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Should I Start My Business on Etsy?

“So… should I start my business on Etsy?”

I get asked this question – or a variant of it – all. the. time.

My answer is always the same.


Whether you are starting a handmade business, a vintage business, or a supply business, it matters not. My answer is still yes.

Why Etsy and Not Your Own Site?

I love Etsy. Without Etsy, I probably wouldn’t have started my business, and I have no doubt I would not be where I am today – able to make a full-time living off selling my jewellery online.

Etsy was my springboard, absolutely.

I have had my own website for a few years now, and it is growing more and more every week, month, and year.

However – I STILL make a big cut of my income from my Etsy shop. Thousands of dollars each month. With very little promotion other than having 15 pages of items on there and renewing top selling items every single day. {Yes, renewing DOES still work.}

I have to WORK to get people to my own site. But my Etsy shop ticks over with very little work on my part, thanks to the years of sales, feedback, and large range of well-photographed products I have on there.

I’ve heard some people say that you should leave Etsy behind when you get ‘successful’ enough, because it dilutes your focus and pits your brand against many others that are not of the same caliber.

To the former I say rubbish. I have my jewellery in as many online venues as I can manage. Why? Because my business is based on reproducible designs, I treat venues like the marketing tools they are – the more places you can find my jewellery, the more likely you are to BUY my jewellery. Etsy is definitely, by far, the best online venue for bringing me new customers outside of social media.

To the latter I say… welcome to the internet. No matter whether you have your own site or are on a venue like Etsy, you are still pitting yourself against a whole internet full of competition.

Frankly, you really should make sure that your shop shows up on the most highly-trafficked search engine of handmade – Etsy.

I don’t know about you, but when I want to buy something handmade, I don’t Google it… I Etsy it.

Etsy is my first port of call to buy handmade, vintage, and supplies… and the same goes for many millions of Etsy members (the last stats I could find was 20 million as of the end of 2012).

Why would I eschew such a fantastic market?

Perhaps if you’re already huge – you have a well-known blog or you’re ‘big on social media’ – you could get away with launching your own site – and keeping it that way – from the get-go. But 99.9% of us are not in that position. We’re just starting out. In the beginning or middle stages of our business – still figuring things out and building a customer base.

I don’t know about you… but I need to eat. So long as Etsy still works for my business, I’ll keep selling there.

Is Etsy perfect?

Of course they aren’t.

We’ve all heard the stories of shops getting unfairly closed – or of re-sellers flourishing while genuine handmade sellers falter. Those things happen. Those things are why you should DEFINITELY get your own site set up and going as soon as you can make it happen.

You should 100% ABSOLUTELY get your own online real estate up and running asap. But that doesn’t mean throwing everything else out the window. It isn’t an either-or proposition.

Etsy isn’t perfect – but it’s the best thing out there if you want to get your handmade business off the ground, and keep it growing.

Why You Should Start Your Business on Etsy

In short, here are a few compelling reasons why you should start – and continue – your business on Etsy.

  • It’s the world’s premier online marketplace

  • It’s the first port of call for many people wanting to buy handmade

  • It’s easy to set up and use, and has excellent ‘behind-the-scenes’ tools – stats etc

  • It’s an excellent ‘training’ ground – to compete on Etsy you have to play a stellar game with fantastic photos, good descriptions, excellent customer service, etc

  • It engenders immediate trust – people know that if they buy on Etsy they are protected if something goes wrong

  • There’s transparent feedback – do a good job and people will see that and buy from you

These are just some of the reasons I believe Etsy is the best place to start – and grow – your online handmade business.

Do you have a business on Etsy – or are you thinking about starting one? Why do YOU sell there?


Want to get started on Etsy… or whip your current shop into tip-top shape? Join us in October for Set Up Shop and your shop – and your business – will never be the same…


Van Den has written 338 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.



I’ve been with Etsy for two years, I don’t like the recent feedback changes but it is a fantastic place to showcase & sell handmade. I’ll continue to stay regardless of the direction I want to go it the future.
But I have to say that the other half of my sales come from Madeit. This handmade selling site is never going to be a big as Etsy but will all the improvements it has made recently its a very valuable selling tool for me & many other Australians.


Nicole, Madeit is GREAT for Aussie handmade sellers, for sure! I’m on there and make sales regularly, too.


Yep…I sell my Illustration and custom portraits on Etsy. Although, I am nowhere close to making thousands of dollars a month, my shop is growing everyday. There are so many other places to sell art on the web these days but nothing seems to get me the exposure that Etsy does.

p.s. Jess, I dream of getting as many sales as you. What an amazing accomplishment!


