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Etsy’s Small Businesses Go Global While the World Shuts Down

Published on February 17, 2022, at 6:56 p.m.
by Jennafer Bowman.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have gotten into pandemic passion projects, such as baking, at-home fitness and craft-making. Some took their passion projects to the next level and started to make a profit from them through the e-commerce website Etsy.

Etsy, which started in 2005, has been focused on the sale of handmade items and crafts that fall into a wide array of categories, including both tangible and digital products. The digital marketplace connects customers with small businesses from all over the globe, even when the world shuts down.

In April 2020, when the CDC first recommended that Americans wear fabric face masks, Etsy’s CEO, Josh Silverman, sent a message to all shop owners encouraging “anyone with a sewing machine to create masks.” Over 12 million masks were sold on Etsy’s site during the month of April. People from all over the world suddenly started to take advantage of their extra free time by turning their pandemic hobbies into profit.

Photo by Bára Buri on Unsplash

Sabina Bower is the owner of BuJoBees, an Etsy shop that sells digital scheduling templates for the popular project management software Notion. She started her shop in her bedroom during the initial quarantine in spring 2020. “While it was originally a pandemic passion project, it’s transformed into a form of income that helps me pay for college, [provides] real-life business experience and gives me a platform to call my own,” she explained.

In 2020, 4.4 million sellers were active on Etsy, which is almost 50% more than were active in 2019. While the increase in active accounts is great for the corporate side of Etsy, shop owners must find a way to stick out from the competition. Bower said she found her target audience by looking at who was making content surrounding the use of Notion. She discovered that most of Notion’s users who wanted her specific product were early to mid-20s women. Finding a target audience is tricky enough, but finding that audience’s preferred platform for media consumption doesn’t have to be.

Erika Montgomery is the founder and CEO of Three Girls Media, Inc., an award-winning West Coast public relations and marketing agency. She stated that “once you figure out your target audience, you then have to find what social media platform they use.”

Photo by on Unsplash

Finding a target audience’s preferred social media platform takes some research. Shop owners can look at the platforms’ user demographics to find where their customers are consuming most of their media.

Once a target audience and their accompanying social media platform is selected, shop owners can create content. They can post graphics and new items, as well as interact with customers.

“Social media is a great way to add visibility to your Etsy shop,” Montgomery said. “The bonus is social media is totally free.”

Montgomery also mentioned that because most Etsy shop owners have little to no money to advertise their products to customers, social media and other online tools such as keywords are a free or low-cost way to bring views to shops.

While it might seem hard to stand out from the other content being posted daily, Bower uses specific platforms such as Pinterest and TikTok to communicate with her target audience. She recommends taking advantage of all of the free tools that are offered. If TikTok is the preferred channel, utilize trending sounds and stay up to date on algorithms to get content on would-be customers’ “For You” pages. For Pinterest, utilize keywords and alt text to reach a wider audience. Bower continued, “The combination of both of these platforms has brought thousands of views to my Etsy store.”

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

Additionally, Etsy offers its own helpful tools. For example, with each Etsy listing allowing up to 13 tags, sellers can describe and categorize their items. Along with tags, keywords help products become visible to consumers’ search results. According to Montgomery, keywords should be relevant and descriptive of the item being sold and should appear in the first part of the item’s headline. For example, if the product is jewelry, put the word “jewelry” somewhere near the beginning of the headline. Headlines, tags and keywords are examples of free tools Etsy provides shop owners to better reach their target audiences.

While there are plenty of free search engine optimization (SEO) tools, it’s important to remember that Etsy wants to keep commerce human. Another strategy Montgomery suggested to run a successful shop is to be personal with customers. “People love to know the business owner behind the brand,” she explained. “If you have a dog named Pete, put that in your shop’s “About” section so customers can feel connected to you.”

David Harman, the owner of NativeMaps, tells customers where he went to school, his hometown and why he began his shop in his “About” section. His shop has over 8,000 sales and has a “Star Seller” rating. This combination tells potential customers who is making the shop’s products, how high the quality is and that the seller is trustworthy.

With help from social media, shop owners can reach a global audience when the world is shut down. Etsy has allowed millions of people to become business owners during a time when many brick-and-mortar stores had to close their doors.

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