Monday, July 27, 2009

How Much Money Will I Make Selling on Etsy?

Call me materialistic (or perhaps practical), but whenever I start researching a new online venture, one of the first things I want to know is "How much money will I make?" It helps me determine whether the new site -- say istock photo -- is worth some of my interest and time. And if so, what are realistic goals to set for attention spent, income potential, and growth. And frankly, I can never find the answer.

So without further ado, here are some completely reliable and some completely guessed-at etsy stats.

If you are relatively new to etsy and have a nice, but somewhat common product (such as wire-wrapped earrings) with decent but not great photographs and spend 10-15 hours per week on your shop, you annual gross income from etsy will be:

$512.72

Yep, that's all. And that's before expenses. It's less than $1 per hour, and you'd make more money weatherizing your house or cutting out an extra latte here and there.

But wait, if you instead have a somewhat unique item, with great photographs and spend more than 20 hours per week, you could make up to:

$3618.13 per year

Which really isn't too bad, but again, there are much easier ways to make money. Like having a couple of great garage sales or clipping a whole lot of coupons.

Okay, okay, but what if you get really, really lucky, have a completely amazing product, work 80-100 hours per week and become one of the top etsy sellers? Can you really Quit Your Day Job and support your whole family?

Sort of.

Last year, the top three handmade sellers on etsy each grossed around $100,000. Several supply shops probably did even better. But after that, it drops off pretty quickly, with most other sellers in the top 100 making closer to $10,000. With about 90,000 active etsy sellers (according to a recent etsy talk), your odds of making $10,000 per year are better than winning $10,000 through the PowerBall, though not by a ton.

So if you're not in it for the money, why in the world would anyone want to sell on etsy? Quite frankly, it's fun. It's a community of other creative women. It's flexible--and can be done from home, as a second "job," or while little ones nap. People will pay you for your arts and crafts, which is greatly rewarding. And even a smallish amount of additional income can sometimes make a big difference. Plus, in addition to direct income, your etsy shop can help bring recognition to your goods outside of etsy, such as wholesale accounts and blog mentions.

There's been quite a bit of talk lately about whether etsy is a "female ghetto," or promoting a false sense of hope of the ability to make a living from crafts. I find that most of these articles are filled with inaccuracies and generalizations. At the same time, I think it's important to have realistic goals of what etsy specifically can do for you. Piddix is currently #6 in sales in the handmade category, and while honestly I could make significantly more money in less time at a "day job," I wouldn't trade it in. In no way is etsy a way to get rich quick, but with way too much work and hopefully an equal amount of fun, it can definitely be a way to supplement an income by doing something you find rewarding.

28 comments:

cartolina said...

Congratulations for being number 6 in the handmade category Carinna - you deserve it!
Excellent post BTW,
Fiona

Gifted Designs said...

I have a feeling many people wouldn't trade for it either...there's something about being your own boss doing your own thing that so far outweighs the money you can earn with your average 9-5...

Wee Sandy said...

These figures are completely random and not accurate. Many Etsy sellers do much better than this, even in their first year. In fact, if the seller is advertising or promoting AT ALL, s/he can expect to earn much more than you state here.

TheBrassHussy said...

Congrats and how exciting! I plan to beat the lottery odds of making that $10,000 on etsy this year.

Tumus said...

Good post, i like it. Makes sense, the more time you invest the better your outcome :)

FancifulFlair said...

"In no way is etsy a way to get rich quick"

There isn't anything on this earth which is considered legal that will make you rich quick.

Also, Show us some exact numbers! You could be pulling these stats out of thin air. We need links and cold hard facts.

piddix said...

Yes, I'm totally working on some specific stats now. I had no idea people would take the different stats so seriously, but I'm excited about it, too. I'm compiling them now and will post them all here soon.

piddix said...

For those of you who are curious, here's a more specific breakdown of where I drew my guesses and numbers:

1. Top sellers are listed here:
http://www.etsywiki.com/index.php?title=Top_Sellers

These are only listed by total number of sales of items, rather than by income, so it is definitely weighted toward supply shops and sellers who sell a lot of less-expensive items. It is also not complete or completely updated, but not too bad. It would not account, for example, for a shop that sells 10 items per year that are $200 each, but that is fairly rare (see #2).

Other top seller lists, also with their own quirks, are:

http://www.etsybynumbers.blogspot.com/
http://www.yaami.com/etsy/top-sellers/

2. Here are some stats for the average price of items sold. It only goes through 2007. It is interesting in that the average sales price of an item is around $13-$15, but the vast majority of items are even less, with very few being over $100.

http://www.etsywiki.com/index.php?title=Selling_Stats

This meshes well with a more recent summary of items sold and average price per item by LooseWireStudio:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/loosewirestudio/3623821375

She has some other stats on her flickr site that are fun to look at as well.

