Being an artist is often associated with being broke, as seen from the trope “Starving Artist.” While this stereotype is an unfair assessment about artists in general, it only means that they are focused on the final product. The quality of their creation is of highest priority. Anything else, including monetary value placed on it, are secondary.
At the same time, our reality requires us to be practical and find a way to make a living. Whether or not artists will resist this idea, the fact remains that they need to survive and pay the bills if they want to make more art.
Balancing money and art has always been a tenuous exercise at best when it comes to artists. However, with a platform like Etsy, artists and others can now make a living out of their artistic expression.
Etsy is an online marketplace where artists in different media can sell their work locally and globally. The platform empowers artists and creators to continue doing what they love without compromising their value and make a good fortune.
What to sell on Etsy
Whether you are creating jewelry, painting, and other handcrafted products and services, you have a place to sell on Etsy.
Ideally, you should sell arts and crafts you are passionate in creating. Make sure that they are set to high standards and are unique enough to make buyers notice them.
If you specialize in services like carpentry and pottery services, your concern is your inability to create products off your skills. Fortunately, Etsy allows you to sell patterns and tutorials that will help aspiring artists to improve their craft.
If you're still unsure what product to sell, you need to consider these factors:
- Lightweight – Lighter products cost less to store and ship to the buyer, which means more profit for you.
- “Niche” product – Have a specific product to sell in mind. If you want to sell jewelry, think of a particular type like rings, brooches, or anklets. Once you have decided on a type, you can narrow it down to an even much more specific design. For rings, you can choose from silver thumb rings or custom name rings, to name a few.
- Competitive pricing – Do a quick search on Etsy and look for products similar to what plan on selling. Check the prices of each and see if you can come up with a similarly priced product with a high-profit margin.
- Evergreen – Avoid selling seasonal products like Halloween costumes and Christmas decors. To maximize your earnings, you need to sell a product that people will buy regardless of the month and year.
LeiLei Secor changed her Etsy product from macramé bracelets to wire-wrap jewelry because the former didn't sell. By determining her product, she was able to make $100,000 on Etsy, which she used to pay for her college tuition.
How about selling private label products on Etsy?
Etsy prides itself in providing artists a platform to showcase their handmade arts and craft for sale. However, the idea of selling premade products and branding them your own is a much profitable venture. Instead of meticulously crafting the items with love, you can buy wholesale items from a cheaper manufacturer and mark up the prices.
This process is standard on Amazon through Fulfillment by Amazon. I have discussed this topic in depth in an article I wrote that you could read by clicking here.
However, private label selling is a red flag on Etsy.
Three Bird Nest did exactly this to reach the million dollar mark a year on the platform. Stay at home mom and Three Bird Nest owner Alicia Shaffer purchased wholesale products from Alibaba.com and resold them on Etsy at a higher price. While her tactic was pure savvy marketing, she drew the ire of Etsy sellers who think that her practice violated Etsy's philosophy, which is about selling handcrafted boutique.
Third Bird Nest left Etsy in 2015 because Alicia claims that the platform is no longer supportive of their cause. Ultimately, Etsy sided with artists and hobbyists who focused on turning their efforts into profit.
For those thinking of selling wholesale products from Alibaba.com and passing them off as “handmade,” think again. Etsy states that this practice is a clear violation of their policy and they will suspend your account if they find out about you.
How to sell on Etsy
You must create an account to set up your online shop at Etsy. You will need to fill out your store information with images and description to provide users details about what you are selling.
Unfortunately, it comes at a cost – $0.2 listing fee to be exact. You also need to part with 3.5% of every sale you make on the platform. In addition to that, you need to shoulder the expenses if you accept credit card payments, as well as PayPal and conversion fees.
Given the cost you will incur in registering and making a sale on the site, it seems like building your site is much more feasible from a financial perspective.
However, you are not directly paying to set up a shop on Etsy. You are paying for the thousands of proven buyers who have shopped multiple times on the platform. Getting your products listed down on Etsy will help make your products more visible to your target audience.
Also, customers tend to buy from platforms that they can trust. If you plan on building a site from scratch, then you have zero leverage in your market. To develop a relationship with your audience, you need to market and promote your site like mad to gain the recognition you deserve. This process may take months, or longer, to accomplish.
With Etsy, the hard work is already done for you. Etsy is a proven brand that drives lots of traffic (it currently ranks at 188 on Alexa Global). People who want to buy handcrafted arts and craft head on to Etsy. Using these facts to your advantage, you can potentially make a killing selling your products on the platform!
