Some thoughts on Etsy…

So I’ve been selling stuff on Etsy on and off for 4 years.  Maybe I should really say I’ve been “listing” stuff on Etsy, as most of it doesn’t sell.  The first time I saw Etsy I thought it was an amazing idea, and I still think it is, however there are a few problems which I’ve recently discovered, but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Lately I’ve been selling cutting boards and some toy helicopters in a local Patisserie.  It’s owned by my wife so there’s no commission charges and it works out quite nicely.  I seem to sell about one thing per week on average, not enough to make me rich, but does give me some pocket money to by more wood and eventually upgrade some machines (or by a dust collector, wouldn’t that be a treat!).  The stuff that sells best is the stuff I like the most, so it seems like my tastes suit those of the customers coming into the shop.  I’ve sold more stuff in the Patisserie in 4 weeks than I have on Etsy  in 4 years…  Not that I’m hoping to make a living selling this kind of stuff as i would like to branch out into furniture, but it’s nice to sell stuff as people appreciate your work.

So getting back to Etsy…  Why do I sell so much more in shop than on Etsy?  Well part of it is lately I don’t update my Etsy site too much, partly because I’m lazy, but partly because I am having trouble keeping the shop stocked.  I think the biggest problem though is shipping and getting people to see your stuff.

Shipping – I had a corporate client in Australia looking to buy 20 cutting boards for their staff as a Christmas gift.  Everything was going well until the shipping charges were figured out.  Cutting boards are heavy, and Australia is on the other side of the world.  Sending stuff from Canada (even within Canada) is quite expensive, and often the shipping can cost more than the item itself.  I’ve been burned a couple of times sending tongs to Europe and losing money on the sale as I misjudged the shipping costs.

Views – Go on to Etsy right now, and search “cutting board”.  I get just shy of 4000 items.  If I was interested and had a lot of time on my hands, I might look back 5, maybe even 10 pages, but all 4000? Not a chance.  I know you can specify say “end grain cutting board” and you narrow your search down to 700, but that’s still a lot of cutting boards to look at.  And herein lies the problem.  How do you get someone to see YOUR item?  Well you can have a nice picture, this helps, but only if they get far enough back to see your item.  You can list more often, then there is more of a chance that one of your items will show up in a search.  You can have a blog, facebook page, website, etc. which can direct traffic to your Etsy site, but in the end, you are competing with a lot of other items, all similarly priced, and most of similar quality (as far as I can tell from the pictures). Another thing I’ve discovered is the tags you use don’t help someone find your item if they use those words in the general search at the top. This search only looks at what is in the listing titles (this is why more and more listing names are ridiculously long!)

So what’s the solution? I’m not going to give up on Etsy, I’ve made sales around the world to people who are not likely to walk into our Patisserie in my village, and I’ve had a few custom orders from people who have seen my stuff and wanted something a little different.  Even after all the listing fees and the paypal fees, I’m still making money, it’s just that I’d rather spend my time making and creating then working on my listings and trying to generate traffic.

I guess this was a bit of a rant?  Next week, off the soapbox and back to pictures of stuff I’m making.