Branching Out Beyond Etsy

Getting started on Etsy is easy. According to Etsy itself, almost 300,000 people who have done so are active sellers on the site. Follow their secrets of success, and you may be on your way to jump starting your art or craft business.


But are you going to actually make it full-time by just selling from your Etsy shop?  Not likely, according to the article “Etsy Wars” on CNN Money, which states that  “only a handful of sellers actually make a living on Etsy”.

If you’re happy with your Etsy shop and your sales volume, it may be just the place to stay. But many artists and craftspeople are looking for more – graduating from Etsy into the world of profitable business that they can build into a full-time career.

What does it mean to go beyond Etsy? Your goals must be focused and targeted towards:

  • Building a business that will support the needs of your lifestyle and family
  • Space and time for product development and studio production
  • More hands-on studio work, and less computer time
  • Establishing a brand – one that may last beyond your lifetime
  • Raising the perceived value of your work from hobbyist to professional
  • Competing in a world beyond the ordinary and into the exceptional
  • Getting the highest price possible for your work
  • Joining with colleagues who have the same goals to move up the ladder

On Etsy, your competition is mostly aspiring hobbyists with little pressure to get those price points high enough to support a family, or even short term business goals. In fact, suppressed prices on Etsy frustrate some sellers to the point where they can’t justify selling the product of their labors for practically no profit and give up.

OR . . . branch out to a more diverse business model. One which creates income from multiple channels, sustains a creative business year round, and offers the opportunity to thrive and grow. Have you considered:

  1. Wholesaling your work to galleries and retailers through trade shows
  2. Hiring sales reps to represent your line
  3. Licensing your work
  4. Retailing your work at craft and art fairs
  5. Selling online from your own business website
  6. Soliciting commissions, through exhibition and online venues
  7. Selling to the corporate market

These are just a few of the options that artists take advantage of in a well-rounded business model. Moving beyond Etsy means that you are serious and committed to the hard work of building a career with your handmade work.  Essential to that is a full understanding of the business end – pricing, organization, marketing, selling and more. It’s an exhilarating ride, and if you ask most full-time artists, they will tell you it’s worth it.

Is it your passion to be a full-time artist and expand beyond Etsy? Stay tuned to our series on how you can launch the rest of your career, and how other artists have done it.

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  1. I do not agree with the article or statistics about a “handfull” of people making a living on Etsy. I know many, many artists, including myself who are making a great living with their Etsy sales. If I wanted to just stay with Etsy, I would be very happy with the sales and exposure. Through Etsy, I am able to expand beyond, but it is with some of my own marketing. I like that Etsy shows your stats, feedback and your proven sales are made public so other potential customers can see, and not just take my word for sales. I think this is a added benefit to Etsy.

  2. Well I have a degree in Business with a minor in marketing and a degree in Management – and none of it has helped me market my Natural hair and skincare products on line – I am 71 yrs young and not up to doing shows anymore – former mfgr. rep. also. So besides website, etsy, artfire, ebay, and trying to figure out social networking, which is crowded with handmade folks, I am at my wits end.
    Fred Castle, U.S. Navy (retired)

  3. Excellent article! There are so many questions and unkowns when venturing into the marketplace and setting up shop. While Etsy does make it very easy AND affordable, it would be nice to venture out. I know I don’t know or have all the tools for true success. I commit as much time as I can and constantly tweak my shop and my items to find the right (magic button). Honestly though, is it instant success for anyone right out of the gate?

    • Success does take time, and effort. You can’t succeed without networking, growth and opening up to a broader audience… in price point, demographics, psychographics and geography. We encourage each and every studio to introduce 30% new items each year. It’s a way to grow and find new customers, stores and collectors. Using Etsy as your “retail site” or “home base” is certainly an option… but beware of putting the same brand in two very different places. Most galleries want an “exclusive” arrangement and not online competition at a lower price! That’s why it’s so important to create a plan and a brand for each separate audience… it may make your business a little more complex… but it’s a cleaner solution.

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