Etsy is known as the go-to website for handmade, handcrafted, or vintage products on the internet.
It is the only place you used to be able to go to get something completely unique from a seller who wanted to use their creative abilities to make a small living. Whether that was through jewelry, art, clothing, shoes, handbags, or many other amazing handcrafted objects, Etsy has become the unquestioned ruler of this market.
However, in recent years the rules on Etsy have become a little more flexible when it comes to what “handcrafted” or “handmade” really means. This has stirred up quite the controversy among its many sellers and buyers on the site.
Do Etsy products have to be handmade?
According to the Etsy seller rules on their site, products must be handmade or designed by the owner(s) of the shop itself. If items are designed by the owner, and then the production of those items are outsourced to a third-party manufacturer, this must be disclosed by the shop and its owner.
The addition of the third-party manufacturer rule was implemented in a few recent years and has caused quite a stir of discussion or controversy over whether or not Etsy still meets those requirements of “handmade-only.”
Does Everything on Etsy Have to be Handmade?
Not everything on Etsy needs to be handmade, and not necessarily by you, but there are some very specific rules about that.
For example, your product is NOT considered handmade if you buy scarves from the store and then resell them in your shop. That would be considered an infringement of Etsy’s rules and will get you in trouble – or worse, banned from the site.
Furthermore, stealing another person’s design and reselling it as your own is also copyright infringement.
What IS considered yours can be dissected into a few specific factors:
Parts and Materials
If you create a lot of jewelry or beaded designs, most likely, you aren’t making all of the parts or pieces yourself.
If you don’t mold your own beads from clay or spin your own yarn from sheep, then you’re technically not handmaking your entire product.
And that’s okay!
If you buy yarn to knit adorable hats or scarves on Etsy, technically, that product is “handmade” by you and can be sold on Etsy.com.
A Small Production Team
Etsy.com allows you to have several roles for your shop:
- Customer Service
These roles are great for delegating work that you may not be able to find time for as the owner of your shop. This also means that not all products need to be handmade by you, the shop owner.
For example, a maker and designer have the ability to make and help you design products for your shop physically. You must have the initial idea, though. After that, you can expand production to your designers and makers to help create and make each product.
Then, once the product is made, you can have someone on your team photograph and post each item to your shop. Furthermore, you can also have someone managing customer service and comments on your shop!
Even though all the hard work isn’t being done by you, the shop is still fitting into the parameters of Etsy’s rules and regulations.
Etsy now allows shop owners to employ or go through third-party manufacturers to mass-produce their products. This is where a lot of controversies come into play about Etsy and their “handmade” reputation.
Many buyers and sellers believe that Etsy should be a place where handmade products are carefully done by an owner or a small team of individuals. This preserves the integrity of the original Etsy ideals and gives customers a safe place to buy completely unique products that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.
However, many Etsy sellers want to share their amazing designs and creations with the world! This means that they eventually expand their operations and hope to make more than just a small living from their sales.
This requires them to implement their designs and have them mass-produced by a different company.
What is Considered Handmade on Etsy?
Handmade, or handcrafted, means that your product was created and physically made by yourself – with the exception of vintage clothes.
Whether that means doing the art, the crafting, knitting, molding, or painting of that product, Etsy would consider it handmade.
However, the handmade or handcrafted object must be the rights of the owner of the shop. You couldn’t, for example, be the owner of an Etsy shop that sold the art or crafts of someone else even if they are on your team. This means that they would be the “owner” or have the rights to that piece of art or work.
Then they would have to be considered the owner to meet Etsy’s terms of service.
How Much Has to Be Handmade?
Like we mentioned before, parts and materials to make your handmade products can be bought, but preferably the product should be mostly created by yourself.
For example, you couldn’t purchase a painting and then slightly edit it and slap your name on it.
However, you could purchase blank T-shirts and print your own custom logos on them. While you didn’t make the T-shirt yourself, the logo is considered your handmade or custom design.
