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So this is going to make the rounds:

Wired.com: How Etsy Alienated Its Crafters and Lost Its Soul

I'm surprised this article got posted on wired, it's a very limited perspective, no data to back it up, and nothing about what etsy should be doing. Just about how it's wrong.

Her main complaint seems to be that etsy is "too big" which leads crafters to feel like they have to undercut prices to compete with the giant marketplace. So basically capitalism.

Last year I celebrated my 4000th Etsy sale. No, I am not quitting my day job, but it's been a fun past time and creative outlet to sell items on Etsy. I started out making zipper pouches, then realized the fabric I was designing for the zipper pouches sold even better, so now I sell fabric that I design. Ta-da.

Etsy has a nice forums area where sellers can talk to each other, and it's basically a pool of misery. Those of us who are selling are busy packing up our sales every night and making things. It's the sellers who aren't selling who go to the forums and feed off each other's anger. "I haven't sold anything all week!" "I haven't sold anything in TWO weeks!" "Nobody is selling anything! It must be..."


Usually, people with low sales are just trying to peddle stuff nobody wants to buy... bracelets that we could all make ourselves, redundant hair bows, letters wrapped in yarn... and no one is brave enough to be honest about it. So that's criticism #1: Etsy doesn't make magic sales unicorns descend upon every shop.

This is tied in with criticm #2: Etsy is too big, and allows too much stuff competing with *me*.

And everyone has their own line. When I started on Etsy, I was a bit surprised to see that 2D artists could sell prints in the "handmade" category. It made it hard for me to find original paintings and artwork. For some reason, everybody was okay with prints. But when Etsy changed their policies last year to say that just like an artist could use a printshop, a 3D artist could get a company to laser cut their art, people went nuts about Etsy allowing "manufacturers".

The truth is that you can read any seller's bio, find out just what part they play in the process of making stuff, and decide for yourself whether to buy.

Full disclosure: I personally am not growing my own cotton for this fabric I sell, kids.

Etsy is in a difficult place. They're a site for independent people who don't need big corporations... except they're a corporation. A store for people who hate stores. There's no better way to line yourself up for complaints and criticism. And they're negotiating tough lines... like the "what's handmade?" line.

It'll get even weirder when they go public, as they just announced an IPO... there will definitely be forum-mites saying that the sky is falling when Etsy has shareholders to worry about (and I can't blame them... shareholders actually are scary). But they're not even public yet! So 2014 was definitely not the year to lament the loss of etsy's soul!

I won't say Etsy is perfect. But I will say that when I visited their headquarters last year, saw the nice things they're doing for their community, for girls in technology, for the planet, I thought okay. I'm okay with paying these people 20 cents every time I list something up on their site. They're doing a pretty darn good job.



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2015 04:34 pm (UTC)
That is very cool! I'm on Etsy too - I used to be far more active on it, back when I was doing almost nothing at work and had a bunch more free time. Because of this post, I just returned to Etsy and opened up my little shop again after my winter vacation.

I sell about one thing every three weeks, and haven't added anything new since last summer. I may close down altogether, or this summer I may start going to estate sales again, depending on how I feel with this autoimmune disease.

Since I'm in the vintage game, sometimes I check to see how other people are photographing items, and boy, some folks are the worst at it. I just can't even.

I honestly feel if I wanted to make Etsy work for me (and eBay too), as a solid side job or even real job and then let my husband pull in the majority of the money as a senior developer at SAP, I could. We've talked about it. I live in Chicago, which is bursting with estate sales and dead peoples' stuff, just waiting to be put onto the internet. Man, now you're making me want to quit my job and do this thing.

