One-person creative businesses can succeed on their own terms with a multichannel strategy


By employing a multi-channel strategy, creative types who aspire to run successful businesses they can self-manage can strike a balance between genuine customer connections and global reach, according to Linda Kozlowski, the COO of online marketplace Etsy.  

Kozlowski, formerly the COO of Evernote, told Dynamic Business that Etsy attracts hobbyists who want a creative outlet as well as creative entrepreneurs seeking to grow their business through – and make a living on – the platform. Looking at Etsy’s community of sellers in Australia, she noted that some are generating upwards of $70,000 per year through their online shop and that nearly three quarters (73%) have sold overseas in the last 12 months, regardless of whether the e-commerce platform is their full-time job or they’re a hobbyist.

Not just growth for growth’s sake

Interestingly, three in five (63%) sellers have told Etsy they want to grow but not necessarily to the point where they require extra staff. Kozlowski explained: “They want to retain that personal connection with their buyers as they expand their market. For a majority of our 1.7 million sellers globally, the bottom line isn’t their sole priority – rather than growth for growth sake, their goals stem from their personal passion for creative expression and wanting a business that contributes to the overall balance of their lives.”

Kozlowski said an ‘overwhelming majority’ of Australian sellers are sole operators who manage every aspect of their shop on their own.

“For roughly every hour an Etsy seller spends making or designing, they spend almost another hour on business and administrative tasks like accounting and inventory management,” she said.

“It’s our responsibility to provide sellers with the tools to help them manage and scale their business the way they want to, regardless of their goals, including product listings, the payment process, marketing their brand, shipping, wholesaling, website build and educational content. The less time sellers spend on the day-to-day management of their business, the more they can spend on creating items to sell.”

Multiple touch points for customers

Kozlowski said it’s rare for Etsy sellers who’ve grown a customer base to ‘quit’ the platform and establish a website as their sole point of sale; rather, sellers generally maintain their Etsy shop as part of a multi-channel sales strategy.

“We’re supportive of users who want to grow their business in whatever way makes sense to them, which may involve establishing a website and being a multi-channel seller,” she explained.

“One of the biggest advantages of a multi-channel approach is the opportunity to reach a bigger audience and provide multiple touch points for your current customer base. Balancing a digital presence with a physical one also adds an extra element of connection and communication.

“Due to the size of our buyer community – nearly 29 million people globally – people generally stay with Etsy. That’s a huge audience, which we help sellers market to, and they’d not have that sort of reach if they relied solely on their own website for sales.”

Creating a halo effect around a digital presence

To help sellers get across multiple channels, Kozlowski said Etsy provides them with opportunities to build a physical brand presence to complement their online shop.

“Through our wholesale program, which is currently only available in the US, we’re facilitating partnerships between sellers with the ability to scale their volume and retailers, big and small, who want to place their products,” she explained.

“We also have around 14,000 Etsy seller teams globally. Members come together to support and coach each other, and organise team events such as product and craft fairs, where people can come experience the products in person and get to know the different sellers within the group. Initiatives like the craft fairs create a nice halo effect around the digital presence sellers have on Etsy. Enabling customers to connect with the person behind the product, and to experience those products first-hand, elevates a purchase from simply a transaction to a genuine connection.”

See also: “I’m working with what I’ve got – it’s how I like it”: the appeal of being a one person start-up