Next week, Etsy is celebrating 13 years of supporting handmade businesses by hosting a site-wide sale, and I’m participating by offering 15% off my entire shop from June 18th-22nd. No coupon is necessary. (Custom orders and made to order designs are not included in the sale).
(Good old days– this was my first Etsy banner. Maybe some of you remember it!)
I’ve had a handmade shop on Etsy for over 8 years of their 13 year history, and before that I was an Etsy customer. Back then, things were small– crafters and artisans offered a few of their wares and there was definitely a feeling of unique, experimental sharing. Many of the shops I visited were like me– making things on their kitchen tables, photographing them with a dinky point-and-shoot camera.
(One of my first product photos, before I figured out how to use a camera. I still make & sell these Zombie Gnome earrings in my shop!)
As Etsy grew, many businesses, like mine, grew with the site, and the decision-makers at Etsy seemed to be makers themselves, or at least understood the unique dilemmas makers face when running a business– Etsy supported us and we blossomed. Many of us were able to support ourselves by selling our work; a truly marvellous thing. I met other shop owners who remain friends to this day and we continue to support each other in myriad ways. There was a community of sellers sharing knowledge in Etsy Teams, and we celebrated each other’s work by making Treasuries– visual collections of selected pieces that would sometimes be featured on the front page, leading to great exposure for everyone, and a constant source of inspiration and friendship.
(The Chartres Labyrinth Necklace is featured in this Solstice Meditation Treasury from 2011. I still offer this necklace design in my shop!)
Of course nothing stays the same. The CEO of Etsy changed, and those of us who made a modest living had to hang on for dear life– despite Etsy’s “Quit Your Day Job” blog posts, those of us who had done just that knew that it harder for us succeed. Etsy had opened to doors to resellers and drop-shipping, and suddenly we had to compete with people who were not making their goods at all but buying them from the 3rd world, often from sweat shops employing child labour.
(The Folk Reveries Team on Etsy was my favourite.)
Etsy has had a crisis of identity: the front page is no longer curated by Etsy members via the Treasuries. Also since Etsy has gone public on the stock market it must now answer to share holders rather than makers, and this has changed everything.
(That time I modelled as Gunpower Gertie for Catrianna of Deep Midnight Perfume Oils on Etsy! This is an outtake).
I have learned a great deal on this rollercoaster ride with Etsy, but these are the biggest lessons:
- If you want to survive as a handmade business, create your own website, apart from Etsy. (Mine is at http://www.feralstrumpet.co.uk)
- Be ready to spend at least half your productive hours creating a business. This involves trying to anticipate Etsy’s continued changes as you think on your feet.
- Lastly, loyal customers are like gold, and if you have read this far, I know you are one of them. Every day I am filled with gratitude for the customers who continue to return to my shop, year after year. Without you, I wouldn’t be here!