I think this is a symptom of the biggest problem with Etsy, at least for those who attempt to sell their artwork; Etsy is, and really always has been, a place for artisans. That is, most of Etsy’s members are artists/crafters. When I have asked the average person on the street whether they have heard of Etsy, the answer is invariably “no.” (It should be noted that I am in the UK, and this may be not be the case in the US, where Etsy may be more widely known.) So most of the sales on Etsy, it would be my guess, are comprised of items that are sold to other crafters. This is (at least in part) why my supplier friend does so well, and my shop seems to get very little attention. I would probably do better selling off my massive inventory of vintage supplies than to actually use them in my own pieces. This, to me, is the problem for Etsy artisans–we simply aren’t going to get attention from other artists, because we are all there to sell, and if we’re going to spend money, it’s going to be on supplies. Other, similar sites such as ArtFire and DeviantArt are probably even less well known to the buying public and are comprised almost solely of artists.

As if this issue weren’t problematic enough, Etsy has implemented several changes to their site that have hurt sellers. Last year they disabled the Alchemy feature, which allowed customers to request items upon which artisans could bid, giving shop owners a surefire way to gain custom orders. I was too late to Etsy to utilize Alchemy to gain sales, but I can see its appeal, and I have read several accounts of artisans losing more than half their business as a result of its discontinuation. I would not be surprised it those sellers who were making the majority of their sales from this feature might have left Etsy in frustration after this, especially since Etsy had promised to replace it with something better, a promise which has yet to be fulfilled.

Additionally, Etsy has also recently changed their search engine to sort for “relevancy.” This could be a positive change, as it apparently mirrors Google’s search engine. (Although if you have used Google recently it’s likely that you too have been frustrated with some of its newest features.) Previously sellers have had to use the relisting procedure to get our items to the top of the list in searches; that is, in order for items to make it to the front page of a search result, it had to be the most recent item listed. The change to relevancy allows us to bypass that (often fruitless) chore of constant and timely relisting. Until now, the only way to get noticed was to 1) flood Etsy with listings, meaning you had to have many items in your shop to even make a dent in the search results, and 2) relist a) often and b) at the right time (Etsy’s users are primarily US natives, so those of us in the UK had to list or relist at the optimum time for traffic, which for me would be between 12-4 AM). Not to mention that in order to be seen this way, it was necessary to relist items every couple of days or so, and although 20 cents a listing seems like a small amount, imagine having to repeat this every two or three days for ten items. If I were to attempt to have my items seen by relisting in this way, I would have to sell at least four items a month just to make up costs, and my shop has 53 items (as of August 30) and is currently averaging one sale per month. All in all, the “relist often” tactic just isn’t very efficient for most of us. So the change to “relevancy” for the search engine could prove to be a good thing.

However, this change has thrown me off, and I suspect many other sellers who are not as market savvy as others. Trying to figure out how to best cater to this relevancy factor is more difficult than it sounds. Tonight I went through my listings and attempted to change keywords and the listing text to accommodate this change. Unfortunately in doing so I had no luck whatsoever. It seems that the same shops end up at the top of the list no matter what the search engine’s design; the shops with hundreds of items do well, while those of us who simply cannot flood the market are left behind. This change is still too new for me to have figured out, so I cannot speak to its effectiveness; my inability to move my items up in the listings might have less to do with the change itself and more to do with my ignorance of how SEO works. But this change still gives an edge to folks with more money to spend on marketing strategies such as search engine submission and keyword optimization. Those of us who are just the figurative starving artist (or, in some cases, literal) do not have the option of hiring people to help us with marketing strategy. The same people who are currently at the bottom of the listings–like myself–will remain there simply due to an inability to get this kind of assistance. All the reading I’ve done on this subject has left me more confused and discouraged than I was to begin with.

I know that I’m not the only Etsy seller with these problems. Averaging one sale a month is still a better fate than that of some other less fortunate Etsy sellers; in fact, I know of some artisans who, after a year of running their shop, have yet to make a single sale. But I cannot describe how discouraging this can be. I spend a LOT of time working on my Etsy shop, time I would rather spend creating. Doing the thing I love has become less and less of a joy and more of a chore as I have tried researching marketing strategies. My art is no longer about creativity, and a lot of the fun has been sucked out of it since I have tried focusing on sales. I used to create for its own sake; now, I judge myself according to my sales numbers, and those numbers being so low, my self worth has plummeted as a result. This may sound shallow and silly, but it’s difficult not to get caught up in this logic. For as many people as I’ve seen with low sales, I nonetheless continue to come across countless Etsy “success stories”, many of them found on Etsy’s front page, each extolling the virtues of hard work and savvy marketing, each containing the inherent implication that a lack of success is due not to the likelihood of your items getting lost in a sea of sellers and shops, but rather due to the lack of some work ethic or character flaw. This makes it difficult not to fall into the trap of believing that there’s something inherently wrong with me, or perhaps worse, my work. It’s difficult not to take the lack of sales personally.

As far as I can tell, the only thing that is going to help sellers is for Etsy to find a way to better market itself to buyers. Unfortunately, the continuing effect of what I like to call the Walmartization of the Western World does not lend itself to supporting handmade, and if I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve exhibited at a craft show only to hear a customer say “Eighteen dollars? I can get the same thing at WalMart for a buck!”, I might have a better product to sell.

    Drew

    Thank you so much Jenny for taking the time to share your Etsy experiences with us!

    It’s interesting because I have been thinking about writing an update to this article that covered all of the various changes Etsy had made over the course of the previous year, but I think you just did it for me, so thank you! :)

    This is an amazing post in itself and it really describes what the small Etsy shop owner has been going through over the past year as Etsy has “tweaked” its business model. I would have to think that any independent artisan who has honestly been putting in the effort to build their storefront only to be disappointed by their results month after month will easily relate to your story.

    The only thing I would add to this would be to tell you not to get too discouraged, because if there is one thing that I have learned from my experience online it is that in the end your perseverance will pay off. Maybe not in sales, but perhaps in recognition of you as an artist. Things may not always happen the way that we first imagined them, but I do know that if you keep moving forward and try to remain open to new opportunities, success will find you . . .

    I wish you all the best!

      “…if there is one thing that I have learned from my experience online it is that in the end your perseverance will pay off. Maybe not in sales, but perhaps in recognition of you as an artist. Things may not always happen the way that we first imagined them, but I do know that if you keep moving forward and try to remain open to new opportunities, success will find you . . . ”

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you saying that. I kinda needed to hear that today. lol.

      Something rather important I forgot to mention in my (already long-winded) post:

      One of the most disappointing (and damning) of Etsy’s business strategies is its promotion of items that are in direct contrast to its self-professed goals. Etsy claims to be a source for all things handmade, but what do they market more vigorously than anything else? On their front page, on their multitude of Facebook presences, you will find, more often than anything else, the bane of the Etsy seller’s existence–the omnipresent wall decal. Judging by the number of times I have visited Etsy’s front page and found items featured there that are either obviously NOT handmade or items that I would deem sub-par (have you seen Regretsy?), Etsy’s interests clearly do not lie, as it claims, in promoting handmade items by talented artists. And make no mistake, Etsy is chock full of talent. Unfortunately, as it was built on the eBay platform, it has also gone the way eBay has gone to a certain extent; it has become, as my British husband would say, a place for “old tat”. I can’t tell you how depressing it is to see truly amazing artists constantly being eclipsed by sheets of mass-produced adhesive-backed vinyl that say “Just Breath” [sic], or seven listings by seven different shops of a brass octopus on a chain.

      I understand that Etsy’s main priority is to make money, but for a site that claims to be THE outlet for artisans and crafters, that kind of marketing, in my opinion, is doing its reputation a disservice. And it also discourages the rest of us who are actually making our own stuff and not mass producing items and selling at a deep discount. Unfortunately, Etsy will never remove these shops from the site, because these are the money makers. Just as it will not take down shops that are engaging in obvious copyright infringement, as long as the shop is making them money, it will continue to exist unless an outside source forces Etsy’s hand.

      Yes, I have been very discouraged with my lack of success. It’s actually amusing to me because I moved to jewelry making from pottery and glass work because I thought it might be easier to sell. I fell in love with vintage buttons and decided that making jewelry out of them might be lucrative. This was wayyyy back in 1999, and since then button jewelry has become all the rage. Interestingly, when I sold on eBay, I did much better than I do on Etsy, something I would never have predicted. Now everyone and their Aunt Minerva is making jewelry, and of all of the categories on Etsy, the Jewelry category is by far the most bloated. It’s near to impossible to get noticed unless you concentrate on making hundreds of items at the lowest possible cost–and I’ve seen plenty of jewelry that is exactly the same, duplicate items being sold by different shops flooding the category–and catering to the lowest common denominator. Most people aren’t going to care whether or not the items I use in my pieces are real vintage or plastic fakery, or whether the glassware I sell is handpainted or stamped out with decals by workers in sweat shops earning 50 cents an hour. It seems that most people don’t see the difference, don’t know or care to look, and Etsy is taking advantage of that fact. Perhaps it’s elitist of me to say, but I think they should be above that lowest common denominator marketing. For a site to claim to be a source for handmade items, presumably by creative folks, it just seems ironic for Etsy to use the WalMart business model to sell itself.

      I have spent money on trying to find the right marketing strategies for my shop (which in and of itself has become a very lucrative business thanks to the lack of Etsy sellers’ lucrative business!) and doubt I’ll even recoup those losses. And I don’t know that I’ve really learned that much from it, frankly. But if perseverance is the key, then heaven knows I’ll be okay–I’ve been persevering for quite a few years. :)

      Sarah

      I have to agree with Jenny. I’m getting to the point of being more frustrated than optimistic. I just opened my Etsy shop in November, and I’ve had 4 sales, which you’d think I’d be happy with since I’m new, but three of those people I knew, so in a way, I don’t really count them. ;) I never received feedback from the fourth person, whom I did not know, about the necklace he bought from me for his girlfriend. I have about 20 items on my page, and when I started to get a bunch of hearts for my items, I was pretty excited, to say the least, and I’d obsessively check my page all day to see if a new sale had come in. One of my necklaces is a wildly popular “hearted” item, and is featured in several treasury lists, but I’ve only sold one. During Christmas and New Year’s, I had 20% off sales, but got NO sales during this time. I do realize I’m new, but I’ve started to resent getting hearts, with no purchases. I’m starting to wonder who is “hearting” my goods: other sellers who want to copy me, or just think an item is cool and impulsively “heart” it? Are there actually any buyers who are serious about buying my items? I’ve continued to lower my prices, relist, and read about marketing in my free time, but sometimes it just feels like all the effort of picking out materials and SO much thought I’ve put into each piece isn’t worth it, and I’m starting to come down from the “I Can Do Anything!” high that Etsy gives you in the beginning. Because really, does it really matter if I’ve been on Etsy for two days, or two years? Wouldn’t someone buy my jewelry if they thought it was worthy of their money, regardless of how long I’ve been there?

Wow, great article and terrific responses.

I presently have an etsy fine arts site, GailKentStudio, which gets no attention whatsoever – no eyeballs go there for art sites. Etsy made a joke of art by categorizing silly junk as art. I’ve had two sales of children’s ACEOs in almost two years. I also had a shop selling my natural products, soaps, etc. that I closed after only 2 sales. Your friend should take her jewelry there only if she already has a huge following .

Marketing “treasuries” are a method etsy uses to get eyeballs for other shops within a theme you choose and get yourself in lots of “circles.” So what good are circles if no one is buying? And, the treasuries that are artistic do not get views.

There are also games that groups play where you buy someone’s item, then your own will be offered for sale within the group. Well, now, if everyone is selling $10 items and I’m selling a $200 item, what are my chances in the game.

Several etsy artist friends and I were wondering how someone could have a thousand views of their item within a few minutes. There seem to be a lot of games going on with unethical pay for click software. Someone asked to friend me and then proceeded to fill my Facebook, my Twitter, and then started e-mailing “sharing” lots of other shop items. I noticed that the “sharing” had a lot of x-rated junk included with my name on the Twitter posts. I had to clean that up, change my FB account to a page and mark as spam on my e-mail. No doubt this person gets a lot of eyeballs!

Take a look at the etsy’s just sold items stream in that section and you’ll seldom see art. Most sales seem to be fashion fluff and sales to 20’s-30’s of kitsch from the 60’s. Vintage and costume jewelry seem to sell well.

Etsy was a good concept by a young man that is in the process of being internationalized. Yep, it’s making money. But are most sellers making money?

    Drew

    Thanks Gail for stopping by and sharing your Etsy experiences with us. I think you’re right when you say that these days the only way to get noticed on Etsy is to somehow “game” the system. I think it’s a little sad that it is no longer about having the most creative or high-quality product available to sell. Now it seems to be more about how much time you’re willing to spend rigging the system in order to get noticed.

    The concept behind Etsy was a good one, but the sheer size of the marketplace has turned it from a niche boutique atmosphere to a mass hodge-podge of random merchandise that is more akin to Craig’s List these days than a dedicated hand-crafted marketplace for individuals. I think at some point, there has to be somebody responsible at Etsy HQ for quality control instead of blindly accepting any shady spambot with an internet connection and a credit card.

I am so pleased to have found this wonderful article as this is the reason why I created Styleoutsidethebox. We are an exclusive independent designers site meaning every item/ designer is juried onto the site since at the end of the day we not only want to be selling one of a kind quality products, but we want to be working with the best of the best independent designers. The problem with Etsy (please don’t get me wrong there are a lot of wonderful talented artists on Etsy) but it has become an overgrown marketplace. I use to be a shopper on Etsy but now it’s just got too big and not to mention its getting harder and harder for designers to sell their products within the very competitive marketplace.

I appreciate your article and it is wonderful to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Thank you again!

    Drew

    Thanks Laura! I think we are probably going to be seeing a lot more smaller boutique shops like yours emerge as artisans continue to splinter off from the bloated everything-for-everyone behemoth that Etsy has become. If you would, please let us know what you are hearing from your sellers and your customers as to why they were looking for a smaller more focused shopping experience like your site.

