From Etsy to… Selling Your Art in Galleries & Shops

So you’ve decided to move beyond your Etsy shop and consider other ways to sell your original handmade art and craft products.

Some of the benefits:

  1. 1. Your business is taken more seriously – by customers, wholesale buyers, even bankers you may approach for a business loan.
  2. 2. Moving into a more affluent market – shoppers on Etsy have learned to look for bargains. As you brand your business, you choose the customer you want to sell to. Your price range is no longer limited.
  3. 3. Developing multiple lines with different price points – You have the flexibility to market differently to different sectors, and you run the show.
  4. 4. Your own domain – Owning your own website domain is essential. That means you are not subject to limitations, rules, or being shut down. The rules are yours – not Etsy’s.

Wholesaling your work to retail stores and galleries is a natural progression for artists who want to grow their business beyond their experience with an Etsy shop. Here are some questions frequently asked by artists and craftspeople who sell their art online but wish to expand their sales to galleries and shops:

Q:  Can I find galleries through Etsy?

A:  Sometimes. Many gallery and shop owners become frustrated when they find incredible items that aren’t available for wholesale, or aren’t available in quantity. Etsy is a primarily retail venue and is seen as such by visitors.

Well-established retailers don’t have the patience to shop for new resources online. They rely on wholesale trade shows for the bulk of their inventory. It’s easy and very social. They want to see your work in person. They want to meet you face to face, and understand that you are a professional, and reliable. They want to learn about you as an artist, about your family, your dreams and aspirations. Nothing builds a business relationship like meeting in person.

Q:  Should I use my Etsy shop name for the wholesale part of my business?

A:  Be careful here. Over time the items you sell to shops and galleries will mature and probably become very different from the items you sold on Etsy. Retailers are also a little paranoid about competing with another retail store website, especially the one owned by an artist they rely on.

Q:  How can I start selling to galleries affordably? I’ve heard it’s really expensive!

A:  One way to begin is by participating in a Guild space, which is often sponsored by Etsy teams. In addition, many shows offer smaller spaces or merit awards for “emerging artist” new exhibitors. You can also save thousands in show costs by combining freight with another artist and sharing hotel rooms and even exhibit space with a buddy.

Q:  What type of booth is required for wholesaling?

A:  With Etsy you don’t have the expense of a booth display or lighting. This is your most important pre-show investment. On Etsy, you compete with the quality of your images. At a wholesale show, you are competing with lighting and display – the exhibitor with the most lights often is the winner.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on booth walls or décor. With advice from other exhibitors who have led the way, you can do it inexpensively.

Q:  How will my wholesale line or body of work be different from my Etsy artwork?

A:  Think of Etsy as your laboratory, where you can experiment with ideas and explore trends. Your cutting edge work can be introduced there. After sales and feedback, expand the idea to create a solid, cohesive body of work in a narrow but clear visual theme.

Q:  How should I change my Etsy store when I start selling to shops and galleries?

A:  Be clear in your shop announcement that your work is available in shops and galleries throughout the country. However, items shown on your Etsy Store are only available on Etsy, and not available in those stores. For a list of stores offering your wholesale line, direct them to www.yourgalleries dot com.

Q: Photography on Etsy vs. jury-style photography

A:  While it’s trendy, and even preferred, to show photos of your pieces on Etsy with a creative background, your stores will prefer a simple grey gradient background. Having similar backgrounds on your images helps them use those photos next to each other in advertising, postcards, and other websites.

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  1. Donna Thompson says

    My 2cents worth:
    The average product on Etsy sells for around $17 (you can figure this out by the statistics Etsy puts out each month). Most products sold on Etsy are craft supply products, not finished work.

    If you have an Etsy shop and you are not selling several items per day/week….shut it down. You are just wasting your time.

    The prices of most things put on Etsy do not take into account the full amount of labor and other costs. Did you factor in that hour to take photos of the product and finish them up in your computer? All the time to administer and visit and look at your Etsy page? All the costs to mail….like the drive to the post office and standing in line for 1/2 hour?

    There is too much of everything on Etsy and everyone’s products get lost in the huge crowd. The are hundreds of thousand of products!
    I am guessing most sales are to other artists who think “I could do that, too, and buy a sample to copy”.
    Do you have sales on Etsy and still no one buys? Time to find a new hobby.

    • There has never been a time in history when artists could rely on only one revenue source. That said… the $17 average retail sale is a difficult way to run a business… the time for customer service, order fulfillment etc… really must be counted. While wholesaling allows you to find a “sweet spot” popular selling item for about $50 wholesale… it still isn’t the place to sell only one of a kind work over $1000. That’s a whole ‘nuther league in itself. but if an artist takes one step at time starting with Etsy and building a tight product line from that… there is real opportunity for a 50-100k income with the combination of several revenue sources… Wholesale, retail, online, and more…
      Wendy Rosen

      • Diane Townsley says

        Wendy (or Carolyn, since I know Wendy has her hands full these days – future congresswoman!), when you mention the possibility of a 50-100K income, are you talking “take home” after expenses, or gross sales? My modest goal is to replace my current day job with enough jewelry sales to earn the minimum income I need to maintain our current expenses plus at least 20% to catch up on the retirement savings we haven’t yet started. Of course I’m dreaming well beyond that, but I’d be happy just to be doing my craft full time and no worse off financially than we are now. I’ve always been skeptical about whether I could really earn a liveable income selling jewelry in such a saturated market especially, but if even 50K is what I pay myself, that’s do-able. How frequently do you find artists earning in that range? I know so many struggling ones, maybe that’s skewed my perspective.

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