“You should sell that on Etsy!”

I love yarn in all its fibers and colors and weights (except fingering and lace weights which are terrible). I love knitting needles and crochet hooks in wood and metal and plastic. And most of all, I love to knit and crochet things with yarn and hooks and needles. I love the process as much as, if not more than, the finished products. It’s so relaxing when I get in the groove and my hands automatically make the motions and out comes this smooth fabric. I can make attractive, useful things out of string, and that’s awesome to me.

Because of all of that, I end up with a lot of knitted and crocheted things. My kids have a lovely assortment of hats, a few scarves, some fingerless gloves. Even the husband, who doesn’t typically wear these things, has some. I have some, my siblings and mothers and nieces and nephews, they all have been on the receiving end of my yarn-loving habit. I love it when I wear my knitted items out in public and get compliments, especially the surprised look when I say I made them myself. What usually follows is some variation of “You should sell those on Etsy!”

Well. Yes. Believe me, I try. I know these people mean well, and I do take it as a compliment because they’re saying they think people would pay money for something I’ve made, and I appreciate that. But it’s also frustrating, because it implies a simplicity that’s not there. I’ve been on Etsy for several months now, withΒ 22 items currently listed. I’ve paid for promoted listings, not a lot but some, and in that time I’ve sold a whopping two items. I’ve made $3 more than I paid to promote the listings. I know there are a lot of factors at play here: am I listing the right kind of items? Am I tagging well enough? Is my ad budget high enough? Am I not being patient enough? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. All I know is that it doesn’t appear to be the right business model for me, at least right now.

I’ve done several craft shows, and all of them have been more successful than Etsy has been. For my stuff, it’s about the colors, touch, the feel, the fit–those are the things that make my pieces sell. I use high-quality fibers that make my prices a bit higher than things made from acrylic, but it’s hard for someone to see the difference on a computer screen. And even in craft shows, my booth is different than a lot of the other yarn booths because there’s so much variety on my table. I don’t pick two things and make them in every color. It’s rare for me to have even two of anything. I create based on the yarn, and very few yarns want to be the same thing. I know I would probably benefit from some duplication, and there a few hats I want to make in other colors, but I’m never going to be the booth with stacks of the same hat. I’m not disparaging that, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not how I like to work. I don’t want to make stuff based on what I think people want. I want people to want what I make.

So I’m a little discouraged right now. I’m struggling to figure out where to focus my business energy right now. There’s a handmade market in a really cool downtown area that’s looking for vendors, and I’m seriously considering submitting an application. You set up the booth and they man the store and process sales. The monthly fee, plus commission, is less than I’d pay for the average craft show. Really, the only hitch right now is that I don’t have any furniture to set up in a booth. But I can see that in my future. You sign a three-month contract, and based on the traffic I’ve seen out there, it would totally be worth it. And today I signed up for a big, well-known, three-day craft show in October.

I guess I’ve got my answer. I need to step back from Etsy and focus on the personal connections. I’ll keep Etsy open, but I won’t do more promoted listings. Instead I’ll invest my money in booth fees where I know people will actually see my pieces. But for now, since I’ve got a little time, I think I’ll spend a little more time making stuff for me.

What are your tips for a successful knit/crochet business?

27 thoughts on ““You should sell that on Etsy!”

  1. I completely agree, I have had no luck in the world of Etsy. Between the fees and amount of product, I tend to get lost in the “jumble” as well. If you ever discover the secret to selling on that site, please share!! Otherwise, I’ve done the same, sticking to craft fairs in my area!

    • Oh, thank you! I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one! I know some people are successful at it, so I thought maybe I was just doing it wrong. πŸ™‚ It’s okay, craft shows are more fun anyway!

  2. I’ve never tried a craft show before. That sounds like a lot of fun!! πŸ™‚ From what I can tell, artful photography is a key component in a lot of successful Etsy shops. Other than that, maybe some of these stores have a customer base that comes from outside Etsy? Maybe driven by a podcast or blog of some sort?

  3. Unfortunately, the people who shop Etsy are DIYers themselves. FO’s don’t do well, but supplies do. If you were dying yarn, you’d have lots of business πŸ™‚ I’ve had the most success with branded items on Etsy (and by success I mean, only slightly better than you!) If you just want a stupid red hat, you can get that at target for cheap, no reason to pay handmade prices for that. But if you want a hat with your favorite band on it, or you sons name, or a video game character, those are the personal touches that Etsy offers.