    All the best!

etsy artist

hello, i would like to add my two cents about Etsy relevancy search. i had to evaluate the ‘relevancy’ of the search on etsy, because my paintings would not show up when i did specific search. I read all the information on the forums on Etsy( very interesting thing is that Etsy administartion ONLY talks about relevancy rules on the forum and their labs). They talk a lot about titles, tags and description, i got it. But i made a search on some keywords for a few days in a row and i understood that Etsy didn’t tell everything.
Relevancy depends not only on title and tag, i even don’t want to mention description, it is also about how much time ago your item had a visitor, how many items you have in the store( the more the better), how big is concentration of keywords items in your store (e.g. if somebody searches for ‘tree’, then the more ‘trees’ are in your store the higher you will be in the search)
I had to understand about relevancy on Etsy, because their categories in Art are somewhat very not professional.
So, i made my own research, but i have more questions now then before:
1. why Etsy prefers that absurd in categories? who does it help to?
2. why etsy doesn’t tell the complete truth about relevancy?
3.it’s is easy to find algorithm of ‘relevancy’ without being in Etsy IT, why Etsy is not afraid that etsians will find the truth?
the last question is the most important to me. i am fine with sales now, but this policy of hiding some information from members who legally have rights to have it – bothers me. How should it work? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Drew

    This is really interesting how Etsy has adopted more of a “Google-like” algorithm to factor in things such as how many visitors your had (and when) and how many other items you currently have listed in your store…..

    I think Etsy knows that if they begin telling their sellers that they are going to start basing their search results on things such as traffic, keyword density, and the amount of items currently listed — they are going to really going to discourage any potential new sellers from joining their site because they obviously don’t have any of these things.

    Let’s face it, when it comes down to it, Etsy is going to do what’s best for Etsy and not for their sellers. You have to admit that it makes far more business sense to not reveal this type of information than to let everyone know what’s really going on. I’m certainly not saying that makes it right by any means, but when you are fighting to keep these new naive sellers signing up, you want to make things look as attractive as possible.

Molly

I don’t know if someone already touched on this because I haven’t reaad many comments, but I fall into the category of people who sign up and haven’t purchased or sold. I however do not fit into any of your theories of motives for signing up. SOme people like myself would love to buy but, as a college student can’t afford to buy my favorite items yet so by making an account I can save favorite shops/ items in the hope that i will someday buy an item or something similar. But I have had an account for almost 2 years and have yet to purchase anything. hopefully i will someday.

I used to have an etsy shop, but I closed it and moved it away for a better designed interface over at http://www.cargoh.com

I like your hypothesis, but I wouldn’t mind offering one of my own. I think Etsy is signing up too many sellers versus the number of buyers, because they’re trying to act like a mass marketed site when they really are a niche market. If there are twice the number of sellers than buyers, then the numbers wouldn’t match up like they do above. When an isolated marketplace has a lack of consumers, competition becomes really high and people will start closing shop and moving away. Add in the fact that Etsy is crawling with resellers that can undercut a regular shops prices every time and the actual crafters will have to go. They can’t compete over such a small audience.

I have an Etsy storefront – there’s nothing in it right now and there hasn’t been for many months. My experiences with Etsy are similar to some of your respondents’ i.e. difficulty in getting new buyers to find your work, difficulty in having your listings show up, many “favorites” but no actual sales and everyone there looking for “bargain basement” sorts of pricing on the work. I found it very frustrating to try to sell my work through Etsy primarily because of the last bit.
I don’t sell reproductions (or rather, I haven’t in the past although friends insist that this is THE way to make Etsy work for you) and I found that for original pieces ( that would often take upwards of 20 hours to produce + cost of materials) I couldn’t get sales if I priced them in such a way that I wasn’t actually losing money on the deal!

In my experience, real art collectors who know that a hand made piece of original art is generally not going to be sold for $18 (or less) weren’t hanging about on Etsy and while high fives from fellow artists are great,that’s not putting bread on the table or new paints in the tabouret! I finally got an email from a woman who told me she loved my work but “Do you really think it’s fair for you to charge $100 for a piece that’s just going to end up on someone’s bookshelf? I will give you $20 for it and that’s my best and final offer.”

Not to toot my own horn here, but I just had a similar work go for over $300 at auction in a gallery last night. In person and at galleries, my work routinely sells for between $300 and $500 a piece. For me to even be charging $100 for the work has me making less than $1 an hour for my efforts after the cost of supplies was factored in. This woman’s email was just so shockingly insulting and yet, so honest that I realized that fighting the tide of misperception regarding the value of my art on Etsy was a fool’s game and not a battle i could ever hope to win.
I went back over my Etsy sales and realized that every time I was getting decent prices on my work, I was selling to collectors I already had cultivated a relationship with through other venues. My collectors would then be irritated with Etsy because they have a flat price/first come, first served purchasing scheme. I’d get feedback from my collectors telling me how much they hate it when I put my originals on Etsy because they want the option to bid on pieces even if it means the prices go up, for the chance to get the pieces they really want before they’re snatched up and gone. They were actually urging me to go back to Ebay!
So that’s why my Etsy shop is just going to stay closed. If Etsy were to have some way to vet artisans and let actual art collectors with a clue about value and worth find quality art it’d be worth investigating again but as it’s arranged now it seems to be akin to setting up a card table in the parking lot of the local flea market. It’s just not worth it to me to sell my art that way and it’s got a cumulative demoralizing effect that tends to make me wish I’d been born an accountant. That’s not a particularly good mindset for me to work from and so I’ve begun to give Etsy a wide berth as a place that has a potentially hazardous influence on my artistic endeavors.

    Drew

    It’s interesting because your experience echos what I hear all the time from current and former Etsy sellers — For better or for worse, the public perception seems to be that Etsy is a virtual flea market where items are cheap and the prices are always negotiable. You are exactly right when you say that this is a fool’s game and a battle that cannot be won.

    It seems to me that Etsy should really think about segmenting their buyers and sellers before the competition does it for them. Why not separate the suppliers from the creators, and the crafters from the fine artists? Why not create an entirely new site (eg. Etsy Fine Art) where you can allow the sellers in that category to opt-in and move their storefront if they wish? What’s the harm in segmenting the market so that the buyers can find exactly what they are looking for more easily and the fine artists aren’t competing with the crafters for precious search result space? What advantage is there really besides raw membership numbers to maintaining this monolithic online flea market?

    The world and the web are steadily moving toward focusing on smaller and more specialized niche markets. One size fits all may work great if you’re a company the size of Wal-Mart, Ebay, or Amazon — but I really think that Etsy needs to take another look at their marketing strategy.

etsy artist

again, about Etsy policy on relevancy search. Sure, Etsy does what it good for Etsy. But i don’t think it’s right. If google does it, it’s ok for me, because Google doesn’t hide it. But Etsy does hide how real algorithm of relevancy search works and it hurts new sellers, who pay the same fees as others… any legal issues here?

    Drew

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not defending Etsy here. Honestly, I think it’s just plain bad business to not be upfront with their sellers.

    My point was simply that I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to change. It’s not right, but they are probably going to continue doing what they are doing until somebody comes along and makes them change. Now whether they will be forced to change for legal reasons or simply because their customers end up leaving in droves, is yet to be seen. My argument is simply that when you sign up to sell your stuff on a site like Etsy, eBay, Amazon, or wherever — You are essentially agreeing to play by their rules. Again that doesn’t make it right, but that seems to be the nature of the game.

    If there are any legal experts out there on this topic, we would love to hear your take on this whole thing.

krista

Etsy F*ing SUCKS. I loved all the stuff on there and the prices, but they ONLY accept paypal which is so ancient it isn’t even funny. I don’t even think they know how much money they are losing but not allowing people to purchase with credit cards or debit cards. I kept trying for the past two days to buy a few things and it keeps saying I can’t , even though I have funds in my card account. This makes no sense and now im just pissed.

your article is very interesting and so are all the comments (which i have read pretty much every one of them)

i’m a fashion illustration student in my final year, which means i have to complete a final major project based on anything we want. i decided i wanted to do some personalized fashion illustration and also work out how to go about selling it at the same time. taking in the consideration of marketing and packaging my work.

early on i decided i want to use etsy as my main selling platform for this project, despite it’s faults. i opened my account/shop around a year ago this time, but only officially started selling a month ago. i agree that traffic is very slow and sales even slower (most of time none at all). i did like the fact that etsy is relatively the biggest ‘niche/handmade market platform’ with more people knowing it and is open to international buyers, but this is also it’s downfall, as read from a lot of the comments above. the more i read and find out about etsy, the more im sure i can’t depend on etsy bringing me traffic and sales. since my area of concern is fashion illustration, i looked at other successful fashion illustrators selling on etsy and not to my surprise, i believe a lot of traffic is generated through external sources such as a good web presence, already a reputable fashion illustrator and traditional ink & paper press.

though im still keeping up with having an active presence on etsy, such as the occasional renewing of listings and such, working on general web presence is important too. i dont want to complain too much about etsy because afterall, all of these selling platforms have pros and cons. i do find that because etsy has been around for longer than other niche/handmade websites, more people know and feel comfortable about it. but im keeping an open mind about other selling platforms and traditional ways of selling as i progress with my project and learn.

if i were to continue with my project even after i graduate, my ultimate move would be to have my own website/web store, like several of the ex-etsians. but for now, on a relatively meager budget, i will stick with these selling platforms. i do find it a rather good learning curve for me (and let the fees i pay to etsy be my tuition), and perhaps even prepare me for bigger and scarier e-commerce in the future. like it’s been said for many times, etsy is a good place to start for first time sellers.

    Drew

    Despite its many flaws, Etsy is still probably one of the best options currently out there. Of course that might have more to do with a lack of direct competitors than it has to do with their superior business model. It’s true that Etsy has a sizable lead over their competition, which is partly why its so infuriating that they won’t make the necessary changes that their own customers/sellers are requesting.

    You’re also right that Etsy, like most online storefronts, is a B.Y.O.T. (Bring Your Own Traffic) selling platform. While the Etsy site itself gets plenty of traffic (although maybe not as much as they would have you believe) that doesn’t necessarily translate to traffic to your particular Etsy store.

    From what I hear, the people who have actually made some money from their Etsy store have several things in common: First of all, they don’t rely on receiving traffic from Etsy, but they direct their customers to their storefront from various external sources (eg. personal websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc…) And secondly, they don’t expect their items to be found using Etsy’s much maligned search system. Instead they find other ways to get their fans and potential customers to their storefront and then use Etsy as little more than a shopping cart and payment system.

    Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your experiences with us!

      Clarice

      It seems to me that Etsy has a conflict of interest in regards to their policy and procedures. New members are drawn in to Etsy because it is well known and appears in most web searches for items for sell. This should mean that as a member Etsy increases its member’s shops visibility and buyer traffic.

      First Conflict: Etsy offers to sell Shop owners “Search Ads” and “Impressions”
      Second Conflict: You must pay renew fees, even on active item, to place it in the top search results in a shop search. (More Info under HELP on Etsy)

      If Etsy makes money by charging its own members to promote Shops within Etsy then what real incentive do they have to promote any shop that has not purchased “Search Ads” or “Impressions”?

      This means that, as a “Shop” owner, I not only have to compete with all selling site outside Etsy, but I have to compete with “ETSY” and the shops that are paying for preferential treatment.

      This just seems wrong to me.

I opened a store with ETSY in February of 2008. Up until a few month ago things were fine. Not a whole lot of sales but withing reason and the views I got where still good. Since ETSY implemented changes I found that my oil paintings are NOT showing up in search anymore. I have no idea why. I did contact ETSY a few weeks ago when noticing that even when I searched my own store much of the searched for art would not show, even though I have proper tags and titles. They ended up fixing whatever the problem was but I still do not show up when relevant words like Impressionism are used in general ETSY searches. It’s as if my store does not exist. However non relevant items show up, like earring or abstract paintings when searching for Impressionism. I have contacted ETSY a few times trying to get an answer explanation but so far no response from them. In all these years I rarely had to ask them about anything and now that I need some answers/help they are no where around. This is NOT the ETSY business model that I signed up for. The truth to be told it looks like more like EBAY every day. A real shame. Right now if someone in the FINE ART genre asked me if ETSY was a good venue to try to sell fine art paintings I would say absolutely NOT. Don’t waste your time. If things don’t change I will fade out my ETSY store. I am right now looking in to making my website shopping cart friendly. Purely because I am tired of starting out with a site that has an art friendly business model only to end up a few years later in a site that is greedy for more and more sellers and allows tag abuse and titles that are nothing but strings of tags, and mass produced stuff that clutters up the venue . It’s becoming very trashy now on ETSY!

    Drew

    If you’ve spent any amount of time online, you’re probably well aware that there is now so much information floating around out there online that the trick is to somehow find what you’re looking for. In order to find what we’re looking for, we usually turn to the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. There job is to somehow find a way to organize all of this stuff and then help us to find exactly what we’re looking for whether it’s a local restaurant or a really cool piece of artwork.

    The problem usually happens when they start to mess around with the search algorithm. Suddenly things that were there have disappeared, and things that have no business being there are. From what I’ve heard from other Etsy sellers, it seems that Etsy’s search results have been consistently getting broader and less refined rather than narrower and more focused on the keywords a buyer is searching for.

    While this may appear to give the searcher more options, the truth is that most of us really don’t want more options. We want the closest match to what we’re looking for and that’s it. We don’t want to have to cycle through page after page of search results. We want to find what we are looking for and then move on with our lives. More is not necessarily better. Hopefully Etsy will listen to the feedback of its customers like you and fix this issue soon.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share you experiences with us. Please keep us updated and let us know if things begin to change on Etsy in the future.

    All the best!