Oh hey, thanks for the add, by the way! And I like your store! I just followed you - I'm PolishChopSuey on Etsy.
Feb. 21st, 2015 11:57 pm (UTC)
I think the vintage category needs to be monitored better than it is.
Feb. 22nd, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
I think you're right, if what you mean is 'things should be at least 20 years old', then definitely. People play fast and loose with those rules all the time and it irritates me all the time.
Feb. 22nd, 2015 01:03 am (UTC)
That's what I meant. People were selling lamps that I bought five years earlier at J. C. Penney. That is not vintage.
Feb. 21st, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC)
It is a little reminiscent of the old joke, "nobody goes there anymore: it's too crowded."
Feb. 21st, 2015 05:12 pm (UTC)
My cousin has an etsy store. I should ask her how she's feeling about the place now. She makes a lot of cat things. I agree, though, on the whole complaining about sales. As you said it's either selling something nobody wants to buy or marketing.
Feb. 21st, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC)
I read that yesterday and my reaction was pretty much, "boohoo, that thing I liked became popular and now my products are less discoverable and there's more competition." Meh.
Feb. 21st, 2015 06:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the add!

I tend to look for every specific kinds of things on Etsy, and usually have no trouble finding anything. I guess my only complaint is all the non hand made things that are now part of the site. I need to filter my searches. That is it. I have a number of friends selling on Etsy and they work very hard to market their things. It is what you make it, I guess.

Your fabrics are very cool. :)
Feb. 21st, 2015 06:30 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you have had so much success on Etsy. That's awesome to have so many sales. After ten years, I haven't broken 100 sales and I was there from the beginning. It was a hard lesson to learn that offline sales were my best bet and no amount of promoting or buying those one day spotlights would help. It's really hard to keep sellers happy, especially when something is so hit or miss as arts and crafts. It's an offline problem as well.

But, I wish I could love the site as others do - the forum format isn't attractive (and there were all those bannings and mutings five years ago), the keywords used to be very poor (non-preferred terms were not mapped to facing terms, meaning different search results - that's probably changed now). I worked on e-commerce websites for seven years and knew the potential that Etsy had...if only they would embrace it and get a real strategy going. Thank goodness Artfire came along as it forced Etsy to upgrade a lot of things like the shop dashboard. I'm on Artfire too, and for a while I had more sales there than Etsy.

I am a vendor at an upcoming comic expo and once that's over, I'll put more effort into my Etsy shop for digital downloads. After ten years, I finally found something that worked :-D Shipping from Canada is slow and expensive, and customers don't understand that. I plan on doing more laser cutting as well once I figure out how to maximize the $22 shipping fee from Ponoko.

I can see why people lose their minds about artisan crafts vs. craft craft though. It's much like how old school photographers feel about digital. People who have spent years building their studio practice with a BFA or MFA are trying to figure out why people who put charms on chains call that handmade. It's grar that is never going to go away :-D
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 23rd, 2015 03:03 am (UTC)
No, charms on chains never get old :-) I took a metal working class, but I wasn't proficient enough to create my own charms. Your work is really nice though - especially the nest necklace!
Feb. 21st, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC)
Usually, people with low sales are just trying to peddle stuff nobody wants to buy... bracelets that we could all make ourselves, redundant hair bows, letters wrapped in yarn... and no one is brave enough to be honest about it.

You are spot on about that. When baby hair clips and flower hair clips were all the rage, everyone was making them! And yeah, no one is honest about it. Maybe it's because online sellers haven't been to offline craft sales where people will say that right to your face - "I can make it!"

Mom no longer makes handmade dishclothes unless they are for friends. There was an explosion in them and crafters were going as low as $1 (the ball of cotton costs $1.79 at Michaels). Mom couldn't move them for $2.50!
Feb. 22nd, 2015 03:50 am (UTC)
I've been a seller on Etsy for about three months now, and we hit 100 sales this last week. We've been happy with it for the most part, but I don't expect Etsy to sell my stuff for me -- it's just my cash register. I mainly get my customers to the till via Facebook groups comprised of my target market and by using good keywords, etc, for searches.
Feb. 22nd, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
I'm a buyer and seller on etsy. I've never once sold anything. Never. But it's not etsys fault. My art never sells on the internet. I sell in galleries. I'll sell out entire shows but because my art doesn't look as amazing photographed, no one buys it.
Feb. 22nd, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
I love how they complain that David has become like Goliath - that's kinda what happened in the bible too: little shepherd boy David became big powerful king David who didn't always do nice things.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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