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5 Misconceptions About Selling on Etsy (and What it Really Takes to Run a Craft Business)

by Tara Gentile
craft & maker, featured

Etsy lied to us. They didn’t mean to.

Other businesses contributed to the misinformation, too. And we bought it.

We believed them when they told us we could run a successful business with babies on our hips, or after we put in 50 hours at the day job, or by picking up our creative pursuit in fits and starts interrupted by the occasional product listing or Facebook post.

We believed them when they told us the most important part of succeeding with our creative businesses was, appropriately, creating.

But as many successful creative business owners have discovered over the years, it’s just not that simple. The drive to create earrings and necklaces in the wee hours of the morning is not the same thing as the drive to create a thriving business. Dedication to your craft is not the same thing as dedication to the craft of creating a business, brand, and platform.

Those makers and designers who wait for the dream to arrive that companies like Etsy have made popular in the media are not those who succeed. The makers and designers that succeed are those who have discovered that building a craft business—with all the time and energy spent on marketing, administration, strategy, and sales that entails—can be just as fun and creative as their chosen craft.

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These makers and designers spend considerably more time on marketing and administration. They think about the growth of their craft businesses and plan for it. They reach beyond the hope that their little business can bring in some discretionary income and envision a day when their brand is mentioned alongside rockstar designers’ brands.

It’s not that you can’t have a hobby business that brings in a little bit of revenue so that you can keep making the things that you enjoy. It’s that so often the makers and designers I talk to actually want more. That’s why they’re seeking the information they need to make more money, reach more people, and grow their businesses at places like CreativeLive.

And I have a feeling that’s why you’re here too.

You’re ready for more—even if that means confronting the misguided vision of the cute and easy indie business.

Here are 5 of the misconceptions (and lies) that are out there about creative businesses:

1) Price is a function of cost.

Many creative business owners think they can properly price their products by following a formula based on what their supplies cost and how much time they take to create. But this is just one small aspect of pricing. You’ve got to consider personal and business goals, desired brand positioning, and market influences, as well.

My 1-day workshop, Pricing Your Craft, is all about nuanced pricing strategy and how you can use the price you charge to help you achieve your goals.

2) Social media is the ultimate tool for marketing your products.

One of the biggest lies that’s been told to indie business owners is that social media is the end-all-be-all of marketing. Heck, it’s free, it’s accessible, and it’s direct. It’s also noisy, misleading, and full of other people hawking their wares. Your business needs a lot more than social media to succeed. My favorite—and most lucrative—marketing channel is email marketing.

Check out Abby Glassenberg’s workshop, Email Marketing for Crafters, to find out how you can make more sales and take more control of your marketing with email.

3) It’s all about making stuff.

The #1 complaint I hear from makers & designers is that, if they do everything people tell them to do to grow their businesses, they wouldn’t have much time left over for making. That’s true. I want you to be able to do the things you love like designing new products and making orders. But I also want you to have a thriving business and that means spending more time working on your business than creating in your business.

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That said, efficiency is important. Take a look at Megan Auman’s upcoming, How to Build a Business While Learning Your Craft, to create your plan.

4) If you build it, they will come.

When all you’ve ever heard is, “Those are so cute! You should sell them!” it can feel like sales should just appear out of thin air. But they won’t. You’re a salesperson now whether you like it or not. So you might as well have fun with it! I’ve learned to love the act of selling and my favorite medium for sales is copywriting.

Check out Lisa Jacobs’s workshop, Copywriting for Crafters, for more on how you can learn to love selling through writing.

5) Every day is a new adventure.

Most creative business owners I know are working from their to-do lists, not from a strategic plan. It can be hard to look ahead and plan for the future when you’re just trying to make your business work on a day-to-day basis. Yet, your business won’t work day-to-day if you don’t know where you’re headed and why. Every part of your business should have a long-term plan for success.

Take a look at Megan Auman’s workshop, Build Your Holiday Marketing Plan, to create your marketing plan for the next 5 months.

If you’ve bought the creative business dream, there’s good news: you can run a successful creative business that allows you to make good money, create a flexible schedule, and craft products you’re proud of. The bad news is that, even though its entirely possible to get that business started on a hope and a prayer, it’s not enough to achieve your ultimate goals.

It’s time to get excited about crafting a business as well as crafting your products. It’s time to get real about what it’s going to take to create your dream and reach your goals.

I’ve done it, so can you. Join me for my class Turn Your Service Into A Product right here on CreativeLive.

Ready to tackle the challenges of selling your handmade craft projects?

Download our free PDF: Etsy 101: A Guide to Getting Started! This comprehensive collection of notes, worksheets, and slides from Marlo Miyashiro’s class, Etsy 101: Launch Your Handmade Shop gives you the tips and insights you need to launch a successful Etsy shop!

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Tara Gentile

Tara Gentile is a creativeLIVE instructor, business strategist, and the creator of the Customer Perspective Process.