Thanks lovely x And I definitely agree with this point – “nothing seems to get me the exposure that Etsy does”

Hilary Goldman

After I left my high tech career of 25 years where the last 15 were spent project managing web applications – the last thing I wanted to do was oversee, design, manage, and get hung up on my own – website. Lets face it I just left all that behind….now with some time to rest and rejuvinate and decompress form that life, I wanted to focus on my new crafty endeavor of soap design – so Etsy was perfect. Perfect for me to have a platform to work with. I’m okay actually with it’s parameters and policies – knowing that it has it’s limits but at the same time realizing (as a development manager) the have to make fixes and enhancements for two stakeholders, the buyers and the sellers. Writing and managing a ‘retail web site platform’ is not easy by any means. So with that being said, I like how much support and guidance they do provide. I like how there is a built in audience of buyers. And I like how there are teams to join. It’s a nice community to build relationships close and afar. I consider Etsy a platform where I can drive many people to see my soaps – via all kinds of venues (craft fairs, word of mouth, consignment, etc…) and social media options. And of course with the goal to purchase. I also happened to have closed my shop for a year when I left to live in Senegal, Africa. It was nice and easy to start up again and begin reaching out to old clients and let them know I’m back and just working to outreach again on new ones.


Hilary, you make a great point! You COULD have started out with your own site, but decided to focus on your biz for starters, rather than the tech stuff behind it. I enjoy all the community aspects of Etsy, too.


Interesting that you renew your top sellers every day. That practice has been getting ‘pooh-poohed’ in the forums and teams since before I started on Etsy, but if it works for you, maybe its worth a shot. I’m sure it would get the views up, at least.
Or do the successful folks that renew keep that trick as their dark little secret?


I’ve never made a secret that I do that – and always have. There’s always ALWAYS been debate on the effectiveness of it, since when I started back in ’08 (and probably before that) but frankly, I go by my own experience – and it works for me. Still ๐Ÿ™‚

Allison Dey

I am very vocal about not being much enamored of Etsy’s direction in recent years, especially its unique definitions of ‘handmade seller’ and ‘collective’ both of which are now being defined in complete contradiction with all dictionaries to include mass-produced goods from factories as long as your employees (er….members of your collective) are making the item by hand. What I would have liked to see was some continued support for a location where only non-factory made, mass-produced items were available. It’s just the deception of it all. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. The climate on Etsy has changed so much. Besides that, everything they feature looks the same! And when they ‘teach’ about business they encourage hand makers to ‘trend’ as if the creative process should be directed by fashion ‘tastemakers’ than from within the artist. VERY sad! I do hope they revert back to a real artisan-made online market, but I am not hopeful.


Allison, that has become a growing issue… frankly, I fully expect Etsy to move beyond the ‘handmade’ label in the next few years and change it to something like ‘designer’. While I am a HUGE advocate of handmade – I make it, buy it, am an active committee member of a local handmade non-profit, and prefer buying it FAR over anything else – I am also a businesswoman. I need to make money, and while Etsy still helps me do that, I’ll keep my shop there. Pragmatic rather than idealistic, I know, but there it is. For some people, the idealism wins out ๐Ÿ™‚ (P.S. I’m not using idealism in a derogatory way, just as a term to designate living by one’s ideals). I, too, dislike the whole ‘fashion trends’ thing, and usually avoid it in my designs, preferring to make jewellery that has a ‘classic’ feel. Alas, the fashion industry (not just clothes, but decor etc etc) manufactures ‘trends’ in order to convince people to buy new stuff ๐Ÿ˜‰

Allison Dey

A ‘designer’ marketplace really does sound apt. And not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just hard for so many who have been with Etsy for 5, 6, 7 years, shops and people who have built Etsy to be THE premiere and largest handmade marketplace, to have no say at all about this direction and are negatively impacted by it: philosophically, financially, aesthetically. It’s that disrespect that irks me. It’s the ‘we’re making changes to help YOU!’ mantra over just having come out honestly and said, ‘hey, thanks for getting us to where we are today, but we’re thinking of other directions for our business’. Handmade is no longer in the Etsy mission statement. Now it says something about bringing product to people. Technically, everyone who designs product for Walmart is a designer but Etsy used to support artisan handmakers, not designers. I just think people who want to open shops on Etsy should know it is not the handmade marketplace it was known to be.

Squeeze Cuddles ~ Julia

Great post Jess! I’ve been working a lot on my Etsy shop since the first Set Up Shop course. I’ve been contemplating reopening my madeit shop. After reading this post and the comments I’ll most likely reopen it. More sites for my handmade creations to be found


Absolutely, Julia! That sounds like a great plan ๐Ÿ™‚

Miz Peli*canKreeze

I had an Esty shop few years ago but decided to close it last year.
The reason is because I don’t have enough views even I tried to use more popular and related tags, take good photos, but still, not enough views. Etsy is a huge market and getting found is not easy especially I don’t have too much budget for advertising.


