To etsy, or not to etsy | How About Orange

April 13, 2007

To etsy, or not to etsy

I've gotten a handful of emails and comments from people asking if I sell stuff anywhere. I don't. But I've thought about it a lot, and wavered continuously. Help me. I'm so indecisive. Here's the deal: I don't have any interest in making any two things exactly alike, and 3 or 4 is the most I can make of stuff that's even remotely similar before I'm bored to death. I'll never be the person who makes hundreds of cute coin purses and sells them at craft fairs. I just like trying different kinds of projects, and then helping other people figure out how to do them, too, because it's fun. I'll stick with graphic design as the way to make money.

BUT, I do need a way to get rid any decent stuff I've made. Maybe sell it on etsy?

So I bet a bunch of you who are reading this have etsy shops. Do you like it? Is it fun? Do you feel like you're being adequately compensated for the time you spend making your stuff? How do you figure out how to price stuff and package things? (For example, how do you mail a small brown canvas with vines painted on it--just hypothetically, of course :) How do you know how much postage will cost, so you can add the price to your item listing? And does all the packing, emailing, shipping and managing suck up tons of time?

Do you feel pressure to keep putting new stuff in your shop? Does it ever sit empty for a long time, when you get sick of making stuff? Is there anything you don't like about having an etsy shop? Should I do it? These are the things I wonder. Please, advise me if you have any thoughts!


Unknown said...

I let my shop sit if I don't have anything to sell. It's a hobby; I way to make use of the things I create so they don't clutter the house. It's fun. Some people make it their business; I make it my hobby. Since it's free to have the shop; you only pay a bit per item. I say why not try it? You don't have to sell the same thing; part of how people make good money on there is because something is one-of-a-kind and there isn't another thing like it. That adds to its value and the urgency. As for packing/shipping, I just go to the post office and see what they have to package the item and then I have them weigh it for me. That's how I determine shipping for that item. My advice is to not make too much of it; just put a few things up and have fun with it. If you sell them, great! You've made some pocket money, but don't have to be in a rush to replace the items unless you WANT to. That's been my experience so far as a light user of etsy. If you want to go all out, you can update all the time and really try to make's all in what you make it. For pricing, just price the item fairly...the time you spend and materials matter. But try to price it to sell...look on there and see what similar items are going for and try to be competitive. Decide what you are willing to part with the item for; and see how it goes. If you need to lower the price if it's not selling, then you can easily do that for free. Nothing is set in stone. Good luck with your decision!

Megumi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I'm so glad you asked this question because I've been wondering the same thing.

As far as I can tell, it isn't very expensive to list things of Etsy. So why not?

Megumi said...

I made a spelling mistake, so I edited out the last comment.

My mom doesn't sell through the internet, but she is the person who can make 50 zipper bags or 100 coasters at a time. You doesn't seem to do mass production, so I think it's better to do etsy as a hobby and if you don't feel like making the same item, just post it with "sold out" sign. Start in small amounts, but keep its quality high. That is my thought.

Amanda Jean said...

I am so glad to read your post, and the other comments that follow.

I have had all the same issues rolling around in my head for months and months. It all depends on your personality and how you determine to run your etsy shop, I would think. I haven't started one of my own., although I have been tempted to several times. but knowing me, I would pressure myself to keep it stocked and try to stock it for what I think other people would want, and it would turn into a job and suck the fun out of creating for me.

Have you considering swapping things rather than trying to sell them? Just an could propose a swap with someone that you know likes your work and try that. I recently did that with a friend...that way I didn't have to purchase anything, just swap for something that she needed/wanted.
Like I said, just an idea.

I am looking forward to reading what others may think about this!

Anonymous said...

I don't have an etsy shop, but I am a etsy browser and shopper. I find it's a really good web2.0 type of site. I've discovered a lot of interesting people and blogs through etsy. I think if other's think it's simple enough to keep shop, I would do it just for the social part of it all.

erinn said...

I'm not an Etsy'er but I agree with Meghan, that if you only have a handful of things, it adds value to them because they are truly one of a kind. More and more people are looking for and appreciate unique pieces rather than having something 10,000 people have.

Funky Finds said...

i don't sell anything on etsy, but i feature lots of etsy shops. i love the site & how it's helped so many people discover fabulous handmade goods. let's hear it for handmade! give it a go. :)

Eggman Studios said...