3. The figure of 90,000 active etsy sellers comes from a recent (July 2009) visit by etsy to Portland and I believe was said by Anda. They define active as having listed at least one item in the past month. This jives well with the number of sellers on etsy who have at least one item in their shop (163,193 today):

http://www.etsy.com/shops_sellers.php

4. Etsy publishes a monthly "weather report" of some statistics:

http://www.etsy.com/storque/search/title/weather-report/

For example, $12.8 million of goods were sold in June. That's $148 per month ($1773 per year before fees and such) for every one of the 90,000 active sellers. And yes, that's simply average, with plenty of folks making more or less.

5. According to an article on cnn.money (http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/13/smallbusiness/etsy_wars.fsb/index.htm?postversion=2009071517):

"the site's top three sellers of handmade products all claim six-figure annual revenues."

Here's more of the quote (with her name removed):

"Leading seller XXXX appeared on The Martha Stewart Show in March. XXXXX was shocked when Stewart announced that her guest ran "a six-figure business." Only Etsy knew her gross revenue; XXXX had never wanted it made public.

"Etsy was selling the idea of being able to quit your day job really hard," she says. An Etsy spokesman admits that the site used to boast -- without naming names -- that its top sellers made six figures.

piddix said...

6. You can look up how much money a U.S. business claims on its taxes at http://www.manta.com/. This is the total amount a business claims and obviously would not be limited to etsy alone, but is still something that I found interesting and factored in. For privacy reasons of other sellers I obviously won't list any stats here, but I did take it into account.

7. With some basic math, you can take a look at the majority of the top 100 list, plus most of the "Quit Your Day Job" series, and see that there's not many people getting super-rich. For the $10,000 figure, it's totally not scientific. Basically, I looked at almost all of the top handmade sellers on the etsy wiki list and did some basic math. For example (and I'm making this one up since I want to respect people's privacy as much as possible), 5000 sales at an average price of $7 over a 24 month period = $17,500 per year. This one I may have underestimated on a bit, but if anyone has any stats, I'd be curious to see. This is also where I talked about it dropping off quite a bit. That a shop could be on the top 100 handmade list of sellers on etsy with less than 3000 sales shows that by quantity, there are very few people selling thousands of handmade goods.

I should also say here that I come up with the "Handmade" difference by simply excluding the shops on the etsywiki list that are listed as supplies. My own shop falls into the weird area of being considered both handmade and a supply by etsy, so I am definitely not the typical handmade seller.

8. The first two figures of the "average" etsy shop making $500-$3000 are totally made up (by me). You'll notice I put at the top of the post that the stats are "some completely reliable and some completely guessed-at etsy stats." This is a rough figure that I came up with by looking at some of my favorite and best-known shops--people I know who have good products, good photos, and put in a decent amount of time. I looked at their average price per sale and average items sold over time--probably 20 or so shops total. Like I said, totally a rough number, and based on my own personal experience as well. But I honestly don't think it's too far off or I would not have put it in. Hopefully a little understated.

piddix said...

9. Finally, a couple of random stats where things get confusing. One, I mostly only looked at the handmade section, and didn't really address supplies at all. But the 90,000 active sellers does include supplies. Also, I tried to only look at gross profit (total income), rather than net. So this does not account for etsy fees, taxes, supplies, etc. Shipping wasn't something I accounted for at all.

In closing, I am totally not a statistician, which is probably obvious. But anytime I have come across a mention of how much an etsy shop makes in the news, I've kept track. If others have come across other stats I would love to see them. And I don't mean this to be a negative post at all. I'll tell you why I wanted to write this. In January I was featured as part of the "Quit Your Day Job" series:

http://www.etsy.com/storque/spotlight/quit-your-day-job-piddix-2880/

At the time I had more than a handful of people who wrote to me saying that they had been recently laid off and wondering if etsy could be a viable option for income for their whole family. That's a really tough one, since I do believe that there are much easier ways to support a family than relying on etsy alone and I wouldn't want to give someone false hope about it. From personal experience I can say that is is TOUGH to make a true living only on etsy, especially if you have things like a mortgage, health insurance, or are the only income in a family--but not completely impossible.

The other reason I wanted to write it is that recently there have been two fairly negative articles talking about how little estians really make, the first one which relies on stats even more poorly gathered than mine:

http://www.doublex.com/section/work/etsycom-peddles-false-feminist-fantasy
http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/13/smallbusiness/etsy_wars.fsb/index.htm?postversion=2009071517

So I created this as part of an ongoing discussion.

Let me know what you think, and thanks.

Lara said...

Wow. That's really interesting. I had no idea Etsy was being criticized for "peddling false feminist fantasy".

...more thoughts about this later....

Happy Birthday, by the way : ).

AutumnAndEve™ Illustration said...

So if you're not in it for the money, why in the world would anyone want to sell on etsy? Quite frankly, it's fun. It's a community of other creative women.

----------

And men too...

Cassandra Truax said...

Very nice post. Even without hard numbers, I found it balanced and humorous. You made some very nice points as in get rich quick, versus nice side income, versus a day job.

-Cassandra Truax
firepotter & apacheart

piddix said...

