To Etsy or Not to Etsy?
I think the possibility of selling work on Etsy passes through the minds of many an artist. I had opened up a shop about five years ago but quickly lost interest when other shiny objects came into view. This year I put it on my list again and thought I would give it another go. I thought this time might be different. But again, nothing much came of it. I had high hopes at first but then quickly realized that I was not willing to invest enough of my time or energy into making it successful. The shiny object syndrome was partially to blame but this time there were other factors that led to my demise. In this post I will cover the most likely causes of my failure and why I didn't chose to learn from my mistakes but rather packed up my stuff and moved elsewhere.
I was very hesitant about the relationship between Fine Art and Etsy. I wanted to make money, yes, but did my work belong on Etsy or in a Gallery or both? Can the two worlds coexist? I never was quite sure on the answer to that. And I think that was a big reason why I didn't throw my full weight into it. I took the time to do the initial set-up and marketing research but struggled with feelings of selling out. Now don't get me wrong, I believe that there is definitely room for Fine Art on Etsy but the types of art that falls within the Craft to Fine Art spectrum is very broad and I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that what I was doing with my work was okay but in reality knew that I was never going to feel one hundred percent comfortable - dollar signs and the promises of potentially consistent income aside - it just didn't feel right for me.
Even if I could get out of my head, I wasn't willing to commit to the large amount of work it takes to keep a shop up and running. The constant updates, news feeds, and other marketing strategies were not fitting into my already tight schedule. I had made a list, as you know, of things I wanted to accomplish this year in regards to my professional practice and after a while of no sales I knew that the amount of time it would take and where this particular goal fell in my priorities didn't match up. If this is a singular goal, (or one of a lot less than what I had!), I can see how this venture could be successful for some. You really have to spend the time to set your shop apart, know your audience, develop your brand, really hone in on a niche. I just wanted to put small reproduction prints of my work up and hope for the best. This obviously did not work out well and I knew that if my heart was really in it I would be approaching it from a completely different angle. I kind of set myself up to fail without admitting it to myself at first. This wishy-washy attitude does not bode well when you are paying for listings every month with no sales.
In order to shine some light on the positive aspects of Etsy and how some artists do make it work, I've enlisted the help of Jill Glad of "Awake Your Soul", a successful shop owner on Etsy with a Fine Art background. Jill just so happens to also be a former student of mine and I couldn't be happier seeing how much success she is having with her sales ~ 1326 to date! I asked Jill if she wouldn't mind sharing a bit about her experience with Etsy and I love what she has to say.
I actually think I found success on Etsy by refining my work until I saw sales. I originally opened with all original watercolors and one of a kind home decor. I had a photography friend take really great pictures and I listed about forty items. I made no sales for over a month. The day I edited a watercolor with lyrics over top I literally made a sale within two hours of it being up there. I only had about five lyric art prints and I was making at least a sale a day.
Now that I have over 300 items I actually do pretty well week to week. I have had a few art bloggers feature me, and also by launching an Etsy Instagram page I have gotten more exposure. I think one of the things that helped me with the success of my shop was the variations that a single print can come in. With a single one of a kind art piece there is less opportunity for a sale. By offering art prints in varying sizes and colors I began appealing to a wider customer base for a single item. Also, the fact that I offered customers the option to request a custom order has really helped me take off.
I actually love having the shop, it keeps me creating and is a great source of extra income. I put every single penny into savings and we have that totally as a safety net or down payment on our next house. As an artist it's awesome when I can use my creative talents to also meet a family goal!
Love the strength and success in her experience. Such wonderful words.
Two totally different stories - one shared message. Be authentic, love what you do, and don't settle for anything less. My heart just wasn't in it. It wasn't for me. But as you can see by Jill's story - it is for some. Etsy has the potential to work for you, but you have to want it. So as always, don't put your energy behind something that is less then your dream, let your passion be your guide and you can't go wrong.