Shop Etsy

Etsy Sellers’ Economic Impact

Nov 7, 2013

by Juliet Gorman

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

We’ve been hearing for some time now that the middle class is shrinking in the U.S. and that our representatives in government want to focus on creating good-paying jobs. But by focusing only on traditional full-time employment, they are neglecting the steadily growing community of micro-business entrepreneurs — like Etsy sellers — right in their backyard. Etsy sellers are a serious economic force, often overlooked or misunderstood, whose work is not captured by traditional metrics. We’re reminded just how powerful of a force Etsy sellers are every time we speak with a seller whose partner lost their job in the recession and relied on that extra income to pay the bills or a seller whose 9-5 job was leaving them feeling unfulfilled and constrained.

But those stories were largely anecdotal, and we wanted to measure the reality — and diversity — of Etsy sellers’ economic impact. With the help of the independent research firm, GfK, Custom Research, LLC, we conducted an anonymous online survey of 5,500 active U.S. sellers on topics including sources of start-up capital, motivation for starting a creative business, and how income from Etsy shops is used.

Here’s what we found:

  • Etsy sellers don’t identify as hobbyists; 74% consider their Etsy shops businesses, and 91% aspire to grow their sales in the future.
  • Etsy sellers are 88% women, 97% run their businesses from home, and they’re geographically dispersed around the US.
  • Income earned on Etsy makes a real difference in people’s lives — it is used for household expenses, discretionary spending, savings and more.
  • Etsy sellers are characteristic of a larger shift to flexible work; 18% sell goods full-time, and only 26% have other full-time traditional jobs.
  • Etsy shops are a new kind of “start-up” that aren’t run by stereotypical Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who want to quickly grow as big as possible; Etsy sellers are independent, self-sufficient and want to stay that way.

You can download the full report here. We’ll be using our findings to urge policymakers to acknowledge the economic power of micro-businesses and to adapt public policies to support and promote them.

22 comments

  • TheGoodOleDays

    Lisa Haley from LovinTheGoodOleDays said 5 years ago

    What an interesting, informative, well-written, and inspiring report. I highly encourage Etsy sellers to grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and take the time to read this report. Spot on, Etsy!

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy from worksofwhimsy said 5 years ago

    "Etsy sellers report higher levels of education and lower household income than the general population."

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams said 5 years ago

    Somehow most of this information does not come as a surprise, at least not to me. Hanging out in the forums, reading the Etsy blogs, and looking at Etsy shops gives a pretty good picture of who sells here and why. But it is probably worthwhile to conduct surveys and create reports to increase the understanding of social and economic trends. It may be unfortunate that Etsy sellers have lower household income than the general population, but many of us feel the trade-off is well worth it. We may earn less but our lives are better for the work we do, and our businesses are our own. I for one hope never to work for any employer, besides myself, ever again. I am grateful for the opportunity, through Etsy, to make that dream a reality.

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy from worksofwhimsy said 5 years ago

    Did admin see this report before making the recent policy changes? "The vast majority of Etsy sellers — 91% — want to increase their sales in the future. But when asked about the size of their shops in five years, very few aspire to be “as big as possible”; the strong majority of sellers – 61% – want their future shops to be “a size I can manage myself.” They prioritize independence and long-term sustainability over growth for growth’s sake."

  • BuzzPlanet

    Brandi from PuurBody said 5 years ago

    I agree with Penny, Etsy sellers often start selling BECAUSE of a loss of income, so it makes sense that Etsy sellers would find themselves with a lower income than the national average. In many cases, Etsy earnings can make a huge difference for a family, so the benefit cannot be measured purely by income levels.

  • coastalsoul

    Sunny from CoastalSoul said 5 years ago

    Thrilled to be a part of the 18% that creates full-time! I do realize that the work is 100% mine to do, but I am grateful to Etsy for being a wonderful selling platform to get established.

  • caridadisabelbarraga

    Caridad Isabel Barragan from BarraganPaintings said 5 years ago

    I'm happy and proud to be part of an alternative economic model.

  • themissingpiecepuzzl

    The Missing Piece Puzzle Company from themissingpiecepuzzl said 5 years ago

    I quit my day job and now create all day long. I love being a part of Etsy and the marketplace. Although I also sell outside of Etsy, I love the marketplace because I'm just a little fish in a large pond. Selling on Etsy gives me a sense of pride, as I know that each and every puzzle that I make is with my own hands and not from a cheap press... Etsy represents quality.

  • Sparkleandswirl

    Hillary from Sparkleandswirl said 5 years ago

    Being able to fulfill yourself creatively and being able to make a living or at least part of your living off of your work is amazing.

  • EyeCandyQuilting

    Brandi Mayville from EyeCandyQuilts said 5 years ago

    I am one of the people who started my etsy shop from a loss of income. When my husband returned from his tour in Iraq, work for an Infantry soldier just wasn't knocking down the door. However, since I have started, I've seen an increase EVERY month, have expanded into retail in 1 location so far and am going to college next year for "Business Management and Textile Design" to get "as big as possible"! Using Etsy as a catalyst is a great way to get a business off the ground. My story of how Etsy saved us during the recession is featured in the December edition of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine too! None of it would have happened if I hadn't started an Etsy shop. I say GO FOR IT!

