2020 has been the year that I truly realized just how profitable of a side hustle selling wood crafts can be. My woodworking based Etsy shop has really taken off and now headed into the holiday season is showing no signs of slowing down.
The best part is I only work a few evenings a week after the kids go to bed. I have optimized the shop to sell items that can be made quickly with minimal processing like glueups or complex finishing.
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Luckily, anyone with a little shop space and a few tools can get started selling wood crafts as well. I’ll walk you through exactly how I got started and some of my best tips for turning your woodworking into a profitable side hustle.
How I got started selling wood crafts
I’ll start with a little backstory on how I got started selling my wood crafts on Etsy.
A few years ago I, like many others, took a deep dive down the sourdough baking rabbit hole. There are a few specialty tools that are recommended for sourdough baking as the dough is extremely wet and difficult to handle.
Rather than buying the cheap $1 plastic tool off of Amazon I decided to make my own out in my woodshop. I posted a picture of it on a sourdough baking forum and quickly got numerous requests from people looking to buy one.
I quickly took some (ugly) pictures and set up an Etsy shop to handle the sales. After the initial rush, I listed a few more items and got maybe 1 or 2 orders per month. Just enough to remind me the shop still existed but at the time I spent very little time on it.
It wasn’t until the 2nd half of 2019 that I really started to focus more on the shop. Updating my listing photos to look more professional. Updating the listing titles and descriptions to focus on applicable keywords. Marketing my products both with ads and in various other online communities.
These efforts led to a bump in sales for the 2019 holiday season. Still nothing huge but enough to let me know that the seeds of a viable side hustle were there.
In early 2020 we moved to a new state so I put the shop on vacation mode for a few months until I had time to get the shop set up in the new house.
Once I opened the shop back up in April of 2020 I ended up in a “right place at the right time” situation with everyone staying at home from the virus and sourdough bread baking suddenly being the hottest ticket in town.
I quickly doubled down on my marketing efforts and the shop absolutely took off.
Since then I have focused on expanding the offerings in my shop. Improving product photos and descriptions. And trying out different marketing techniques. These efforts, along with the build-up in sales in the spring, have led to a steady flow of sales throughout the year.
Ideas for how you can get started selling your woodworking
With all that said, everyone’s woodworking story is going to be different. Everyone’s shops and skill levels and motivations will be different. How can you get started selling wood crafts?
Find a balance between wood crafts you like to make and crafts that will sell
This has always been kind of a tough one for me. I love woodturning and making one off projects. This inspires my creativity and keeps me motivated to try new things.
Unfortunately, these one-off projects just don’t sell well. Over the past few years, I have had bowls, that I thought would be super popular, sit on my Etsy shop for over a year before selling.
The bottom line is the best-selling wood crafts on Etsy are going to be ones that a) customers are actively searching for and b) items that you can sell multiples of which tells Etsy to rank them higher in the search results.
Start testing the market
One of my favorite ways to test the waters to see if there is broad interest in something I have made is to just post a picture of it on an online forum. If you’re making a bookshelf for kid’s books go find an interior decor or nursery decor subreddit or Facebook group. Just post a picture and say something like “Check out what I made for my baby’s room.”
Don’t mention anything about if you have a shop or if it is for sale. If you get no comments or people leave generic “nice work” comments then maybe rethink the design. If you start getting questions about whether it’s for sale then you probably have a good idea on your hands.
Another great way to gauge interest is to post your items locally on buy/sell groups or Facebook marketplace. Fine woodworking can be a tough sell on these types of marketplaces but local shoppers seem to love less expensive items like wooden signs, personalized items, small tables, wooden toys, etc.
Setting yourself up for success selling your woodworking projects
I’ll be the first to admit that a bit of luck played into the initial success of my Etsy shop. But I also can’t overlook the fact that taking good photos, writing good product descriptions, and marketing to potential customers has been instrumental in sustaining that success.
