Is Etsy a good online marketplace to start selling your art? What are the essential things to know about as a newbie just starting out on this popular platform? Selling art online is as easy as just uploading your work and waiting for the sale, right?
As an artist just starting to make the transition from selling my paintings locally to selling online, I know how confusing and overwhelming it can be to try to make sense of all the information available to us about selling art via the Internet. Even picking a platform to start on can seem like an impossible task.
What if we start on one and it turns out to be a huge waste of money, time and effort?
And there's so much to wrap our heads around, even beyond selecting a platform or marketplace.
We need to learn about online marketing, which is a monster topic in itself that consists (among many other things) of creating a personal brand, building up an audience, learning what works on different social media channels and selecting the one(s) that works best for us, as well as consistently sharing our work/message with the world.
We need to learn about taxes and accounting because, make no mistake, as artists we are creative entrepreneurs. If we want to get to a point at which we're creating a consistent income from our work, we need to start seeing what we're doing as a business and not be afraid of stepping into our entrepreneurial shoes.
As business owners, we must be willing to consistently step out of our comfort zones, accept that we need to pivot or try something new when things are not working, and not be afraid to invest in different parts of our businesses. For some of us, this may even include looking for specialized courses and/or coaching.
Finally, and most importantly, we need to consistently work on our mental and physical well-being because our brands/businesses are an extension of ourselves.
The more time I spend working on building up my own business (which consists of many things aside from selling art online), the more I find this to be true.
It takes a lot of mental strength and deep-rooted determination to stay persistent with learning and implementing. To show up everyday, even when things aren't growing as fast as you'd like them to. To keep believing in oneself and consistently providing value, even when negativity is thrown your way.
I find caring for our mental and physical health is even more important as artists because, not only is what we do so personal, but most of us are working on both our art and all of the aforementioned things alone. We don't have assistants or a team to share our worries (or even wins) with.
I share the specific things I do on a weekly basis to stay happy and productive as an artist in my blog post/YouTube video titled 5 Essential Self-Care Tips for Artists and Creatives.
Because of all this, I'm incredibly thankful that we have the opportunity now-a-days to connect with other creatives around the world and learn from people who are willing to share their experiences/knowledge.
Today, we have writer and seamstress Annabelle Carter Short, who's had her own handmade business for many years, sharing a lot of useful information about selling on Etsy with us.
Let's get into her article!
The Pros and Cons of Selling on Etsy + 5 Key Tips
Many independent artists struggle to start selling their work. Not because they're not inspiring or creative, but because they lack an understanding on how to actually sell their art. If you're looking to make money off your art, consider trying Etsy marketplace for a start.
According to Etsy 2018 numbers, the platform has approximately 35.8 million active users, 1.98 million sellers, and over 50 million products listed for sale. With sellers all around the world, Etsy is a marketplace that is well-known for facilitating sales of arts and handmade products.
But, what are the advantages and disadvantages of selling your art through Etsy? And, is it right for you?
• It is convenient and has a more accessible set up than building your own website or physical shop.
• Through the years, Etsy has worked hard on its branding. It is already trusted and respected by customers looking for handmade goods. This is a huge help for starting businesses that haven't yet built up an audience or fanbase.
• Etsy has a blog, forums and a lot of resources for users on everything from product photography, customer care, packaging, taxes, branding your shop and much more.
• This platform has a targeted customer base. The audience here is not looking for mass products, and not necessarily for the cheapest ones either. Uniqueness (and quality) is what will sell.
• You can open up your shop for free in a matter of minutes and the fees taken by Etsy when a seller uploads a new product, as well as what it takes when a sale gets made, are very low compared to other selling platforms (like Amazon and eBay) or setting up your own e-commerce website.
• When you get a sale, the money is transferred to you immediately, as opposed to other markets like eBay.
• Etsy has frequent updates and you will need to always keep learning and adapting to change.
• Competition is fierce (especially for certain niches like jewelry, hair accessories, printables, etc.) and you cannot rely on the platform's search field to be your one and only traffic source. This means that you have to be very hands-on about sharing your work and growing an audience that you can promote it to.
• Though Etsy's fees are a lot lower than other marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, you will have to take them into account, as well as your shipping costs, when you are setting your prices.
• Having a shop on Etsy, means you have your shop on someone else's property. According to their Terms of Service, they can choose to suspend or close your store at any point in time if they feel you aren't playing by their rules. This means, you have to take time reading these documents carefully.