It IS a huge marketplace – which is a blessing and a curse. My perspective is that I’m going to have to work hard to get my work found no matter where I put it on the internet. However, if you’re going the offline route instead (shops + markets) then that may work better for you and your biz?

Julia Sydnor

“You should 100% ABSOLUTELY get your own online real estate up and running asap. But that doesnโ€™t mean throwing everything else out the window. It isnโ€™t an either-or proposition.”

^^ THIS! ^^

I teach Etsy sellers how to make websites WordPress. They often come to me thinking they want their own site so they can leave Etsy. But like you said, you can (and many times should) have both. That way you’re still on the no. 1 handmade search engine, AND you’ve got your own website to refer customers, press and potential wholesale clients to.


*high five* Fo sho! ๐Ÿ™‚


Terrific post, and also the discussion here in the comments!

It was great to read a balanced perspective from such an established seller. I definitely don’t agree with everything that Etsy does, but sometimes the negativity about it (in the forums/online) can get overwhelming. I think you’re right that as a handmade seller, it is the one place you *must* be if you want to sell online. Anything else should be in addition to a presence there.

I, too have been on Etsy since 2008 (full-time since 2010) and only wish my sales were at your level (by the way, thank you for ‘pulling back the curtain’ a bit here on sales numbers, Jess! I always find it fascinating to read the nitty gritty from successful sellers like you – and helpful to know what’s possible!)

I started on Etsy because it was so easy – minimal start-up costs, great environment to learn as you go, and a pretty simple platform for someone as non-technical as I am. I’ve stayed because it works – I’ve learned a ton from the site and the community, the majority of the traffic to my shop comes from Etsy search (thanks, at least in part, to lots of work on tags/titles/photos), and my business continues to grow. The only way I’ll ever choose to leave Etsy is if it stops working for my business. Until then, I may add to it, but I’ll never try to replace it with something else.

And as much as it saddens me, I agree with you that Etsy seems to be moving away from its handmade roots and opening its doors to larger enterprises. I can only hope that we, the small-scale handmade artisans, don’t get lost in the shuffle.


Kerry, I rarely – if ever – dip into the forums on Etsy. I did many years ago, but I was put off by all the negativity. Especially when Etsy change anything (which they do a lot, because they’re trying to grow and make things better), it seems like the whole world was on there whinging. I’m not down with negativity, so I just ignore it ๐Ÿ˜‰

I like your comment re my sales numbers – maybe I should do a post that goes into more detail about this? I’m not worried about sharing figures, especially if it helps people.


I totally hear you re: the Etsy forums, I don’t spend much time there myself. I will say, though, I’ve actually learned a LOT from them, even recently, so they’re not all bad. I just pop in periodically, scan the thread titles, and if there’s something big that I wasn’t aware of or something that directly pertains to me, I have a quick look at it. There are definitely ranters and complainers there, but I can think of several times that I discovered a major change/issue I didn’t know about, so I consider it part of keeping my shop in-the-loop! ๐Ÿ™‚

As for a post about sales figures etc, I for one would love to read it. I try not to compare myself/my business to others, but at the same time it can be really helpful to see what another business really looks like. Otherwise I think I tend to idealize it, and think it’s completely beyond reach!


Great point re the usefulness of the forums, Kerry – and thanks for your feedback on my money questions! Will keep that in mind…


I started my Etsy-shop a couple of years ago and even though I like Etsy and know how good it is, my shop isn’t really growing. I know that I need more things in the shop (though I’m not sure I could ever reach 15 pages) but I have a hard time making that many books since I can’t put all my time on doing that. I guess I shouldn’t really complaing because it isn’t really untill early spring this year that I started really trying. But I get more commissions from friends and family (my grandfather seems to be digging up his whole home town after people who need books bound or mended) so I’ve had to work on those instead of making new things to put in my Etsy-shop. On top of that I’ve just started school again (summer was great. I pretty much lived in my workshop then) and I’ve moved and gone from having a whole room as my workshop to just a table.
I don’t mean to just complain but it is a bit frustrating to work and feel like my shop isn’t growing while it seems to be going so well for everyone else who sell on Etsy. All you hear are the success stories. I also feel like people want get their books bound but no one really want to buy the things I come up with myself, if you understand. I don’t really know what to do. Sometimes I just want to give up. But at the same time I love making books so I don’t want to stop.


Martine, sounds like you’re doing the best you can with the time you have!

And trust me, the ‘success stories’ are only a VERY SMALL proportion of Etsy sellers. Many just make a little money here and there, some make a bit more, and the ones who are lucky to hit on the right combo of product/photos/price/tags/etc etc manage to make the larger sales numbers.

I’ve been on there since 2008. It’s been a slow process to grow – and now, I actually have a relatively steady sales volume (slowly growing) but I’ve raised prices in the last year, and have more higher-priced items, so those two things have increased my revenue significantly. Keep those things in mind as other ways to grow your profits, too.

What say you?