      Things haven’t gotten any better. ETSY now has a program where you can pay for certain search words. I will do that for about a months and see if I see an increase in traffic. The problem is finding “Buying” customers not just browsers. I get lots of people liking my art in the last week or so, but not buying. One thing is probably my price point compared to what others sell for. Frankly I have no idea how they do it. The cost of paint and canvas alone is seems some are lucky if they make 10 or 20 dollar profit on one original painting and they must crank them out on mass. I have seen some amazing fine art on ETSY in my price point area and higher, but when you look at how many sales these fine artist have it’s none to just a few. I don’t think ETSY is a place where well informed fine art collectors hang out. It is a more low price point place, for the decorative market type, similar to EBAY the prices that are rock bottom cheap are more attractive. Another symptom of growing fast is now that there is lots of deception going on about what is ORIGINAL Art and hat is Reproductions, sellers tweak their descriptions and subject lines to misuse and abuse keywords. I am also now getting more request from hagglers to lower my prices, similar to what I got on EBAY when it all went bad a few years back. They say things like “I give you such and such amount” usually ridiculous amounts, that would put me in a hole and on the end of a food line in no time!

      My advise so fine art sellers is stay away from ETSY unless you don’t mind not selling or giving your art away. I am looking for a place that caters to fine art painters or I will build my own website up to sell directly. I already have a credit card merchant accounting for processing sales from art shows that I can use to integrate online credit card processing plus I use PayPal too. I am thinking it all through right now.

I have three etsy shops. When older users coming back to Etsy or new artists looking for a venue to sell on ask me if Etsy is good : about 6 months ago I would have said OH its the best.
It sucks. Plain and simple what Etsy has become is discusting. My account will face review at some point soon. I have watched many shops get shut down 2 very close friends.
There is no tech support.
They no longer need our sales to get rich.
They are now in bed with Facebook enough that they are making their own bit of cash by You simply promoting your items on your page (I de-activated my account from Etsy and rarely get on FB anymore for what its becoming).
I am only 34 but somewhere I feel really old, because with 3 etsy shops, 2 dead in the water, and 1 artfire.com account the best bang for the bucks is artfire right now.
I re opened this supplies account on etsy to follow the popular feather trend, what artist wouldnt want to make some real cash. I felt great. The heat was off me until August.
I contacted tech support got a response a month later from Rob White who didn’t give me an address to respond back to. It said donotreply@etsy.com

but the article is correct read the fine print and take screenshots It is likely to disappear or change.
WHO works for etsy.
Google who’s in bed with Etsy (including of course GOOGLE),
see for yourself the treasuries we can NO LONGER POST for this is why two friends accounts will be closed:
for showing a collection of the
SAME HANDMADE IN CHINA Pendant, from a different startup seller in China.
each 16 boxes were filled same photo (handmade in bulk with a wholesale brass chain for 3.50) but each item was a different seller. (against etsy policy) instead of removing the sellers they are removing the ONE seller that is making these treasuries so people that refuse to look HAVE to see whats going on eventually they will click one of these treasuries thinking “a glitch”No they are different sellers.
why do I feel old?
at 34, well hey OUR YOUTH the new wave of keyword searchers are MORONS.
So think like a moron and you’ll “maybe” get your etsy shop to show up near the front of their flawed system using relevancy but blaming YOU the user the CLIENT of etsy for your stupidity or poor photography in my case (but yes we were discussing keywords right – pictures arent keywords AND I am a professional photographer / exact words from the ONLY admin that responded to a help inquiry in the forums. –
But they dont need you anymore –
The data’s pretty well right above and you see the numbers.
My shop went from 22 sales in May. to 2000 by July.
In august 12th to be exact – my shop fell dead in the water.
They introduced paid search ads (yes you guessed we pay for them) I thought it was fishy from the start but they did – they made us SO dead in the water that they forced us out of desperation of having no income to hope it’d bring business but NO they pick your keywords for you based on their selective phrasing system.” So they want you to usually do all the work while they get paid, and now they want you to do LESS work ? NO etsy isnt like that at all. YOU do the work you pay and I could have already hired a professional designer 2000 dollars for what I lost from August til November (that summer trend money is spent!)
For months I have been learning SEO and learning words I shouldnt have to at the rates I PAY ETSY
for their POOR service, they should be paying me for helping their clients try to budge their listings to show up even on the 14th page would be nice.
I finally said come January 1st 2012 I will pull my Etsy cord, and take the last bit of money I made (to have it stolen from under me in a fraction of time as my shop is dead in the water),
BUILD MY OWN WEBSITE

    Drew

    It’s really kind of sad how so many companies begin to lose touch with their customers once they reach a certain size and begin to look at their customers more as assets to be monetized rather than actual people. However, there are online companies out there that have proven that this doesn’t have to be the case. Look at companies such as Amazon, LLBean, and Zappos (which Amazon bought) who are well-known for their legendary customer service.

    In fact just the other day, I accidentally ordered two identical guitar tab books from Amazon after adding them to my shopping cart twice and then not noticing what I had done until after they were shipped (call it an egg-nog induced holiday shopping frenzy). Anyway, when the duplicate books arrived, I was fully prepared to box up the extra copy, go through the online return process, and then stand in line for an hour at the post office to mail back this $9 book since it was completely my own fault.

    But get this — as soon as I initiated the return process Amazon emailed me and told me that they would not only refund my money for the duplicate book, but I wouldn’t have to ship them back the book either. In other words, I not only received a full refund for my own dumb mistake, but they told me to keep the extra copy as well! Now that is what I call customer service :)

    Are you listening Etsy?

I would like to submit this photo screenshot of what I saw last night after I posted above so buyers/sellers can see the privacy leeking from etsy. I was “logged out of facebook” I was “Logged out of etsy” I went to etsy.com and bam. Here – some may not find this a huge deal but I do not have my etsy shop connected to facebook anymore.

(or do I???)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/solkat_elektrek/6339773414/in/photostream

Great ongoing advice given here. I’ve had an Etsy account since 2010. But, to be fair, I only just got serious about building my shop a few months ago. What I seemed to notice thus far is, it seems I’m posting work and connecting with other artists there and that’s about it. I too am finding that it doesn’t seem to be the best fit for original fine art work. I have originals listed for $100. I was hesitant listing anything I had knowing the average was around $20 or less. It takes a significant chunk of change for me to have my work reproduced and scaled to a size that I could sell for a mere $18. I am frustrated for buying into the thought that Etsy could work for me. I gleaned some helpful info here. Thanks!

    Drew

    Thanks Kristi for sharing your Etsy experiences with us. It sounds like you’ve been discovering what so many other visual artists have noticed about selling original work on Etsy. For whatever reason, the public perception of Etsy has become a kitschy crafter’s paradise at flea market prices, which is driving the fine artists away to look for other options.

    On a side note, does anyone else remember all of those Etsy commercials they used to run around the holidays? has anyone seen any of these lately? Do they even still do that anymore?

Wow interesting to read all about this. I have really enjoyed doing etsy but mostly what I enjoy is the shopping, researching, photos, listing and even going to the post office (I know crazy right)?
But Kelly, I have to agree with the fact that I too, was doing so great in the summer selling sometimes 4 things in one day (all vintage) and really since Aug, Sept, he has been much deader. There was one day recently I sold 3 in one day but that was because I had a shop sale (which I started again pre black friday till the 27th) I didn’t really understand why it dropped so I just kept posting new items, doing fb, twitter and joining teams and forums. I have over 250 things up there and I am still shopping. Thank God for outside sales doing flea markets here and there and garage sales. If not for those, I dont know.

I’m not ready to give it up, I enjoy it so much. So just hoping it will somehow get more sales.

Good luck to all. I’m really sorry to hear all the tough stories The economy is so bad also and that doesn’t help.

Great discussion, I find it very interesting… I am the founder of http://www.indiemade.com and I still think Etsy can offer value. I think it is yet another way for new customer acquisition. But you have to work it, and from some of these responses, it seems harder than before.

For me, I wasn’t content with just an Etsy store. I didn’t think Etsy was enough for any of my “brands” (indie greeting cards & toys) and always wanted a dedicated website. Even for my artwork. This way, when I did shows I didn’t have to send customers to my Etsy shop to purchase, I could keep em on my own site, using my own shopping cart. (That’s why we started IndieMade, it seemed like all my artist friends felt that way.) For a few years, I also kept an Etsy store to sell vintage finds, and sold quite a few things that way. Now, I am not sure Etsy is properly “tooled” for quality personalized searching, which is really important when you are weeding through millions of listings. Paid search scares me a bit. I am sure their funding is helping them improve their platform.

Question for everyone: what other marketplaces have you used or would like to use?

Thanks Skinny Artist, Drew, this is an awesome website.

First I want to say excellent article and so telling it like it is so adorably. I have been a seller for multiple years now and last year was super crazy busy for me and this year this are definitely much slower. I noticed that things have slowed down starting with when the began changing everything around. I have alot of sales total (almost 1400) but am not getting nearly as many sales as last year. I thought it would keep building but maybe a plateau is on its way? I have totally thought all of the things you so clearly stated, I love that graph by the way,. It seems like maybe the market is flooded with too many sellers and not enough buyers . I am primarily a seller But I have bought several times from others. I am particularly annoyed that they got rid of the suggestions for you tool bar on the front page. Seems like that was a great tool for finding things you would like and getting things you made to people who would like them. This has become my main source of income and it’s kinda scary to not know if I will make enough this season to be ok. I love working for myself, but hate the stress of being not knowing when I will make money and if it will be enough. I keep feeling more and more poor. Some one else started a copy cat of my best selling design and sell it for half as much. They only have about 65 sales total but they are all pretty much knock offs of my rainbow mohawk hat, and I really could have used those sales. So that is super annoying.I have tried other online venues but none have worked out too well. Artfire was good for a little bit and now it has been dead for a while. I change things in my shop everyday. Newer picture, items, keywords, descriptions….. and creating and posting new items. Sometimes I think I have too many items of various kinds on my page and maybe I should open another shop to streamline different items. If I were to give advice to someone opening a shop I would be very tempted to say, “don’t”

O my sorry for not checking my post above for grammar! But i was in a moment there… I meant
First I want to say excellent article and for telling it like it is,so adorably!

Thank you for this informative article and all the passionate, battle weary artists that have posted their experiences with Etsy. I feel as though I am duplicating the stories of those who saw their business grow over the past 2 years, only to watch their sales flat line after the second week in August. My shop has over 3000 sales and I have made every item that I have sold. By January of 2011, I had hired 2 part time helpers to assist with tasks such as ironing, packaging, mailing and bookkeeping. I had just added a third helper the first of July, to help the other two. By the end of August, I was back to a one person operation, minus the sales. I opened up a shop on Artfire, however I am still minus the sales I had been enjoying. I have tweeked and tinkered with my site til I can’t tell if I’m making it better or worse. Every weekend Etsy seems to drop another change-bomb, and I find myself once again reeling from the latest alteration. The real game-changer in terms of my opinion of Etsy came about 2 weeks ago with their announcement that they would be sending a followup spam mail to any “new” to Etsy customer that happened to purchase from my shop. It is fair to say that I have a number of first time Etsy buyers. I work like a dog to be sure that MY customers feel valued and cared for. I hand write a thank-you note. I will drive an item to our airport to be sure that it will arrive in time for a baby shower if necessary….and now Etsy is going to not only spam my customer…they are going to go so far as to suggest “if you like this baby item, you might also like these baby items…” and provide links to my competition! The outrage on Etsy, among sellers has been loud. On a recent Forum there were 6048 posts to one thread and (this is my point!) only 4 posts by administrators! Honestly, when you have a “community” that is that vocal about a topic and almost zero input by the Etsy organization,… This is the Etsy of today and they will be the death of Etsy… in time:(

My wife creates custom necklaces and has tried to sell them on etsy, but has been met with no success. I then started analyzing etsy to see what makes it great, and what makes it not so great, so that I could try to build a better solution for her and others like her. Since then. I’ve created a website called Articents.com. With this site, I tried to address a lot of the complaints that people have with etsy, ebay and artfire. While all three do have their positives, I felt that there were some areas where each of them are still lacking, and as a result, they are hurting their customers.
Articents.com is brand new and in some ways, it is still a work in progress as it will continue to evovle. With that said, I believe it does help answer a number of issues that people are struggling with today. For instance, there is no charge to list an item and that item will stay listed until it is either sold or you disable it. Another issue that I’ve seen complaints on is the requirement for a customer to create an account just to make a purchase. This sort of thing can cause lost sales for you and should not be a prerequesite to make a purchase from your store. If you’re looking to try something different, and this case be a first mover, please check us out and give us a try. We’re at http://www.articents.com. Thanks!

I have written on this article many times and would like to add in that I have been silenced indefinitely from posting in the forums where this article speaks about – so for me now – my shop has flatlined further after making it seo friendly – I have 4 now emails into tech support and now they stopped responding, wait its time to pay bills, but I cant login, my shops listed in (.me) I had to google where that was, and another user tells me “are you sure you want to choose seo over relevancy)

WAIT what?
I thought it was hard but this is ridiculous.

If someone knows a SEO ENGINEER that can specifically apply their knowledge to my etsy shop for hire today over the weekend for LESS than 500 bucks please contact me I am desperate and SEO folks are no longer allowed to “sell seo services on etsy” only sell tangible items like Website Design templates and E-Zines.
thank you.
Kelly

Full disclosure: IndieMade provides full featured websites (blog, store, image galleries, etc.) to artists, affordably.
BUT, I had to step in–consider getting your own website with a cart included, if you are not getting the benefit of the marketplace, time to work other angles. You don’t need an SEO engineer, just write great product descriptions and create content on your website to attract your own traffic. Keep your Etsy shop if you want to…. But, if you are going to go to the trouble of enhancing your current storefront, you might as well be doing it on your own site.

http://www.indiemade.com/examples

    Jennifer,

    THANK YOU for founding IndieMade. I sell on eBay (Top Rated Seller) and Etsy (finished items on eBay, extra supplies on Etsy), and I just found IndieMade not 36 hours ago.

    Tonight I will be adding my first products to my new IndieMade store :) And I am so happy!