If you're looking to start selling your art online, Etsy is a great option. Through this experience, you'll be able to gain knowledge on the basics you need to succeed online like pricing, customer service, shipping, taxes, and marketing products effectively.
A lot of handmade businesses start on Etsy and move on to creating their own website/e-commerce store after gaining such experience and traction. Many of them keep selling on Etsy even after setting up their own independent shops, because they know the unique opportunities this presence can bring them.
To start on the right foot, you'll need to put some effort into understanding the platform, and how to maximize your business potential. As mentioned above, the competition is high, but that doesn’t mean there is no space for you. You just need to learn how to make people notice your shop.
Here are five essential tips for you.
4. Get found
Like with any search engine, you should make time to learn about SEO and use keywords that will help you get found. Strong keywords will help your products show up in the shopper’s queries listing.
Make sure you're using them in your title, description and filling up all available tags. Brainstorm these keywords first, try to make similar searches and check results.
- Title –Be specific and detailed in your title and use words that shoppers are actually typing into the search field (oftentimes these are very different from words we would use). Focus on using the strongest keywords here and stick to the 140 characters limit.
- Description – Describe everything you can about your product. Think about possible questions shoppers would have and reply to them into this section. Don’t forget to mention your artwork size, medium, supplies used, care instructions, and any other relevant information.
- Tags – Tags are a word or combination of words used to describe your product briefly. You can add up to 13 tags per item listing (use all of them!). Etsy suggests a few keywords to your tags, which you shouldn’t ignore! They are based on the audience’s searches to related products and are extremely useful. Without these tags, chances are your work will be hidden from potential customers.
If you need some extra help into deciding which keywords are best, you could try EtsyRank and/or Marmalead.
5. Get noticed
Every time you publish a new product, it will be displayed on the top of its category for some time. Use this in your favor and don’t upload all your products at once. Choose the best time, when most of your target audience will probably be scrolling on Etsy, and upload your products then.
Another way to get noticed is by driving traffic to your store through social media. Make good use of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and so on. Learn about what works best with each platform and select the ones that are right for you. These tools are the best solution to create awareness and engage with your potential customers.
Remember, social media is all about engagement, not only posting. Use them to create connections with potential customers and stay away from only promoting work you want to sell. Reply to questions, ask your own, and always think of what your possible clients would like to see.
Finally, start to learn about paid promotion to amplify your reach. Think of investing a small amount in targeted campaigns via Facebook and Etsy's own promoted listings and testing out different strategies.
Etsy might not be the perfect platform, but it's probably the easiest for beginners. You will have to learn about technicalities and selling strategies, but this is applicable to any other e-commerce platform.
Put some effort into understanding the algorithms, using keywords appropriately, having great photos, managing finances, and driving traffic through your social media. When you feel more confident, you could even open your own website and sell your products directly.
Annabelle Carter Short is a freelance writer and seamstress of more than 7 years. She’s passionate about selling on Etsy and starting a handmade business. In her free time, she likes to make DIY projects with her two kids. Annabelle also works with few organizations to provide the best resources for raising and educating a special needs child.
Follow Annabelle on Facebook here.
I'd like to send out a huge thanks to Annabelle for sharing her expert advice with us.
And I want to encourage you, fellow artist, to make time to establish your own artistic goals. Set a plan for yourself and get to it. Do whatever research you feel you need to do, but don't allow yourself to get stuck or overwhelmed with contradicting or confusing advice.
Take action and implement what you learn because otherwise, you'll never really know if that path will work for your specific situation.
Inform yourself, make a decision based on your gut feeling, and get to it.
As one of my business coaches always says:
"Clarity comes through engagement, not thought."
And even if a platform doesn't turn out to be the best for your own goals, you'll have learned a whole ton from taking action.
Finally, if you're passionate about your art and it's your dream to one day make a living from selling, step one is to get your skills up to a level at which you're able to offer original, quality work with confidence.
Helping aspiring artists progress their skills and find their voice is one of my passions, and I'm here to help you.
Become a member of the Becoming Artists community on Patreon to gain immediate access to a library of classes on Art Fundamentals, exclusive drawing and watercolor painting tutorials that I don't share anywhere else, as well as live Q&A's in which I answer all your questions.
Links To Useful Sites
My Artwork For Sale
Painting With Oils
Student Art Shows
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