If you are a quilt maker for long enough, you will eventually create more quilts than you can really use. When you have given a quilt to everyone you know, you may start to think about selling your quilts. As a creative maker, you are probably familiar with Etsy. Maybe you have considered becoming one of the many talented people selling their unique creations in this online global marketplace. Perhaps you’ve wondered if this would be a good side hustle, part money maker, part pure joy! Do you worry that you might not be able to master the technical aspects of owning an Etsy shop? Maybe you sit at your desk wondering if selling your quilts on Etsy might replace your 9-to-5 drudgery.
Meet Ritu Haldar, Owner of Designs by RSH
I recently interviewed Ritu Haldar, owner and quilt artist behind the Etsy shop, Designs by RSH. It was a delightful conversation with a creative business owner. I learned so much about starting an Etsy shop. Ritu taught me the importance of being clear about your goals and values when structuring your business.
Ritu’s Unique Quilt Design Aesthetic
Ritu’s life experiences and extensive travel have shaped her quilt style. She was born in India. Sometimes she still visits some of her family there. However, she has spent the majority of her life outside of her country of birth. Growing up, Ritu was educated in a very culturally diverse community in Guam. Her professors and fellow students were from all around the globe. When she travels, she prioritizes fabric shopping, building the stash that inspires her shop’s creations. She hopes her shop is the place to buy culturally inspired items from Japan, India, Morocco, Italy, or many other countries.
Ritu has an incredible color sense influenced by the places she’s been. She attributes her fearless approach to color to her early years in India. In the United States, she has lived in New York and now calls Florida home. We talked about how climate and lighting influence the color palette a person is drawn to. For example, New York has less intense light and cold winters. While living there, Ritu felt drawn to mustard, cranberry, and other deep rich colors, that evoke warmth. Her tropical home in Florida has her craving vibrant teal and orange.
Ritu’s Business Philosophy
It became evident right away that Ritu has a strong sense of who she is. This defines her approach to business. Family friends encouraged her to meet the man who is now her husband. She and her husband had corresponded before meeting for the first time on a trip to Tokyo. Within 10 days of their first meeting, they had returned to India and gotten married. This decisiveness is one of Ritu’s business superpowers. When she is in a fabric store acquiring her raw materials, she can quickly and efficiently select her perfect fabrics. She knows immediately how much to purchase, and how she will use every last bit of it!
Her family is an obvious priority for Ritu. She and her husband have two grown daughters. She knew early on that her husband had a bright future as an engineer. His career would require long days and intense focus. Ritu was employed by the Government of Guam when she met her husband. Rather than attempting to be “two blazing suns in the same sky,” Ritu prioritized her job as the household CEO. She worked as a substitute teacher and school secretary so that her schedule would match up with her girls.
In 2020, with her children grown, and her husband retired, Ritu had the opportunity to start her own creative business. Any concern she felt about starting a business in a global pandemic was met with incredible family support. Her daughters gave Ritu back her own inspirational advice and urged her to follow her dream.
How Do You Start Selling Quilts on Etsy?
According to Ritu, nothing is easier than opening your shop in the global marketplace known as Etsy. She already had beautiful handmade creations that she wished to sell and good photos of her items. She also had established a separate bank account for her business. When she decided to set up Designs by RSH, she clicked the Open Your Etsy Shop button. She was prompted to upload photos and answer some questions about her business. Approximately 15 minutes later, Ritu was open for business. She had been operational for 60 seconds when she made her first sale!
As a new business owner, Ritu was both delighted and overwhelmed by that first sale. Ritu is a lifelong learner. Just minutes after starting her business, Ritu learned how to fulfill an order in her shop!
How Long Does It Normally Take To Make a Sale on Etsy?
I was astounded by Ritu’s quick start. I had hoped to find out how Ritu felt while waiting for that first sale. What did she do to get things going in the sales department? Whatever she felt and did, she only did it for a literal minute! I wondered if this was typical when starting an Etsy shop. I looked around the internet, and a variety of forums to find out whether her experience was unusual. It wasn’t unheard of to make a sale within a day of embarking on your Etsy journey. However, it was more common to make your first sale between 1 week and 6 months. What I learned was that Etsy sellers have a very helpful community willing to share and help each other succeed. It seemed familiar, a lot like the quilting community.
What Factors Contribute to Your Success as an Etsy Seller?
In scouring online forums, many experienced Etsy sellers offered advice to newer sellers. Here are some of the pearls of wisdom I gleaned:
- As a global marketplace for makers, there is plenty of room for everyone to succeed. Etsy sellers are willing to share because they realize that handmade items bear the unique fingerprints of their makers. Since your creations are uniquely you, and there are millions of potential customers, your success doesn’t diminish another maker’s success.
- Most sellers agree that great images are key to selling your product.
- Many successful sellers promote their products on a variety of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- A customer email list is a valuable tool for Etsy shop owners and can do a lot to increase sales.
- Some sellers drive traffic to their Etsy shop and build their email lists through blogging.
Can You Make a Full-Time Income Selling Quilts on Etsy?
In discussing her business, I was curious about whether Ritu was making a full-time income. Since she and her husband are retired, her goal is supplemental income. She envisions herself continuing her Etsy business well into her 80s.
I wondered whether she thought it was possible for a quilter to build a full-time income on Etsy. She is confident that it is possible. Etsy provides a lot of guidance to sellers. By employing the Etsy strategies, makers can build one or several shops with different niches and be very successful. Some makers carefully follow Etsy’s marketing advice, adjusting offerings based on trends that Etsy shares with its sellers.
Ritu prefers to create her art to be timeless and feels like trend watching would steal her joy. She specifically avoids optional business activities that she doesn’t enjoy. Since Etsy is such a large marketplace and does a fantastic job advertising, she doesn’t find extensive marketing necessary. She prefers to focus on what is most important to her in her business. Creating art and waiting for a buyer who connects with her work is what energizes her.
Is It Expensive or Risky To Sell Quilts in an Etsy Shop?
Ritu, like many quilters, has created more quilted items than she could possibly use, with no intention of stopping. To open Designs by RSH cost very little. Etsy’s listing fee is $0.20 per item to list for 4 months. If you start a shop with 25 items, you would give up little more than a fancy coffee drink. I am not suggesting you make this sacrifice, but technically starting an Etsy shop is financially attainable for most people.
Etsy charges sellers a 5% transaction fee when an item sells. There are options beyond the basic setup that incur additional fees, but to start is very low risk.
So, Should You Be Selling Your Quilts on Etsy?
After talking with Ritu and seeing her passion for Designs by RSH, I think it is an option worth considering. Low start-up costs, ease of setup, simple daily operation, and reasonable transaction fees make Etsy a very attractive business model. Couple that with a customer base of 81.9 million people worldwide, and solid guidance on building your business, and it would be very difficult to outperform this global marketplace as a new business owner with your own web store.
I think if you want to make quilts to sell, Etsy might be a good option. Just make sure to account for your expenses, and charge for your time. One-of-a-kind quilts should be priced like a luxury item.