A Side Hustle for Creatives: Sell Handmade Halloween Costumes

Image: Handmade costume
kelly under Creative Commons

Are you one of those people who loves Halloween costumes? Do you like going to the fabric and craft stores and putting together a perfect medieval doublet, wizard cape or flapper dress? Have you ever sewn a Halloween costume for your dog?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, we might have the perfect side hustle for you.

Plenty of people want to dress up as mysterious witches, scary zombies or bloodcurdling vampires for Halloween, but don’t want to wear the cheap synthetic costumes sold at Halloween box stores. That’s where you come in. By using your skills to create and sell handcrafted, quality Halloween costumes on sites like Etsy and eBay, you have the opportunity to earn some decent cash.

How to Make Your Costumes Stand Out

A lot of people are selling handmade Halloween costumes on Etsy, so before you open your own shop, take a look at what’s already on offer. Pay attention to a few things:


  • Price: How are other costume sellers pricing their costumes? You’ll want to hit within the median range: too high, and shoppers might choose a lower cost item; too low, and you run the risk of not making a profit.
  • Quality and style: Take a look at all of the witch costumes on Etsy. Some of them use high-quality fabric, some use cheap fabric. Some are cute, and some are frightening. What do you see other costumers doing well, and what do you think you could improve upon?
  • What’s missing? Sure, a lot of people are selling witch costumes on Etsy, but there aren’t a lot of options for people who want to be warlocks. You’ll see a lot of adorable costumes for cats, but there aren’t any adorable zombie costumes for cats. By figuring out what other people aren’t offering, you can sell to markets that aren’t already oversaturated.

What About Trademarked Costumes and Characters?

If you look through Etsy’s listings, you’ll see a lot of costumes that look awfully familiar: Elsa from Frozen, Superman, Captain America, Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Why can’t you make those costumes?

Technically, those kinds of costumes are trademark violations. Some Etsy sellers get their shops shut down for selling items that violate trademarks.

Plenty of great Halloween costume ideas don’t violate trademarks, so stick to those. Mummies, witches, ghouls and vampires are all great costumes. You can also make beautiful princess gowns or fairy tutus, but steer clear of trademarked princess outfits like a “Cinderella-inspired blue ball gown.”

How to Make a Profit

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they start businesses like these is that they fail to charge enough to cover the cost of their labor, supplies and taxes — in short, they fail to make a profit.

Read our Starting a Freelance Business guide to learn more about how to make sure your business makes a profit. The shortest form of this advice is: make sure you’re charging more for your product than it costs to make it! Do some math before you get started to make sure you’re making money on every costume.

When you’re working with costumes, you have to think a lot about the cost of supplies. Do you want to buy in bulk and risk having materials left over, or do you want to buy smaller amounts and pay a little more? You also have to decide whether you want to invest in high-end fabrics and materials to make a truly beautiful costume, or use cheaper, synthetic stuff designed for a young kid who is outside trick-or-treating.

In many ways, the choice is about your target audience: are you selling historically authentic or couture costumes to adults who want to impress friends at costume parties — in which case, you can charge significantly higher prices — or are you making quick, cheap, cute costumes for kids and pets? Authentic historical costumes for adults tend to sell for at least $300 and often run closer to $500 or more. Cute costumes for cats, on the other hand, sell for around $25.

You should also keep your target audience in mind as you do your marketing. Yes, if you’re selling on Etsy, people are likely to find your costumes through an Etsy search, but you can also advertise your Etsy store on Facebook, share pictures of your costumes on Instagram, and otherwise publicize your work on social media.

Don’t wait for someone to search for you; tell everyone you know that your costumes are out there, and they’ll be great for an upcoming office costume party or for the family that wants to do a group costume this year.

Other Tips

Start early. Once you factor in shipping and any adjustments you might need to make before sending the costume, you’ll need to plan ahead and move quickly to get people the costumes they want in time for Halloween.

Consider making one “model” costume to use as your display image, and then making the rest of your Halloween costumes to spec, after customers order them and provide measurements. There is no reason you need to make 20 red panda baby costumes unless you already know you’ve got 20 parents who want them — making too many costumes in advance wastes both time and money.

Since you are running a small business, you need to think about things like taxes. If you’re selling on Etsy, start with Taxes 101 for Etsy Sellers.

If you’re selling handmade items on Etsy, you’ll also need to follow their handmade guidelines.

Your Turn: Have you ever sold handmade Halloween costumes online? Do you have advice for other sellers?