If you are unsure whether or not your product meets the Etsy parameters, check out their forums and ask a question, or see if someone else is already making those products on Etsy.
Then you can proceed with confidence!
Can I Resell Handmade Products I Haven’t made Myself?
Reselling handmade products that you didn’t make yourself is generally against the rules – with a few exceptions.
Vintage products from twenty years ago or more are able to be repurposed, refinished, and then resold on Etsy.com. These products do not need to be handmade by yourself in order to qualify for Etsy’s rules and terms of service.
However, these products do have to be repurposed or refinished by you or the owner of your shop.
Otherwise, it is buying and reselling someone else’s merchandise, which does go against Etsy’s rules.
Are Digital Products Considered Handmade on Etsy?
Digital products are a great way to sell many different things without using a lot of physical effort on an Etsy store.
These products can include:
- Business card templates
- Greeting cards
- Digital art
- Document design
- Stickers and Stamps
and many, many others!
These digital products are usually sold as online templates or digital files for customers to use at-will. Otherwise, they are sent as printed products to the customer’s address.
For example, if you design someone’s business card, you can send them a copy of it to print themselves or in packs of fifty to five hundred, depending on how you list your items.
Then you would be creating both a digital and physical product for customers to receive!
Does Etsy Distinguish Between Handmade and Handcrafted?
The definitions of “Handmade” and “Handcrafted” are very identical, and generally mean the process of creating something by human hands and not a machine.
This could be considered something molded, sewn, drawn, painted, etc.
However, there is a slight distinction between what is created by you and what you’ve made from other things.
For example, if you did a “paint-by-numbers” painting, technically you hand-painted that object, but you didn’t invent the design. So does it qualify for Etsy?
The products placed on Etsy.com are reviewed on an item-by-item basis. For example, if you purchased a coloring book and tried to sell the uncolored pictures, you would be committing copyright infringement. However, if you completely altered the image with your own creative coloring and design, it could be considered as though it was done by you.
Still, you should always strive to sell only your own products and designs. Etsy can still flag your work as copyright infringement if you try to alter or redesign someone else’s art or product.
Stay true to you and don’t be afraid to be unique!
What About Vintage Products?
Vintage items are usually found at resale shops or antique stores and can be varied as an end table to a 1920s flapper dress.
As we’ve stated before, vintage items must be twenty years old or older and have been repurposed or altered by you and your team’s hand.
There is a lot of buyer market for vintage items, but you have to know how to do them right – for example, you should take very good care of each item, as they are old and fragile. Also, you should do research on the item’s history and make sure you aren’t telling lies about that item.
If you do, long-time customers of vintage products will know if you’re being truthful to the items or not, and it could kill your ratings if you get it wrong.
Can I sell Manufactured Goods on Etsy?
You cannot sell manufactured goods on Etsy unless you fully disclose which company you use to make them and prove that they are your original design.
For example, if you create greeting card designs, you are able to get them printed or produced at a company that you hire or pay to have those things produced. This is now considered to be appropriate on Etsy, as long as the design is yours and the production company is disclosed in your shop so customers can see it.
Sellers are not allowed to buy mass-produced items in a store and then resell them as their own creation online – this is a breach of copyright infringement.
Your shop will be removed from Etsy if you are found violating these rules.
What Items Sell Best on Etsy?
The best selling items on Etsy.com are usually small, artsy designs to accessorize with or to wear.
Many successful Etsy shops are vintage or clothing shops with their own unique brand. The next successful ones are pins and stickers, or small accessories for buyers to put on their clothes or stick to laptops and water bottles.
After that, there is a huge market for jewelry and graphic design – whether that design goes on T-Shirts, greeting cards resumes, or any other number of uses.
Mostly, successful items on Etsy are unique and can’t be found anywhere else. They’re cute, simple, and appeal to a wide range of people online.
You can find your own niche on Etsy, too. Once you do, stay true to yourself and have fun with it!