How Etsy is Turning Your Hobby Into a Business

Art Fair Sausolito 1968

Have you heard about this site, called “Etsy”, and wondered what the heck an “Etsy” was? Also, why is this becoming a word known by most of your friends and family on Facebook? It’s no accident or mistake. Nope. The truth is that the word “Etsy” is not a word at all! It was made up! A designer word. Designed to be memorable – ala Google. And, the truth about this word – err, this business –  is that it is an efficiently pleasurable way to share your creations and vintage items with the world, and make some money while you’re at it! You’re probably wondering, however, “Hmmm, how does this Etsy work? And, how can I monetize my hobbies, be it through Etsy, or otherwise?”

So glad you asked! Even if you are not familiar with Etsy, you are most likely familiar with eBay, right? Well, take eBay and start stripping pieces away – no competitive bidding, no clock ticking away, and nothing but crafts made by the seller, or their vintage items which are at least 20 years old. Essentially, Etsy is the green craft fair and/or flea market of ecommerce platforms. Though the concept may sound rather granola, the site and business model exhibit real elegance. In fact, this business is even better than the local art and craft fair circuit, because Etsy generates way more inbound internet traffic than the local fair can offer in foot traffic. For this reason alone, it’s obviously one of the top choices for artists or crafty folks to sell their goods online – if not the top choice.

Though buyers and sellers are miles (if not thousands of miles) apart, Etsy has diminished the distant cold feeling of online arts and crafts sales by encouraging participation in communities – linking people by similar interests and locations – preserving that local craft fair feel online but bringing more pizazz, order, and customers to the game. You won’t have corndogs, cotton candy, or Hawaiian shaved ice when you shop on Etsy, but the ingredients of this jambalaya do combine to something much more tasty than the sum of its parts.

Take it From an Avid Etsy Seller and Buyer

byMadelineTrait

Madeline Trait, a friend and fan of eCommerce Rules, runs the Etsy store named, “The Shoppe“, in which she sells cake toppers, jewelry, and other items that are focused on the celebration and festive occasion market sector. Madeline has had her products featured in several of the official Etsy blogs and newsletters, and when ecommerce Rules recently held an Instant Message session with Madeline, some of her insights were as follows:

ECR: How would you explain your offerings, in a few sentences?

MT:  How about one sentence? Modern and unique celebration accessories.

ECR: I like it! So, how much of your business is driven through Etsy today, and would you recommend any other ecommerce platforms to our readers who want to sell the trincuits of their hobbies?

MT:  Well, I would say that 98% of my current revenue stream comes from Etsy. However, to answer both questions, I just started a store on Cloud Parade for wedding specific products (which I am incredibly proud of but have yet to market), and ECWID [E-Commerce Widgets]. I would recommend these other sites to people that have an established ecommerce presence in the arts/crafts category, but want to experiment with selling to different subsets of their consumer demographic.

ECR: Wow, you must be  extremely busy. One of the features that Etsy seems to tout, and which the seller community seems to rave about, is the community support that is offered through this platform. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with this element of Etsy?

MT:  I do belong to a group called SF Etsy, which meets in person from time to time. So, there are “communities,” but most aren’t geographical in nature. Rather, we’re talking about groups such as one I belong to, which is exclusively for hand-made arts. For local small business support, I belong to some outside networking groups and we promote each other – as we want to see each other succeed!

ECR:  Please, tell us a bit about your overall experience.

MT:  “I started experimenting with Etsy in 2007 first as a buyer than quickly as a seller. There are a couple pros and cons with Etsy.  Pros: Etsy is relatively cheap to sell items from, it’s super easy to set up a shop and they are always adding new features. There is also a huge community where Etsy sellers form teams to support one another and help one another reach success.

Cons of Etsy are that you are among millions of other sellers and being found can be hard. I also feel that consumers may see an Etsy shop more as a crafter rather than a legitimate business which can be true for some but not for all. This is why I am using Etsy as one platform but ideally want to grow beyond it. However, I think I will always have an Etsy presence as there is a dedicated customer base that can’t be found anywhere else.”

ECR: Thanks, Madeline! Ecommerce Rules really appreciates your time and first-hand knowledge of the craft-hobby sales sector of ecommerce!

Staying Power

Not convinced that Etsy is anything more than just a fad? How about these interesting tidbits and eye-popping statistics?

  • According to How to Sell Your Crafts Online, Etsy is the most pinned site on Pinterest.
  • Just like many retailers, Etsy experiences a large spike in sales on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving).
  • Etsy was started by their Brooklyn-native CEO, who is (in)famous for making his own underwear.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, Etsy has been profitable since 2009; generating more than $30 million in revenue in 2010 alone – raising gross sales from $180 million to $314 million in one year’s time!
  • By 2011, Etsy boasted over 7 million users and had already broadened their own horizons – getting more that 30% of sales from the international market.

Etsy is something truly remarkable – and profitable! The company, and mega-platform, is combining a well designed customer experience, the right seller experience (for folks who would rather be creating art than be stuck on their computers), and promoting that sense of community which can’t help but be felt when one buys or sells at local swap meets, flea markets, etc. Buyers and sellers truly feel like members of a community – taking pride in local economies and the artsy, crafty culture.

Also, what a perfect lifestyle business model, right? Most of the successful sellers on Etsy are living the lifestyle they have always dreamed – chin-deep in the arts and crafts they so love, and drenched in a culture which permeates through the cold hard wires and terminals of cyberspace and rubs off on everyone who visits a well-designed Etsy store.

So, hopefully we have all learned a little about Etsy through this article. I know that I have.  What questions do you have for us? Do you, or someone you know, sell arts, crafts, vintage apparel, etc. on Etsy or another platform? We’d love to hear about it!

Published by

Joseph Yi

Since he was a freshman in college, Joseph has worked in several internet startup companies and has developed campaigns and digital strategies for Fortune 500 companies and brands including the Los Angeles Lakers, Manchester City FC, the Oakland Raiders, Sephora, and Whole Foods.

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