I love your blog, and, being a fellow graphic designer and Etsy-shop-owner, thought I'd throw in my wee opinion. :)

I've been a seller on there for a little over a year now and honestly, I love it. It's more than a hobby for me, but certainly NOT a full-time gig (nor do I want it to be--at the moment I have two other art-related part-time jobs and I'm pleased with where Etsy fits in with my schedule--i.e. a bit here and a bit there).

I was a Featured Seller last summer and that was when I realised, head-first, that I just couldn't make Etsy a full-time thing. I was pumping out charms and earrings at hyper-speed to keep up with demand and then would spend long nights packing up goodies for shipping (yucko). It only took me one month later to hit the wall from exaustion.

Since then I've greatly slowed my pace, am much more picky when it comes to custom orders, and in the end, I'm way happier. Sure, I'm not selling items every day, but I have more freedom to experiment with new designs and do what I love best (and to me, that's the most important thing). Even with my limited listing, Etsy is still good to me and I've managed to scrounge up a loyal fan base through it.

Yes, the site is often a bit, uh, wonky. And it's still going through massive growing pains and can get a wee bit frustrating. But I'm forgiving and lenient and the good SO outways the bad.

It's definately worth a go! Give it a shot, try it out, and make it how YOU want it to be. By all means, do not feel pressured to make and list all the bloody time--you'll just run yourself up a wall. You can keep a nice, relaxed pace there and still have fun!

Good luck and please keep us all posted!

Sales Rack Raider said...

I became a seller about 2 months ago, and I'm glad I did. Although I run my store as a business, it's Ok if I don't make a whole lot of money. I've been making a lot more jewelry than I can wear, so I may as well make some money with them. If they don't sell, then I get to keep them. Since it's only 20 cents to list and you get 4 months, I wouldn't be out a whole lot of money if things sit there for a while.

As far as pressure to make 3 or more things that are similar to each other, I don't feel that pressure. I don't like repeating stuff--I find it harder to duplicate than to make new and different things each time. I only sell small things and I make my own gift packing, so it's not much of an issue, but if I do have problems, I ask for advice in the forums. Most people are friendly and are very willing to help.

It'll be a while before I actually make much money, but in the meantime, I'm having fun making things, meeting new people, and improving on photography. I never cease to be amazed by the tremendous amount of talent on Etsy.

Unknown said...

I don't have any advice but having a blog is a super means of publicity. I hope you sell!

Anonymous said...

I have an etsy shop, most of what I make are pretty much one offs. I do make multiples sometimes depending on how much I like making the item or how many people hound me to make more.

It's cheap to list and the fees after selling an item are WAY less than ebay. It's like going to a giant craft mall with tons of interesting people and really cool products.

As far as the shipping goes I only ship twice a week, I explain this to all my customers and they understand. The less time I spend in line at the post office the more time I have to make things.

I say give it a try, if anything you'll only be out the 20 cents it costs to list an item.

Sew Create It - Jane said...

I'm so glad you have asked this question. I'm just debating about an etsy shop myself and like you I can't mass produce stuff. I've tried it and I was bored stupid...but then occasionally it's fun to make just one more bag or two and then what do you do with them all? Is Etsy the answer? I'm in two minds. I look forward to checking back and seeing what people say.

Anonymous said...

You definitely don't have to mass produce stuff to sell on Etsy. What's great about Etsy (as compared to my own business website) is that it is a low level of investment and commitment. You can let your shop site idle, as Megan said, or you can post and promote like mad and hope you sell more. It is only $0.20 to list an item.

Price items fairly, compare what similar items go for, and determine what you're really doing it for. If it's just to clear out some space and fund your craft habit, you'll be just fine!

And buyers on Etsy are super-nice. I've had a great experience on there, even if I haven't sold as much as I have wanted to.

And from what I have seen of your blog, your style would sell very well!

Kristin, Josh, and Elia Canfield said...

I would buy those curtains in your office! I love them and I love your blog. I browse ETSY all the time. I say go for it!!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, first time reader (found you through

I am similar to you in that I have a day job I like and don't want to make so many items that it feels like another job or mass production (I always think of Lloyd Dobler's speech at the dinner table in "Say Anything"). I couldn't manage my own stall at a market or craft fair because I physically couldn't produce that much stuff.

