Web sites like Etsy.com have made entrepreneurs of artists who peddle their wares — such as furniture, jewelry, stationery, clothing, cookies and so much more — with little overhead. That means lower prices for the consumer and greater income for the artist.
In April 2009 alone, Etsy buyers spent $12.6 million purchasing 786,825 items from the site.
Meet six talented women who nabbed some of that cash:
This mom of four in Idaho got hooked on Etsy when she bombed at a craft fair. None of the locals wanted her funky necklaces and accessories. Ward knew she needed a global audience to appreciate her style. Now her sales average $3,500 a month, and after expenses, she's clearing a whopping $2,600. Not too shabby for a very talented woman who hadn't earned a paycheck in more than 14 years and was determined to help her husband cover the household expenses.
Success tip: Even though Etsy charges only 20 cents to list an item, Ward spends about $300 a month to refresh all her listings each day so they appear at the top of the results pages. (The company says it's about to introduce a newly formatted results option, which will help buyers and sellers with more relevant returns.)
This married mom in Kansas turned her passion for nature, gardening and recycling into a business selling beautiful terrariums. Rowland keeps her overhead low by using recycled mason and apothecary jars that she often finds at flea markets. Her prices range from $18 to $56, and she makes about $2,000 a month.
Success tip: High-quality photographs allow shoppers to see the detail of each item up close and personal. Repeat business is generated from satisfied customers who appreciate the level of care put into each creation.
From her home in a Philadelphia suburb, she's the seamstress to pint-size superheroes around the world who don her custom-made capes and costumes. Aikens sells an average of 250 pieces a month, pulling in $4,000.
Success tip: It's all about the price. Aikens said keeping the price low enough for moms to afford in this economy -- even though she's been told she can charge more -- keeps the orders coming.
This Texas gal brings Hollywood glam to her jewelry. An Etsy favorite is green beauties inspired by Angelina Jolie's Oscar emeralds. She's generating about $500 a month in sales.
Success tip: Whiters promotes her pieces to blogs and offers free giveaways in exchange for exposure, which drives customers to her online shop.
The GooseGrease shop on Etsy has made self-employment possible for two stay-at-home moms in Brooklyn, N.Y. They paint natural wood dolls for intricate wedding cake toppers and one-of-a-kind decorative objects. In the first four months of 2009, the duo raked in $20,000!
Success tip: Visibility on blogs, especially various Martha Stewart sites and top wedding blogs, has generated most of their sales.
This Bishop, Ga., artist turns ordinary stones into magical pieces called Starhearts, which are hand-painted and sprinkled with a touch of fairy dust. She's been a lifelong artist, but has just started to dabble on Etsy.
Success tip: Detailed descriptions that accurately explain the item and invoke a sense of whimsy and imagination have generated great responses from buyers.
The fine print: Etsy charges 20 cents per listing, plus 3.5 percent on every transaction. If you use PayPal to collect your money, prepare to give PayPal 2.9 percent, plus 30 cents per transaction, for payments made within the United States if you earn less than $3,000 a month. For $3,000 to $10,000 a month, the PayPal rate drops to 2.5 percent.
Etsy is not a site to slap up any old art project. The beauty of the site is the quality of the artists and their dedication to their craft. This isn't about getting rich quick; it's about turning a passion into cash.