Can you make money on Etsy? My Etsy side hustle adventure: Happy Monday folks! You may be here because you wonder “Can you make money on Etsy?” My answer is absolutely. If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’ll know I love starting side hustles. Let me tell you about one of my favorite ones that I had from September 2014 to September 2015.
I had an Etsy store. What did I make? Car shift knobs made from pool balls. It sounds pretty niche, and it was.
Can you make money on Etsy? My Etsy Business Story: How did I get started?
My story: I stumbled upon my niche because I wanted a pool ball shift knob for my own car. I wasn’t able to buy one pool ball (I think I wanted the black 8 ball) but I couldn’t find a cost effective way to purchase one pool ball, so I bought a set.
Little did I know that I accidentally just started a business..
Using a drill press I got from my late grandfather and purchased a set of drill bits and taps from Harbour Freight, I created my first shift knob. It wasn’t pretty but it did the job.
I posted up my creation to one of the car forums that I frequented at the time and I started to get asked if I could make these pool ball shift knobs for other people. Of course, wanting to get rid of the remaining pool balls was my priority so I happily agreed.
After a week or so, I sold all of the pool balls in the case for $12-15 per knob. Considering the set of 16 balls was $19 shipped, that wasn’t a bad profit at all! ($12 x 16 = $192. $192 – $19 = $173!)
The fun continued and I kept getting requests for orders – so I kept buying more poolballs.
Can you make money on Etsy? My Etsy Business Story: The first roadblock
Everything was going great until the admins of the site began to notice. They said because I was not selling a specific product and only taking orders, I was technically a vendor. That sounds great, the problem was that to be a vendor there was an $800 yearly fee to sell on their site! Ouch! I knew that this idea had merit but I wasn’t willing to go all in, spend $800 on something like this.
It was time to move on to other avenues.
I had an Etsy account before this. The shop I had was created was focused on selling old records that I found at yard sales. Needless to say, I never sold a single record.
I was expressing my frustration about getting kicked off the forum to one of my friends. They suggested I check out Etsy as it was the perfect place for what I was doing (creating custom awesomeness).
I reconfigured my shop, renaming it the “Custom Shift Knob Shop”. I began to post up product and quickly began to get traffic and requests. It was a little intimidating at first, getting messages and requests for orders from people but I worked through the learning curve and began to operate a small business.
Into the Rabbit Hole..
Everything was going pretty smooth with this little side business. I had a fun pool ball shift knob on my car, I was selling to other people, it was great. Something was missing however. I wanted my own unique knob. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and wanted my own Millennium Falcon knob. This wasn’t something that you could buy either.
The next challenge came to creating the shift knob with an image on it. How do I find the image? How do I attach it?
I found a vinyl cutting company that could take images I wanted and cut them out on vinyl paper. I could then take the vinyl image and put it on the knob. Easy, but it felt a bit primitive. I wanted to have a product that was more refined, not to mention – durable. The vinyl sticker would come off pretty easy and I had issues with bubbling because I was putting a flat sticker on a spherical surface.
You can see the fold on the back rounded side. Needless to say, I was not happy about that.
Conceptually, it worked. I even got a little more elaborate and began incorporating painting. The knob pictured above was black paint with metallic flakes. My thought at the time was it was like space and stars. I knew this idea could hold water but I wanted a better product.
Can you make money on Etsy? My Etsy Business Story: The break through.
By switching up my process, I figured out that I could paint an initial color, let it dry then place the vinyl on it. Using a heat gun, I could shrink the vinyl to the ball (no more bubbles!). Following that, I would paint a second color, let it dry and then peel the vinyl. Once everything was done, I would dip it in 5 layers of high strength polyurthane. Needless to say, my custom product was born!
I decided to also improve my flexibility of what I could offer. A suggestion from another friend was “why don’t you just buy your own vinyl maker? They’re only $300 but there’s a sale right now”. So, I bought a vinyl maker and began to make my own vinyls!
Now I could actually make true custom knobs. I began to get more complicated requests on Etsy as well. People wanted all sorts of complex images. I was limited by my ability to only use one color for the image and one color for the knob.
I managed to get creative in a few products and use 3 total colors one time!
How much did I make?
Can you make money on Etsy? I sure did. Looking over everything, my income varied quite a bit. When I first started in September of 2014, my profit was -$1.50. This was due to paying for vinyls to be made and only selling two knobs. The next month, $61.71. November: $140.00. This income continued to rise until I cleared $435.00 on August of 2015. Not a bad little side hustle! After looking everything over, I cleared around $100-500 per month depending on the time of year (holidays were huge for me) and what inventory I had.
Why did I stop?
The shop was doing well. The amount of orders I was getting was steadily increasing which was nice. The problem was that I was also working a full time job and this shop was becoming it’s own full time job. I would have to come home from work, begin orders, spending 1-3 hours per night on the creation process. If something happened where the order had an imperfection, I would need to restart everything. Very time consuming.
At this point, I had created an LLC (which I still don’t know why I did that) and had a few contracts with other shops where they would sell my product. It was beginning to become alot.
My breaking point: I hit my breaking point one day in September. I was off that day from work, planning to relax the whole day. Unfortunately for me, overnight I received a request for 3 orders. All custom and elaborate. I began making the orders. It was a very humid day and nothing was working to make my paint dry properly. I remade each order atleast 4 times. I am burning through material trying to complete these orders and nothing was working.
It finally hit me. There was no way to scale beyond where I was with this kind of business. I was setting myself up to work this job indefinitely. I had finally had enough and decided to throw in the towel. The side hustle was not profitable enough to replace my job but consuming lots of my spare time. I wanted to look into other avenues that were more passive (i.e – Real estate) and working a full time job, side hustle job and real estate investing would just be too much.
I refunded the orders and closed down the shop.
What did I learn?
Overall, I had a great time with my Etsy shop. It was really enjoyable making the products and interacting with the customers. I learned how to operate a little Etsy shop business and learned how to set up an LLC. Meeting with other vendors was exciting and taking an organic approach to making a business. Reflecting on it now, after several years – it was a good time.
Can you make money on Etsy?
It depends on your idea. Considering that Etsy has been out for a while, any idea you would come up with has to be solid, novel and niche. There needs to be a market. Unfortunately, it is hard to test where that market is without making the business. Etsy only charged me when I sold something, which is nice. It lets you build an inventory and only pay for what you sell.
Advertsing: I used Instagram like it was going to go out of style. Between the hashtags and shares, Instragram provided my shop with a ton of traffic. I experimented with paid traffic but it never worked out. The product was too niche and didn’t have mass appeal. People were looking for that item specifically. Can you make money on Etsy without good advertising? It’s possible but it’s much easier to embrace social media.
If you are someone who is crafty, motivated and business minded – sign up and start your store. There’s really no downside. If you sell products, great. If you don’t, then it was a fun hobby. Can you make money on Etsy? It depends if there is a market for what you sell. Advertising helps.
How do you get started?
Making an Etsy shop is pretty easy, you click on “Sell on Etsy” and build out your shop from there. Making the shop is pretty straight forward. So recapping here, can you make money on Etsy? Absolutely.
Do you know someone who has an Etsy store? What was their story? Leave a comment below!
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