How to make Etsy work for you
An interview with artist, author, and dedicated Etsy member Timothy Adams
You’ve probably heard the stories. The collage artist who opened an Etsy store and a month later had a licensing deal. The hobbyist who went from selling silkscreened t-shirts online to designing contemporary fabric for a major company and writing a sewing book. The designer whose cute little idea for a child’s fabric toy got bought by Anthropologie.
So why hasn’t your Etsy store made you rich yet, even though you’ve sold a few items and received good feedback? Maybe the site overwhelms you. Maybe you can’t keep up with the tricks of the trade. Maybe you’re a better artist than salesperson. In any case, Timothy Adams would like to help you, through his experience as a successful Etsy seller and his new book, How to Make Money Using Etsy: A Guide to the Online Marketplace for Crafts and Handmade Products (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011).
For those who don’t know, Etsy is an online store that allows people to sell and buy handmade items, supplies for making them, and vintage goods. But how do sellers and buyers connect on Etsy? This prospect can be a little daunting: according to the Etsy Weather Report (a monthly report that Etsy releases about the site’s numbers), in February 2011 alone, more than one million new items were listed.
In his book, Adams tells readers not to be worried, that it is possible to be successful on Etsy. The book has a straightforward approach, using the wisdom and experiences from successful Etsy sellers (including Adams himself) to give the best information possible.
I had a chance to chat with Adams and got some great tips on how to both buy and sell items on Etsy.
LM: Your new book, How to Make Money Using Etsy, is (as the title implies) about how to have a successful business on Etsy. Do you have a store on Etsy? How involved were you with Etsy before your book came out?
TA: I never went to art school, but in 2005 my sister-in-law needed help with metal things like railings. I took a welding course and fell in love with it. I wound up being certified. I did the projects for her that summer, and then went back to school but kept creating and designing stuff. My wife and I were living and going to school in Grand Rapids Michigan, and I started getting my art in galleries around there. In 2007 a friend mentioned Etsy, and I decided to give it a try. I had been trying to use eBay, but found it wasn’t the right spot, people were not looking to buy metal work there. I started out my Etsy store (Timothyadamdesigns) selling furniture. Then some fellow sellers on Etsy suggested selling jewelry and smaller items. I was skeptical about making jewelry, but I ended up loving it. I also sold one of my tables to Barney’s New York right after I had started selling, and it was such an inspiring experience. I got so busy that I quit my day job in late 2008 and started working full time with my Etsy store.
LM: What compelled you to share this knowledge?
TA: When I started selling on Etsy it opened up a new world for me and it got me online. I was learning about blogs and other social media aspects of selling handmade. I started a blog (handmadeology.com) and began helping people find their way around Etsy.
LM: How did this lead to you writing a book?
TA: One of my blog followers contacted her friend from Wiley Publishers. Although I was not planning to write a book, it made sense. With the growth of Etsy and the handmade movement, a book that helps people understand Etsy is something that people are excited about. The nice thing of the book is the How-to aspect of it. It is very straightforward and just tells you how to start selling on Etsy.
LM: In your work area/studio what is your favorite handmade storage item?
TA: At an estate sale of a metal worker I found a three-shelf storage unit. It was made by the metal worker and it is one of my favorite things in my studio.
LM: Any final bits of advice?
TA: Etsy is a very helping community and the site is community based, meaning that if you have questions there are teams and forums that people are willing to answer at the drop of a hat. There are teams for every state and group. The teams are there to help.
Thank you Tim!
Tim’s Best Tips
- Do your research. Research what you are selling. Look on Etsy and see what other people are doing and determine if your product will stand up to the competition.
- Use social media. Etsy is not magic, just listing an item is not going to sell it. Once you put an item up, you need to do what you can to get that item on Google and get it noticed. For example, it is important to blog about your items or use other social media avenues like Facebook and Twitter to get yourself out there.
- Don’t be afraid of selling online. Etsy isn’t scary! It’s a process just like anything else; it is very simple. When I started working on Etsy I had no clue what I was doing, but I figured it out. It is simple to list something, and there is a lot of help on the site itself.
- Photography is important. You can have the coolest items at the best price, but if your pictures are bad, then nothing will sell. You need to keep working at it and make your site like an online gallery. Have five pictures to display the item so buyers can see it from all angles. This doesn’t mean you need a super-expensive camera; you just need to work with what you have to get the best pictures possible. I practice taking pictures all the time, trying to constantly improve.
Use the right tags and keywords. You want people to find your site even if they don’t know about you. It is important for sellers to have used the right tags, so look for keywords. A good place for sellers (or buyers) to start looking for keywords to search with would be the Google keyword tool. In my book I review search engine optimization (SEO).