Crafts Shows R Us #19: Online Sales in 2010

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Blog entry by closetguy posted 04-05-2011 05:01 AM 2153 reads 2 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 18: How 2010 Finished Out Part 19 of Crafts Shows R Us series no next part

This is a continuation of my discussion on 2010 craft sales. The previous blog was getting a little lengthy and since I am switching gears, it seemed to be a good place to split the narrative. If you didn’t read the last one, you should after you finish this one (or preferably before).

Just like the shows, my online sales doubled from 2009. A better economy made this possible. But I also had sales coming from sources that I have never experienced until last year. My only online store is Etsy. I have tried many different online outlets and never had anything sell anywhere other than Etsy. I know a lot of LJs have expressed disappointment with their Etsy experience, but it has worked very well for me. At competing sites I will see one or two visits a day. On Etsy I consistently get 50 to 100 views a day all year. It’s not uncommon to see those numbers hit 300+ per day during the holidays. Views don’t necessarily translate into sales, but higher views greatly increases the odds.

To me, Etsy is just one of many sources for revenue. I may go weeks or months without a sale, or I may have a big week where I am packing and shipping everyday. It would be nice to be able to make a living off online sales, but I just can’t see that happening in the short term. Shows easily outsell online sales 10 to 1 in dollars. However, Etsy does represent thousands of dollars per year in sales to me, so I work it hard between shows to maximize that revenue stream. I’ve been selling for 3 years on Etsy, and it started out real slow. In fact, it was 6 months before I made my first sale. It took me well over a year to figure out how to work and promote the store before sales finally started to increase. I could have easily given up a few years ago, but sticking it out and learning how to work it has paid off in the long run. I have a trickle of sales each month throughout the year, with a few monthly spikes, and then an avalanche the last two months of the year. I have yet to figure out how to get consistent monthly sales, but I suspect I would need a larger quantity and variety which is not going to happen anytime soon. It is difficult dividing my time and inventory between Etsy and shows. In fact, I close my Etsy store during shows.

During one forum post, a LJ made the comment that the only things that sell on Etsy are under $20. There is a little truth to that statement, because if you look at the very successful sellers with 2000+ sales, their average item is $20 or less. However, if you average their sales out at $15 per, that’s $30,000 since they opened their store. Or, the woodworker that sells his items at an average of $180, but has only sold 95 over the past couple of years. That’s still $17,000+. This is not a bad secondary income if true cost, labor and profit are being recovered. Some sellers are giving their widgets away based on their pricing. I personally don’t want to deal with small dollar items online. I sell small dollar items at shows, but to me it’s more trouble than it’s worth to package and ship something that I am only making a $5 profit. My items run between $35 and $95, and I have sold a significant number of custom orders that have run over $300. It surprised me how many custom requests I get from my Etsy store.

As I mentioned earlier, sales doubled over 2009. This is where the one man shop challenge kicks in. My last two shows of the year are in October. October was a wonderful month. It was so wonderful that by November 1st, I was burned out and had no widgets left to sell. Online holiday sales normally start taking off the week before Thanksgiving, so here I go again. I make a few items of everything I sell online, photograph them, and dump them into my store. A lot of people will mark these items as favorites to come back later and purchase, so an empty store is the ultimate sin. I then turn around and start kicking out larger quantities of each. By the time I’m putting a finish coat on the next batch, my store is getting empty. I’m packing, shipping, trying to find time to photograph more items, and building more widgets. This was my world last Christmas. My biggest sellers were lazy susans and P.O box banks. I could not make the banks fast enough and by the week before Christmas, I sold the last one said “I quit!”. I didn’t want to look at another dovetail joint for a while.

I started making the banks in August of last year. I made and sold 166 by Christmas with 110 being sold online. Not all were through Etsy. Quite a few were sold to customers who saw them at shows, or bought one at a show and ordered more, or a friend of theirs saw them and had to have one or more. I get email orders all the time from people who picked up my card at a show or saw my blog. I just send them a PayPal email invoice since they didn’t come through Etsy. After three years my web site is finally getting indexed higher in the pecking order which brings in customers from their search results. This generates email requests or a click through to my Etsy store. One customer in Texas saw my blog on building the banks and ordered 6, all engraved with his grandchildren’s names on the glass. His Son, Daughter, and Mother each ordered one after he received his. Judging from addresses of other orders, I suspect some of their friends also ordered a few. It’s like a snowball.

Email inquiries started coming in the week after Christmas from customers who saw the P.O. boxes on Etsy, didn’t buy, but now wanted one and there were no more in the store. I made up more that week, put them in the store, emailed the customers, and they were all sold by the first week of January. My online sales usually die the week before Christmas and I usually don’t sell anything for three or four months after that. This year, I am seeing consistent sales every month of P.O boxes and the occasional lazy susan. This is a welcome change from previous years. The reason I have not sold any end grain cutting boards over the last few months is that I sold most of my inventory during the last two shows in October and just didn’t have the time to make more before Christmas. The one man shop syndrome strikes again!

