How to make money selling on Etsy
Are you crafty or a dab hand at design? If you can make something unique you can start your own small business by selling your creations on Etsy.
If you’ve never heard of Etsy, it’s an online marketplace designed specifically for “unique items”, defined by them as handmade or vintage items (at least 20 years old) and craft supplies.
It has 1.7 million active sellers and 28.6 million active buyers, so there’s an audience out there if you can make something that people will want.
If you've got the right product and use the insider tips below you could easily make enough money to handsomely top up your bank balance every day.
How can I expect to make on Etsy?
Credit: Second Seam to the Right on Etsy
We'll be honest here. This entirely depends on how successful your shop becomes.
Some people make a steady side income of £20-£30 a month, and others earn enough to quit their jobs and sell on Etsy full time.
The likelihood is that you won't become a millionaire (or even a thousandaire) from selling on Etsy but if you follow a few simple rules you could easily supplement your student loan throughout uni.
What do I need to start selling?
It's important not to over complicate things when it comes to setting up your Etsy store. The best thing you can do is just to get started. If you spend too long focusing on getting everything perfect you might never end up launching your store and once you have something up on the site you can always make improvements.
To start off with, you’ll need these 5 things at the very least:
Something for you to sell
This is the hard part, but if you choose wisely this could be the start of a whole new business. It doesn’t even need to be a physical item, plenty of people sell their designs for people to print at home, or create imagery for people to use on their websites and social media.
If you're really struggling for ideas of what to sell on Etsy, why not take a look at the site to see what others are doing. See this as an opportunity for inspiration rather than using it to copy someone else's idea.
If you're really switched on, this is the best stage to create or order a prototype or test of your product. It will allow you to see what it will look like, make it easier to take product photos and also test out the build quality.
A name and logo for your shop
Don't think too hard about the name for your Etsy shop. It won't have much of an impact on your sales and you also get one chance to rename it. Think of something simple and snappy and try not to be too obscure or clever. And avoid mix ups like #susanalbumparty…
Once you've decided on a name you can easily make yourself a custom logo using Canva – it’s an online programme that is a lot like Photoshop but much, much easier, and it’s free!
If you really aren't comfortable doing it yourself just use a site like Fiverr to get someone to do it for you.
Clear and attractive images of your items
This is even more important on Etsy than it is on eBay – your product (hopefully) has never been seen before and a great photo can make the difference here (possibly even more than your shop name and logo).
If you ordered or created a test product as mentioned in point 1 this should be quite easy.
Take a look at what other stores with similar products are doing, choose the style you like the most and then work on making yours similar.
A little bit of money
Unlike a lot of online selling sites, it isn’t 100% free to sell on Etsy, as each listing costs 20 cents (around 15p) to post. If you invest £1 into listing six items, we think that’s definitely enough to get you started.
And while you're thinking about money you need to think about the cost of your item(s). Spend some time to work out the cost of making the product (including any upfront costs spread across a few units) and then come up with a price. Don't get greedy here, it's the internet and if you're overcharging there'll be someone else out there that will undercut you and take all of your business.
A way to get your item to buyers
Research the most cost effective way to pack and post out your creations, it might be easiest to use the Post Office, but if your items are very big or heavy, a courier company might be a better option.
Make sure you know the cost before going ahead too. There's nothing worse than charging £2.99 for delivery and having to pay £4.99 yourself when it comes to it.
How much does Etsy charge for listing items?
Etsy’s fees are relatively complicated compared to other selling sites. There are three different types of fee that apply each time someone buys something from your shop:
- A listing fee – it’s $0.20 (around 15p) to put each item up for sale, and each listing lasts 4 months or until it sells. You can set up your items to auto-renew if you have more than one available and you’ll be charged another 20c as soon as an item sells to keep it live.
- A transaction fee – Etsy will charge you 3.5% of the purchase price (not including postage) when you make a sale.
- A payment processing fee – this is 20p + 4% of the entire payment (including postage), if you use Etsy’s payment system. You can use Paypal to receive payments if you want, and their fees are 20p + 3.4%.
As an example, let's imagine you sell something for £10 + £2.99 postage. It'll cost you 15p in listing fees, 35p in transaction fees and 72p if you use Etsy's payment system. This is a total of £1.22.
Why sell on Etsy in particular?
Credit: Sarah's Chapter on Etsy
Etsy isn’t the biggest or the most well known selling site out there, but depending on what your product is, it could be one of the most profitable.
Whereas the typical eBay or Amazon customer might type in a search term and list everything from lowest to highest price, an Etsy buyer wouldn’t expect their search to result in a page full of identical products. This makes it a lot easier to be noticed if you’ve created something one of a kind, regardless of the cost.
