"Having a shop on etsy has been quite the experience, both positive and negative, but I've recently been thinking about closing it down.
I did years of wholesaling to boutiques and local custom orders, and then decided to set up on etsy because many of my friends were doing so and having better luck than dealing with boutiques, As I'm sure you know, manufacturing on a larger scale can be quite the challenge.
I have always been drawn to a more artisan model, which was also the original appeal with etsy. Unfortunately, I've realised over the past two years that etsy has essentially taken a bunch of artists and artisans and thrown us into an industrial business model which doesn't work. It has become known as a 'bargain market' and is advertised that way. So people generally expect a custom made product for very little money. The average price point is far too low to deliver a high quality product. My friends and I who have been at this for years have tried raising our prices, but haven't had much luck. people tend to stick to items around the $100.00 and under. Most people I have met through etsy have had a similar experience and feel frustrated. I wish there was some editing on etsy's part, and I also wish they would help to market higher-end products. You are supposed to hand make each piece, which means no manufacturing. Hand made pieces should cost more because they take more time.
On a positive note, there is lots of potential for lots of exposure. When I was a featured seller it was amazing to see how many views per minute my items were getting. There are a lot of people looking on etsy. I think it's a great place to start out. Accessories do much better than clothing overall too. I've noticed that these types of shops do best... especially if they are styled and marketed in a contemporary and trendy way. Two great examples are Yokoo and Norwegianwood.
I would also recommend taking business classes, etc if you decide to become self-employed. it's much harder than working for someone else, so the more you know getting into it the better.
One book I love is The Fashion Designers Survival Guide. it has a lot of great tips and is pretty realistic.
When all the orders are finished I'm planning to move on to a different business model. If your students want to pursue etsy as a market place my advice is to keep the product simple. It is not the market for high-end unfortunately, perhaps this will change someday."
Thank you so much Emily Ryan for such a frank and comprehensive description of the realities of selling through websites such as Etsy. I wish you the very best of luck in your future ventures, for I love Emily's designs and hope that she achieves the great success she deserves.
Self employment is not an easy option and too often people sell themselves short and burn out, making great products, but not finding the right outlets.
Remember self employment usually means that you are designing, manufacturing, promoting, displaying, networking, packaging, distributing, bookkeeping and everything, yourself. This expenditure in overall 'business' time has to be included in the price of the finished product.
Self employment is very satisfying and of course can hopefully eventually lead to you becoming an employer yourself. I feel very strongly that enterprise and self employment, promoting creativity, invention and talent, is vitally important to make yourselves and your communities successful.