Thanks ladies (and men). Yep. There's definitely some holes in my math, but hopefully still some bits in there that are useful or at least interesting.

FashionTouch.etsy.com said...

I certanly not relying on my Etsy income. I had a day job and soon will be looking for the new one, my husband has as well and he runs rental business. This is our major income. I started selling on etsy because I cant ever wear so many scarves I love to make, not even my relatives/friends. So, it is nice sometimes and I am proud of it to buy a gazeebo with the money I have earned one etsy, or start the home library with etsy money help. Of course I would not mind at all to be more successful with my etsy boutique :))

Congrats on being #6 and wishing good luck to everyone!

Elena
http://fashiontouch.etsy.com

Kylie B said...

Oh wow Thank-you for a Fantastic read!

Frenchell said...

Great Read! Loved it! I do believe you get in what you put out. I see that with my business, when i work it hard and do what i should be, i do well..on those days i am feeling super lazy...my sales are super slow

Monica from Urban Bead said...

I think these estimates are fairly accurate for someone who makes craft items. When i began Etsy back in 2005, I was not the Etsy -holic I am today. I would post an item, let weeks or months pass before checking on my shop, and i probably made around $200 - $500 the whole year. Now, my shop is more of a part-time job, everything is improved: photos, quality of work, customer service, packaging, etc and now I may make seven to ten times those amounts in a month. In no way can i sustain life in So. California, but it is nice extra money.

Thanks for addressing this very controversial topic. Many folks should know what to expect with the amount of work required to have a successful shop.

alexkeller said...

Great post, Corinna. I had read both of those articles, as well. I think you're great at what you do. Honestly, I'm not interested in making anything with your collage sheets, but I find you helpful, knowledgeable and insightful, which is why I subscribe to your newsletter. I've been selling on Etsy a short while (only since March), but I never expected to support myself with Etsy income. I used to work for a bank, do loans, and review business financials all the time. Most businesses fail and most don't turn a profit for years. And most small business owners don't like to show a lot of income because then they have to pay taxes on it :D
keep up the good work!
Alex

iozl said...

Hey Corinna - things aren't any better on the "men's" side of the house; all my woodworking blogs show a lot of folks hanging up their ww business to trade it in for something more lucrative. Also, this weekend I dropped of 2 big logs out at a local urban wood harvester, and he's basically gone out of business.
You are definitely one of the fortunate few if you can scrape by doing what you're doing.
(& of course I'm joking about the men's thing - I just thought your comment in your blog post was funny...)

piddix said...

It's funny iozl; I asked my husband to read the post before I put it up and he commented on the "community of creative women" as well. I countered that etsy is something like 95% women. But sure enough, seems like there's still a couple of men out there ;)

Thanks everyone for the nice comments.

Zu-Li Designs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AmDrm said...

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www.amdrm.com

Jessica Wrasman said...

Interesting post. Good points made for the pros and cons of Etsy. Despite being a for-money trade, I think it is a hobby as much as anything for most Etsy-goers. If someone is on Etsy, they enjoy the products and the hunt just as if they were window-shopping. For me, a sale is a cherry on top. Nice post!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/jessicawrasman

A Lewis said...

Thanks for the informative (if not completely statistically perfect) article on how much an Etsy seller can expect to make. I really really would love to make Etsy my day job. I don't really keep track of how many hours per week I devote to my shop, but I'd guess between 10-15. I treat it like a real part-time job.
Although I'd love to promote my shop here on your blog, I'd rather keep my identity more private and give you my income statistics for reference. Last month (Sept 2012) was my all-time highest revenue month since I opened Nov 2010, with over $530 in sales. My previous record was just under 500. My average over the past 12 months was almost exactly $300 per month, but my monthly average THIS year has been 336. So I have been steadily making more money on average per month. If you only look at the past 4 months (June - Sept) my average has been $391 per month, because sales have really taken off lately. The longer you keep up with your store, the easier it is for people to find you. I basically just relist items that sell well, and once in a while add new stuff.
To sum it up, I devote a moderate amount of time an effort, and I earn the equivalent of an extra 1/2 to 3/4 of a paycheck doing it. Plus I LOVE having people tell me all the time that they love my work and they want me to make something special for them. It's very rewarding and I'm not going to quit "etsying" any time soon.

Anne said...

Golly -- if I made $100 a year there, I'd be happy.

Anonymous said...

hmmm i think there are some etsy store that do make a heck of a lot of money.. I've seen some jewelry stores selling mostly rings with 2000+ sales and most of their items are priced from $500 right up to $4500. I was never good at math but I'm sure that is a lot of money.

piddix said...

Hi "anon." I first published this article almost four years ago now, and yes, etsy is much, much different these days. It used to be very rare for any handmade person selling on etsy to gross $100,000, but now I'm sure there's way more people making not just a living but a decent one. I'm aware of at least a dozen friends just in my circles who are doing quite well. Hopefully that bodes well for artists and crafters in general.