    Will I keep eBay and Etsy? Yes, for marketing reasons, and for selling out old inventory.

    Then why my own website? Because I recently obtained a direct wholesale account with Swarovski (R), which has opened the doors for me to design and make the jewelry I really want to. Which also happens to be in an entirely different price range that does not sell well on either eBay or Etsy.

    I will keep my eBay store, selling off my “resale” inventory that is not the quality level of my own designs, then list my low end design items on eBay (ex. simple earrings and bracelets). With every shipment I will include a marketing flyer for my Indie store, where people can find the matching pieces for the one they bought, or can find similar items in more colors. Ironically at a slightly lower price (made possible by your pricing structure!). This will help bring traffic to my Indie store, and build brand loyalty to me, instead of to eBay.

    I will keep my Etsy store as well, because as many have said, it is a great place to sell supplies. I have discovered that with my Swarovski (R) wholesale account, I can really, truly, offer Etsians lower cost Swarovski (R) supplies than what they can purchase now. I can help Etsians improve their profit margin or free up money for marketing.

    That said, IndieMade will contain my life’s most passionate work, and I can advertise it directly to the people most likely to purchase properly priced quality Swarovski (R) containing jewelry (yes, Swarovski (R) has approved me to co-brand/partner with them). I am so excited!

    Again, THANK YOU! I researched a total of 11 e-commerce platforms, and yours is the clear winner for me!

Hi there! I thought you might actually want to know that Etsy had its most sales in history in November 29th, 2011, and that sales have increased by 80% in the last year. Etsy is certainly not dying, but for making as much money as the business does, I do have to say that they could treat their sellers a bit better and it would be nice if they weren’t cutting so many corners. Nevertheless, I survive on Etsy sales and so do many others.

http://www.etsy.com/blog/news/2011/etsy-celebrates-highest-day-of-sales-in-history/

joricat

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this article and all the comments. I’m just starting researching sites to sell a friend’s jewelry. I have a lot of experience on eBay but thought Etsy might be a better fit for her product. From all the input here, it looks like I might do well to figure out how to set a website up first. When I went to Etsy to see fees, the relisting aspect was not clearly spelled out. The thought of continually putting out a relisting fee, even if it is only 20 cents, just to have one’s item come up higher on the queue is ridiculous when the profit margin on handmade jewely is not very high to begin with.

I still have a bunch of venues to check out, including some mentioned in these comment posts. Thank you all for your extremely valuable information. – Jori

Blue Bayer

Ah, guys I started with one unique item on Etsy in 2008. I now have 250. My business has grown by 100% from 2010 to 2011. I sell my own line of pieces ( jewelry) designed and made in NYC. Yes I do get copied. Yes I have had my shop summarily shut down twice for short periods with no explanation for minor infractions. But overall Etsy has worked for me and worked well. Now, the change of formats to relevancy searches hurt me, I adjusted my tact.
Here is the trick, we need to drive the traffic to our own shops and stop sitting back and thinking the internal Etsy traffic is going to generate sales. One good blog mention is worth 1000 renewals. By way of example, if you had a shop in a small town you could get mad at the chamber of commerce or the people renting you the store for your lack of customers or you could go out and find some.
I am far from rah rah for the Etsy platform. I think I see it for what it partly is. It’s rental retail property. But it’s also still a platform that has helped me build my line and a customer base. I am not sure where it’s going as an entity but I’m in for as long as it works for me and I don’t feel overly dismissed or disrespected by the company.
It’s grew really fast and it is bound to get out of balance somewhat. I am going to continue to also build my facebook fan page members and stock my own online store as a hedge against what may yet lay ahead.

Keep Etsy, but optimize and promote your own website. When you promote your Etsy’s storefront, you are promoting for Etsy.

    I have just read through most of these questions and responses and was glad to come across this topic as I have been wondering about many of these issues.

    It bothers me there does not appear to be anywhere you can get regular sales information about Etsy. I want to know from month to month how many buyers and sellers have used the site; how many shops there are; how much revenue has been generated by the site, and even in what categories. These are statistics that should be available to their clients (us) IMO. I keep thinking maybe they are out there somewhere and I just don’t know how to find them (that’s how I ended up on this blog – looking for the stats!).

    I have been selling on Etsy about a year (although I signed up for an account at least 6 months before actually listing anything). The jury is still out from where I sit as to the value of the site. One thing I have noticed, is that it is like a lot of other things: You can put as much time in as you want and probably will be more successful with the more time you put in. For example, a while back I realized it was important to add people to my Circle as it expands your reach when your items were “Favorited” by someone else (everyone in their Circle is going to potentially see that item and therefore know you have a shop). Also, adding shops to your “Favorites” and items to your “Favorites” expands your reach as well. Unfortunately, as with a lot of other social media things, there is a level of dishonesty involved (i.e. you end up “favoriting” shops or items that may not really be your “favorites” as the motive becomes expanding your reach rather than any real “like” of the item you discovered. But through this process I began to see there are various things you can do to expand your reach; all of which take time.

    The Etsy playbook has always stressed the importance of getting on blogs or having a blog; and here again, you can put in as much time as you want to further these ideals. I personally have always gotten responses when sending questions to the Etsy staff although there have been a couple they had no answers for. I really liked when they had the live chat option but I think that has been phased out. You can also now view your shop stats to see what keywords people used to find your items, what they have actually looked at when on your site, and what avenues they used to get to your site. And although this can become habit forming in all the wrong ways, it is kind of fascinating and could be put to good use (again the time thing). Some of these changes have been an improvement.

    An observation on the fairly recent change of searching by the Default setting of “Relevancy” vs “Newly Listed”. I am all for this change. In the past, the Default setting favored those sellers who were more successful as they were listing new items more frequently (since they were selling more frequently) – so their items were popping up at the top of the list all the time. The change to Default by “Relevancy” makes more sense, is more democratic, and levels the playing field. And buyers generally want to search by what is Relevant. It is an easy thing to change the search option to Most Recently Listed if that is what one wants to do.

    My one big complaint to Etsy recently was that in the Treasuries that are listed on the home page, and the online newsletter they send out – many of the same sellers are featured over and over and over again (which is basically free advertising). I don’t think they have any way of tracking what shops have been used or how many times they have been used and I strongly think they should. I suggested they diversify the number of staff members who make the newsletter and Treasury picks; but still feel they need a more professional way to keep actual track of which shops have been highlighted and how many times. Undoubtedly their researchers forget who they pick from month to month and just end of repeating themselves way too much – to the detriment of many sellers who are never featured.

    I have come to the conclusion there are 5 types of general sellers on Etsy: 1) Those who mass produce a limited line of items that are similar to each other (often items created with the assistance of studio workers). These items are easier to ship as they are uniform in size so boxes, weight, etc. can be calculated in advance; 2) folks who are trying to make a little extra money who are willing to sell their items for next to nothing and are pleased as punch if they are just breaking even. Many of these items are often godawful IMO; 3) one-of-a-kind artists and crafters whose items sell for more $$ as they are truly unique and original and take more time to produce. This is the hardest category to make money in as all the packaging is also one of a kind and has to be retrofit to the particular item (which takes more time and money in packaging materials); 4) supply sellers; and 5) vintage sellers. And obviously there is cross over.

    I am both a buyer and seller on Etsy. I probably have bought more than I’ll ever sell on the site. I have been told by others who have been on the site longer than I have that if you sell supplies you do better than with actual arts and crafts; and that has been my experience since I carry supplies in my Etsy shop as well. Probably a tenth of my overall sales are what I consider my art items and the rest is supplies.

    I did not sell anything for my first 4 months on Etsy (my photos were terrible until I learned how to take better ones). My first customer was in England which was kind of exciting. I’ve told myself I am going to give it another year to see if things actually get better or worse. But there again, some of the outcome will depend on how much time I am willing to devote to it (or other ways of getting people to my shop such as a website, blogs, etc).

    Beatrice Moore, Kooky Krafts Shop

Hi Everyone!

I am sorry for my late response but it’s great hearing everyone’s comments. To answer your comments, our customers love shopping on styleoutsidethebox.com because there not over-bombarded with products and they love that our team juries every item so they already know they are shopping amongst quality products. Our designers love working with us because they don’t have to worry about competing against each other- since we do select every single product- and they love how we plug all of their products in our social media, press, and homepage- with NO additional fees.

Next year we are headed up to NY Fashion Week which is where we will be bringing products from our designers to be featured in a gift segment- you can’t say any independent designers site has ever offered this- but we will be! Look out for our segment being featured during NY Fashion Week in February!
Thank you again,
and Happy Holidays everyone!

Thanks for this information! I have just heard about Etsy through an American friend of mine (better late than never) and after reading this, may give it a go. xxx

I highly encourage anyone who wants to sell their handmade items full time to try to establish their own web site and spend your time / money promoting *that* site, rather than your etsy shop. You can go to shopify.com or any number of other selling platforms and pay less per month than you would in etsy fees (on average). Etsy is certainly not going to be around forever and as this article points out, it is THEIR store and you can be removed for any reason or no reason at all.

I’m not sure it’s going anywhere, at least anytime soon. There are far too many people (both hobbyists and professionals) who will fork over the .20 cents per listing. For many (as it should be) it’s just another online presence.

In reference to the buyer/seller issue- many start off as buyers and then decide they too can do what everyone else is doing and then start buying. I find that alot in photography. Now anyone with a point and shot camera fancies themselves a photographer, but there’s more to it than just taking a snapshot.

The problem with etsy is the oversaturation of pretty much every category. And because of the competition, it’s become more like a flea market. People are selling their work for virtually nothing, but they don’t seem to mind just breaking even. I’d like to say that’s the hobbyist’s mentality, but it’s not. The people who sell the most in photography are the ones who have year-round sales including the BOGO.

Are there favorites, absolutely, they’re the ones who get all the exposure- they get their treasuries on the front page, are listed in the etsy newsletters etc. Etsy also has a certain ‘style’ of work that is more popular. In photography it’s the faded, highly textured work. You need to find what’s popular in your category, if you want to sell, alot.

I have a website, but it doesn’t get much traffic, so I have to depend on etsy. But I am branching out to Fine Art America.

As a lifetime artist/craftsperson, I love looking on etsy (and in other places online too) to see what others are creating and selling. Many times I see items for sale on etsy that I think would be good sellers (because I like them) and when I see that the seller has sold hundreds or thousands of items in the last two years I look to see which of these wonderful items has sold the best. Time after time I am shocked/disappointed to see that the majority of what has sold is craft SUPPLIES instead of the wonderful finished items I expected would have sold. This tells me that everyone wants to be a crafter but there aren’t that many buyers.

I created an account on Etsy back in November ’11. I posted several of my creations a few days ago and what I got was 2 (TWO) views.

I did some research on similar items I make and I didn’t find more than a couple of shops. Nothing what I searched for but it came up in the search results anyway. I used the report option to signal Etsy about a shop selling hundreds of items for 2-4 dollars per item, essentially the same items you see on alibaba dot com mass-produced in China. Really sloppy, poor quality. Handmade? Probably? Is it what Etsy want to be known for? I’m beginning to think — yes. This shop is still operating.

I came across this discussion and decided to make my own site. I registered my domain, found a free host and made my own site.

I agree, after much perusing it’s clear Etsy is a virtual flea market with little standards and apparently making it harder and harder for sellers to sell and for buyer to find and buy what they want.

I forgot to ask: does anyone have experience with the bigcartel dot com website?

    Hey Lola,

    I am sort of using big-cartel, but as I’ve only just started selling online I wasn’t to keen on paying for it yet. And with that it is quite limited, and as essentially I haven’t got many traffic going to my website yet, there are barely any traffic going there at all.

    Have you/are you using it at the moment? And would love to hear how have you gone upon driving traffic to your personal website? I’ve got a website, but I just can’t seem to get any much traffic there!

    x

Each venue has some tradeoffs. However there is a new approach that people love – Post what you Want and let Sellers respond. A new Silicon Valley company Ubokia has reversed the status quo by empowering Buyers to state exactly what they are looking for. On the flip side Sellers see qualified buyers.

Recently introduced Seller Items allows sellers to Post Items for Sale and instantly matches buyers to seller items. If no match initially sellers can set alerts that notify them when Buyers Post a Want that matches their seller item.

Ubokia is new and growing rapidly. Worth checking out as an additional avenue for your products.

Scott Pine, Founder

    Tere Yons

    The idea of your site sounds great, but I think over 50% of the posts on there are jokes. Too bad. Please let us know when you get funding for some moderators.

    If you focused on things like art maybe the whole thing would fare better, like Etsy’s old Alchemy format.

    Good luck, I hope you can make it work.

Kelly

I wrote in several times on this thread, looking back surely I was angry yet my views do not change. I simply wanted to come and respond to Scott Pine saying thank you I am going to check that out – but for a lot of us we’re running now multiple accounts on etsy. Seo doesn’t work the same on etsy as it does say “on google search” etsy failed to provide us with the necessary tools to learn the stuff that I have in 7 months of having a popular trendy feather shop (not my true art), flatline with relevancy I corrected all my seo and its perfect according to google’s developer tools and hiring tons of outside seo companies out of loss of what to do when you can’t get proper tech support from the people you pay to host your shop.

We’re talking volume on this account to a 85% sales loss.