I love etsy and its potential, but it doesn't always translate into sales for me. Some pros and cons (in my experience):

Etsy pros:
* cheap
* 24/7 access to your shop
* easy to use
* your blog is already a marketing tool
* I find custom orders the most fun, and they're easy to do on etsy

Etsy cons:
* can be slow to attract buyers -- there are many etsy crafters out there, so it might take people awhile to find your stuff (this is where the blog helps)
* no touching or inspecting of items in person
* takes a bit of time to list stuff, including taking good, clear photos of your item (about the same time as an eBay listing)

There's a new feature called "etsy mini" that you can place on your blog, which shows thumbnail-sized images of what's in your shop (or what you want from other people's shops), so anyone who reads your blog will see it. You can see an example on my site,

There's also some good information out there on how to market and price your stuff through etsy.

I've had better luck selling my items through a local store that carries vintage, handmade, quirky, etc. I make less money because it's wholesale, but my stuff flies out of the shop. And they love that I only make a few at a time because people want limited edition stuff (apparently) and they know handmade takes time. So I sell the bulk of my stuff in that shop, and use etsy to cater for those few people who see things on my blog but don't live in the same city as me. I base my etsy price on the shop's retail price, minus shipping.

The shop sells on commission, which means I don't get paid until the item sells. It also means the shop doesn't give me orders - I bring them whatever I feel like making and they give it a go.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog in this past week and have been enjoying checking in and reading back posts.
This one is perfect timing. I've been mulling many of those same questions over in my head in the past few days. It seems that etsy is THE place for one-of-a-kinds not to mention that there is very low risk and low commitment in joining it. It seems that plenty of people leave they're shops empty, even announcing that they're 'shutting down' for awhile. Blogging and Etsy seem to go hand in hand, both of them enhancing eachother.
I'm curious to read more comments on this post as well.

Jessica Jones said...

Wow, these are all such great thoughts! I really appreciate all the tips and insights. I'm mulling it over....

Allyson Hill said...

I would definitely go for it! There's no harm, especially if it is just a hobby. It would be neat so see your blogged about items up for sale. One-of-a-kind is very normal on Etsy. Shipping can be simple once you get it all figured out - which takes some time but you have tons of people to ask questions and the Etsy forums are loaded with answers. You do need to list often if you need to sell often. If you don't need to sell often then you can be more relaxed about your listings. As far as pricing, don't be tempted to underprice, you'll regret it in the long-run. Like mentioned above, the etsy mini would be a perfect addition to your sidebar. You already know how to take good photos so I think you can handle the technical aspects. Be prepared to get custom requests and remember that it is ok to say no. I have come to a point where I've realized that custom orders are way too time-consuming. Anyways, feel free to ask me any questions!

ruthie said...

give it a try! I have an etsy shop and it's fun. I'm not obssessed with selling and stocking all the time and I just do it for some pocket money. I don't know what will happen in the future. I started it because friends suggested I should sell my pouches and I had some strangers ask me where they could buy them. I've been reading the comments people left and I think it's great that so many people are sharing their thoughts and ideas.
good luck with your decision!

Anonymous said...

I do have an etsy shop, started it last December because I don't really like doing craft shows and I have about 20 aprons left after stopping the craft show circuit. It does take a while to do the setup, and to figure out what keywords to use, but it isn't expensive and it doesn't take up much time other than that. Since I have all aprons at this point, I was able to determine shipping by weighing one of the aprons with the packaging material on my kitchen apron and then checking to determine the most it would cost to ship anywhere in the US. I've only made one sale, but that has covered all of my expenses to date plus any expenses I'll be running up in the near future. I really like that it's a no pressure why to try and sell the things that you've made that you have no use for. I love your style and I think you would do very good on Etsy, you have a great following to your blog already, so you have word-of-mouth built in. Good Luck!!

jessilong said...

My shop is still idle. I'm an entry level Graphic Designer who is currently in the process of packing up my house to move. I like to play with my tools and create fun things, but between christmas (and yes I know that was 5 months ago) and moving, I haven't had the time to post anything, either that or I keep finding a place in my house for everything. I basically created the account because I had the aha moment where I knew what my shop should be named and I wanted to snatch it up before anyone else got to it. But I'm definitly an etsy browser, I'd love to see your work on there.

bb said...

I definitely think you should do it. Don't pressure yourself. Just put up whatever you'd like to sell. And if you need help getting the word out about your shop, just holler. I'll be happy to feature you on my blog. I'm sure other people would, too.

Good luck!

JulieAnn said...

