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Selling Jewelry on Etsy - Should you do it?

Hi Jo,

I run my jewelry business full time and support myself in a very expensive city. If I moved somewhere with a lower cost of living I would give myself a substantial raise! Etsy is my main online retail venue, but it’s not all my income; I also wholesale, have my own website, sell at markets, etc. I would say most successful Etsy shops are diversified in this way. How much I work depends- during the holiday season I’m easily working 70 hours per week. Off-season I take things easy, but I’m still working of course- sketching, playing with new techniques, researching marketing, catching up on book keeping, reading about SEO, etc. So I’m not sure how to answer how much I work specifically on my Etsy shop, because working on it is also working on my entire business.

I think in the off season, I work less hours total than the people I know with corporate salary jobs. If I spent more time working on my business, I do believe I would make more money. But I am active in volunteer work that is also very important to me, and being self-employed gives me the flexibility for that.

I do know people who sell almost entirely on Etsy and do well. But even still, most business owners I know are always trying to have multiple revenue streams.

Hope that sort-of helps to answer your question!
Jenny

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Thank you for the insight! Perhaps this is too generalized of a question, but how much inventory do you feel keeps you ahead of the curve in terms of turnover?

What is your “protocol” in introducing new items vs maintaining current one’s or “collections?”

James

I started a mail order business in the late 70s. At that time all research indicated that no matter what you sell it was a game of percentages.

I heard the same from my first boss who died in his 90s a multimillionaire.

He and mail order marketing info said you are very lucky to sell 5 to10% of what you present.

I feel that has not changed much. I usually show over 100 pieces. Mostly earrings and pendants.

With whatever style you make, I feel a substantial inventory shows you are serious about what you make.

Regards,

Todd

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Hi,

My story is somewhat similar to Jennys.

I work full time out of my studio. My preference would be to sell online
only as it suits my lifestyle however putting all my eggs in one basket
makes me nervous, so I wholesale, keep work with galleries, do a couple 2
maybe 3 craft shows a year and occasionally teach or do community art to
keep me in the loop but yes I do make a good amount from my Etsy account
more before they became a traded stock but still worth the effort,
currently 80%+ comes from my Etsy account.

As for hours, its all over the place. Some weeks I might slack and work on
the house or garden and other weeks I might work 80 hours depending on the
work load. I would say that in general I spend 40 a week mostly in the
studio. When its slow I try to take time to take new photos, make
listings, and build stock parts. My Etsy account is stocked with about 200
pieces of which most are stock photos of reproducible work that I would
hope people would describe as well made classics. I do occasionally post
one of a kinds and limited editions which take time to sell but they do.

I have sold work from $20 to $3000 on Etsy, however I would say my best
selling price point is $100 for Etsy and in the galleries. I think the
hardest part of sales in any environment is figuring out the right price.
I see a lot of people on Etsy selling their work at wholesale prices and
transitioning to retail pricing seems to be where a lot of the problem
lays.

Things I like about Etsy include that they make it easy to set up your shop
and don’t charge a monthly fee to maintain your shop. They come with a
built in audience, reduced shipping rates and other stuff like analytics
that I like.

Things that I don"t like about Etsy include a lot of shops reselling items
found on Alibaba as handmade, sometimes I have a hard time looking at the
shops with poorly made and supper hipster items in it, also I feel like
becoming a publicly traded company hurt them and their artists.

One more thing I like about Etsy is that they don’t judge your work… It
goes to one of the items I didn’t like above, but if you enjoy making
multiple lines of work or are transitioning between ideas Etys lets you
show it all and test it out. Lots of places seem to really not like it
when your body of work is to different from itself, Etsy doesn’t care you
can show it all. I do like that.

If you have specific questions that I didn’t answer just let me know.

Best of luck,
Christine

3 Likes

Hi,

I find that searching “Metalsmith Jewelry” on Etsy returns nice results and shops…more one of a kind, handmade, versus commodity and assembled items…

https://www.etsy.com/search?ref=auto2&as_prefix=metals&q=metalsmith+jewelry&order=most_relevant&view_type=gallery&ship_to=US

then, sometimes, I will check off the filters: “handmade”, and "over $100…or type in a price range, like $500 to $2500…

Julie

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Wow! Orchid and it’s citizens so rock.
Thanks for everyone who is chiming in on this. I will be teaching a class soon on the Business of Jewelry. Though I have an extensive and wide ranging background in jewelry making and selling I have never used Etsy and I want to be able to speak intelligently about it.
For all of you out there…As I am gathering info for the class, what topics would all y’all be most interested in having covered in a class on the biz of jewelry?
Thanks fellow Orchidians.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo

Hey Jo - I am going to start a new thread for you, as that topic is worthy of its own thread :slight_smile:

I’d be interested in hearing about software packages that automatically calculate and track multiple US states’ sales taxes.

