Portrait of a craftsman
From eco-friendly pet supplies to vintage clothing and accessories, Etsy's marketplace encompasses a wide variety of categories that crafty sellers can capitalize on. — Getty Images/JGalione

If you’re tinkering with the idea of starting a new business, the best place to begin is to ask yourself what it is you really love to do. If the answer is something that taps into your creativity and conjures images of handmade products, you may want to join the 3.7 million “makers’ or sellers who currently leverage the power of Etsy to build their businesses.

Etsy, the popular online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods as well as supplies, boasts 69.6 million active buyers and growing, and attracts shoppers looking for items that you can’t typically find anywhere else. According to Statista, Etsy’s third quarter gross margin sales reached $2.63 billion in 2020, a 119% growth over the previous year, representing only a fraction of its full market opportunity. While sellers pay basic listing, transaction and payment processing fees, joining and starting a shop on Etsy is free. Sound enticing? Consider these popular categories that consistently perform well with Etsy-philes.

Home and living

According to Statista, home and living accounted for 25% of Etsy sales during the first half of 2020, making it the top selling category. Not surprising, as most homes morphed into offices and classrooms virtually overnight, there have been spikes in sales of everything from furniture to home organization to candles, puzzles and games. Have a passion and penchant for crocheting? Perhaps a niche like hammocks and plant hangers speaks to you. Also getting a lot of buzz, according to eRank — personalized decor and gifts. Make your one-of-a-kind idea customizable and you're already thinking like a seasoned Etsy-ite.

Art and collectibles

Online art sales are forecast to increase to 9.32 billion U.S. dollars by 2024. E-commerce has helped to democratize art for both artists and art lovers. It provides artists exposure beyond the limits of physical galleries, which often require connections to gain entry. It also allows buyers to easily search for endless art across mediums that suit their tastes and budgets. On Etsy, 21% of sellers fall within the arts and collectibles category. Digital prints, clip art, original drawings, paintings and illustrations are all highly sought-after items, and artists who bring something fresh, exciting and unique to the platform can do very well. Those who work in the downloadable digital space have the added advantage of delivering their art free of shipping costs, which is attractive to today’s online shoppers.

Craft and supplies

Etsy classifies materials that go into the creation of an item or special occasion as craft supplies. With DIY projects exploding during the pandemic, most craft-related sub-categories saw triple-digit growth year-over-year, from tie-dye to embroidery kits. Think crochet patterns, knitting patterns, yarns, charms, beads, clip art and paint. Oh, and stickers! Consistently, the number one seller on Etsy offers fun and colorful stickers for personal schedule planners.

Wedding

The wedding industry took a major hit in 2020 as brides and grooms postponed or scaled down their celebrations. That is expected to start to rebound in 2021, evidenced by a 34% increase in recent searches for wedding dresses on Etsy. With this revitalization comes a need for wedding attire, decor, favors, invitations, cake toppers, centerpieces and bridal party novelties. Brides-to-be come to Etsy for inspiration, and also for the unique and one-of-a kind things that reflect their personal wedding styles. Exploring niche micro-categories like rustic farmhouse or eco-friendly is something to consider when seeking the attention of this highly engaged audience.

Pay attention to what’s happening in lifestyle, fashion and pop culture, then design for the trends.

Pet supplies

As of June 2020, pet supplies only accounted for 1% of the sellers on Etsy, presenting what could be a big opportunity as the pandemic pet boom shows no signs of waning. More than two-thirds of U.S. households own at least one pet, and pet owners are increasingly shopping online for their pets. Unique products like eco-friendly toys, beds, bowls, clothing and accessories are in great demand. Those who reach owners ready and willing to spoil their fur-babies will be poised to grab a share of a market that is expected to reach approximately $99 billion in U.S. sales.

Jewelry

From brilliant hammered and sculpted metals to boho beads and pretty pearls, jewelry is big business on Etsy. In 2020, the category represented 15% of all Etsy sellers. If designing handmade bracelets, earrings or necklaces is your thing, offer your own unique interpretation of what’s trending in the fashion world or bring your own aesthetic and craftsmanship to the marketplace. The top three jewelry sellers on Etsy, GLDNxLayeredAndLong, CaitlynMinimalist and MignonandMignon, all have a minimalist vibe and offer personalization from initials and names to inspirational symbols and quotes.

Bath and body essentials

Self-care has become one of the biggest buzzwords, reflected in the 2,219% year-over-year increase in searches on Etsy containing the word “relaxation.Among the most popular Etsy product searches in August 2020 was “face mask,” with over 875,000 queries. Shoppers look to Etsy for self-care that is less complicated and more transparent. Clean, organic and sustainable beauty rank high with Etsy’s beauty and wellness fans. But before you dive into the beauty pool, make sure to familiarize yourself with the rigorous regulations and policies that govern this category, including the FDA-specific guidelines and Etsy’s own rules.

Clothing

If you have a flair for fashion design, opening an Etsy shop that showcases your talent and aesthetic may be a great way to test the demand for your concepts. Creating custom t-shirts and clothing that make a statement with bold and fun typography or humorous sayings is a great option for someone with strong graphic design skills. Tie-dye trended in a big way in 2020, as did sweats and loungewear. Shops that offer comfy tie-dye clothing are nailing it, with “tie-dye sweatsuit” searches up +11,860%. Bottom line: pay attention to what’s happening in lifestyle, fashion and pop culture, then design for the trends.

Accessories

Accessories are big business on Etsy and sales in this category are dominated by makers who anticipate or identify a trend and then make it their own. Organza scrunchies, headbands and hair clips are forecast to be fashion girl favorites in 2021, and there’s no doubt that accessories-obsessed audiences will be looking to Etsy for more unique, handmade options than what can be found in pharmacies or mall stores. It is important to note that as in all Etsy categories, the key to success is often in the keywords used to rank high and stand out in searches. Luckily, Etsy supports its sellers with a trove of useful advice and information, including this Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search.

Vintage

If your closets and drawers are overflowing with vintage finds like printed silk scarves, oversized sunglasses, stationary, doll clothes or matchbooks, consider sharing your love for all things retro and joining the ranks of Etsy’s vintage sellers. Keep in mind that items must be more than 20 years old to qualify as vintage on Etsy. Again, it's often best to choose a niche within the category, such as Swatch watches or vintage barware, and make frequent trips to estate sales, auctions and yard sales to build your inventory. Before you start purging your leg warmers or mix tapes, make sure you know the policies that govern all things vintage on Etsy.

Think you’re ready to jump in? There is a lot more to discover and learn, and Etsy’s community is well-supported with great ideas and invaluable information starting with the very comprehensive Ultimate Guide to Starting an Etsy Shop. The guide covers wide-ranging topics from naming your shop to social media marketing and everything in between.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 21, 2021