Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Etsy or not to Etsy

(Image from my post on Pysanky)

That is the question.

I know I'm only about 5 years or so late in thinking about it but what can I say- sometimes it takes me a while to come around.

Personally I've always had mixed feelings about selling my own work. I don't mind making lots of the same craft (I once made about 1100 handwoven cards- which I wouldn't ever want to do again but... I think it illustrates that I don't mind volume). However I'm prone to what I like to call "jags" or "streaks".

(Image from my post on spinning)

For a few days or weeks I'm into one thing... then I'm into something totally different the next. (I'm sure if you've read my blog for any length of time you've noticed this particular trait.) And I'm just not sure how well that would work for a shop.

I'm also the kind of person who'd rather teach someone to make my project rather than give/sell them one. I don't exactly know why that is but I think it's more than likely a mixture of having a teaching personality, a general interest in spreading the joys of creativity and a firm belief that anyone can make what I can make. Especially the people who say "I'm not crafty at all" (they are my favorites to rope into a project).

Another problem I have... pricing.

When I add up the cost of goods, then calculate the time I've spent making the item against a reasonable hourly wage I come up with a price that seems too high. It's always been a struggle for me not to undervalue my work but honestly I wonder if anyone would ever pay what I'd need to charge to make something "worth while" to sell. I'm sure I'm not alone in this- pricing handmade probably isn't easy for anyone.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this stuff.

Do you have an Etsy shop?

Is pricing a struggle for you? And if so, how do you deal with it?

Should I open a shop of my own?
(Seriously- what do you think? Be honest... I can take it!)


  1. I have an Etsy shop (fiftytwo) and while I have a lot of people adding my work to their favorites, I have yet to make a sale in all the time I have been a part of the network (over 2 years). I admit there is a glut of photography on there, which is part of the problem, and the economic downturn certainly hasn't helped. I have a second site that I have opened, but not uploaded to yet, for craft products.... but am not sure I will go that route yet. Like you, I swing from style to style.... but I also have this, uh, knack for seeing something and figuring out how to make it for myself. Part of me wonders why should I go through all the motions if someone else will just see it and then go out and make it for themselves? I do, however, have friends who have a wide range of things in their stores and have created a little niche for themselves that seem to be doing fairly well... but then, they also spend a lot of time on the site with networking and everything, rather than just hope someone will stumble across their shop.

    I can't tell you whether to sell on a site or not, but I will caution you to not go into it thinking you are going to have a lot of sales and be an overnight success.... Etsy takes a lot of work with networking and trying to get your name out there.

  2. Shawna- Thank you so much for your insightful, honest and informative comment. I especially like the point you made about opening a shop being another place where you really have to network and put in a lot of time. I think that's something really important to know/consider while I'm contemplating opening a shop.

  3. I have a shop on Zibbet. I found that when I had a shop on Etsy it was the fees that were killing me financially. The secret to getting your items seen on Etsy is relisting... which costs .20 each time.
    On Zibbet I have a yearly account that I pay for (you can also have a free account on Zibbet) and I have had way more sales. It does still take work with networking and getting your art out there for people to see be the overhead is a lot less. www.zibbet.com

  4. Thank you Fifth Street Mama- I've actually never heard of Zibbet (like I said it takes me a while to get around to these sorts of things- I'm always way behind the curve).

    I'll definitely check it out!

  5. OK. I am jumping in here with this question first - WHY do you think you want to open an Etsy Shop. What is the motivation that is driving you to consider it? This is the first question you need to answer, Meg. And once you do, the rest will fall into place.

    You are a dabbler. You can't change that. A wonderfully creative, enthusiastic, brilliant dabbler! So if you do open a shop let it reflect YOU. Who says it has to have a theme? If you need one call it Dabbler Mania or Dabbler paradise or somethingthat lets people know what to expect - ha the unexpected!!

    Don't confine yourself to one thing - you won't be able to for long anyway. You know I know what I am talking about. We are so much alike in this way - always inspired by and playing in the crafty world we live in. First one thing and then another - never really leaving anything behind but always open to new adventures. Too many new adventures!

