I joined Etsy in 2008 almost immediately after I was the required age: 18. I’ve grown with Etsy, starting as a teenager and now almost pushing 30. I’ve learned so many new skills and improved the ones I have. The Etsy I use now is almost unrecognizable from the old Etsy I started with. The knowledge I gained from learning how to sell on Etsy has helped me in countless ways in my life both on and off Etsy.
Photography, post-processing photographs and Photoshop, SEO, writing effective descriptions, interpreting data from Google analytics, customer care, packing and shipping, more about the post office than I ever wanted to know, Quickbooks, and some business-related legalese.
I apologize in advance if I get any of this wrong; please correct me if I do! This is based on things I remembered and dates I managed to track down. Warning, this will be a long post. Be prepared for major awkwardness.
Etsy launches. I turn 15 and have no idea what an Etsy is. I’m languishing in highschool and hoping there’s something better in the future. The green jacket you see on the right was found in the attic. of an abandoned house, guarded by an angry vulture.
… three years pass…
Year 1: 2008
- Etsy flourishes despite the recession. An exponential number of people are drawn to Etsy’s innovate selling platform.
- Etsy rival Artfire launches in 2008
ME: I start my Etsy shop in the shadow of the Recession, listing a couple odds and ends. I’ve been somewhat crafty all my life but this is the year that I brought my craftiness online. I’m inspired by all of the “DIY” upcycled clothing I see on eBay (especially those band tee shirts), completely smitten with Smarmy Clothing. (http://smarmy-clothes.deviantart.com)
- My first offering to the public is a short rainbow printed skirt. I almost have a heart attack when I receive the email that I’ve made a sale. The buyer informs me that they will wear it during roller derby. My skirt had found the perfect home.
- I begin my community college career of indefinite length and begin to learn about Photoshop.
Year 2: 2009
ETSY: I think this is the year Etsy adds the ability to connect with Google analytics to track page views and traffic sources. Nifty! April Winchell launches Regretsy, which promptly goes viral. Etsy-ians read and laugh, but anxiously check to make sure they aren’t the newest featured craft-tastrophe.
- Etsy publically launches its Developer community and API. Developers are now able to connect with Etsy and collect data about product listings and favorited items.
- Zibbet launches their beta site.
- Etsy sellers are now able to submit their product data RSS feeds to Google’s Product search via their Merchant center. This allows their products to be indexed in Google’s product search. Yay!
ME: Four days a week (sometimes more) I haunt thrift and antique stores, looking for treasures of all kinds. Some of my sewing projects find new homes.
- I make Etsy’s front page for the first time with my bikini assembled from random fabrics. Well, maybe not the front page exactly, I’m chosen as an “alternate” in case one of the featured items sells and a spot needs to be filled. I make “alternate choice” for the front page three times this year.
- I acquire my first DSLR camera and manage to fill an entire memory card in a day. I subsequently become fused to my new camera for several months.
Seriously. Pictures of everything.
- I master the Photoshop pen tool.
- My oil painting career starts and ends quickly.
- I completely master the art of the “elastic waist poufy skirt”
- And the “upcycled halter dress”
Year 3: 2010
ETSY: A few new nifty features are rolled out this year in Etsy history.
- Sold listings are now able to be renewed! Sellers rejoice! Before this any “hearts” you get on a listing are lost every time the item is sold (at least, I think that’s how it works).
- Etsy lets students from MICA work on its website; I sulk inwardly and question my life choices, wishing I went to MICA.
- Etsy sellers are no longer able to submit their product data feeds to Google Shopping, and Etsy announces their plan of Google product search syndication. Google now requires marketplaces like Etsy (Amazon, Ebay) to submit feeds on behalf of their merchants.
- Coupon codes are introduced, shop owners can create discount codes for their customers.
- This might seem irrelevant at first but bear with me. I find a large snail and keep it as a pet. Snaily the snail is immediately beloved by everyone he meets. I decide it would be cute to take Christmas-themed photos of him to send out as Christmas cards. It sounds cute to me, but I guess cuteness is subjective. I can’t knit so I decide to outsource and create an Alchemy request on Etsy. The minute I begin measuring the snail for a sweater is the minute I start to realize how crazy this idea is.
My Alchemy request for a “festive knitted snail sweater” is spotted and featured on Regretsy. I see it, and am unsure whether to laugh or be mortified.
Snaily tries on his sweater, says “NOPE!”, and refuses to come out for photos. Sweater is put away, Snaily rejoices.
- I make Etsy’s front page with an awesome pair of vintage snakeskin hologram high heels (yes, you read that correctly) made from an indeterminate species of snakes that evidently subdue their prey by being fabulous.
- My kitten Oy debuts on Etsy’s front page. Cuteness abounds.
- I’m officially able to add this coveted badge to my listing:
- It took a little over 16 photos to capture that one angelic image.
- I master the art of the animated .GIF
- I become better at Photoshop.
- I sell my first vintage sewing pattern and my obsession with vintage sewing patterns begins.
Year 4: 2011
ETSY: 2011 is an extremely busy year in Etsy’s history, many changes are made to their selling platform.