What the person above said about the flea market artists – it’s true. And it stinks that I am a participating member of it but to grow in popularity I have started mutliple accounts up as most etsy folks did loose ranks with relevancy, to “compete” for keywords we are “taking up keyword names”

For example:

if you go to etsy and type in a shop name and replace the “shops name” with say “roosterfeather” you will probably see “a blank etsy profile”

SO in regards to the original “is etsy dying” where we talk NUMBERS and stats:

There is no way Etsy could have a true accurate count on anything. I have heard nightmares from sellers being plucked off shut down (I am one of these and hope you can respect my shop dedication and harm it), I had my site drug through “link farms” by competitors in China. Sweat shop Link Farms, Seo Link Farms AND yes the sweatshop etsy pendants running all over. So

November 2011 – ETSY BOASTS the best sales numbers in history: WAIT November 2011 was the worst sales month ever on ANY mail order site for me since 1998 starting with Ebay! THE WORST.
So

Why doesn’t Etsy hire more help if they are banking rich? To help with the reseller issue? The main complaint of etsy has and always will be these two things

1. front page favoritism
2. the RE seller issues

we used to just “report shop” and their shop was down. Now not so much. However Etsy by muting me in the forums for “calling out” one of these “reseller shops” and hushed me so I don’t

1. get peer help
2. cant post (its not cool I had even started another account that is NOT blocked from posting but decided it simply isn’t worth it with the forum lurkers that do not want to make sales they sit and report you- they try to make you so ANGRY which is exactly what happened to me in August forum lurkers pull anger out and then report your post in the forum for fun. I made some public posts (no cursing) but would I have not made them ?
(actually no – despite the banned from speaking on 4 etsy accounts) reading is enough. They are stuck there until Etsy fixing and removes these pages and it will be a lot of work!

Didn’t you wonder as a shop on etsy that is familiar with forums why they never brought back the “Forum Search tool”? People are curious what’s going on with Etsy.
The things I say aren’t really opinions – These are things I sat for months looking up saving screenshots, collecting data, screenshotting admins NOT disclosed pages, showing treasuries and shops being popped off that tried helping contain the resellers and the krummie not so handmade in china brass peacock pendants tag stuffed with the word feather extension knocking me out of most my searches I want to rank well for”

I see cursing and activity very suspicious. While google searching a link farm issue i see this odd link to the etsy message boards. Do as I am told “community policing they call it” and I asap TWIT TO etsy help on twitter.

I get a response like all others that say “thanks we’lll look into it” NOT thank you for telling us OUR OWN FORUMS were hacked.

and they were. Not all of etsy and I do not recall the search where I found it (you could write privately though).

So how does etsy being under-staffed of 171 employees (they added 1 new person to help handle the integrity of etsy) wait 1. person to handle these 800,000 shops?

1 person per 800,000?

They don’t want the resellers gone. Now they are just shutting the good guys doing it honestly and working their tales of for months with heads burried in seo guides and books, Nothing like seeing your ranking #2 in the world for the word feather after wikipedia and moved 10 more shops into their #1 spots on google but when you click INTO ETSY from a google search

EVERYTHING CHANGES tag stuffing reseller issues, tech support making issues that are their own feel like “your fault” and of course when they see happy HELPFUL threads in forums they shut them down without saying “why”.

Some posts have just disappeared

SO as advised I went broke started 3 of my own websites. It’s very difficult but at least I can say I am doing everything possible to do this relevantly not repeat keywords like “feather feather feather” as others are (my competition tag stuffs)

I rank perfect for my wanted searches “feather extensions on google” for example most times I fall where I want to but SEO Is evolving and you have to be patient see what changes are good and bad and re-apply and wait to be re-indexed, however,

when you see the “etsy click in link” you will not get the same results.

It’s not a fair game either. I have proved in screenshots even if anyone would like to see them just message privately – I prooved that I was #1 for “feather extensions” based on a tag inspector tool provided by seomoz.org
and a few keyword density tool checkers.

So I knew which item to “renew” (push to the front on etsy and YES it does extend your listing and you pay another 20cents. 20 cents doesnt seem like much but .20 cents x 800,000 (if one person lists one item a day and renews 1 item thats even .40 cents) so they make the MOST cash on etsy off “renewing items” Out of desperate people like me (proving a point in my case though)

I was #1, brown feathers. Naturally relevant
my competitor got shoved #2. I knew what she was gonna do. She renewed and she pushed in front me to the 2 spot.

I waited ten minutes took screenshots of the whole process – and then hit “Renew” paid the .20 cents to prove the point – 5 minutes later I was back #1 for feather extensions.

It doesn’t matter WHAT your product is.

What sucks as well is etsy has no “feather section” theres a section called supplies – then its fabric – then bird

thats the closest we get for selling craft feathers. So feather jewerly is popular – I am popular by my old name (Prefer some anonymous on that name easy to figure out why I changed to “featherswholesale” my shop name contains some important keywords.

Now imagine a whole sweat shop ready to go to rank and take up all keyword searches that are being “searched according to trends in google”

And if they don’t rank – they put your sites through these “spinners” it de-ranked my shop because I was beating them.

This re-seller issue is hitting artfire now as well.
It’s disapointing I really love artfire. Zibbet on there as well – but I really don’t put much effort in it’s a mimic of etsy down to layout and know it wont be long before resellers in China take that website over as well.

In conclusion: Is Etsy Dying?
Heck no they are just getting started as MOST non cupcakes in this fabulous skinny artist article (I watched it grow and GROW), sadly the renewals – the 1.01 they charge your card to validate you – each account you sign up to either 1. use for real 2. register to take away keywords from another (just like BUYING DOMAINS IT HAPPENS ON ETSY!!!!)

I cant get wholesale Feathers but I did get featherswholesale (etsy doesnt tell you how much google DOES CARE about your shop name)

If you want to solely exist as an etsy peddler – It’s an unfair game.
If you want to exist on google and have a nightmare unraveling your analytics comparing shop stats on etsy to real stats on analytics – welcome to the not dying etsy reseller flea market.

Build your own websites.
Keep this article going

Point out and REPORT reseller shops.
Follow all CHANGING daily rules on etsy to not be “silenced” like myself.
Do some simple google searches and type in things like “etsy call out”
“does anyone work at etsy”
“who manages etsy”
“why are shops being shut at etsy”

the power of the words ETSY my oh my did it improve my rankings. Who’s in bed with who?
google
etsy facebook china

knowing NOW that NO seo company can make the claim to #1 and site submission to 15 major engines. (there truly is only 4) Open Directory, (yeah I was unaware the biggest engine was written by real humans too), there is Yahoo (who gets its feed from Google), There is MSN/BING (where I wish I could exist more because it plays fair) AND GOOGLE -ask, lycos, exite webcrawler – these sites – all get their feeds from google the powerhouse of China, as well as you are ALREADY SUBMITED to the smaller engines if you exist on google.

So work on your OFF ETSY shop SEO.
I am always happy to help those in need as others did me but you need to make contact privately.
Thanks for reading this updated ramble. My mood has lightened but now I am appauled nailing it on the head “the flea market for artists” and I happen to be tossed in with my gorgeous sterling jewelry but hey – I can’t beat China.

Sad Etsy sides with the re-sellers.
But IT IS THEIR BIGGEST GROWING PROBLEM.

But say “this shop” its “calling out” and you will be shut down. DONT DO IT if you need your income there. DO NOT talk in the forums. DO NOT talk to peers even unless you trust them.
I found a website and will stop with this where they located the “hidden admin pages” wait the admins can sell products – well sure they are artists too – nice having your competition being your techs huh?

With Much Respect for the Original Writer of this article and most people that have kept in going – Some chic named Kelly.

— if you have a site suggestion to help me grow — that is new like Scott Pine wrote above – I would love to know about them. I wish to compile a list of the new sites and also before registering blindly ask them : How will they handle the re-seller issue when it hits their company.

    Tere Yons

    Hey Kelly, I’ve just found this article today and I have to say reading your posts makes me so angry at Etsy! I just can’t believe, I want to never buy anything from them again but of course I don’t want to hurt the artists. Whenever possible I’ll definitely try and buy directly from the artist (I do this already for the most part). And I’m also outraged by Google and the whole helplessness of it all.

    I’m sorry you’re having to go through this and being constantly stuck by the Man.

    Best of luck.

I have been an Etsy member since 2006 and have run an open shop on Etsy since April of 2010. I think the biggest problem that new sellers at Etsy have is what another commenter called the Field of Dreams syndrome. Etsy makes it so much easier to open a shop than it is to open a brick and mortar shop. You can avoid taxes, the IRS, rent, contracts and a large over head. New sellers that fail to take off on Etsy encounter many misconceptions and mistakes. You are setting up a shop in the world’s largest craft show. Competition is greatly misjudged. Few take the time to ask themselves “What makes my items better than all the others?” Few sellers also think that Etsy is going to drive their sales. Half of my sales from from Etsy searches. And I get those sales because I have done my research about Google search words and how Etsy’s searches work so that my items are labeled and tagged properly. Etsy has also changed their search methods as well. The default search lists items by relevancy instead of recency. The other half of my sales I drive from social media and networking. Namely my Facebook page and blog. (http://twocrazypirates.com)

However these shortcomings of new shop owners are not unique to Etsy. They apply to every new small business that opens in America. The largest percent fail because they have not done their research. Just because you are good at making something doesn’t mean you are good at selling it. Or that you are good at graphic design, product description writing, product photography, social media, networking, or have a good business sense. All of these things are necessary to have a truly successful business whether on Etsy or else where.

Also what you call the “Etsy horror story” is not unique to Etsy either. One’s designs are just as easily copied from craft fairs, their own webpages, or in any environment. Knock offs are the nature of any business. But knock offs aren’t what take down a successful business. If that were true, Chanel, Gucci, Coach, etc wouldn’t be in business today. People who claim knock offs ruin their business didn’t have a strong, unique item to sell in the first place. There are items I can make that I don’t sell well on Etsy because the Etsy market it flooded with them and I would have to price them down so much to be competitive that they wouldn’t be worth my time to make. Hair accessories are a great example. Every crafty mom who has a baby girl inevitably can make hair clips and head bands. All you need is a glue gun and some ribbon. So Etsy is FILLED with hair accessories. I don’t bother to post my hair accessories to sell on Etsy. However, in a physical market place where I am most likely the only handmade infant and toddler vendor, I can sell hair accessories like hotcakes. It takes some market know-how to be successful.

There are also flaws in your math and numbers. In business you don’t compare month to month sales numbers to calculate increases. December will always be a much larger sales volume month than January. Just think, how many presents did you buy in December vs January. The retail volume has an ebb and flow all year that is largely holiday driven. So when calculating increases and decreases in sales volume (or any other metric) You want to compare each month’s numbers to those of the year previous. i.e. December 2010 to December 2011. That will give you an accurate picture of business health.

Also because there is no distinction in Etsy accounts between being a seller and a buyer, you are correct in assuming there is no way to determine what the intention of each new account opened is. I am both an Etsy seller and an Etsy buyer and have always been. Also, new accounts could be created in order to favorite items and shops for later purchases, making them neither sellers or buyers. And while you have the number of new accounts opened you do not have the number of accounts closed or left dormant.

Etsy isn’t dying at all. It is making great revenue off of listing fees and sales commissions. People who try to open a shop and fail blame Etsy. When in fact they should look closer at critiquing themselves. Those people would have failed at a brick and mortar shop too. They aren’t putting the dedication and effort it takes into running a business because that is what it is. They say Etsy as the easy way out, when it isn’t at all. It’s a launching platform. It’s a market place. Etsy makes it easier to have a successful shop, but they do not make it easy. Running a business is not easy. In the end the shop owner still has to do most all of the work. And those who don’t will ultimately fail.

    Tere Yons

    Good points, great reply.

      Matthew L Hornbostel

      Well, Etsy is like most venues, some people hit it big but most don’t. There are a lot of reasons why, but the statement others have been making – don’t count on Etsy itself to deliver sales, and focus on your own website primarily, not a third-party sales platform, would seem to be good advice.

      Personally I am okay with Etsy; I have a shop just set up there recently, but it is not my only shop. I’ve got one on my own site, plus a successful eBay seller account, and a Zazzle page as well. Basically I categorize items and figure out where the best place to sell them is. For prints, Zazzle is my primary venue. Handmade original works? Etsy. Other items? eBay. It helps to diversify and it’s important to promote your work in a variety of places.

      Here’s my Etsy shop for anyone interested: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MatthewLHornbostel?ref=hdr_shop_menu

      I am about to post a batch of new handmade artworks there in the next few days so we’ll see if any of those actually sell there. I will of course also be doing a bunch of advertising/promotion around the web as the new items are posted. Hopefully it’ll go well.

Well said, Jill. Have a unique product and a well organized shop do make a huge difference at the “world’s biggest craft show.”

This is a great article and the feedback has been great. I would like to just add one comment: Not every failure on Etsy is a failure of a concept or an idea. Etsy is a very competitive marketplace and getting your product to shine in the midst of thousands of other choices is difficult. It is not really that you are failing because of Etsy but rather that you are not succeeding when using Etsy as a platform on it’s own. To shine there you need to invest money into the many things Esty offers for you to shine. Of course, when you are just starting you may not have the resources to do so. This is not failure or lack of research on how to succeed in business but rather reality: sometimes your finances don’t compliment your vision of success. As such I believe many talented individuals find that Etsy is not the right marketplace for them, whether at this very instance or ever is unique to any one individual. You can fail on Etsy and not be a failure as a business or concept.

As a stay at home mom, I found that I was not able to commit the money needed to advertise and get featured at this time. This reality is probably true to many stay at home and work from home moms. I recently launched a website, Mom’s Workshop, to give moms like myself a free marketplace that is 100% free: no fees and no commissions to pay. This was not my attempt to fault Etsy, but rather my attempt to give others like me a free alternative (the website also is more than a marketplace it is about building a community of moms who support each other). Mom’s Workshop is only a few weeks old now and there is much to be done before it is complete, but with members signing up every day, I believe that many moms appreciate the chance to start slow.

Sandra

What a totally discouraging post/threads. Not to mention that link to youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com. I would be so very upset if someone copied my work; I can’t even begin to say…

I guess I fell into the Field of Dreams category too. I opened my shop in November ’11, and aside from five friends/acquaintances buying items, I’ve not had a single sale. I get hearts, and likes, and people on Facebook liking my page and giving me compliments. I promo in the threads, as well as on FB. And on my blog (though I confess I do not blog often).