Having two separate shops
Nonetheless, it is possible for you to run an Etsy shop and have a website like Urban Wood Goods does. Owner Erin True started her Etsy shop in 2014 that she used as a springboard to launch her furniture company that is independent of the platform. Her sales exceeded $1 million in the same year, a quarter of which came from her Etsy shop.
An argument can be made that having a site separate from Etsy is potentially more profitable. However, setting up an Etsy shop was important for her as she used the platform as leverage to promote her company. Without Etsy, who knows if her company would have existed by now.
Therefore, it is highly advised that you still sign up for an Etsy shop to get hold of your captive market before transitioning to building a brand outside Etsy.
How to create a good listing on Etsy
Just like how businesses constantly work their way up on Google Search, you must find a way to appear on top of Etsy search results. Appearing on the top, if not at the top, should yield your shop more clicks and visitors, which could give way to more buyers.
The process of getting listed on Etsy follows the same basic formula as with most search-driven platform. Below are some of the practices you need to consider using to boost your Etsy list ranking.
The keyword you plan on optimizing for your Etsy list will make or break your earnings potential on the site.
Unlike Google and Amazon in which you have multiple tools for keyword and competitive research to choose from, Etsy only has Marmalead for all your research needs.
The tool makes research easier for you. Upon entering a keyword, you will see the engagement, competition, and category page levels to help you decide if you need to optimize the keyword on your listing. You can also see keyword suggestions, trending tags, and word cloud to help you come up with keyword ideas.
For a better explanation on how this tool works, read this article by Tara L. Jacobson about increasing her Etsy shop ranking from #376 to #39 within 24 hours.
Once you have chosen your keyword, you can use it to show your competitors ranking high for it. Marmalead will show you the shop grades and details on how to increase the score for each shop. As a shop owner yourself, you need to take the common denominators for all shops.
For additional help with competitor research, use the Listing in Search feature on Etsy Gadgets. Find at least three shops on Etsy that you feel are direct competitors for your keyword. Get their store names and enter them one by one on Listing in Search with your keyword. The tool will show all the tags that the shop uses and the items that appear on top of search results for the keyword.
Use the information to populate your shop with the ones competitors are using so you can take a piece of their traffic.
While it's great to have potential buyers click on your shop high on the search result, you need to close the deal with them by making your listing look attractive to them.
Etsy provides a basic overview on how to optimize your shops for search, but below are additional advice that you need to consider:
- Do not obsess on image optimization – Just make sure that the images are hi-res and do not exceed 100kb before uploading them. You do not have to name them using your target keyword. Etsy will change the filename using their naming convention which is in numbers.
- Keep listing fresh – Keep shuffling your listing by promoting your most popular products consistently. Etsy prioritizes shops that are updated on a regular basis, so you need to take advantage of that.
- Keep up with the updates – Just like Google, Etsy improves its algorithm over time. What was once working on its search feature may no longer work in the future. Therefore, you need to be on your toes when it comes to observing the best Etsy SEO practices.
Optimize on Google
Etsy shops also appear in Google search results, so you get the extra traffic from the world's biggest search engine.
When optimizing your Etsy shop on Google, you need to worry about your shop's meta tags, in particular, your title and description.
Both will appear in search results as your rich snippets. Therefore, aside from mentioning your keywords, you need to make them as descriptive as possible to make people click on them.
Limit your product page title to 55 characters and your description to 120 characters. For your description, provide a detailed explanation of the product.
To increase your ranking on search results, you may need to do some link building. Etsy even mentions it as one of SEO's most important practices you need to do for your shop. However, building links is a time-consuming takes time. Unless you have a stable relationship with website owners, it would be difficult to get a link from their sites.
Therefore, it's important to network with site owners, especially influencers, and build organic relationships with them. This Quicksprout post should give you a better understanding of how getting to know influencers on a personal level correlates with building links to your Etsy shop.
It is important to note that the purpose of building relationships is not just purely for link building. In fact, getting a backlink from them should only be a byproduct of your efforts in developing a symbiotic partnership. They can easily tell if you are only after getting backlinks to their site.
Wrapping it up
Etsy is a good starting place to sell your handiwork. It focuses on supporting craftspeople and hobbyists by giving them a platform to showcase their work and make a living. However, the competition is fierce, and it will be difficult to make money on Etsy if you are not aware of the best practices on how to get your shop found by your target market.
With the tips and advice mentioned above on how to make money on Etsy, you should come prepared once you decide on selling your products on the sites. It's high time that you monetize your passion so you can earn money from the blood, sweat, and tears poured from creating your masterpiece.
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