- Alchemy (Etsy’s feature which connected buyers with sellers– wanted-ad style) “takes a rest” and disappears indefinitely. I feel ambivalent but secretly sad, I never manage to win any of the Alchemy requests I “bid” on.
- Etsy implements its new shop statistics system; users can access their shop views and view charts with other statistics. After following a very long and complicated tutorial, users can find their very own google “UA”, copy and paste it into Etsy, and wait impatiently to see the magic of Google Analytics.
- Etsy changes its search default from recency to relevancy, which helps to level the playing field between sellers who would relist. And relist. And relist again.
- In an attempt to increase accountability with feedback, Etsy makes buyer’s real names and their buying history public. Not very many are happy with this release of information. I double-check my past purchases, looking for anything I might need to have an explanation for. Etsy promptly changes buying histories back to private after everyone gets scared.
- The time machine, recently listed, and pounce features on the front page are discontinued.
- Promoted listings (ads) on Etsy starts. This ties in with the search default change from recency to relevancy. Etsy anticipates that sellers who relists their products for exposure will now purchase ads instead.
- Etsy now allows sellers to change their shop names, with admin approval, on a case-by-case basis.
- Etsy releases its very first iPhone app!
ME: This is my best year (by far) on Etsy. I swim in a sea of vintage sewing patterns, there are boxes everywhere and I spend many hours counting pattern pieces, watching the X-Files, and making sure I don’t prick myself with rusty pins and get tetanus.
- Some of my pattern listings are featured on a blog about pattern pricing: http://hand-quilter.blogspot.com/2011/03/whats-value.html .
- One day I walk outside and encounter a pile of cardboard boxes taller than me. I get excited initially since my birthday is right around the corner. Maybe they’re awesome presents? Maybe my boyfriend remembered my birthday this year? No. I apparently misjudged the amount of space that the $200.00 worth of bubble mailers that I ordered would take up.
Year 5: 2012
ETSY: People grow increasingly uneasy on Etsy in 2012, unhappy with Etsy’s inconsistent rules regarding what constitutes a handmade item. Etsy introduces “circles” which let you follow (or stalk) your favorite customers and Etsy sellers. People figure out how to exploit this feature and make bots to add EVERYONE to their circle. Favorite spam bots also make their rounds.
- Etsy debuts its new “Direct Checkout System”, stepping up as a payment processor and providing buyers an alternative payment method to Paypal.
- Shipping labels!! Sellers are now able print shipping labels directly off Etsy! Sellers do a happy dance.
- Heartsy closes in 2012. Heartsy was a third-party website which featured different handmade sellers each day with discounted vouchers for their shop, like Groupon. Heartsy was a prickly topic: sellers would overextend themselves and lose money, buyers who purchased vouchers sometimes did not receive shipment of their projects. Some felt that Heartsy devalued handmade, while others saw it as a chance to grow and gain exposure. The co-founder of Heartsy goes on to create Tophatter.
- Etsy for iPad is released.
- Etsy purchases Trunkt, a wholesale marketplace that connects artisians with buyers. Trunkt becomes Etsy Wholesale.
ME: Early spring I begin developing a new project: my butterfly wings.
- I’m referred to as a respected seller who knows her patterns. I get so excited when I read that!!! http://afewthreadsloose.blogspot.com/2012/08/vintage-bra-patterns-and-what-theyre.html
- I officially retire my clothing mannequin. A high school theater teacher buys her for their stash of props.
- I change my shop name to vtgsewingpatterns, a name change is long overdue.
- Although my views increase substantially, my sales decrease by almost half.
- I sell my first pair of butterfly wings. Well, actually they were luna moth wings.
Year 6: 2013
- Etsy: Etsy changes its policies about outsourcing and manufacturing.
- Etsy completely revamps their feedback system. Sellers cannot leave ratings for buyers anymore.
- The sort of patronizing “kiss and makeup” feature is discontinued. The kiss and makeup feature let sellers offer to rectify any problems to buyers who left negative feedback.
- Shipping profiles are enabled; sellers can create shipping profiles for different items and update costs in bulk.
- The five-star feedback begins– no longer is feedback just positive, neutral or negative. Seller anxiety skyrockets.
- Etsy sellers are now able to sell digital items directly on Etsy. Customers can download their files from Etsy immediately after payment. Sellers of PDF patterns, clip art, and other digital items rejoice.
- Adobe switches over to a subscription service only model, many experience mixed (@#$$@#@# RAGE!!!) feelings.
ME: I am almost officially burnt out on my vintage pattern obsession and decide to focus on school for a change. I add a few new types of wings.
Year 7: 2014
- Etsy changes the structure of its forums. A new section called “chitchat” is added for non-Etsy related discussions, a section for “Promos” is also added.
- The “Sell on Etsy” iPhone application is released
- Etsy changes search ads to CPC (cost per click).
- Etsy introduces a card reader that synchs with their website, like Square and Paypal credit card readers.
- Etsy wholesale is (finally) launched.