    • I agree with some of what you say–the branded, unusual items definitely seem to fare better, but I would argue that it’s more about uniqueness than desirability. You’re going to get fewer results searching for a “Wonder Woman knit headband” than a “red knit beanie”, so sure, the odds of selling might be higher. At craft fairs, I’ve sold lots of “stupid” hats that could be bought at Target etc for cheaper, and people buy them because they appreciate the higher quality of the materials and workmanship, and maybe even to support a small business.

      But like I said, I agree that the more unusual items with brand tie-ins are going to fare better on Etsy, so now I have to decide, what do I do with that information? Do I make those kinds of things specifically to improve my sales on Etsy, or do I continue making the things *I* love to make? I think I’m leaning toward the latter, and hope that I can continue to find people at craft fairs who appreciate handmade.

      • If you want to make what you love, I think craft fairs are the way to go! In person, you can sell your items and of course, they sell themselves better when they can be touched and tried on.
        Somehow, internet shopping is associated with quick, easy and cheap. Etsy can be a great tool, but with hand knits it’s a challenge for it to be the only tool. It’s a challenge to sell knitting for any sort of reasonable price, in any venue is what it comes down to. No one is going to be pay $10/hr plus materials for the gorgeous shawl I just knit. It would cost $800. This is why we knit in the first place after all πŸ™‚

  4. I knit a lot and I think craft shows or selling by word of mouth or place your products in a boutique is the way to go, I have only looked at Etsy once and it was so overwhelming, I never went back. I prefer to touch and feel and look at the color and the quality of something handmade before I make a purchase. Best of luck to you πŸ™‚

  5. Etsy can take a while to work out, but if you have good photography and item descriptions, it can work out. I’m starting to have sales that don’t come from my Facebook page, just Etsy, and that’s amazing. I hope you find customers who can see the quality of your work and are willing to click that Add To Cart button πŸ™‚

      • I’d be happy to help out, would you like me to do a little shop critique? I’ve become a bit of a nerd when it comes to Etsy πŸ˜‰ To answer your question, ‘a while’ for me was around a month, but I sold via my Facebook page, not directly through Etsy… That took a lot longer, months, a year even!

      • Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle and constructive πŸ™‚ Could you email me instead please? Just so I don’t forget (Leonor.calaca at gmail dot com) x

  6. An aside–those folks selling “branded” items on Etsy are setting themselves up for a world of hurt if they haven’t received permission and paid licensing fees. Anyway, I’ve been very successful on Etsy but I sell vintage linens and handmade chocolates and have far less competition that crocheters and knitters do. I can tell you, though, that success on Etsy does not come quickly or easily–it takes a lot of work, especially in the area of getting noticed. I wouldn’t bother with the paid promotions. I’d focus on building stock and improving your photos. I think using live models would help a lot. And you haven’t filled out your shop policies–that can scare potential buyers off.

    Oops–I’m sorry–you didn’t ask for a shop critique! But your finished work is every bit as nice as other sellers’ and you could probably supplement your other sales with Etsy sales, if you make a few changes!

    • No, thank you, that’s great feedback! I’ve been thinking of taking new photos using my daughter as a model, so you only reinforced that. I’ll look into the shop policies and see what I need to add. I really appreciate your thoughts!

    • So far, I’ve received one cease & desist through Etsy, from Burberry of all places. As long as you cease & desist, the matter is closed. I’ve got a couple pieces with Prince’s symbol on it, I expected those to be the items to get nailed. His people are notorious for this sort of thing.

      I’ve actually found most of the bands I’ve used to be appreciative of the work, but they’re not hit makers like Prince. I’ve got a KISS design in the works, specifically because those fans will buy anything branded with their favorite band. I’m curious to see if I get a cease & desist from them. They are master branders, they’ve put their images on everything over the years.

  7. When I was selling on etsy before I read that to get noticed you need at least 100 listings. This makes sense to me as that’s 1300 keyword tags and 400 images that can be searched for plus descriptions so the liklihood of being found increases

  8. Good insight. I think you are going in the right direction for your products since they are more upscale and one-of-a-kind. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  9. Pingback: The Day of No Knitting | bonnyknits

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