When you start selling on Etsy, you have to create a shop, and you’re encouraged to add a logo, a banner, a description with social media links that will help a visitor find out a bit more about you. eBay seller pages tend to be quite plain and anonymous, but there are so many ways to add a personal touch on Etsy.
The best Etsy businesses use all of these features to create their own memorable brand that people will search out by name. If you want your own .com address to link directly to your shop you can set one up (for a fee) directly through Etsy, too.
Etsy has options to allow you to sell personalised items more easily, and as custom orders might take you a bit longer to create, you can charge more for them. There’s also the opportunity to create coupon codes to encourage customer loyalty, or reward your fans on social media. You can also close your shop if you need a break, which can be a really useful feature to reassure loyal customers when they come back and see an empty shop.
We’ve talked to a number of Etsy sellers in the UK, and they all told us that a surprising percentage of their orders come from overseas – especially Australia and the US.
Because each item is specially made, people are less concerned with having quick shipping. This means there are even more potential customers out there for you.
What’s popular on Etsy?
Credit: Famous Last Cards on Etsy
We used the site CraftCount to take a look at the best selling Etsy shops and the variety is huge!
These are a few of bestselling categories:
- Personalised bottles, glasses and t-shirts
- Art prints
- Knitting patterns
- Greetings cards
- Clip art
- Enamel pins
But people are selling all sorts of amazing handmade goods on Etsy, the more original, the better. We’ve seen successful shops selling everything from nail polish to food, so don’t be limited to only what’s popular.
What new Etsy sellers should know
We asked some experienced Etsy sellers what they wish they’d known when they opened their shops and this is what they told us:
Keep an eye on your margins – initially I worked out my prices to give me about 10% profit, but once my cards started to get really popular I realised I was underpriced compared to my competitors and I’d missed out on earning a lot more. Oh, and don’t be afraid to buy Etsy adverts, I spend about $2 a day and it works for me – just keep an eye on it.
– Leah from Famous Last Cards
I wish I'd known how hard and time consuming it would be at first. I also wish I'd known that I'd make some mistakes, and that's okay! It's all about trial and error.
-Meg from Second Seam on the Right
When I opened my shop I wish I'd been more aware of the extra costs involved. It's not quite as simple as just casually buying a stamp and envelope for every sale – that gets expensive fast! I'd recommend going online (eBay or Amazon) and buying a bulk pack (start with 50 if you're committing to this) of what you need to pack and send your items. For me that's A5 cellophane pouches and boardbacked envelopes. It'll save you money in the long run!
– Sarah from Sarah’s Chapter
Downsides to selling on Etsy
Like all online selling platforms, Etsy isn’t perfect – here are a few of the drawbacks:
You aren’t paid instantly – You can choose to receive your payments monthly, weekly, fortnightly or daily, but once they’re “paid”, according to our Etsy seller insiders it takes about 3 days for the money to hit your bank. This isn’t ideal when you might need to pay for postage before then.
It’s primarily a US website – Unfortunately UK sellers are at a disadvantage compared to those based in America. Whether it’s because of the increased shipping time, more expensive postage or that the prices will show up as $6.51 for a US buyer instead of £5.
You get charged fees monthly – It can be hard to keep track of all the listing fees, commission and payment charges once your shop is up and running, and they get charged in a big chunk once a month. Remember to set money aside to pay them, and don’t treat everything you’re getting paid from Etsy as profit.
What are the alternatives to Etsy?
Etsy isn’t the only place to sell vintage and handmade items online – here are the best of the rest.
Best for a quick sale: eBay – you’ve almost certainly heard of this one, plenty of people use it to sell the same sort of items you’d expect to sell on Etsy. If you can keep costs low enough to be competitive and want to sell items quickly, eBay could be the site for you.
Don’t want to ship internationally? Folksy is a handmade only site (no vintage items) that is just for UK sellers.
Stop paying commission – Shopify allows you to create an online store, with no listing fees or commission, but it is $29 a month, and depending on your volumes this could be a cheaper option.
Selling clothes or accessories? If your Etsy business idea is fashion related, Depop is incredibly popular among stylish people who want something special. You don’t need to pay to list an item, but the final value fee is 10%.
If you’re ready to invest in your business: Not on the High Street is a UK based site with Etsy-like products and a trusted reputation marketed with TV ads. However, you need to apply to sell your items on NOTHS, according to forums online this isn’t easy to do, and it costs £199 a year once they’ve given you the green light.
The major upside to NOTHS vs Etsy is that apparently people sell a lot more through Not on the High Street, which makes the fees well worth it.
What do you think? Are you crafty enough to start a successful Etsy business? If you have any more tips for selling handmade and vintage goods online let us know in the comments.