- Etsy clarifies its guidelines regarding outside manufacturing. For years Etsy-ians have fought about what a handmade item is, and how handmade is enough to be “Etsy legal.” Etsy now requires sellers who use components manufactured by a third party to complete an application for outside manufacturing.
ME: I make and sell over 70 pairs of wings. So. Many. Wings. I purchase a new mannequin/dressform.
- I learn enough about InDesign to become dangerous.
- 2014 is a rough year for me outside of Etsy. I only ended up adding two new kinds of wings.
Year 8: 2015
- Etsy launches Etsy Manufacturing. Sellers are now able to search and network with Etsy-approved manufacturers.
- Amazon unveils their new Handmade at Amazon marketplace, which is described by some as an “Etsy Killer.”
- The new listing manager is launched.
- Pinterest launches a new feature: “buyable pins”
- Calculated shipping, a thing many sellers dreamed of, is finally launched. I do a happy dance.
- The bulk listing editor BETSI is banned (sad face)
- Etsy goes public this year, and investors are now able to buy stock! The initial IPO is priced at $16. The price rapidly rises, peaking at $31, then declines steadily.
- Etsy introduces its new blue buy-it-now button to entice buyers to click.
- To try and prevent last year’s wing-making burnout I launch craftyanne.com and post my first tutorial on making butterfly wings.
- My variety of butterfly and moth variations increases.
- I release my awesome T-Rex Dinosaur Poodle Skirt
Year 9: 2016
- Etsy discontinues featuring Treasuries (curated collections of handmade items) on the front page, instead replacing it with a more personalized experience for the buyer.
- Etsy introduces Google shopping ads, where sellers can pay to promote their listings in google’s product search results.
- Pattern, by Etsy, launches. Sellers can buy their own domain and have the look of a stand-alone website while utilizing the convenience of Etsy.
- The bulk editor Vela is released, a viable alternative to BETSI. Vela lets users quickly edit their listing descriptions and titles, it also offers advanced functions like adding or removing text from multiple listings at once.
- I apply for Etsy wholesale and am accepted (as of 2017, I am still working on my linesheet.)
- I submit my application for the approval of outside manufacturing, as required by people applying to Etsy Wholesale. If I were to purchase my fabric from a regular brick-and-mortar store (such as Joanns) I wouldn’t need to apply for outside manufacturing. But because I design my fabric and have it printed by someone else I was required apply. That same topic is discussed in more detail here: https://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/discussions/discuss/13808625/ Sometime in the future when I have a spare 20 or 30K, I might look in to printing my own fabric.
- I get a Mac and rage when it constantly autocorrects Etsy to “easy”. I figure out how to add Etsy to the dictionary and stop raging.
- I realize my Etsy shop name LovelyLepidoptera is hard to spell and no one can pronounce it. I’m not sure if I’m even pronouncing it right. No one knows what it means and I’m starting to get embarrassed trying to explain it. Etsy approves my shop name change request; I am now known as “CraftyAnnesArtistry.”
- Etsy takes the backburner for a few months while I get married and we move into our first home. I question my sanity for choosing an October (my busiest month of the year) wedding date. I make a few wedding decoration purchases on Etsy!
- I begin offering butterfly scarves.
- I add several new kinds of wings.
Year 10: 2017
- (Wishful thinking…) space for more than 5 images? I’m usually able to condense my listing photos down to 5 but sometimes I wish I could add more than 5.
- I would like to continue making crafty tutorials and connecting people with fun new projects to work on.
- I would love to make about a billion pairs of butterfly wings and finish making my linesheet for Etsy wholesale.
- I would also like to connect with other creatives and collaborate on projects.
- I’m writing this post in Dreamweaver because I always seem to mess up the formatting in WordPress.
After all this time, I honestly still feel like I’m a work in progress and I’m always running. My brain is sort of like a jar of marbles, a jar that you accidentally dropped on the floor. When I started out I thought that I might get to a point where I could sit back for a minute and breathe. By now I realize that won’t happen. Partially because of my personality, and partially because that isn’t how owning a business works. You grow and adapt to what the market is asking for. And your brain will never rest, you’ll always be thinking of ideas and filling up sheets of paper with your frantic scribblings. And you wonder if (or when) you’ll get your laurels to rest on.
When you own a business you look back a lot, and wonder what you could’ve done better, and sometimes fear that you’ve put all your time and money into a large pile of useless rubble. And sometimes it does feels like you’re constantly rising out of the ashes and starting from square one.
I’ve experienced moments of extreme happiness and feeling fulfilled, and other times of terrible panic and fear. Sometimes feelings from my life outside Etsy and creating would pour in. Sometimes I could literally feel my sadness and longing, my heart felt like it was caving in, as I kept trying and trying again to create something that was good enough. Good enough is hard to quantify.Good enough is doing the best with the materials that you were provided. And sometimes you must get crafty with what life gives you. I have a few things I’m good at, but along with that I have some significant limitations I try to work around.
The existance of Etsy was the defining variable of the trajectory of my life. I’m not sure what would have happened if I didn’t find Etsy or Etsy didn’t exist.