Is An Etsy Shop Or Your Own Ecommerce Site The Right Choice?

We have all heard the famous line: "I bought it on Etsy".  We might have even muttered those words ourselves.  

As creative people, we know it's important to recognize the artist behind the work.  But how do you get recognized as in independent artist when you are just one among many in the sea of Etsy?  

There are many people for and against selling on Etsy.  Each person’s goals are different and you really have to decide for yourself if it’s right for your business goals.  If you think it will work out for you, then give it a shot.  The worse you can do is not sell, or sell enough to realize you need a more flexible and independent site.  

If you’re thinking about selling on Etsy, consider how this compares to having your own site.  

Pros with Etsy

You’re just starting out.  If your thinking about selling a craft but you aren’t sure you want to really invest in your new idea, give Etsy a try.  You’ve done the research and know there is a need for what you are going to sell, but you don’t yet want to fully commit your time and effort with an independent business.  

Etsy is extremely simple to set up.  As soon as you sign up, you are walked through the process of setting up your shop.  You do not have to worry about hosting or domain fees (that’s where you pay for a website to exist and the web address it uses).  But don’t get too relaxed: you should still have a unique business name, a logo that is recognizable, and professional level photos of you and your items for sale.   

Less pressure.  You don’t have to worry about blogging, complex SEO strategies to rank high in Google, website maintenance, plug-ins (what’s that?!), formatting, and all of the fun stuff that comes with owning your own site.  If low key is what you’re looking for, Etsy might be your answer.  

Straight forward approach.  You can easily see who your competition is and how their products differ from yours.  There’s a simple strategic approach for how to best label your items: This post by Cindy from CindyLouDoesStats covers most of it.  Most people who want something handmade will eventually end up on Etsy either because they are already familiar with the site, or Google led them there.

You can have both. Your own site and a shop on Etsy?  Why not!  Etsy can be a way to supplement your shop on your own site.  You would then have two shops to maintain but if you’ve already gotten your own site set up, then Etsy will be a piece of cake.  Remember to post a link to your own site everywhere you possible can on Etsy (about page, each and every single product page) to try to get your customers to visit your site.  

About the same

Transactional fees. Etsy charges $0.20 for each item you post for sale.  If your item doesn’t sale in four months, you get charged another $0.20 with their auto renew program, or the listing comes down.  They take a 3.5% commission on all sales.

     PayPal and Stripe are similar in fee structure ($0.30 + 2.9%per transaction).  These are two of the most common options for your own site.

Where’s the help button? Each type of site, whether it be Etsy or a hosting site, all have a community area where users can post questions or find solutions.  

Cons with Etsy

Collecting those precious emails. Think of email addresses as the glue between you and your customers.  You want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to sign up.  Etsy allows you to link a provider such as MailChimp to your About page and a few other limited areas, but this means your customer has to go looking for it.  The second you make it somewhat inconvenient to find where to sign up, you’ve likely lost that customer forever.  If you have your own site, you can have a sign up box at the top of the page, at the right, at the left, and any where in between.  

Policy changes are imminent. You are at the mercy of any policy changes that might affect how you do business.    

You can’t want flexibility. You can’t blog or have a conversation with your customers through comments and such that a regular website would have. Your options are extremely limited for customization. SEO (search engine optimization) is complicated enough trying to rank high enough on Google for when people type in the search box, but not having much more than an about page and product titles makes it nearly impossible to rank at all.

You, your competition, and your chances. Your competition is literally listed right next to you.  It can be hard to stand out and you might end up feeling like you have to sell at a lower price to compete.  Your potential customers will see them too and it can be nearly impossible to get their focus solely on your product.

How to stand out in the Etsy crowd:

  • Remember that having your own brand and your own style is key.  No one likes a copy-cat.
  • Have a brand that is recognizable. 
  • Price your products what they are worth and not to catch the attention of a price shopper.  You don’t want that kind of traffic anyways.  
  • Honesty, timelines, and reliability go without saying.  People will read the reviews from other customers to see if they had a good experience working with you.

When you should definitely have your own site:

...even if it's in addition to Etsy

  • You have grown past “I’d like to see if this craft of mine will sell” and you’re having a lot of consistent success.
  • You offer a local service such as family photography.  
  • You realize having a blog suites your business needs.
  • You have a desire to grow beyond the capabilities of Etsy.

There are many choices when it comes to opening a shop up online for creatives.  What will be your choice?  

If you're looking at WordPress or SquareSpace, here's a good article to read next.