    Ah - pricing. I don't think most of us can price our work at a price that fairly compensates us for our time and skill. The sad fact is that the buying public simply won't pay it. (And in this economy, precious few of us have something that is a faint memory - o yes - discretionary income.

    There is no good answer for this one.

    But you might think about possibilities around your teaching nature. I still think e-books or tutorials have a future, but to sell they really do have to be teaching something that is unique and appealing and that isn't already available in books or on every other blog.

    What ever you decide to do, count on me to pass along the word!

  6. Reading your post felt like reading my thoughts. Especially when I had to put a price tag on my own crafty endeavors for friends and family. Finance is not my forte, and I decided to give them away as gifts on different occasions. (Eer, that's not a practical advise, I know).

    I don't have an Etsy shop. For one, it seems like a lot of work to maintain it (I might be wrong on that, though). On the other hand -- I know that serious business and finding a niche take effort and sacrifice, but as much as I want it, I believe these projects should be a stepping-stone to contentment and fulfillment. To dwell on more amazing projects. The competitive side of it is not for me. If you can make a dollar on top - great, but not at any price.

    It was just my humble opinion. Fingers crossed you, Meg!

  7. Pam-A really good question... that has a complicated answer.

    Part of me had always wanted to make "a living" off of crafting. I put that in quotes because I'm not exactly sure what that means to me yet... if it's making my own things and selling them or going down some other avenue in the crafting industry. Maybe a mix of both.

    The other part of the answer touches on something I have purposely kept off of the blog because I really want this space to be centered on the crafty part of my life only. But... if I ask you guys questions and want your input I should expect some questions back, right!

    : )

    A little over a year ago I got sick, eventually it progressed to the point that I had to stop working. Truth be told, not working has been hard for me and I'd like to do something that makes me feel like I'm at least doing some work but the reality of the situation is that I don't know on any given day how exactly I'll feel so even a part time job isn't possible. I also get tired very easily... even on good days. Crafting a little bit then having a break seems like it might be a good way to work with the energy I have.

    I appreciate your thoughtful, introspective approach to this. It's very helpful in thinking about all of this.

    I also given some thought to other avenues that don't involve selling items I make. Those are really interesting to me!

    Thanks Pam for your support.

  8. Kookie thanks for leaving a comment. It's good to hear from someone who doesn't have a shop- and why they considered it but ultimately decided not to open one.

    You are right in saying it's a lot of work.

    Funny how pricing is something everyone mentioned. I think we all must struggle with it.

    I used to joke that I wasn't good at math... I was good at art instead. Although I know that there are plenty of math-minded people who are very good at crafts... I'm just not one of them!

  9. You are an amazing crafter and artist. Etsy is a wonderful venue to sell your wares. I understand the problem of turning a hobby into a job. It can sap some of the fun from it. Pricing is important - you need to be fair to yourself. Most buyers understand the value of handmade. The great thing about Etsy is that it is low risk and low investment - other than time. So you can always give it a try. There is a bit of effort to market yourself, too. I say go for it!

  10. Thanks Jane for your encouragement! I was hoping you'd weigh in since I know you have a shop. Good to hear your positive experience!

  11. Very interesting post & timely! I needed to hear what insiders are saying about the Etsy experience - because it sure looks sweet from the outside! Opening an Etsy store would require start up time /learning that I just don't have right now. I have been selling on eBay for 5 years now as seller "wildestraven" - however that is primarily vintage decor/housewares. I slip in some crafts but don't have much luck there & have considered an Etsy store for such. I have decided it's Better I should work my established eBay account more effectively... Pricing? Comparable research &/or how badly do I want to clear out the space on my counter... Re: being compromised by your health - thanks for sharing because I am in that boat also & it does get better! Thanks & Happy Trails!

  12. Glad this post and the comments were helpful to you Dogpackmomma. And very interesting to hear about your ebay experience. Also thank you for your comment re: health issues. I'm sorry that you are having a similar experience- I appreciate hearing that it gets better!

