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Etsy.com started in June of 2005 as a way to connect creative individuals, crafters, and artists with the people who wanted to buy their one-of-a-kind handmade creations.
According to Etsy’s about page, there are now over 100,000 Etsy members (from all over the world) who use Etsy.com as a place to display and sell their work.
Because of Etsy’s popularity, I’ve had several requests lately to review it—and while it’s not solely a fine art site (the focus is really on crafts and handmade items) it’s certainly possible for fine artists to use Etsy to display and sell their art.
One of the main things I’ve always liked about Etsy is the design and usability of the website. Etsy’s layout is very user-friendly and visually appealing—probably the best I’ve seen when it comes to art-related websites online.
It also has a huge number of visitors each month. In fact, over the past year Etsy has been fast approaching Art.com’s numbers.
I feel safe in saying, however, that a small percentage of users (the Etsy members themselves) are actually creating the majority of the traffic rather than outside shoppers. This happens with most artist-community sites.
So what does that mean for artists wanting to sell through Etsy?
Simply this: if you can find a way to bring your own potential buyers to your Etsy shop (through an art blog, by word-of-mouth, or in some other way) then you’ll be a step ahead of the rest. Don’t JUST depend on the Etsy community to buy your work.
You’ll also want to see if your art fits in with the “style” of Etsy. . . Most artwork on Etsy is smaller, often more folksy or whimsical, and priced far more affordably than traditional fine art. In other words, it’s not so expensive that people would flinch at buying it over the internet.
I’m not saying that there isn’t ANY high-priced art, but out of nearly 62,000 paintings (a category that oddly enough included prints and reproductions) only 4,000 were priced over $300. That means that 93% of the “paintings” on Etsy go for under $300.
Digging deeper, I found that 80% of the paintings were on sale for less than $100, so if you’re going to sell on Etsy, I’d suggest you aim for that price range as well—under $100. (You could also consider selling prints at that price.)
On any other site I might recommend going against the flow, but Etsy truly is a global arts and crafts “marketplace” with more and more items around every corner. . . and that lends itself to more of a bargain-hunting atmosphere.
Sure, that “marketplace” vibe makes visiting Etsy a fascinating experience, but in my opinion it also means that the price of your art will play a bigger role in whether or not it’s purchased than it would at a traditional gallery, or at your own portfolio website.
Now for the big comparison—Etsy or eBay? Which one’s better?
I’d say Etsy wins, hands down.
For one thing, its fees are lower than eBay and a lot less confusing. Like eBay, Etsy’s free to join, but you’ll only pay 3.5% of the sale price of your art (when you sell your work) and just 20 cents to list an item for 4 months. After 4 months, you’ll have to list it again for another 20 cents.
In contrast, the listing fees at eBay go up with the price of your artwork, plus they take a bigger percentage of your selling price.
Etsy also has some very cool ways to shop for art or handmade items that eBay can’t compete with. Its color-finding tool, for instance, will match any color you choose with items from within Etsy—and it’s really accurate.
In addition, there’s a section called Alchemy which lets people post requests for handmade items or artwork—basically a “wanted” section.
I haven’t seen this done many other places and it’s definitely a nice feature.
If you want to support local artists and crafters, check out Etsy’s Shop Local section. I quick search in the Dallas, Texas area unveiled quite a few Etsy members who had just recently uploaded new items.
There’s a lot more going on too, way more than I can cover here, like Etsy’s Forums, Chat rooms, Teams (where members can create together) and online resources and workshops. If you’re looking for a fun, friendly, and artsy community to join, Etsy’s a top-notch choice.
For selling art. . . Well, as I said before, Etsy doesn’t quite fit the traditional “fine art” image and it may not be the right market for your work. Plus, Etsy’s so big that you could easily get lost in the crowd.
BUT, if your art crosses over into a more craft, folk, or whimsical style; or if you’re looking for a better alternative to eBay, then I’d definitely suggest Etsy as an option.
If you’re not sure, just visit Etsy.com and see for yourself. Even if you don’t join, it’s a great place to spend a few hours.
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