Selling on Etsy

Etsy is a platform that almost everyone has heard of nowadays but like most successful online platforms, they’ve been around for quite a while – 15 years in fact. Founded in 2005 by some friends who wanted a better way to sell artisan and handmade goods online, Etsy has now over 60 million products listed on its platform.

But is that enough of a reason to sell on Etsy and why would you want to join its ever-increasing seller base?

Well, in my opinion, YES IT IS!

Given that we are currently in a global pandemic (it’s November 2020 as I write this) and Etsy sales have increased71% YoY in the first six months of 2020 alone!

What can I sell on Etsy?

The first thing to note is that although Etsy is NOT for every business, lots of businesses can take advantage of the Ety’s huge international reach. You may be familiar with standard items such as jewellery, clothing, accessories, and home decor, but there are all sorts of weird and wacky Etsy shops out there too like aKNITomy (who knit anatomical models and sell charts so you can too) and Tin of Beans (who sell mini pet fruit and veg).

So, take a look at what you already do and think about how you can make it into something that would work on Etsy.

Here are some examples that you may not have thought of…

Digital Sales

  • Forms – create forms you could sell digital templates for invoices, sales receipts, reports, etc
  • Branding – logo design, branding templates, colour palettes
  • Ebooks – design templates for people to create their own ebooks
  • Websites – sell WordPress themes that people can use on their own sites
  • Charts & Patterns – if you create something, write a pattern for it and sell that. Knitting, crochet and cross stitch are all really popular.
  • Recipes – if you’ve concocted something wonderful you can sell the recipes for it

Physical Products

  • Stationery & Printed Products – if you already create logos, why not print them for your customers?
  • Personalised Items – anything personalised is a great seller – try clothing, keyrings, jewellery and even sweets!
  • Handmade Items – anything handmade can be sold here (I have a second shop selling my shawls on Etsy)
  • Kits – much like charts and patterns but including all the bits someone will need to create their own version of one of your designs
  • Vintage goods – got a passion for antiques or collectables? Sell these on Etsy too

What are the advantages of selling on Etsy?

I often see people moaning about the cost of selling on Etsy and blog posts urging you to steer clear and go your own way, but I disagree. I’ve run my own ecommerce websites since 2007 as well as used Etsy so have been able to make the comparison.

Here are my reasons why I think Etsy is a great option:

Easy & Inexpensive to Set up

With very little time and effort you can set up a shop no matter what your technical skill level. It costs nothing to set up a shop and you only pay listing fees for items you actually have in your shop – so the initial outlay is minimal. Compare this to your own website where you need to pay for a domain name and hosting and then set up the entire website, which at minimum will cost you a couple of hundred pounds and you’ll see that selling on Etsy is a good place to start.

Simple Payment Processing

You can now use Etsy’s own internal payment processor and everything is done before the profits hit your account. If you have your own website, you’ll need an external payment processor like Stripe or Paypal, and whilst these are pretty standard, the setup can be more difficult and you’ll also have fees to pay for these which are inline with Etsy’s charges.

An Instant Worldwide Audience

Last year Etsy had 46.35 million active users and you can tap into that increasing number of visitors as soon as you open your shop and list your first item. You can target any market in the world in a way that is virtually impossible on your own website in such a short space of time. Remember that selling on your own site means that people need to be able to find you, and to rank on the first page of Google takes time, money and resources that most of us just don’t have!

In May of 2020 Etsy also introduced Offsite Ads where they actively promote items on high-traffic sites including Google, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Bing to drive new buyers straight to your shop. Unlike independently advertising on any of these platforms, you only pay a fee when someone clicks on your item and buys from your shop – not when they simply browse. This means your reach can grow exponentially, as you will see from my own Case Study below.

Community Support

Running a small business or being an independent maker can be very lonely at times and Etsy gets this. So they have a very active community that you can access straight from your shop dashboard. From Teams that help you market and sell your products to a Community Forum and comprehensive seller handbook, everything is covered to help you feel like part of something bigger.

With your own website, you’re pretty much on your own from day one and the learning curve is a bloody steep one.

VAT & Sales Tax on Digital Goods

If you are going to sell around the world, then you are going to be responsible for selling inline with the law of the country you are selling to. When the EU introduced the VAT MOSS scheme back in 2014 if caused havoc for sellers of digital goods. This new law stated that all sales of all business to customer (B2C) electronic goods to other EU member states would be liable for VAT at the rate of the customer. So if you were selling an ebook to someone in Austria, you would be liable to charge Austria’s VAT rate on that sale and then be liable to VAT on ALL SALES in your business. It was a bloody nightmare!

Etsy and other large online marketplaces eventually came to the rescue and took the burden off sellers by charging and collecting the VAT and Sales Tax that was required in different locations so that small businesses could get on with the job of selling.

The bad news with your own website is that if you sell digital goods to customers outside of the UK, then YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS and must register for VAT MOSS.

Do you need any further convincing?

Well, I’ve been an Etsy seller since 2012 and wanted to share my experience with digital products so here is an insight into my cross stitch chart shop:

Case Study – Holly’s Hobbies

Digital Cross Stitch Charts

I’ve always adored handcrafts and fell in love with cross-stitch in my teens. Roll on to 2006 when my first son was born I couldn’t find a bright design I liked for him so I made my own and my new business “Holly’s Hobbies” was reborn (it was also the name of my crafty business as a teenager so had been around for a while!).

From there it grew slowly and new designs were added as I looked after my young children.

Transport Name Sampler from Holly's Hobbies

As well as my own website where I sold my bespoke name samplers as kits, in 2012 I decided to create an Etsy shop to provide quirky charts that I could sell anywhere in the world for instant download.

It meant that I could put in an initial effort, but then reap the rewards for as long as the charts kept selling.

Eight years on one of my very first large charts is still a bestseller – Flags of the World in the form of hearts has now been stitched by all kids of wonderful customers as full charts, a log of countries they have visited or as individual hearts for gifts.

Over the past 8 years, I have slowly built up the quirky patterns to include the Periodic Table, QR Codes, Kanji Text and Symbols and in 2019 I decided to move all of my bespoke charts there too – and I now have over 100 charts in stock. 

Each time a customer buys a standard chart they can download it instantly as a PDF file and Etsy simply relists the item and puts it back in my shop. For bespoke items I still have to design the chart but then simply email it to them within a few days. Then at the end of each week of sales the profits (after listing, sales and marketing fees) is deposited directly into my bank account.

What a great way to make a bit of extra cash!

Flags of the World by Holly's Hobbies

Not such an Overnight Success

Now, in 2020 my little craft business more than pays for itself and gives me an extra regular income, but that wasn’t always the case.

I’ve shared my latest shop statistics with you (November 2020) so you can see just how long it has taken to get to the turnover I am now seeing. In 2012 I made only 7 sales and £27 revenue before costs! But is is worth noting that I was making money from my bespoke charts on my own website which made this side business worthwhile, until I moved it all to Etsy in 2019 so some of those newer sales can be accounted for by my bespoke sales.

Etsy Shop Statistics for Holy's Hobbies

It is also worth noting that I have NO SOCIAL MEDIA presence for this business other than some images on Pinterest that link directly back to Etsy and I do very little to advertise it at all!

So, I hope that this encourages you to start selling online and to use Etsy or another appropriate platform for your target market. Start today and you never know where you will be in years to come, but put it off and you’ll stay where you are!