  • Lorraine

I think (but not 100% certain) that Square supports that.

Alec

A post was merged into an existing topic: Teaching a class on the business of jewelry making - topic suggestions?

Seth- Thanks.

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Oh wow you read my mind!

I have been on eBay for years, they’re tough on bullshit from serious to petty

Debra, could you elaborate on ebay being “tough on bull***” ? Do you mean on sellers that misrepresent?

Lorraine

I absolutely agree! I have had a shop on Etsy since 2007. The past couple of years I have taken a hit because of the economy. I love the community. Most people coming to shop there realize they might pay a little more, but they believe it is worth it to get a OOAK or custom item. The cost is minimal and you get international exposure!

Hi,

Another great shopping search phrase to find unique things on Etsy is to type in 'OOAK jewelry", or OOAK necklace, etc…or “One of a Kind Jewelry”, etc…

I will often filter “handmade” versus vintage…although I love vintage as well!

and over $100

and maybe add…sterling silver…or gold…to narrow things down…

Julie

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Oh Todd! So sorry to see your name at the bottom of this letter. Thank you for sharing, however. I haven’t registered a trademark yet, nor any of the pieces I’ve made for the very reason you mentioned above. I don’t have the money to pursue a legal case anyway. I can see why you did with such a hot seller and fairly large specific market.

I have sold on Etsy for over 7 years and my experience has been pretty good. Because I use unusual stones, artifacts and fossils, so far I have not been copied. It would be hard to copy the things I do. In any case it has been a good venue for me even though I am high end…I seem to attract the people who like unusual pieces from all over the world. I don’t sell huge amounts, but quite enough to make it well worth using the venue.
Carole

It is some funny timing to see this show up. After several years of playing around with online stores and whatnot, I’m officially making the shift back to wholesale this year. I had originally sold in galleries and stores, but as time moved on and the efforts of wholesale crept up while the margins moved down (along with wanting more time with my young kids), I thought it would be better to go the online route. After messing around with it for several years, I have decided that it just isn’t worth the hassle. As others observed, this may not be an issue for more inexpensive goods ($25-500 range or so), but it would seem that as soon as you go above around the $500 mark, sales drop-off dramatically. I’d love to hear anyone else’s take on this, but my experience and interaction with clients/customers has been that a lot of jewelry is just too personal to purchase online. It’s one thing to take a chance on a $250 ring, but no matter how many pictures or videos you have, there’s no substitute for seeing $3000 item in person and this becomes even stronger when you get into artsy-style stuff. It’s different when you are doing basic designs that are more generic in nature (main-stream jewelry, standard engagement rings, etc.), but as soon as you get off the beaten path in your designs, there’s nothing for the customer to reference in their experience. They’ve likely been multiple jewelry stores and can easily envision how that platinum ring with diamond pave`looks in person, but that more “artsy” design. . .? They’ve got no frame of reference and have to rely solely on the pictures/videos and that’s just asking too much when spending that kind of money. Sure, there are outliers, but by-and-large, they’re about as rare as hens teeth.

The one exception to this is if you are also in-stores yourself yet still have an online presence. When I first started, I was wholesale only, then I added in a retail website, then I eventually stopped wholesaling all over the course of probably 10 years. It was when I stopped wholesaling that sales really dried up and I believe it was because no one could see my work first-hand anymore and there was a lack of confidence in buying online. It lends a certain amount of validity to your site if you can show you are in brick-and-mortar stores. People are still skeptical about making large, unique purchases online from moderately-obscure sites like your average independent jeweler. Having a physical retail presence I think gives the customer a lot of confidence that you’re not some fly-by-night outfit that’s going to leave them high and dry once they’ve made a purchase.

Anyway, that’s may basic take on it. Now to head back to the bench to begin revamping my line and ironing out all the details in wholesaling again. Oh how I’m NOT looking forward to contacting stores and galleries and such again. . .

Erich C. Shoemaker

Hi Erich - here are a few of my own comments on this. Obviously only one person’s opinion :slight_smile:

Our primary business (CustomMade.com) makes fully custom jewelry, and we are 100% online and growing very quickly. You are correct that it is very challenging, but I don’t think it’s impossible. It does require very good systems, people, processes, and marketing materials to do it, and those cannot be developed quickly and easily. In fact, we purchased back the CustomMade website specifically to build this business.

Our average order size is a lot higher than this, and while it does require a great deal of back and forth and a lot of imagery/sketching/CAD work, it is workable. However… we are truly 100% custom. Everything is actually made from scratch for you, whether your piece is $300 or $3,000. I do agree though, that selling commodity product gets VERY challenging. People today want a purchasing experience, not just a product.

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