But I’m beginning to wonder if this “Quit Your Day Job” stuff is total BS. I am not even sure WHY I am doing this anymore. Because people say things to me like “oh, you should sell your jewelry/artwork” all the time. Well, guess what? They are not buying from me. Somebody recently told me, “It’s a compliment. They don’t really mean you SHOULD sell your artwork.”

I started doing art for therapeutic reasons several years ago. It seemed like everyone was jumping on the selling bandwagon. Like my friend Michelle says, “And everybody’s got a blog, and is writing a book, and does online classes.” Whether they are good artists or not!

This is all starting to seem like a lot of work for little or not return…and right now, I am flat broke, I need a “real” job, and I don’t even feel like making art.

Thanks for letting me vent here. I’m interested in hearing more from this thread.

I have been selling on Etsy as an artist and designer with my former partner since 2006, and have nearly reached 900 sales. I opened my own shop over a year ago, and started selling last April, and have had quite good sales so far, considering many of my items are expensive originals.
I do feel that Etsy needs to look at how items are tagged and categorized, as it is hard for us true Fine artists to sell our original artwork and for customers wanting to buy our art to find us on Etsy!

I would not say one can rely on Etsy solely to provide a liveable income, so it is very important to extend your sales to your own website if possible, and to markets, co-operative galleries and art festivals.

Great topic, and good luck everyone!

alan

I have been on Etsy for two years and I have to say its been up and down regarding sales , I tend to sell more of my jewelry in the summer than in the winter for some reason. I do have to promote my products and make sure that I keep updating my listings.

Over all I think Etsy works but you have to put the effort in like any shop either online or on a main street to keep customers coming. My other tip is to spread your products out on the interweb to other sites as I have found my

buyers have been telling me they are not exclusive to buying on etsy and they buy from Artfire.com, crafty.com etc and recently the Isupportamerican.com, they are like a few of the free sites out there that are currently offering no listing fees just a monthly fee only issue is they will only allow american sellers to set up a shop,

we call that protectionism in Ireland , you guys call it patriotism. Maybe someone will do something that smart over here some day LOL. Keep craftin Guys. Was going to promote my shop but will bore you some other time. Cheers

Hello

I have had an Etsy shop since August of 2010. I make (made) fantasy-fantasy jewelry. I like Etsy. I shop Etsy. However, I completely agree with those here that have said that for FINE art, this may not be the best venue.
I am currently weaning my jewelry out. I know longer desire to make jewelry and talk about a difficult thing to sell on Etsy. Wow, you are fortunate to get your items in a search. You can pay for search ads, which I have but with those fees and others, I am not making much.
I have returned to my love of poetry and painting and am really considering not posting my original canvas paintings there.
Etsy certainly has it’s place and does help, some.
Thank you all for your comments, it has made me think a great deal about where to sell my art. I have my own websites and one I could develop into one that would cater to such a dilemma.

Best to you all

susan

I’m going to be another boring voice of reason, balance and practicality…sorry!

My Etsy Experience:
I’ve used Etsy purely for marketplace testing and feedback before going into production and retail. I hand make my products for Etsy as they are in post testing phase and I’m not willing to spend money on outsourcing until I’ve tested and received feedback from the marketplace. I’m realistic about my expectations and I’ve found Etsy to be wonderful for this. You could also use Ebay to achieve the same thing but you don’t receive the marketing opportunities both with Etsy and externally with magazines that Etsy provides (more on this later).

My recommendations:
– Have a unique, quality product. I’d almost say don’t bother if there are many other sellers selling your items unless you have the time, energy and money to market externally. You will get lost in the masses. My product is a stand alone (no-one else makes it) so I stand out in Etsy world.

– Quality professional photographs. To do well on Etsy, you need the Etsy community to promote you. They won’t unless you have BEAUTIFUL photographs. This goes for the Etsy blog etc as well. Etsy can’t afford to use “home made” photos in their promotional emails etc. This is their business and they need to promote themselves as well. You need to make your product “available” to them. I’m useless with a camera so I paid a pro to do my photos and it was worth every cent – Etsy PR (yes, they have a PR team devoted to lining up Etsy sellers with magazines, TV etc) have provided me with several magazine, TV and promotional opportunities with MAJOR international brands that I would not have received without pro photos. Be aware that the Big End of town DO peruse Etsy – I have been shocked at the companies who have contacted me via Etsy PR. The Etsy machine is much bigger than I think we realise and I think they may be working hard on developing this side of the business.

– Do your research, know your buyer! Do I really need to say that?? I’m going to be blunt, if you sell fine art Etsy is not your venue. Would YOU go to Etsy to buy expensive fine art? Would Bill Gates go to Etsy to buy fine art? I wouldn’t. Don’t blame Etsy for not bringing your customers to you. Etsy isn’t an art gallery and doesn’t pretend to be one. Please be realistic. It’s your job to research where your buyers are. You need to be there – make it easy for them to find you.

– Do a business plan!! If you are serious about making money….do a business plan! And if you can’t be bothered (shame on you, don’t expect to make money) then at least do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The research you do to complete your business plan would have identified if Etsy was an opportunity or a waste of time for your product/s. Time is money in my world… and I hate wasting money!

– Use Etsy for what it is and be realistic – Etsy is a marketing opportunity to get your product and brand out there. It does provide an opportunity to communicate directly with potential and actual buyers. Feedback (good and bad) provides you with the roots of change for your business. Be sure to listen and action. I have come up with new product ideas or refined current ideas based on people who requested items through Etsy. I agree with others, you should never put all your eggs in one basket for any business including online so make sure you’re covering all your bases.

There’s a place for everything and Etsy is just one option so research all options. A word of caution – please be careful about denigrating something just because it doesn’t work for your product/service…particularly if you haven’t done a business plan…lol :-))

Marcelo

You goy it all wrong, The new people that sign up every month are buying, the ones are not buying are the people that signed up months before. You need new people to sign up and buy, otherwise your sales are gonna go drastrically down because some of the people that are members already, signed up to buy one thing only.

I have an etsy shop and sell close to 5k a month.

    Tere Yons

    I wish you people who sell so much would post links to your stores. I can’t think of any good honest reason why you wouldn’t want to.

      laine

      what does it matter? the people who need to know what someone sells is so they can copy it and steal ideas and sales. you try to spin it like a person is not honest for telling you what their shop. NO YOUR NOT THE HONEST PERSON, AND YOUR EVIL FOR WHAT YOU DO. no one tells or should tell. why don’t you tell us how we can make 60k a year from your business, that we can steal from you and cause you loss. we will all be waiting but my guess is its only ok for you to steal and copy from others and not ok to have it done to you… right? of course i am right. take your evil and leave.

        Tere Yons

        I can’t even make sense out of half that paragraph. I’ve enjoyed browsing the shops of people who post on here, and I found it interesting and coincidental that the few who don’t link to these shops that they speak of are the ones that claim the most sales. It would be nice to be able to see both sides of the Etsy story, those who aren’t selling enough and those who are.

        I apologize if I’m making things worse by even replying, this will be my last reply.

        I’m anxious to see how the Etsy story continues, hopefully for the best of the artists and consumers alike, and not for the abounding good of China.

    I’d love to know what you sell! 5K a month? Wow! Yes, please do post your shop link!

Etsy? Once the only, once the best. but they got too big and seem to be run by a bunch of power hungry high school hall monitors.

I had two shops. Many requests for more sections (by a lot of people) finally I had to open a second shop. I had HUNDREDS of sales. Perfect feedback. But with all their idiotic changes people started complaining. And one by one, complainers were muted. I got muted. Damn it I am a paying CUSTOMER who brings in many more customers. To be muted like some five year old REALLY set me off.

The first muting was only for a week. I spent that week looking more closely at some of the many other sites that had started to spring up.

came back after my week long time out. Was VERY careful to only copy and paste other peoples thoughts in what was left of their fractured forums. Can’t mute me for agreeing right?

But one day, I pulled up a link to a news story that CEOs of ebay, one went to google and one landed on the board of etsy. That post is STILL open in their forums. But for that post I was perma muted.
And that did it. I stuck clues everywhere that I was moving and before they could remove me (I knew it was coming at that point.) I copied ALL my customers contact info. Good thing too because they up and closed my accounts while I had pending sales.

Well. I sent an email to ALL my good customers. Many followed me over to Artfire. Ha, I sent a copy of that to etsy admins. To this day they refuse to answer a single email. WHY was I muted? All I get is an auto responder saying the reason would be in that forum post. It still isn’t. This was all last april.

Not the stupidest part about being kicked off, I can’t even SHOP there. If I find something in a google search and it lands me on etsy? I can’t shop. I can’t contact the seller. I can’t spend money on etsy.
I do searches now with -etsy in the search field. How stupid is that?

And I’m certainly not alone. I wrote my whole saga (including links to the forum posts that got me in trouble.) And posted it on my own site. It amazes me how much traffic I get from google searches “etsy sucks.”

No. Etsy is dead to me now. Artfire has better tools, PHONE support, customers don’t even need to sign up to shop. They take all sorts of payment methods. And the CEOs are in the forums ALL the time. Changes to the site are open to discussion long before they are put into place. Usually with improvements based on what sellers say.
Etsy did that once. early on. Before all the stupid HS nonsense started and was allowed to get out of hand.

I’ve had hundreds of sales now on Artfire.

oh… and I’ve met a LOT of former etsy sellers there. A good deal of them also got booted or just got so fed up they left on their own.

    Hoping Jenny two people up will see this message and try to make contact with me. I would love to speak to you Jenny privately of course based on BOTH of our situations there. It’s a horrible thing what they did and I am threading so lightly that I am barely saying anything on or offline.

    Today was depressing as they said “work it out between sellers” how do we do that when we are silenced for the same person saying I harassed them? Watching them go another round of “steal my images” (three more friends of mine plus more of mine and followed to ebay and even PURCHASED MY OWN ITEM to see where this person is) .

    Creepy Weird And Nothing I can do about it if I Want to remain “OPEN”
    I did want to say this

    I watched this thread grow from the beginning and see my tone change but my views stay the same. I like what Jenny said best. High School Hall Monitors make sense.

    And wanted to say THANK YOU TO Skinny Artist – Keeping this going – flourishing – and CONVINCING me it was time to make my own website (go easy on it lol). It’s above! :)

    HUGS TO ALL Of you for sharing your opinions good and bad – it keeps me in my nice love/hate relationship with etsy.

    Blessings
    Kelly

      Kelly I’d be happy to talk off line. Just click my name, it leads to my website and there is a contact page in there. I’d post my email but that will only get it spammed to death. But it’s findable. My artfire shop is right on my front page too. And you can contact me through that as well.

      The thing about etsy not having any support, no phone, no prompt answers to emails, and their arbitrary tendency to just kick people off make them one of the worst in my book. Businesses with no support are not worth it. Period!

      Keep in mind, all websites will have their own issues. Artfire makes it easy for people to shop without an account. The down side is spammers can easily send their junk to everyone there and there is not one thing you can do about it. Always trade offs.

      Artfire did already get rid of the non paying buyer though. Items don’t vanish from your shop until they are marked as paid. (or if you take checks, YOU make them paid, or put them on hold.)

      Right now, still in planning stages, they are working on a new thing. Customer assurance program. Can’t give you details on that since they don’t yet have it all worked out. But… it should improve things. If customers feel confident that if there is a problem, and if the seller won’t answer or do anything, the site will step in and fix it. This also applies to sellers being protected from (hard to believe) bad customers.
      Some people are upset by this. (some are upset with any change, even good ones.) And there is a small fee increase to help pay for this. Gees it’s a dollar a month increase and a bunch of sellers want to pack up and leave. everything goes up. New programs designed to cover the few bad deals that might happen so that the customer doesn’t equate a bad deal with “artfire” and never return cost money. But I think it will be a good thing.

      As for stealing, for years I’ve been telling people you simply must watermark your photos. yes that’s not a guarantee. Watermarks can be removed. But most thieves, too lazy to take their own pictures are also too lazy to photoshop out a well placed watermark. They just steal from someone easier. It also means you have proof images are yours since removing any watermark will leave signs it was done.

It’s hard to say what those numbers mean. As Etsy gets more popular, both vendors and buyers will increase. But I think many buyers just sign up to buy one specific item. A lot of my buyers are like that. I can see they were not members until the day they bought my item. They may never buy again for another year or two. They may forget they are members and sign up 5 times as a ‘new member’ over the course of many years. Plus the economy is down so vendors across the board have been seeing decreased sales, not just Etsy. Plus there are a lot of vendors on Etsy who simply have too high prices or stuff that is not likely to sell. Or vendors who put up a few things, realize they aren’t rich quick and lose interest. Most of the vendors are not super serious about it. However, if a vendor puts in some research time, works at developing popular items, learns about marketing skills and SEO and good photography, etc, I think they have a good chance of succeeding at Etsy over the long haul. The question is if other places will be better than etsy or not. And what is good for one vendor might not be good for another. -Eva

Jenny! The images ARE watermarked that’s the messed up part! They won’t do anything about it they cut our logos out – I started using a big overlay image now but it’s ridiculous having that over my whole product lol. :) I am looking for which person is you now from above :) Hugs! Kelly

I have now read every post above mine. Most of them seem to be about fine art…the most telling comment was…”would you buy expensive art” from any online store?” I would not unless the shop policies included a returnable clause.
I have mixed feelings about etsy…I began a shop 2 years ago…have had 65 sales in that time…I tried Zibbet which is an up and coming selling site…they keep adding etsy-like features AND etsy does allow you to create a file to transfer your etsy listings to zibbet or whoever you like, I think…I found in the long run using two sights was a LOT of work…leaving far less time for creating…BUT after reading the posts I may go to zibbet exclusively and will take a look at other sights mentioned in the body of posts above.
I use Etsy mainly for a place for my “show” buyers to go after the show…I do VERY well at shows if I am careful to pick my market. I have not experienced copy cat problems to my knowledge, but I do try to create very unique pieces. Very difficult to copy…
I have a personal facebook page and a business facebook page…I belong to my local bead society, I read all I can about selling online…I originally had a website thru constant contact…very hard to promote and $16/month with no sales. I write a newsletter monthly (blog to some of you) – send to 100+ contacts…offer incentive coupons for etsy and even that does not generate sales very often…my best sales are at SHOWS!! Shows are a lot of work…and “juried” is interpretated differently by different venues. So be careful. The economy does play a role…I was just in a show for the second time here locally – Savannah, GA – and sold only half what I did just last year…many, many compliments…people came back to say they liked my work the best of all the jewelry people at the show…loved my display…my prices are good…so many factors play a role.
I am currently trying the paid ads…at first – verrry slow…but it is picking up…no sales, however. The best info etsy gives you are your stats…and the key words. My work has been in over 125 treasuries…no sales generated…probably for the reason stated above…those looking are the sellers.
I have made many, many virtual friends and they often buy from me…I have done everything that Etsy suggests for a shop and promotion…no real changes although Christmas sales were better this year.
Jewelry is the largest category – 35,000 shops so competition is fierce.
I have too many business cards to change to zibbet without putting correction stickers on the back of the cards…so we shall see.
Oh, and when my work is favorited, I contact that person and thank them. My packaging is really nice…My shop is cohesive…It was quite a learning curve…as I said…we shall see.
I googled Etsy dying because to people said they had read that recently…two from the bead society…very interesting posts…
Thanks, y’all!!