I believe that the online store is finally getting established and showing up higher in the search engine rankings. I think all the Twitter activity along with links from other people’s handmade subject matter blogs is also driving more traffic to my store or web site. It took three years and a lot of determination to get to this point. The result is that I can see my total online sales doing even better this year if the current trend continues and the economy doesn’t back up . It was worth the time I have invested, but I still have a long way to go (and probably more to learn).

As soon as I get a little more time, I am going to detail step by step what I do to sell on line. This will include what I have learned about Etsy, how I use Twitter in conjunction with it, and how I get mentioned or linked to from other blogs.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

24 comments so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3921 days

#1 posted 04-05-2011 05:18 AM

sounds like u r onto something

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3524 days

#2 posted 04-05-2011 05:24 AM

Another winner blog !!!! This is the kind of information sharing that we all love and enjoy, thank you for taking the time to do this for us.
These details of your experience is invaluable and I am following each and every one of your blogs. I am hoping that in the next one you may touch on facebook as a vehicle to promote your Etsy store, if that applies.

Thanks so much,

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3952 days

#3 posted 04-05-2011 06:03 AM

Funny you should bring this up now I went to a show in Tarpon Springs this past week end and for a second I thought you were there. Off in the distance I saw P.O. Box banks so I hurried over to see if it was you obviously it was not but I spent some time chatting with the booth owner asking the usual stuff then I noticed his banks, no dove tails or even box joints he did have a good assortment of types and sizes and the craftsmanship was acceptable. Then I saw his prices WOW! $95.00 to $150.00 for small ones and as much as $250.00 to $350.00 for bigger ones he said he was doing ok but I did not see him make any sales. I was kind of shocked at his prices but I only said they looked good and they did then good luck and goodbye. I try to buy some items at woodworker’s booths to help support local artists but not in this case.

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3383 days

#4 posted 04-05-2011 09:42 AM

Keep writing … I will keep reading… good info to be had … thanks..

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2866 days

#5 posted 04-05-2011 01:42 PM

I am interested to hear your thought/comments about selling on etsy. Thanks for sharing above. Again, it is interesting to hear your perspective.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3920 days

#6 posted 04-05-2011 02:53 PM

I feel that you should price your work for the most you can get away with. But you also need to be realistic. People will pay more for perceived quality, but they have a limit. We talk a lot about those who practically give their work away, but there are ones at the other end of the spectrum. It is the difference between selling 1 at a show or selling 20. If the price is too high, you narrow your customer base. I would rather sell 20 cutting boards priced so I realize a $60 profit per board versus selling one for a $120 profit. It’s all about cash flow.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3910 days

#7 posted 04-05-2011 03:24 PM

Fascinating reading.
Thanks, and please keep posting.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2866 days

#8 posted 04-05-2011 03:27 PM

It is my observation of others on ets (I research others sales trends), that in terms of an etsy store it takes about 3 years to get established and sell more consistently. Even then I haven’t really find many what I would call big money makers. However, I do prefer the etsy venue over ebay (feebay) which is inundated with cheaply made inports. Keep writing, your blog is very interesting. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4301 days

#9 posted 04-05-2011 06:24 PM

I am looking forward to hearing what you have done to promote your Etsy store and increased your online sales. Your blogs have been very informative and helpful to all who read them. Thanks for taking the time to write them.

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Steven Davis's profile

Steven Davis

118 posts in 2942 days

#10 posted 04-05-2011 06:31 PM

Thanks for the online sales info! It is great seeing how it performs relative to your show sales as well.


-- Steven Davis - see me at

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3920 days

#11 posted 04-05-2011 06:58 PM

That’s what I experienced rivergirl. If I knew three years ago what I know now, I think I could cut that time frame down to about a year.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2866 days

#12 posted 04-05-2011 08:08 PM

Can you give some examples- specific to what you wish you would have done differently?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3920 days

#13 posted 04-06-2011 01:48 AM

I wouldn’t have done anything differently, just more efficiently. I would have worked to tie social network links together sooner. I detest social network sites, but I now understand how to use them to promote my store. I’ll go into that in more detail in another blog soon.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2916 days

#14 posted 04-06-2011 02:26 AM

This blog is excellent. It is great to have someone who’s “been there, done that” telling their story. It sort of ties in with my own financial planning blog for those thinking of going pro and my forum on going pro over on Tommy MacDonald’s board, run by the host of the PBS show “Rough Cuts”.

Drop over and check it out some time. It’s still new and finding its way, but I think it will be a great source of info for the craftsman desiring to go into the pro end of things and looking for advise from folks like you who have made the journey and know the pitfalls.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2866 days

#15 posted 04-06-2011 11:48 AM

I am interested in hearing more about your social networking. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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