Etsy an online second income for crafters during the recession

by Sarah Demille

Sept. 24, 2009.

Lisah Pilchak had always known she had a flair for the creative, taking a great interest in painting, jewellery crafting, photography, and both interior and exterior design. Unsatisfied with the selections she found for sale at retail locations, Pilchak decided that she would make use of her creativity and fashion her own accessories and visual art. Now, roughly five months later, she crafts her pieces for the enjoyment of a much wider audience than just herself.

Pilchak is just one of the rapidly growing numbers of people making use of e-commerce websites, such as eBay and Etsy, to sell their collected and hand-crafted items for a profit. In an economy still feeling the effects of the recession, crafters say online markets present them with a unique and appealing way to make some extra cash without the large time commitment of getting a second job.

Though Pilchak is employed with Hydro One as a primary source of income, the artwork and handmade jewellery she crafts and sells through her Etsy based shop, BohoChicDesigns, offer her a supplementary income.

“I want my art to be in people’s homes where it is enjoyed,” Pilchak said. “I’d rather sell many less expensive pieces than a few high priced pieces.”

Etsy is just one of the many online markets available, but its popularity is swiftly growing. It offers clients an inexpensive and user-friendly venue through which to buy, sell, and even trade or barter items of interest to other users with an Etsy account. The website requires no initial or monthly fees for registering for an account, but users are required to pay 20 cents per each item they list and will be charged a 3.5 per cent sales fee on each sale they make, though this is a small price to pay and well worth the money, according to Pilchak.

Another crafter making use of Etsy is Jesse Truong, who discovered the online market through a friend and has been using it ever since to put her love of crafting children’s toys to good use and selling the product by means of her shop AllThingsSmall.

“What I love about Etsy is that it allows me to share my creations with people all around the world and being part of an amazing bunch of creative people,” Truong said. “Having an online shop has made my life much more enjoyable now that I have an outlet that allows me to work from home on my own time.”

In July, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) published a news release telling Canadians to be aware that all online income is taxable and needs to be reported. The release also said that, eBay had provided the CRA with the contact information and sales records of eBay sellers.

Though the CRA has not asked other websites to do the same, Peter Delis, spokesperson for the Canada Revenue Agency, said that this doesn’t mean they aren’t continually monitoring other websites. He said that the actions taken with eBay users were done to encourage people to report their online revenue so that they would not have to be penalized if they were found to be violating tax laws.

Most users do not bring in enough revenue through these websites to signal any red flags with the CRA, Delis said, explaining that users would have to bring in significant income classifying them as “power-sellers” to be considered a true online business. However, he said it is always good practice to report income from all sources to avoid any potential legal trouble.

When asked what advice she would give to future Etsy crafters, Pilchak said it was important to “make pieces that you love; not what you think will sell.”

For more information visit www.etsy.com

To check out Lisah’s store visit http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=7455740

To check out Jesse’s store visit http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5568079

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