What I've learnt in 5 years of selling vintage on Etsy

Three years ago, I opened my Etsy shop. I started really small with just 11 listings and, with no experience selling online, treaded really carefully. 

Three years and 370 sales later, my shop is still fairly small but I like to think that I’m much more intentional. 

Here’re my three main takeaways of selling vintage on Etsy that I’ve distilled over the years. If you’re thinking of becoming a vintage seller on Etsy, I hope you’ll find them useful. And if you already sell on Etsy, I’d love to hear about your own experiences!


LESSON 1: Sales will fluctuate

Sales on Etsy go up and down, and for a vintage seller like me they’re not seasonal – at least not entirely seasonal. In 2019, my best month was September, in 2020 – July, and in 2021 it was  December. 

My revenue graph looks like a zigzag, and year-on-year, the peaks and troughs often go in opposite directions. 

Of course, my shop isn’t large and big-ticket sales, like mid-century furniture, can easily skew the stats. Additionally we’ve all lived through two strange pandemic years. However, I’ve heard a similar story from other sellers.

If you – like me – want consistency in sales, think of complementing your Etsy shop with other sales channels. 

LESSON 2: Baby steps are fine

I think Etsy is a forgiving platform, meaning that it allows one to go in baby steps. 

When I just started, I only shipped small packages in the continental US. Learning how to safely pack and ship vintage glass and ceramics was my first baby step.  

My next step was to figure out how to ship furniture. It had all started with a set of chairs that I was selling with LOCAL delivery ONLY. I literally used lots to capital letters to circumnavigate the lack of automatic furniture shipping solutions on Etsy.

Well, the capital letters failed, and the set sold to Oregon (I’m in California). 

So I needed to learn about furniture packing and shipping. The real test came three months later when I shipped a dining table – the largest one I’ve sold to date – to a customer in Boston. That’s 3,000 miles away! 

Since then, I’ve shipped chairs, hutches, tables, and desks to 11 states. Every time it’s a bit stressful, I have to admit, but it’s completely doable. 

Even with ‘smalls’ I’m now more courageous, offering shipping to Canada, Japan and Australia. I’ve even shipped to Holland once but I may not do it again because of EU’s high customs fees & strict return policies.  

If Etsy if your first experience selling online – like it was for me – it’s fine to start small and go at a pace that is comfortable for you.

LESSON 3: Change is the only constant

When I joined Etsy in 2018, they had just changed their fees policy. 

In 2019, Etsy strongly encouraged (pushed?) sellers to offer free shipping, just like Amazon.

In 2020, Etsy launched an ‘offsite ads’ program with 12-15% advertising fees. Once a seller has reached a certain threshold in sales, the program is mandatory. 

In 2021, Etsy initiated a ‘Star Seller’ program. The benefits are not yet clear but the requirements on sellers may be too stringent depending on sales volumes and shipping methods. 

Every single change has been a subject of heated debates in various Etsy seller groups, endless frustrations, constant complaints, and threats to leave the platform – even today, even related to years-old policies.

My take on it?

Etsy WILL change its rules in some MAJOR way AT LEAST once a year. It’s best to be mentally (and also financially, logistically) prepared for it and/or have a backup plan. 

If you are selling vintage on Etsy, what are YOUR main take-aways? Share your thoughts here or DM me on Instagram

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