Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

Seller Handbook

How to Turn Your Hobby Into a Business on Etsy

If you’re considering converting your favorite pastime into a money-making venture by opening an Etsy shop, keep these five things in mind.

By Kelly Rand Feb 26, 2013
Getting started on etsy
Photo by sadlyharmless

Are you thinking of making the leap into a handmade business? It’s exciting, isn't it? The prospect of sitting in a studio all day, painting, glazing, sewing, picking out fabric, and sketching up new ideas sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Before you convert your hobby into a business, take some time to think about what you really want for yourself and your business. Keep in mind that if you convert a fun hobby into a business, you actually have to run a business. Here are five things to keep in mind as you’re getting going.

1. Set Goals

One way to tackle the shift in thinking that’s necessary to becoming a savvy businessperson is to set clear and defined goals for yourself. Your goals should be unique to you. A goal can be as simple as “Get one Etsy sale within a month” or as large as “Get three more wholesale orders before June.”

Your goals should be achievable, flexible, and scaleable. This means that you know what you need to do in order to achieve them, that you can shift your goals at any time to track with your definition of success, and be scaleable to your expanding notion of success. Because once you reach your goal of making one Etsy sale, what’s the next goal? Is it five sales in a month? Ten? Is it to get one blog to write about you? Three? Keep moving up the success ladder.

Read more about goal setting in Ready for Etsy Success? Start With an Etsy Goal.

2. Keep Your Eyes Wide Open

As a hobbyist, do you get to come home after work and sit in front of the TV to de-stress by knitting that scarf you’ve been working on? If you turn that hobby into a business, your handmade work turns from occasional to all day, every day. And when you’re done for the day, what are you going to do to de-stress? Is it the same knitting you struggled to photograph in the studio that morning? Will you write copy for it and package up more sales to ship? More than likely, you won’t even want to look at it at the end of the day. So now what?

Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to transform your creative outlet into something that you must spend time on, turning something that was once stress relief into a potential stress trigger? Running a business can be demanding, and if you don’t invest the time and effort for your business to have a chance at achieving your goals — and you still treat it like your hobby — you’ll most likely flounder.

It’s also okay if you don’t want to become a business. When you evaluate what a business could be and that pro/con list comes up with more cons in the business column, it can be a relief. You can take more time to devote to that hobby — as a hobby.

Rob Kalin, Etsy’s founder and former CEO, addressed this topic in a 2011 Inc. Magazine interview: “There’s this really interesting shift that happens when you’re running an Etsy business, where you have to change your approach from ‘I make clothing’ to ‘I’m making a living making a business that makes clothing.’ A lot of people either can’t or don’t want to make the shift, because it means seeing things in a different light.”

3. Get Ready to Wear Several Caps

Running a business involves administrative work, including email, invoices, setting up shop, being a good writer, talking on the phone, customer service, paying bills, advertising, accounting, taxes, and so on. Does this still sound like your ideal?

One of the struggles many people face when making the switch from a hobbyist to a business is finding a good balance between making and creating and the basic administration needed to run your business. Even well-established and highly successful handmade businesses struggle with this balance on a daily basis.

How to get started on Etsy
Photo by animalcrew

4. Realize That Success Is Subjective

Remember that success is subjective and that your goal of achieving one Etsy sale a month or your goal of achieving two new wholesale orders worth over $150 by April is not better or more success-achieving than the other. Don’t measure your success by someone else’s — that’s a road that will only lead to heartache. Though it’s difficult to avoid measuring yourself against others, remember that your success is what you want for yourself and your business.

5. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

You wouldn’t dream of starting a handmade business unless you think you can have fun doing it, right? Having a passion for what you do is probably what led you to thinking about business creation in the first place. So while this business thing can be challenging, don’t forget the reasons that got you here in the beginning. While it will be hard work to get your business off the ground and running, make sure to infuse a little fun and inspiration in your day-to-day routine. Take a walk, think through your goals, create a new Pinterest board, or invite a friend over for coffee. Refreshing breaks can help remind yourself to have fun and not stress too much about your once de-stresser.

Have you turned your hobby into a business? We’d love to learn how you’ve managed the transition. Share your thoughts in comments.

Feeling inspired? Start your Etsy shop today.


Kelly Rand from iHEARTorange

Kelly Rand is the author of Handmade to Sell: Hello Craft's Guide to Owning, Running, and Growing Your Crafty Biz and co-founder and Executive Director of Hello Craft, a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly believes that handmade will save the world.


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