  13. I have a shop with Artfire, which is comparable to Etsy but without the fees and buyers don't need an account to make purchases. In the year or so I've been on there, I have made 2 sales. That being said, I haven't done a lot of promoting, but the site also has forums and tools to help you with that aspect if you so choose to use them. I agree with previous posters that you should make your shop reflect your personality and the randomness of products instead of trying to stick to just one thing. Also, its a good idea to check and see what other people selling similar items are charging and use that as a base to figure out your own prices. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself if you want to put in the time and effort to make your shop really successful or if you'd rather just do it as more of a hobby. If you're interested in it more as a hobby, I would suggest maybe setting up a table at your local Farmer's Market or craft fairs. I know where I am, they charge $15 for a table or one seasonal fee if you plan on being there every week. It's another option to look into anyway.

  14. Thanks TryptikAngel for your input- I was hoping someone from Artfire would leave a comment. There are several farmers market style craft venues near me and I've thought about them but I think the idea of online appeals to me so much because I don't have to work on a set schedule, whereas for a farmers market I'd be tied to a specific day and time.

  15. Hey, Meg! I read this article and I thought that it might come in handy.

  16. I just stumbled onto your blog today as I was web bouncing.. I have a Etsy store.. its been going for about a year.. I use to bring in a little income selling on Ebay when my children were smaller.. then took a long break from selling anything.. anywhere. I too have health issues.. so time and money are always a issue for me.. Ive found Etsy to not only be very easy.. (its basically drag and drop-very user friendly) the fees are not THAT bad.. now its not worth it to sell things for 1 buck or under..unless you got them for free or close to it.. I surfed Etsy for several months before I decided.. what the heck.. I started off with a plan to simply destash.. But Etsy and its buyers have a way of letting you know what it is you are going to sell.. some items I had for sale.. never sold.. even re-listing them several times.. others would sell within hours to a few days.. so as things sold.. I would replace.. maybe adding 1 or 2 similar items.. to see if those would go.. some did some didn't.. I just took note of what seemed to work for me.. I also would surf Etsy for the same items I was selling..I know what we all paid for them.. they are the same.. only sold in certain stores.. I found that I could pick up buyers simply by being competitive. just like gas stations.. 5 cents here and there.. and you have won the sale..
    I started off selling my items.. a few sold.. most didn't.. I now sell things I had no intention of selling to begin with.. I also went into it knowing.. I had to grow a client base and a reputation.. so I started off only marking up tiny amounts.. as my sales grew and my feedbacks grew.. I was able to slowing increase prices.. because now I have other people saying I did great and had great stuff.. The only "advertising" I do is I have a link on my facebook page.. I do have a side bar on my blog.. but to be honest.. Ive just lost interest in blogging.. I dedicate very little time to "working" I pick up things when I'm out doing my reg household stuff..I do try and mail the same day I have sales.. if not the next day.. but TONS of sellers only ship on certain days and they state that.. and people have no issue with it..but to me.. it gets me outta the house.. the only other time consuming thing is taking pictures.. but if your a blogger and or have a habit of taking pictures anyway.. its not a "issue" and the great thing about Etsy is.. if you make a listing for 1.. you can simply keep copying that one.. only changing the picture and title .. minute things.. so if I'm selling alpha stamps.. but I have 50 different fonts to sell.. I simply just make 1 original listing.. and then copy it.. I only change the picture.. and poof.. now that one is listed with all the same info..
    This is long winded and probably so jumbled it doesn't make sense.. but I thought I would chime in on my thoughts.. Even tho I went in to sell 1 thing. Etsy showed me I could do well selling something else. I spend just a fraction of time listing my Etsy stuff vs say blogging.. blogging was super time consuming in comparison in my opinion..
    If you haven't yet.. I say Give it a shot.. its one of the few places you can try it without losing a ton of money or a ton of time. People crave shortcuts.. simply offering items ready for others to do their craft in.. is a big seller too..

  17. Thanks so much for all that great insight and information. I really appreciate it!


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