Your creations would certainly sell! Go for it :)

Anonymous said...

i signed up for an etsy shop but i have yet to put anything in it. i sell to friends and family but would like to expand some. i do one of a kinds too because i get bored so fast. do y'all think you need a blog to start with? i'm really up in the air about it 'cuz i'm not too computer smart. i've mailed things and done like megan to find out shipping. i guess i need help from someone about how to upload photos and all that. sooner or later i'll jump in.

Pasha said...

I am opening an Etsy shop later this week for the very same reasons. No two alike, don't want to work all the time, etc. I do know that the post office will pick up your packages for you and you can print out and pay for postage online--just need to be able to weigh the package. They also provide free boxes in many sizes that you can have shipped right to your door. I will be announcing my opening on my blog and talking about the process there.

Jennifer said...

I have been sooo happy with Etsy. It is a great avenue to get your items out there if you want them to be. I think it has grown so much over the past few months, that it is more worthwhile to have a shop than your own website because of the traffic. I have had great success and my items can be found on other websites as well as brick and mortar stores because people have found my items through Etsy.

Anonymous said...

Jess, your OOAK items are amazing! Take the plunge! :)

Jamie Lives in Tokyo said...

Jess, it would be hard for me to say, "you should do this for sure!" because I would hate to encourage you to do something that might turn out to be overwhelming. But on the other hand, from what everyone else says, it seems like etsy is an easy place to do things the way you want if you end up overwhelmed, then you'll just know you have to set different limits for yourself. Maybe you've already decided what to do since I'm a bit late reading this post and commenting, but as for my instant reaction, I feel like starting up a shop on etsy now, and I don't even think I have anything to sell!! :-)

Heather Moore said...

Ok, you've had a million responses to your question, and I haven't read them all, but I think you sound like the perfect candidate for Etsy. I'm the same as you - not interested at all in making the same thing over and over, and that's why Etsy is cool - you only have to make one, if you like.

Go for it - it's fun! The interaction with buyers is delightful too.

Oh, and thanks for visiting my blog.

vfg said...

ditto what most of the others have said..I'm a hobbyist, not looking for huge volume, but have been really happy with my experience so far.

I've had an etsy shop for a couple of months and I like it for these reasons:
*i'm not a mass-producer, either
*no pressure to create--you just sell whatever you've made lately.
*low $ commitment
*even w/ growing pains, site is easy to search; new customers do find me!
*I just like seeing my stuff "out there". nice to show people I'm not necessarily trying to sell to.
*I like the personal touch--nice e-mails from artists I admire when I buy, questions answered quickly, sweet packages, nice feedback, etc.

On the shipping: most of my stuff is small, I weigh it at home on a little scale and print shipping labels straight from paypal. then delivery confirmation is just $.14 more, and I don't have to wait in line at the post office. I charge enough for shipping to cover my actual shipping cost, packing materials, & etsy & paypal fees.

At first, most of my customers were people I referred to, but now my most loyal (in 2 months, anyway!) are ones who found me, and have kept me busy with custom orders, too. I think finding a bit of a niche market, posting daily rather than a huge batch at once (search results are sorted by latest-posted), and using my tag words carefully have helped me.

I think that most of my time drain is still in shipping, though. I spend a lot of time making cute little origami boxes or drawstring bags to pack in, individually print enclosure cards, etc. As I've gotten more sales, i do a bit more mass production on that end and been faster. Shipping just 2x/week, as someone mentioned, would be a good idea.

ack! long. off to bed!

Jessica Jones said...

Wow, I'm sooo glad I voiced my etsy question publicly, because you guys are all so encouraging and full of great tips! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Michelle said...

i've been selling on etsy since aug05 ( and have been fairly satisfied with my sales. when i had more free time i made a lot more and sold a lot more, but at the moment my free time is maxed out and i don't have as much time to devote to sewing.

i've been fairly satisfied with my etsy experience... most customers are enthusiastic and great to work with. custom orders are usually fun to do but sometimes suck up too much time for me... but i can never say no to someone who is pumped to get their custom creation. :)

cigronetverd said...

I started my etsy shop two mounths ago because I saw shopps from others blogger and thing that it will be funny.
I really enjoy the experience. I only sold 2 items until know but it was really exciting.

I'm really happy with the experience.
good luck with your decision!

Amber said...

I just started selling on etsy back in August. A great find! I love that you can be selling for fun or for business. Your time and effort are the only things that may limit you. If you do sell. Buy a postal scale and then go to and you can determine the shipping cost. If you print shipping labels through paypal delivery confirmation is free or $.14 (saves your rear in the internet selling world)! It's fun.