Posted by: Lisa | July 3, 2009

Your fantasy is not my reality

As a person that has a shop on Etsy, I’m pretty appalled by the portrayal of this article of the handmade online marketplace as “a female ghetto.” The writer describes the women on the site as delusional by wanting to make a living off of their creations, and deduces that, the lack of a male presence directly correlates with the fact that men are smarter to engage in such “fantasies” of selling their creations.

While I harbor no delusions of getting rich off a part-time business, I will say that the author is off-base in thinking that women on Etsy are pursuing some feminist promise of the motherhood/workload balance, and that people just don’t make money there.

For me, (and for a lot of women I know personally), Etsy is not a “just a hobby.” It is a lucrative side business that augments the full-time careers we already have. Our success isn’t based on some allusion of handmade grandeur, but on our actual P&L statements when we file our taxes at the end of the fiscal year.

Had the author dug a little deeper rather than just perusing Etsy’s discussion forums and picking out statements to fit her generalizations, she will notice that most of the best sellers on the site don’t have time to talk about the notions of “doing Etsy full time.” They are already too busy “doing.”

Even worse, the author completely disregards the countless hours of hard work anyone needs to put in to make their business viable. The ones that are still plugging away are the ones that know that Etsy isn’t some sort of magic online Field of Dreams where if you build it, they will come.

Additionally, she downright dismisses the success of the featured sellers who have already quit their day job and are making a living on Etsy full-time, just because it doesn’t fit into her personal notion of what success is. Genuine financial success is rare, but isn’t that with any small business? And if the featured sellers are already “doing Etsy full-time,” doesn’t that by definition mean that it IS attainable and not some “fantasy” that they are harboring?

And to say that the site exploits its sellers, is false. Etsy does not “prey on the hopes and dreams” of people who want to own their own business. Rather it’s a electronic conduit for which to test out business models with relative safety and little upstart funding. The site merely provides a platform for the opportunistic ones who want to sell items they made with their own hands. After all, owning a business is a quintessential American Dream, and Etsy itself is a business.

What is interesting is that for someone who has graduated from Princeton, and is a Fulbright Scholar, who writes for a publication that supposedly “intellectual” and “not condescending,” the author is seemingly full of contempt for those who have capitalized on their own talents and skills. This leads me to believe that perhaps, somewhere within the 250,000+ shops is an abandoned, failed web shop owned by the author herself. (I mean, she does state, “…As someone who’s handy with a paintbrush, I’ve admittedly harbored the fantasy of starting my own storefront on Etsy.”) And if that’s the case, then all anyone has to do is take a good look at the “research” in her article to know why her shop has failed.

After all, due diligence is a wonderful thing.

Judging from other perspectives online, I’m not the only one that feels this way.



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