If you’re thinking about selling your handmade jewelry online, you’ve probably looked into Etsy. And if you love shopping for unique and well-priced baubles, you’ve likely spent some time and money there.
Yes, some of the jewelry on Etsy is a little cheesy but much of it is charming and creative. Etsy is like the main street of an artsy neighborhood: full of tiny shops, not real high-end but cozy, social, user-friendly, and laden with possibility – of finding treasures or sympatico buyers.
A collection of virtual shops for handmade goods, Etsy was founded in 2005 by Rob Kalin, a 25-year-old carpenter and artist. The site attracts nearly 500 million page views a month and did $89 million dollars in sales last year. According to Kalin, jewelry is the most popular category among Etsy’s customers, who are 97 percent female.
No wonder so many jewelry artists dipping into online sales for the first time are skipping the step of launching their own e-commerce sites and setting up shop on sites like Etsy instead. “The vast majority of sellers on Etsy don’t have their own websites,” says Etsy spokesman Adam Brown.
Successful Etsy sellers say making Etsy shops pay off takes consistent effort, even after you develop a following. Tennessee jewelry artist Melanie Hazen says that 60-70% of her sales come through her Etsy shop, launched in 2007. She spends an average of two hours a day on various aspects of Etsy: uploading pictures, writing descriptions, chatting on the forums, and reading the business articles posted there. “Obviously, I spend a lot more time doing that than working in my studio,” she says, laughing.
When Sherry Truitt set up on Etsy in 2007, there were 39,000 sellers and it was easier to stand out than it is today, among nearly 200,000. Truitt’s moderately-priced sterling jewelry incorporates maps and levels and sells fast on Etsy—about 60 to 70 pieces per month for 60 percent of her income. Another 30 percent comes from sales on her own website and 10 percent from galleries who find her online. She has never done a craft show and doesn’t plan to.
“Etsy is the perfect place for people at all skill levels of jewelry design,” says Truitt. “There are people who just string beads and others who do fine metalsmithing. At every price point, things sell.” She warns newbies that it’s slow for the first few months, but to be patient and approach it like any small business launch. “A lot of people come to Etsy with good ideas but they’re not business people,” Truitt says. “If you really want to make a living at jewelry, you have to be a good business person too.”
Not everyone has success with Etsy, even successful jewelry artists like Lori Anderson, who discontinued her shop there after a year of experimenting. Her established customers were already buying through her website and didn’t like going to two different places. She also failed to attract enough new buyers to make the effort cost-effective. “With Etsy, there’s a particular look people seem to go for and my jewelry didn’t really fit,” says Anderson. “Things that sell there seem to be targeted toward a younger audience. My current demographic is women in their forties who are willing to spend a little extra on handmade glass and funky wirework.”
Anderson has her eye on 1000 Markets and hopes to launch a new line there of more upscale work priced between $500 and $2,000.
- Purpose: selling handmade goods, vintage items, craft supplies to consumers
- Juried: no
- Registration: free
- Fees: 20 cents + 3.5% commission per sale, plus renewal fees
- Payments: PayPal or credit card
This post was adapted from a story I wrote for Lapidary Journal/Jewelry Artist.