For years, Etsy has been the go-to online shop for artists and creatives to sell their creative works. But in recent years, the platform has become crowded, and many niches have become over-saturated. Putting your work on Etsy no longer guarantees your products will sell, or even get customer views. So, is selling on Etsy even worth it? Here’s the truth about starting an Etsy shop in 2023.
The Short Answer:
So, is it really worth it to start an Etsy Shop in 2023?
The short answer is – it depends.
I know, I hate that answer too… but the truth is, there are some creators who could still do really well on Etsy. However, many will find it difficult to start a new Etsy shop from this point forward. Let me explain…
I started an Etsy shop back in 2020, but honestly, I neglected it. I didn’t give it a lot of time or energy, and so nothing happened with it. In October 2022, I rebranded and buckled down, committed to putting in full effort. I have been following successful shop owners on YouTube, and I’ve tried the most popular strategies.
I have learned a lot in the last 6 months and have made some money in my shop. However, my conclusion is that, while Etsy can be a simple way to get your feet wet in the creative business space, it may not be the ideal platform for everyone. Let me tell you why…
How To Know If Etsy Is Right For You
For many years, Etsy has been the go-to platform for artists and creatives who want to sell their work, and for good reason. The barrier to entry is low, and it feels great to finally post your work online for the world to see and purchase. But these days, many artists find it more difficult to get started than they expected.
To determine if Etsy is the right platform for you, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions.
How original are your products?
If you’re selling a product that is completely unique to you, and that customers can’t get anywhere else, you may have an easier time selling on Etsy.
However, if your listings are similar to what’s already on the platform – t-shirts, wall art, greeting cards, etc. – then your Etsy journey is likely to be much more difficult. That’s because you’re competing against shops that have been selling on Etsy for years. They have dialed in their sales strategies and have already gained credibility in their niche. Your new shop is likely to get lost in the forest of competition.
Do you have enough products?
Is your current product catalog large enough to post a new listing every day for at least 3-6 months?
Etsy is a search engine with algorithms similar to your most popular social media platforms. And these algorithms want to see regular activity in your shop before they will suggest you and your work to their users.
Popular Etsy entrepreneurs suggest posting at least one new listing every single day for the first 3 months that your shop is open. This activity will show the Etsy algorithm that you are consistently using the platform, and that it’s safe for them to recommend your shop to their users. The longer you keep this activity up, the better the platform will reward you for it.
If you already have enough available products to post a new listing every day for the next 90 days, then this should not be a problem for you. But if you aren’t there yet, it may benefit you to wait and build up your product catalog before you open your shop.
How much of your profit are you ready to share with Etsy?
At The time I’m writing this, Etsy fees are $0.20 to list an item and then 6.5% of the sale price when that item sells.
Is this a lot? That depends.
If you are selling original artwork in your Etsy shop, then this 6.5% is significantly lower than the 40-60% that most professional galleries charge to sell your artwork. This makes Etsy a desirable option if you already know how to handle your own marketing (more on that later).
However, if you are selling prints, shirts or smaller trinkets, then Etsy fees can severely cut into your profits. Take time to figure out your profit plan, and find out if the cost of selling on Etsy makes sense for you and your work.
For more details on creating a profit plan for your online shop, check out my post – The Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide To Building A Better Business Plan
Are you prepared to handle your own sales tax?
This is another area where Etsy may make running an online shop way easier for beginners.
Etsy charges the customers sales tax for you and pays it to the appropriate state government, so you don’t have to.
This means, in most states in the USA, you can set up your shop under your name as a “Sole Proprietor” and run your business without needing to file many additional documents such as a State Sales Tax Certificate. This makes Etsy a great option if the thought of filing a bunch of legal documents for your business feels overwhelming to you.
I do not know how these taxes work in countries outside of the United States, so if you live in another country, contact the departments in charge of business administration in your area.
If you would like more information on the documents needed to run a small business in the United States, check out my post – How To Start Your Own Creative Business
Are you willing to chase trends?
This became a big consideration for me as I continued to run my Etsy shop.
The most popular shops on Etsy right now do constant keyword and market research. They use paid tools like Sale Samurai and Everbee to research the most popular products and listings and then they model their own listings after the ones with the highest sales.