    Cathy, you know I clicked on your name and it only brings up the dreaded Uh Oh page on etsy. So can’t even see your work.

    Try googling your own work and see where and if it shows up. I can guarantee you zibbet NEVER shows up in google. You would have better luck on Artfire.

    Also… Artfire has a guide in their forums for people coming over from etsy. One of the things I learned is NOT to duplicate listings. Google will penalize you for that and both listings get tanked. So tools to transfer listings over aren’t really much help since you still need to reword your whole description, and I’ve been told even using the same image might hurt.

    Fine art is a hard sell on line only because the computer does such a poor job of showing what the art really looks like. I’ve tried and gave up on it. (crafts sell better on line.)
    But some people do very well.
    Again I can’t see your art, but if it’s 2d images, another way to make money off of them is to use zazzle. (Print on demand.) You upload your images, set what “stuff” to sell it on, and collect checks. Best part is you retain all rights to the work. AND the originals.

Hey, does anybody know if the stats on Etsy that show how many sales a shop has made are actual sales. I’ve been spending some time looking at different shop stats just to see overall what the potential is. Can these sales numbers be manipulated in any way? If they are accurate numbers, I’m surprised how many artists/crafters are making sales. I’ve just opened an Etsy shop at the first of the year, and it is pretty darn slow. I’m thinking of investing more time into updating my already existing website. By the way, I love Drew’s Skinny Artist site. It’s the real deal. Thanks, Drew for your efforts.

As a blogger myself I wanted to commend you for putting your words into this great post, because that is what freedom of speech is all about. I do understand the examples you are giving. The thought process is that it should be more of a sales type pyramid or domino effect like

Increase in Users vs Sales
x this month
xx next month
sort of like the pyramid effect xxx

But not exactly so after what I have seen. I have been on Etsy since 2007. I sell (part time ) when I feel like messing with my shop but I also buy just about anything I need for art supplies, the home, or vintage gifts. I used to run a team so I can tell you what I noticed. A lot of people pop over to Etsy and open up a shop and expect to sell out or get rich quick without really investing time to treat their shop like a business.

I have to admit I was one of them having been on there for a year not knowing what I was doing reading the Do’s and Don’ts or really take the time to see what successful sellers are doing. They list things that will never be found–are not SEO friendly using words like cute and cuddly instead of descriptive words that will get their items noticed.

I have seen vintage go from a few thousand items when i opened up shop to over 2.2 million so I have to stay on top of my game but still there’s a lot of new shops that come in and get sales fast, others will be frustrated that they are not selling and will be gone in 90 days.

I commend Etsy for offering a huge alternative to selling on other sites. Etsy’s fees to list and sell are the lowest around–on top of the fact you have have a free storefront.

Just like you (and your links up top by the way are redirected to total shops), I cannot locate the totals for shops anymore. It redirects me to shops in my area and I cannot even search for total in USA it keeps reverting back to local. Not sure if they are having a glitch or that is intentional but here’s what I say, shame on a seller for going into a business of any kind without the proper time and dedication to their shop.

It takes time to network and promote your item and Etsy doesn’t have anything to do with that. Success is on the individual (unless of course you do hit the front page and land in a magazine well, hey, that would be nice…)

Oh, I have a personal experience with Etsy to share. It might be of interest since I’m a dedicated full-time craftsperson who has been totally committed to selling on etsy pretty much when it started. I started selling there when it was really small, I think I was the only person who made anything out of leather. It was January of 2006 when I made my first sale and the sales ramped up steadily after that. In 2007 I grossed just under 19000.00 (not including shipping). 2008: 27,400.00. Then in Sept 08 the global market crash happened. It took a few months for it to really start, but in 2009 I grossed only 13,000.00 Last year sales came up a bit to 19,400.00. I create this stuff full time, and with etsy as my primary sales focus venue, it was so hard to let go of the dream and accept that it is not working for me any more. The golden age of 2008 is now a distant memory. For this year I have shifted my focus to wholesaling, I work a lot harder making quantities of stuff but my sanity is partially restored knowing I am not totally counting on etsy to support me. I still have my shop but i don’t sit by the computer feeling sad nearly as much as I did the last three years!
I wish I knew why I can’t be successful there anymore. I think it’s a combination of way way more sellers, a depressed economy, more resellers of cheap stuff that undercuts mine and also there are some really amazing bags on Etsy now that are putting mine to shame :( And people are making amazing, fashion-magazine calibre photographs with models and styling and props and I just don’t have time to do that.
I also think Etsy’s site infrastructure has changed, making it complicated and overwhelming to shop there. Almost everybody I talk to about etsy says they find it overwhelming and just look at the pictures without really ever buying anything. However it’s a living evolving site so I’ll hang in there and see what happens.

Marie

The comment the author made that, “every artist and crafter with a bedazzling gun has opened a shop on Etsy” speaks largely to the ignorance about Etsy about why many people are not successful selling in this venue. I am a full time Etsy seller, and consider myself successful – I can make a living through my sales. Etsy is a handmade marketplace, which should speak to some level of quality or uniqueness of goods. While you do find some tacky bedazzled items available for sale, you will probably notice these are not the successful sellers. Those that are successful usually have something unique to offer, or a skill not easily reproduced. I like to think it is where art meets crafts, or a community of artisans…not your everyday flea market crap. I went to school and received my Bachelor degree in Graphic Design. I also have a background in bookkeeping. These skill sets serve me everyday in my Etsy business. That being said, Etsy doesn’t translate into the appropriate venue for all sellers. If you have something unique, well-crafted or well-designed people will buy it. Period. Knowing a little bit about how to operate a small business helps too. I understand it can be intimidating to get started but honestly Etsy shouldn’t be easy for everyone or it would saturate the market! What I have said may sound harsh, but there is a silver lining…the great thing about Etsy is you can start up a business today, with little to no overhead. If you fail then you haven’t lost much. If you succeed then the sky’s the limit! It took me 2 years of evolving my products and testing the market before I found a product that resonated with buyers. You get out of it what you put in. Is it easy? No! Is it worth it? YES!

    With all your education you should agree that the first rule in business is to NOT treat your paying customers like dirt! Second rule, (perhaps not in this order) is to offer outstanding customer support.

    Etsy failed both.

    I HAD two shops. PERFECT feedback, hundreds of sales. But like many others I was unhappy with etsy’s latest rash of stupidity and complained too much. For that I was muted, then perma muted, never with an explanation or any discussion. After that I took a much harder look at other venues and found one.
    Artfire! THEY DO offer support. They DO care about their paying customers. They are constantly improving and almost always put new ideas up for discussion before rolling out changes. Etsy stopped doing that very early on.
    They stopped caring what anyone thinks. Like it or lump it is their attitude.

    Finally, everyone they have booted, (and I find more in the forums on Artfire almost every day.)
    once booted I CANNOT SHOP ETSY!!!! I DO find items I’d like and would buy but I CAN’T. I can’t even contact the seller unless they are smart enough to leave a trail to twitter, blogs, personal sites or something. Which etsy gets more and more anal about allowing.

    Then lets bring up the abuse and resellers. A very large magazine published right on the front page some wedding dress only to later find out it was a mass produced rip off. I bet they NEVER publish etsy anything after that blunder.

    I follow several blogs and twitter people who find resellers on etsy all the time. Etsy boots good people with real hand made items, in favor of making listing fees????
    Anyone who really looks will have no problem finding this sort of thing.

    Artfire on the other hand, willingly invites resellers to do business. AS resellers. Just make it clear what you do. As it should be.

    no. etsy is dead to me now. When I shop I generally start with google. And I put in my search -ebay, and now -etsy too. Why bother finding things I have to then jump hoops, find someone on Artfire with an etsy account and ask them to contact the seller for me. Phoey! I don’t need anything that bad.

    Etsy staff would flunk business 101. They started out great. And as the first and only of it’s kind for awhile they grew. Too fast and too much for the flunkies running the show.

    oh well. It was nice while it lasted. Artfire works for me. better tools, better support. And yes. Sales.

Stacy

I’m a buyer. I would like to be a seller of handcrafted (steampunk and upcycled) jewelry, but I found you because I was wondering is there is no market space left for this and used the search phrase “Are there too many craft jewelers out there?”. It seems to be almost a craze to make jewelry.
What I’ve bought on Etsy is vintage clothing and jewelry, not art per say.

I have been on Etsy for a while,had an excursion with 1000 Markets (don’t ask) and have a website.Ultimately I would like to just have the website and I have basically been using Etsy as a shopping cart.The problem with that,for me,is that most of my buyers find me through Google searches and must sign up to purchase.Hate that.

The teams are a real time suck,although I have met some great folks.It is seriously cutting into my creating time with little results,sorry to say.

I am now in the process of setting up shop on Big Cartel and this looks like a much better solution for me.Etsy has been making weird choices and the site outages have become too frequent (search issues 2x and site completely down for over an hour just this month) .Seems less and less professional.

I have had a gallery shop on Etsy since 2007. I was happy with the way it was going until 2010 when traffic more or less dried up. There were some issues with SEO at Etsy at that time. I was busy with other things in 2010/2011 in any case, so I didn’t worry about this drop-off too much. I returned late last year to rejig and try to recover my traffic and sales there. The traffic has been easy. In many ways it is a more engaging and easier to use site than in 2007 and a seller certainly gets more bang for his/her 20c nowadays. However two things seem to be clear to me; it has become a more engaging site for simply ‘window shopping’. I have found many new members, who are not sellers, are hearting this and that, have loads of favourites, but little or no feedback (therefore few if any purchases). The addition of ‘circles’, the activity feed and being able to favorite things from thumbnails has encouraged this window-shopping activity. Secondly, as a painter, I have been really surprised in the last several months at the sudden, so it seems, presence of a large number of formula painters. There had always been a few, but now, if I take a look at the top page in the art category, this is mostly what I am seeing.

At this point I really had to wonder about the suitability of Etsy for my work as an artist. I went to Google Insights for search and entered ‘Etsy art’. Yes, the searches using these terms are growing, but predominantly in the category of ‘crafts and hobbies’ not ‘arts and entertainment’ or ‘shopping’. Other Etsy search terms bring up shopping at the main category and this is what I would like to see for art, but it’s not happening. I am now considering a rather different way of making my work available online. I like Etsy, but I don’t see a future for it in my situation.

I sell vintage items.Pretty girly items mostly.I use my pretty cottage as a background to help give ideals how this vintage item can be displayed.My cottage has been featured in a national decorating magazine and this helped my etsy store.I am a stay at home mom and the extra money does help.I could not make a living off etsy that is for sure.!However it is better then consigning my items at one of our local antique malls and paying them 35% and working a few day’s a month at the antique shop.It is also better then what I have done in the past which is to sell all my pretty castoffs at my yard sale for next to nothing.!.Etsy is better then those options however I am still holding out hope for a better option in the future.!Do not even get me started about ebay!Sharks!!

I’m intending to open an Etsy store in the next week or so (I used to have a Folksy one, which I had to close for personal reasons a year or so ago). I don’t expect to get much, if any, random traffic through it from Etsy’s search listings – instead I’m using it as a reliable, relatively cheap, storefront. It’s already set up to appeal to creatives, and I’ll link through from my website/blog… it will literally be my shop, while my website will be the heart of Ducking Fabulous. And I think that’s maybe the key – I have no expectations from Etsy in relation to promotion of my items, I just want somewhere that’s trusted for people to execute transactions :)

RaDonna Fox

I was a #1 seller on Etsy! Isn’t that where everyone dreams of being? I was so seasonal though and I went from working 10 hours a week to 90! At 90 hours a week I was unable to keep up with the demand and customers became irritated, yet I was killing myself to try and make them happy. In the end I had to close my doors, the demand was more than I could bare. I wish you all success, it is possible but something not without a price…. RaDonna – thebearfootshaman

I usually find this type of information kind of dull, but you made it interesting. Your take on various points enthralled me and made me think about everything you wrote.