1. Take good photos of your wood crafts
99.9% of the time you will not have success selling your woodworking online without good photos. Online shopping portals like Etsy are a visual marketplace so in order to stand out you have to have eye catching photos.
Luckily, this doesn’t have to be complicated and by adding a few cheap photography tools you can put out professional looking photos.
Other options include using a lightbox or staging photos near a window.
For taking the photos I use a Nikon DSLR camera but with how good cell phone cameras have gotten you can easily get away with using your phone.
When I was first starting out I got a ton of good info from this product photography tutorial.
2. Write keyword rich product headlines and descriptions
What does keyword rich mean?
You turned a dozen oak bowls and want to sell them on Etsy. When I first started out I would write a title like “Oak Bowl” or “Wood Turned Bowl” and be done. In the description, I wrote 2 or 3 sentences saying it is a bowl I turned out of oak.
When people search on Etsy they are typing dozens of variations of “wood bowl” into the search bar. If you only use the term “oak bowl” in your title and description then you may miss out on customers using the search terms:
- Wooden Salad Bowl
- Oak Serving Bowl
- Salad Bowl Handmade
- Salad Bowl Set
- Turned Wooden Bowl
- Wood Bowl Decor
- Wooden Bowl Set
One of the best ways to come up with potential keywords customers are searching for is to type wood bowl into the search bar on Etsy. Suggested searches will then drop down and you can browse through that list to get more keyword ideas.
Writing your product headline
While Etsy does allow for you to use up to 140 characters in your title they have also issued a recommendation that shorter titles are preferable. So this is the place to put your best foot, and keyword forward. Rather than “Wood Bowl” go with “Handmade Wooden Serving Bowl” or “Turned Oak Salad Bowl.”
Writing the product description
This is the place to let your creativity, and keyword research, shine. Don’t just write “this is a wooden bowl I turned on the lathe.”
Write about your shop, the creative process, potential ways the bowl can be used and cared for, if you harvested the wood yourself, etc. Buyers are looking for a unique product and are willing to pay a premium when they know it was made by a craftsperson. Sprinkle in variations of your keywords throughout the description as well.
Using Product Tags
Etsy also has a section called Tags where you can list variations of your keyword. Think outside the box with your tags. Rather than just using variations of wooden bowl think rustic decor, kitchen decor, housewarming gift, etc.
The best part is as your shop ages you can dig into the search results for people who have clicked on your listings to get an idea for which search terms have led them to your shop.
It was through this process that I found out that the term “Nordic Decor” is hugely popular and have tailored a few listings to that term specifically.
3. Market your items!
I truly believe that one of the biggest drivers for the sustained success of my Etsy shop over the past year was from a single Facebook post.
As I said earlier I sell baking tools on my shop. In May of this year I posted a single photo on a huge bread baking Facebook group with a simple caption of “here are a few bread baking tools I made.” There was no mention of my shop or if they were for sale.
Well, the response was borderline unbelievable. The post ended up with thousands of likes and hundreds of comments asking if they could buy one. I made more sales in one week than I had in the entire life of my shop up to that point.
Since that point my listings on Etsy have shown far higher in the search rankings which has led to a more constant stream of sales with very little marketing work required on my end. Sometimes you really just need that initial push to get the ball rolling.
The overall point being is to find your target audience and start marketing to them. Etsy offers a daily ad budget you can utilize and I highly recommend putting in a few dollars per day. Facebook groups are a great place to go IF you don’t spam them.
My post would have been removed immediately if I led with “here are these baking tools I sell and here’s my shop” but by taking an organic approach it worked out just fine.
Other potential marketing avenues include Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, and Facebook Marketplace.
Final thoughts on selling your wood crafts
Woodworking is a great money making side hustle and really lets you build a job around your life. As I have said before I am a full time stay at home dad who has time to work a few hours per week in the evenings. Yet I am still able to make a solid side income. Again if you’d like to know just how much we make with our Etsy shop and on this blog feel free to sign up to our newsletter using the form in the sidebar or at the bottom of this post.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.