This means a few things for you if you are just starting out.
First, the product details in your listings have to be perfect because you are competing against people who spend hours every week perfecting theirs. This means your product photos have to look professional, your product titles and descriptions have to be outstanding, and your product tags must be maximized. If any of those things are off, your product will struggle to make sales.
Second, your listing is unlikely to grab attention organically, and if by some miracle it does, you will only get a couple of months in the spotlight before other creators will copy your listing. This means you must be constantly updating your shop and your listings to be better than your competitors.
Are you prepared to do your own marketing?
The other thing popular shops on Etsy do is advertise. They spend money on Etsy ads, and many of them invest in Facebook and Google ads as well. Some of them even run off-site groups where they can entice customers to come buy new products.
If you already have an established customer base you can bring to your Etsy shop, then you will probably do just fine. And Etsy will reward you for this extra traffic by boosting your listings in their search results.
However, if you are starting from scratch and don’t have an established customer base yet, you are going to have to learn how to market your work and bring your own traffic to your shop. Etsy will not show your listings to customers until those listings have proven themselves.
And Etsy ads aren’t a straightforward answer either. You can spend hundreds of dollars on Etsy ads and still not make a single sale if your marketing strategy isn’t dialed in everywhere else.
In this respect, starting an Etsy shop isn’t any more beneficial than starting an online shop on your own website.
For tips on marketing your creative business, check out this post: 12 Essential Marketing Basics to Grow Your Creative Business.
Are you willing to wait 6-12 months for your shop to see a profit?
As I mentioned earlier, I really started focusing on growing my shop about 6 months ago. And I have recently started making sales with no additional marketing or advertising. However, these sales are still few and far in between.
After watching dozens of training videos and following many Etsy creators, I’ve learned that this timeline is pretty normal. Most shop owners don’t start seeing a true profit until several months into the process. And only then if they follow all the steps Etsy suggests, including posting a new listing every day, perfecting the listing details, and including professional-looking photos and visuals.
Of course, this won’t be true for everyone. Some people may see sales in their shop immediately. It’s unlikely, but not impossible under the right conditions. But some people may not see any sales at this time. And that’s why its important for you to gauge your own risk tolerance.
If you are playing the long-game and you don’t mind waiting, and learning as you go, then Etsy could be a great place to gain some beginner business experience. But if you need to make money on your products immediately, Etsy may not be worth the time risk.
Are you willing to lose money in the beginning?
Would you consider losing money on a listing for the first couple of months so your product can gain traction with the algorithm?
Again, this is a common strategy practiced by bigger shops, because they can afford to lose money on one listing while they rake in sales from their other established listings. They price new products super low, often below the cost of producing it, so shoppers will choose their listing over more expensive ones of the same quality.
Then, after the product has gotten enough sales and reviews to show up on the first page of Etsy’s search results, they increase the price to make a profit. This entire process can take 2-6 months to work well.
It’s not a bad strategy and makes sense if you already have a shop that’s turning a profit. But if you are just getting started on your Etsy journey, it’s hard to justify losing money on all of your listings for several months just to get Etsy to favor your product over others.
This is another area where you will need to gauge your own risk tolerance and determine how much money you can afford to let go of while you wait.
Is Etsy really worth it for you?
Etsy has been around for many years and there are a few benefits to starting an Etsy shop. However, there are also a few downfalls to getting started this late in the game. And with the recent volatility in the online space, many people are questioning if the platform is really worth sinking so much time and effort into.
Only you can determine if Etsy is the right platform your you. You know your products and your business plan. You know your risk tolerance and your access to the financial resources that could help you be successful.
With the right niche, and the right dedication, some people may be very successful selling on Etsy.
For myself, I have decided not to make Etsy a large part of my overall Art sales strategy, but I’m not getting rid of it either. I plan to keep the shop open for now, but I will continue to explore other options for growing my creative business.
And I plan to continue sharing my findings with you as I grow. So if you want more updates on what I learn along my creative journey, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter for updates and exclusive insights – HERE.
Do you have experiences with Etsy or other sales platforms? Let’s chat about them in the comments!
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