I sincerely appreciate the information. I opened an ETSY account a year before I did anything with it, but in February, I listed a few simple crochet pieces and now I have over $200 in sales. It is great fun to from a social viewpoint, but I’m not quitting my day job. :)

Dave Laane

I think the entire problem is the “New Member” numbers versus ACTIVE member numbers. I for one am an Ebay seller looking to change / diversify my market and have signed up but done nothing else for several months while I continue to develop more inventory space. I realize the sell through may well be lower than Ebay and I’ll have to hold more inventory longer because the urgency of auction selling is removed.
Next to think of is the fact the Etsy allows not just crafts but vintage items so there may be more sales in certain categories and not others, again we’re not privy to what’s driving the actual numbers or how many who have signed up are online sellers seeking a foothold into a new market only to abandon it after in depth review and deciding to forego selling there is another variable that’s been left unconsidered.
Given these bits of information I’d suggest a review of sold items and which categories they were sold in and an active participant number, perhaps using the rating system to determine regular users versus casual users can determine the real core customer base, then it might be found the sellers who aren’t doing well either are not meeting consumer tastes or crafting sub-standard or unwanted items and the same for vintage item sellers who are the most like Ebay’s clientele.
It might also show the average sold price to be higher since there are fewer genuine participants versus sign ups and that there is a nice, niche being filled for those who have a business model that fits well with the platform Etsy has designed

Hi again to all artists who have mentioned in the commentary that they are looking to have their own website as an alternative or supplement to Etsy.
I have found what may be a good website hosting option for many kinds of artists.
It is free if you want a basic package, and then you can apparently add a shopping cart system using PayPal for payment for a small fee each month. there is no commission or other hidden fees.

here’s the link: http://www.zhibit.org/features

Good luck!

Not sure if Etsy is dying or becoming over saturated but Etsy and soon my Lilyshop will be a place I can send my prospective buyers and returning customers to view the items I offer.

I opened an Etsy store and uploaded a ton of prints that I sell as greeting cards to retailers nationally in volume. Only 4 sold and I was super surprised it bombed. BUT I developed a new genre of prints and it took off as soon as I changed my format. I expect my sales to keep increasing as I add new products. If I hadn’t changed my
theme I would have had to close the shop, so I consider myself a survivor. I had to put a lot of time into drawing a bunch of new prints to replace the old ones I thought would fly off the site.

My take is that it depends on what buyers want and it doesn’t matter if the are sellers on ETSY or shoppers. Alot
of business people and artists, students, moms buy my prints. Some people haggle but most do not. It’s important to know what your margins are and what your expectations are when you start.

I consider it very much like a retail store, they come in pick up what they want and then they are done and will not come back, different than my wholesale buyers. But I don’t mind because on-line shopping is infinite, people are not shopping at gift stores anymore and galleries are going out of business.

I would suggest if that if you’re not getting regular sales after 6-8 months reevaluate your products. Start uploading new things four months before Christmas to see what the potential of sales could be to project how much time you are willing to spend on this endeavor. It is disheartening to here about artists having to take down there store after investing in so much time to set one up. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. I would say at best it is a part-time venture or hobby for the average shop owner that has another job. I earn a lot of sales when my wholesale selling season is down, and I use it to cross market my other business.

ETSY has some serious branding and the fees I feel are fair, I like the stats and the billing sections and they always provide artists with more fuel and I feel for a large entity they care about the artists sincerely. Our fees pay for having an easy cool website, I have one and when it breaks I have to shell out big money for a developer to fix it. As a business person, you are saving more money on marketing and tech labor by just paying ETSY there fees.

They could do a better job on organizing and keeping the good stuff away from the el cheapo stuff but hey it’s like eBay. They are improving functionality and they promise to be a progressive site for users and buyers. The are also profitable for the first time, which shows that what they made went back into the company and not in some deep pocket of a corporate CEO.

I’ve been on Etsy since 2010. It hasn’t been easy, nor am I yet a resounding financial success, but after having some brick and mortar retail experience I’ve learned a digital presence tends to be more forgiving of easily overlooked business details, and presently my Etsy business continues to steadily grow 25% over last year.

Some things I’ve learned from my Etsy experience so far: 1) have a good quality product you enjoy creating 2) provide good photographs/images 3) don’t expand your listing selection too quickly until you understand the ins-and-outs. 4) set up processes and standard to-do lists and share what you’re doing with your customers.

There’s no guarantee for anything. Just do what you love and do your best — and do your best to keep up with technology and Etsy policies. Whatever you learn from the latter may be carried forward towards your next venture/selling community website.

No sincere effort is ever really lost.

Good luck!

Esty may not be dying, but it appears to be morphing more and more into a commercial mass produced Ebay type marketplace.

Many Etsy sellers are protesting the neglect on Etsy’s part to properly manage sellers who claim to be hand made but are actually mass producing items.

Here is a link, and there is also a planned 24 hour shop closure on May 10th for all sellers who would like to protest :

http://www.etsy.com/teams/8735/supporting-artists-team/discuss/10214007

Karie

I have this vision, or perhaps nightmare, of millions of Etsy handcrafted ware, including perhaps my own, sitting on the thrift store shelves in another 10 years, begging for someone to give them a prominent place in their home once again before the handcrafted movement fell to the outdated wayside! I have never quite understood the jewelry craze and I am jealous of anyone who can knit ( I can’t keep track of the counting)

This is why I try to create timeless original personalized pieces that are not easily reproducible or copied by just any one with a glue gun or sewing machine. I did pretty good in my first year and received one of the “mixed blessing” 1099K forms this first year for selling over 20,000 or 200 items. That being said, I still want to transition to my own site this year while still keeping one foot in my Etsy shop. Just not wise to place all your eggs in one basket! Esp when they can and do regularly suspend shops with no recourse. I totally think the quality of photos makes all the difference and coming from a photography background I think that was my key to receiving the dreaded 1099K:)

I am an Etsy seller. Last week Etsy decided to change the wedding category leaving thousands of wedding sellers in an uproar. Go and curious the new wedding category. It is horrible for sellers and buyers. Many protests are going on but Etsy isn’t listening. Please write a story about this. Etsy has made a huge mistake that is costing thousands of seller their livelihood. Thanks!

    you should check out Artfire http://www.artfire.com
    no more 20 cents per listing just 1 flat fee per month
    you WILL notice a BIG difference in the management end

    Good Luck

Wow great article.
We are gel candle mfgs (not many of us left) & I was asked by many to sell on Etsy & several said we would do well.
We also make a line of 100% Soy, dripless tapers, reed difussers, pillars, tarts, & votives.
So we did just that openend a store so we could have another avenue to sell on
I was totally dissapointed by the lack of orders.
GREAT buyers & Ive met ALOT of other sellers who are wonderful.
Its the management that totally sucks.
I go to log back in this afternoon to reply to some emails reguarding shipping quotes & POOF my acct has been deactivated!!
NO WARNING, NO EMAIL STATING OF ANY KIND OF VIOLATION, MY ACCT CURRENT & UP TO DATE,AND POOF GONE!
I took ALOT of time to add pics & discriptions & without ANY kind of email from them giving me any kind of heads up.
I shipped 1 pair of our dripless tapers out to Ca & was checking to see if they had been delivered.& it showed they were delivered today.
I left the lady a note & said that if she needed any more to let us know.
I had to go check on some shipping quotes for a few others that emailed me & when I went to try to log back in POOF my acct has been deactivated!!
So im wondering how many others Etsy management has done this to without warning.
No wonder they are dying.
I have tried to contact them reguarding this but they have BLOCKED my email address.
How many sellers are going to put up with this?
This is the way they conduct business?
They wont be around much longer & Ill be REAL SURPRISED if they are.
If you are looking at opening up an Etsy store you might want to reconsider.

Not sure if you still read the comments, since the article is from 2010. But hey, maybe someone is reading the comments here.

1. Are you currently selling (or buying) your art on Etsy?

Yes, but not only. I don’t believe it’s doable to live on just 1 venue, so I have several online shops that I do keep up myself..
Currently, Etsy is about 1/4 to 1/3 of my income.

2. What do you think are currently the biggest benefits or challenges to running a successful Etsy store?

Right now Etsy has very bad publicity, because it hosts resellers and just featured a reseller on its front page http://blogs.houstonpress.com/artattack/2012/01/etsy_closes_azreals_accomplice.php, so it lost a lot of credibility, thus all artists on Etsy lost some credibility too (I mean, what is really handmade and what’s not?)
On the plus side, you have a lot of traffic, so people can find your work more easily than if you only run your own online shop (that asks a lot of marketing). Don’t get me wrong, your Etsy shop needs some marketing too, but a tat less that if you were on your own.

3. How have things changed since you’ve been there?

I’ve been on Etsy since 2008 and it used to be a very friendly small community. Now it’s huge and well… Etsy have gone nuts. They close handmade shops but they still keep the resellers.
I don’t think they’re doing that badly, since they have quite a lot of job offers, but they seem to be unsure what to do next, so they do everything.
It’s not a nice place to be anymore and it’s very disturbing not to understand what is going on in their mind (ie. closing small handmade shops for no particular reasons – featuring resellers on the FP – denying the fact they want to keep resellers – buying trunkt, a wholesale website).

4. What advice would you give someone who might be interested in opening up their own Etsy shop?

Don’t have just an Etsy shop, use Etsy for their traffic, but have your own online shop elsewhere and try other selling venues similar to Etsy but which are more local.

    Hey PetitPlat,

    Thanks for the info! As you seem pretty experienced I was wondering what advice would you give in regards to driving traffic to your own website? I’ve started a few months ago and I have an account on Etsy, Folksy and Bigcartel but most sales are going through Etsy, but now I’ve heard a few stories, I’m a little worried about completely trusting and building it around Etsy.
    I have my own website but I have no idea how to get people there? I’m not so much of a blog writer, so I’m not sure what other ways could be effective :s

    Appreciate any advice!

I am a seller on Etsy who also occasionally buys things… so… both a seller and buyer! More like a seller, most of the time, however.

Your article is very interesting…

There definitely is money to be made via Etsy, but it comes down to the old 80/20 rule. 20% of the sellers on Etsy are going to be making 80% of the money. The inverse is also true. Why? Because those who take the time to master the “art of selling” on Etsy will take the lion’s share of buyers.

Just as eBay became cluttered with a lot of non-interesting, same-old same-old, Etsy is also somewhat becoming cluttered. However, the amazing and unique items still have a chance to shine through.

And believe me, if you fall in love with a product, you’ll join Etsy just to get what you want!

Kate

Someone probably already shared this, but they do still do the weather report…

http://www.etsy.com/blog/news/2012/etsy-statistics-march-2012-weather-report/

i want to find a person who can market my ink prints and sell them all over the world.

Shawn, thanks for reminding me to focus on making the most amazing things I can imagine, and not getting caught up in repeating myself and playing it safe. I think that’s a bit reason why my sales have flatlined on etsy recently.

I’ve got to saw I don’t find Etsy as bad as mentioned in this article (maybe things has just changed?)
I have heard that their forums were horrible before, but I have not yet experienced any of that there as of the few months since selling on Etsy, and I participate in a lot of teams. Though I do find lots of people only use these to just promote their own items.

I think it’s great how Etsy is providing their sellers a lot of information on how to make a good shop and how to make it successful, their resources are great for lots of start-up artists! However, I’m not sure if this could be giving false hope to many too? How do you know if you’re just straight-forwardly not creative enough? Some of the items I see people selling seem so… common, poorly made, and quite a few times a bit of simple craft made by 12-year old girls? (not saying mines are great … )

A lot of the forums seem to be comforting zones for many of these desperate sellers who just exchange “likes” on their FB pages and “hearts” each other’s items. As much I’d like to promote my items, I’m not sure about people liking my page and hearting my items just so I’d do the same back. So I only participate when I do see someone’s work I like first.

Anyway, my point is, the amount of new members joining could be a portion of these sellers, it seems not many make many sales so I don’t think they take a lot of share of the marketplace.
As Shawn says in the post above, “those who take the time to master the “art of selling” on Etsy will take the lion’s share of buyers.” and similarly, I know quite a few people who do just sign up to get that one-off, unique item! sometimes returning at a much later date, and many who also just browse. Either way, them knowing and talking about it can drive further traffic into Etsy which is good for Etsy and it’s sellers.

One thing I do agree to though is there is a lot of low-priced competition out there (though may not necessarily be in my category) as people are just desperate to only get people to LOOK at their item. But a recent online lab, “The art of pricing for profit” Etsy held I think would’ve woken a lot of these sellers up who are pulling the market down with their cheap prices, which making Etsy a less and less profitable market place for people.

In conclusion, I don’t think Etsy is dying, certainly growing (gradually) in the UK. And it certainly provides a space for artists to see somewhere to spread some wings

Joan

Ok I have a presence on Etsy can’t say its a shop as I’ve not sold much, its more a place where my work is on show for other to look at for free. Recently listed all new stock so here’s hoping.. My pet peeves are:-

Cumbersome search on Etsy, lack of ability to sort your searched items. You can’t search for sold items (completed listings on ebay) so you have NO IDEA what your type of craft is selling for, if any. Unless you find a similar thingy seller and look to see if they have sold then go to their sales and then look for a like item, then it may not have the sale price – you get the idea.

On Ebay you can even look at completed listings per seller and see how much they have sold and at what price over a 15 day period. That is so handy as you can then see if the market has a flood of items and the price has dropped, or reverse if there are none and you could make a killing.

This is called lack of ability to do market research and if I can’t research why should I sell on there?

You seem to have to list every day at varied times to get people to see you. You can’t seem to find who favourites your stuff.

They do not allow you to schedule listings – so you can list for USA times if you are UK based.

Hardly any body (artists excluded here) in the UK knows about Etsy. I’ve done lots of research, asking live people (over 2,000) at craft fairs in UK and they our possible customers really have no idea what Etsy is. I emailed Etsy on this – no reply – are we surprised.

There are no sites that can help with your listing like Auctiva for Ebay. My ebay sales are going great on my vintage and kitsch stuff as I use Auctiva and find a lot of sales are going for more because I can get more pictures on, schedule my listings and so on. Pictures, good ones, sell things. Oh and its so slow to list one picture loading at a time.

Summing up Etsy has its place as a trendy place where those who can afford to can relist countless items to keep themselves at the top of the searches. The jury is still out on me keeping a shop going. My best selling place is a Charity Bookstore that allows me to hang my art on their walls, they take a %.

There’s an anomaly on the postage or I am thick and don’t get it. If you put a price in the “send with another item” box Etsy adds the totals together. I have been told this by prospective buyers who queried why my combined postage was so high!!!! So now I put ” Buying another item – Message me and I’l work out a great deal for you” in my listings.

Excellent article and great comments.