  • irinisklavounou

    irini from IrinisWorld said 5 years ago

    I am in my early sixties and have been a self employed artisan my entire life. It is hard to imagine the measures i have taken in order to keep up and not to compromise my chosen lifestyle over the years and let me tell you etsy has now made it about 1000% easier. Maybe the hardest thing of all was dealing with an enormous inheritance that came late in life. There was no way we were going to let monetary riches get in the way of our happiness so we spent the entire lot on building a residential arts and crafts center for teaching and retreats. It was entirely handbuilt over a period of twelve years directly by ourselves along with the ongoing help of hundreds of volunteers looking to experience 'creative lifestyle' and now we are again living hand to mouth looking to make our next sale. The challenge of self motivation is the spice that makes for vitality in life and there is no way i would swap that for a well paid job in the corporate world

  • realfaery

    realfaery from realfaery said 5 years ago

    With my hubby we are full-timers on Etsy. We have less income, true, but we managed to adjust our lifestyle to this, and we have a much better life then before when we had better paid jobs.:)

  • maxlucchina

    Massimo Lucchina said 5 years ago

    Hello Juliet and ETSY team Extremely interested survey report which is helping a lot in looking at new business models and how they are impacting the society. I am not ETSY seller. I also live in country where the human network and the build/craft/plant process to produce "something" for others locally is a major culture aspect of the society. And policy makers are very very sensible and listening to those demands from the population. The peer-economy and the micro-business is more real and offers great opportunities to address all the macro-issues listed : destruction of the middle-class, compressed wages which are consumed by increase of taxes or destroyed by job elimination, response to job creation in a labor market which is compressing… Finally this approach can be and should be supported and helped by local government to address the segment below SmallMedium BUsiness Juliet and others, I will be happy to talk live with you and BizDev team on the attention that government and local funds are putting to find new segments and business models even in a country like Switzerland. Thank you Massimo

  • BearNY

    Anna Andreeva from BearNYforyou said 5 years ago

    I was start to work with Etsy a couple weeks ago, but very happy! Cause i can combine the main job and Etsy shop. Hope that Etsy will replace my main job :)

  • monnbootmarshall

    Claire from MoonbootStudios said 5 years ago

    I love creating on Etsy full time! I would rather make less, work more and have it be on my own terms than work for some high pressured corporate nightmare job (been there done that!). Etsy is the start of my new horizon and even though i lost my job I rely on my design talents to support my family and couldn't be happier. My husband and I art artists, this is what we do and well, here we go!

  • GoldhawkPotteryEtc

    Sara from GoldhawkPotteryEtc said 5 years ago

    I look forward to reading the report. I started on Etsy during a period of unemployment and have kept it up during various periods of full and part time employment. I think its a great model and I encourage others to try it out. I'd love to make pottery full time but I don't see how it can pay all the bills but I do it a solid half time.

  • pohusky6103

    Patricia OHUSKY from Pattyspumppouches said 5 years ago

    I love the opportunity to help others .....My inspiration to make insulin pump pouches came from having a diabetic grandson. He was diagnosed when he was 19 months old. Now at the age of 3, he started wearing a pump. My daughter asked me to make one for him , and the rest is history. The big problem we had with him was wetting thru his pouch at nite and sometimes during nap time because he likes to sleep on his stomach. So I decided I would " try " to make him a pouch that we could interchange with another one while washing the wet one. And so that is how I got started. I don't claim to be a professional seamstress....just a Grandma trying to make a little boy have a cute pouch so he doesn't get too caught up in all the fuss over having to wear a insulin pouch...love to see his smile when I bring him a new one!

  • Douvintage

    Delux vintage from Douvintage said 5 years ago

    I love this report, it is so true. I started my shop just because i didnt want to go back to work full time in the retail world. It was exhausting and i wasnt fullfilled. So i decided to pursue my Passion of Designer Vintage clothes and it worked. I love my shop and love meeting customers from all over the world, who have become even friends. There is no site like Etsy. I hope it stays this way for a long time. My shop has become a great way to supplement the income in my household and really allows me to do other things with my boys. Thanks Etsy

  • torysvic

    Vic Torys from GiveMe5ive said 5 years ago

    I love it!! ♥

  • bflirty

    Linda from FlirtyDivaTees said 5 years ago

    Women 18 to 108 who targets this age group? ME

  • sagebespoke

    Adela Sivewright from sagebespoke said 5 years ago

    I have two children with special needs and have used the governments carer payment to supplement my husband's income for 16 years. I know I need to get work soon but after so long out of the work force caring my choices are limited. I don't have any money for training programs yet and a brief stint at housekeeping was fulfilling personally but left me with tendonitis. I also still have to extra care for quite a few years yet. I turned to my Year 12 sewing skills for relaxation and creative release but now I am hoping to use them for some income. And guess what - Etsy offers FREE training -- in the form of their seller handbook. That has to be a bonus. There are also many professional craftspeople selling on Etsy which, while daunting, is an incentive to always learn more and be 'lifting the bar' Adela Sivewright.

  • anandasandra

    Sandra Ananda from ChikkVintageBazaar said 5 years ago

    I keep imagining how amazing it would be if we, women, who are Etsy's movers and shakers, got together and made our voices heard. I love selling here and the creative side of it, however, it really breaks my heart to read that most of us have below median income.

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