Taken from the Etsy website:
"Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.
Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.
Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:
Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade."
When Etsy first came on the scene in 2005, it was truly visionary...a website, devoted to the sale of handmade goods? And they expected to make money with this?
Their timing couldn't have been better. With ebay becoming flooded by cheap, mass-produced items, it was quickly turning into a flea market, not a true venue for a serious artisan. And many artists were still not willing to invest on a website for their business that would allow for shopping carts. Etsy offered a solution to both of these problems.
So how is Etsy as a selling venue in 2009? While it sometimes seems like everyone I know is on Etsy, I realize there are still many people out there wondering if they should take the Etsy plunge. In my opinion, it is still quite easy to use, and the cost is less than listing an item on ebay (if it sells). You can list an item in your shop for 20 cents, which is good for 4 months. If your item sells, you pay 3.5% of the selling price as a transaction fee. If it doesn't sell, you can either renew the item for another 20 cents, or let it drop out of your shop when it expires.
The bone of contention I have with Etsy is the fact that they allow supplies and vintage items to be sold on Etsy as well. They claim that their tagging policies are supposed to ensure that commercially made (i.e. mass produced) supplies will not be mixed in with the handmade supplies, but anyone who has sold on Etsy for a while will tell you this isn't true. I have seen a number of threads in the Etsy forums where someone is lamenting another seller listing mass-produced items in the handmade section. While Etsy is more responsive than other sites when such issues are brought to their attention, I feel they could end this problem entirely if they would just live by their stated motto, and be only handmade.
Success on Etsy can also depend on what you are selling. The jewelry category is completely overloaded, making it difficult to find unique artisan pieces that are also affordable (the easiest way to find the coolest jewelry is to sort the items most-least expensive, but you still have to go through many pages of jewelry that may be way out of your budget until you find something you can afford). If you are selling a handmade good that can be used as a supply or to create other items, such as lampwork beads, paper or fibers, you will inevitably have to fight with the sellers of commercial supplies, which are always priced way cheaper due to the fact they are almost always imported from overseas.
However, Etsy is a great place to start off if you are just beginning to sell your work online, and you don't want to invest in a website just yet. Etsy is very popular, and the site gets a lot of traffic. Plan to do your own marketing on top of that which Etsy already does to help drive people to your shop, and you could find yourself reaching customers on all corners of the globe.