Etsy is a huge online marketplace for artists, crafters, and other creative makers to list and sell their products. If you’re a creator of handmade goods, chances are you’ve used Etsy to sell your stuff (or you’ve at least considered it!) It’s a fantastic place to get started if you’re new at online selling, especially if you don’t want to deal with the technical headaches of setting up your own website shop.
But like anything else, Etsy comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. And for a lot of online sellers, it doesn’t take long to outgrow Etsy’s platform or to become frustrated by its limitations.
If you feel you are ready to establish your brand and business outside of the crowded marketplace, should you move to your own e-commerce website?
As a website designer who builds e-commerce websites, I was curious what actual Etsy sellers thought about this. In my mind, nothing beats having a standalone website, your very own corner of the internet dedicated to your business! But I know I’m biased (and possibly suspicious of anything that threatens my own livelihood, ha) So I asked my audience what they loved and didn’t love about Etsy on my Instagram stories and got some great feedback.
Selling on Etsy: PROS
- Sellers can take advantage of the thriving marketplace for testing and proving their products with minimal time or money invested.
- It’s a powerful search engine that can help you gain new customers who wouldn’t normally find you, are actively searching for something to buy, likely with their credit card in their hand!
- There are a lot of payout options, and they handle all the money stuff like sales tax calculations. Things are EASY from a transaction standpoint.
Selling on Etsy: CONS
- Competition is fierce, so getting found can be a challenge – especially if your item is surrounded by rival products. There’s very little control over how you rank in results.
- Being one in a sea of hundreds or thousands of others selling the same product dilutes your brand. When someone asks where a buyer bought your product, chances are good they’ll say “Etsy!” and won’t actually remember your business name at all.
- Etsy charges a listing fee, even if you never sell an item.
- In the case of product theft & disputes, you are subject to Etsy’s rules and policies – which can feel risky as a business owner.
- Ultimately, you don’t own your store – Etsy does. So you can’t customize or brand it to make it personal, and you can’t easily export your customer data to use outside of the Etsy system.
(Some other great reads about Etsy: How Etsy Alienated Its Crafters and Lost Its Soul and Etsy’s Evolution Strains Sellers)
What I found the most surprising from my discussions with Etsy sellers is that they seemed to truly have a love/hate relationship with it. The favorite perks are the ease of use, little investment in getting set up, and a captive audience ready to buy their products (if you can be found!) But there were a lot of complaints about the listing fees and lack of control that comes with using a hosted, third-party system to sell products.
So, what about selling on your own website?
Selling on your own website: PROS
- You can create a branded experience for your customers, which will build trust and loyalty. And – let’s be honest – it makes you look more professional and like you’ve got your sh*t together!
- It’s easier to cultivate a base of returning customers via an email list and memorable branding. It costs more to gain new customers than it does to get repeat business, and relying on someone to find you again on Etsy is less like if they aren’t getting frequent communication from you.
- You can list as many products as you need to, organized however you want them, and you can customize shipping and delivery requirements.
- You own the store. You control the messaging, the branding, the data, everything. (Type A People, can I get an AMEN!!?)
Selling on your own website: CONS
- Marketing is a must. You’ll need to use social media channels, search engine optimization, and other tools to drive targeted traffic to your website.
- You’ll need to build a website (duh.) That’s a whole juicy project in itself, with some tech setup and upfront costs, along with ongoing maintenance. It may not be possible to do on your own, so you’ll need to hire a website developer.
- If you’re just starting out with your business, it may feel risky to invest time and money in a website if you’re not sure your products will sell, or if you don’t yet have an audience.
So what’s the verdict??
Something that I realized after digging into this: having both an Etsy site AND a standalone site is the best way to counteract the challenges of both. (SO OKAY FINE, the website developer realizes she was maybe wrong! ha) Here are some pretty simple solutions to a few of the glaring/annoying issues with Etsy, and some ideas for getting moving on your own e-commerce website:
ETSY SHOP: To overcome getting lost in the results and not having a strong brand: include a card or note with each product you ship, offering the customer a discount to shop directly on your website.
ETSY SHOP: To build a loyal audience: invite customers to follow you on social platforms and to join your email list for coupons and updates.
YOUR OWN WEBSITE: To help market your standalone website: drive traffic to your site using Pinterest.
YOUR OWN WEBSITE: Start small. If you’re not ready to make the leap into a fully customized e-commerce website, there are some easier DIY options available, like Shopify.
Neither selling on Etsy nor having your own website is a perfect option. When it comes to business, using as many powerful tools as we can is the BEST way to make money! So maximize your resources and consider your Etsy shop as just one more tool in your toolbox. But don’t discount the value of having your own website through which to sell your stuff.