How Can You Make Money on Etsy? Be Etsy.

In my circle of photographer friends, a funny point was brought up this week: we are all hearing about legions of people we know who are setting up shop in the cupcake business. It’s uncanny how many people have independently decided to jump in and start making cupcakes for money. If they’re not doing cupcakes, it’s an Etsy site, or design templates, or another businesses with a similarly low barrier to entry, often grown out of a hobby. We all laughed about how one photographer had five different clients tell her that they’re getting into the cupcake business, just this year. In photography, we’re in the same kind of explosive industry, where the only real barrier to entry is a $600 camera and a couple of willing test subjects. We joke that “everyone’s a photographer,” and I’m sure bakeries do the same. (Maybe not, they’re probably too busy eating icing and laughing about how awesome it is to make cupcakes.) The point is, thousands of these small businesses are born every day, and they’re not slowing down.

With all of these small businesses popping up doing pretty much the same thing, what exactly is going to happen? I imagine that most new business owners jump in with dreams of quitting their day job or finally having the money to afford the vacation they’ve always wanted. Many of them will do just that, but the truth is that many of them will fail. Some will find out the hard way that they just don’t have what it takes, or that even a seemingly easy startup isn’t actually that easy. They’ll simply be replaced by the next person who has decided to jump into business. So many will actually lose money on their exciting new venture. But others will succeed. The most successful of these? Will recognize that all of the new businesses popping up represent a huge, often untapped, market for products.

The most successful people in these small, popular businesses are the people that sell things to them. The major successes in the wedding and portrait photography industry aren’t even working full time as photographers anymore. They’re selling software, workshops, and frilly camera straps. Photography “rockstars” like David Jay and Jasmine Star are still taking photos, but they are overwhelmingly making their money by providing services and products to photographers. Etsy is making millions one 20 cent listing at a time. Facebook Ads and Pages promoting these businesses are highly popular. And we all know how well Pinterest is doing as it has become the third-most popular social network, and preferred place for creative businesspeople to share their latest masterpieces. These are the people really making money in cottage industries.

Everyone’s a photographer. Everyone’s selling desserts. Everyone has an Etsy. But not everyone is serving the needs of these businesses. Be that business. Can you recognize this market opportunity when you see it? How will you serve the needs of explosively growing industries?