C&T Q&A – Can You Have a Successful Handmade Business Without Etsy?

This week, Kate asks:

Do you think it’s possible to create a successful business without using Etsy? I used to sell jewelry on there and after 3 years my account was suspended for violating the etsy policies.  I didn’t realize it and after pleading with the admins, I realized they weren’t going to let me come back. I’m on Big Cartel and sales are slow.  I’m just not sure if realistically, it will ever amount to a successful business without Etsy. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your issues with Etsy, Kate, that must have been a rude shock. I’m glad to hear it hasn’t stopped you pursuing your business, though!

Honestly, I’m the first to suggest that everyone who has a crafts-based business should have a shop on Etsy.

I still make a good portion of sales there, and it’s where I find a lot of new customers.

Etsy is definitely still the premier online marketplace for handmade – and not only that, it’s also a handmade search engine. I know that Etsy is my first port of call when I want to buy handmade. Both of these reasons are why I will never shut my Etsy shop – no matter how successful my own site becomes (Epheriell.com already accounts for well over half of my total online sales).

However – as useful and awesome as Etsy is for growing and running your business – I also believe that anyone serious about their handmade business should set up their own shop on their own website.

If you’re doing all the hard work to market your business and grow a customer base, you should be sending that traffic to your own website.

Now – there are of course other marketplaces out there online, and if you make reproducible products (you are doing that, aren’t you??) you should set yourself up on as many of these as you can feasibly manage. If only with a small sample of your core range. I see these sites as marketing – getting my work out in front of as many people in as many places as possible, at low cost.

Personally, I have my jewellery on Madeit and Blue Caravan here in Australia, as well as Supermarket HQ, Dawanda, and a few other places overseas. I make a nice number of sales across these marketplaces, but Etsy and Epheriell.com are my main shops, where I stock all of my work.

If you can’t sell on Etsy, for whatever reason, you should seriously consider setting up your own site, rather then relying primarily on another venue.

So, what are the costs vs benefits?




  • Premier online marketplace
  • First port of call for many people wanting to buy handmade
  • Easy to use
  • Excellent ‘training’ ground – to compete on Etsy you have to play a stellar game with fantastic photos, good descriptions, excellent customer service, etc
  • Trust – people know that if they buy on Etsy they are protected if something goes wrong
  • Transparent feedback – do a good job and people will see that and buy from you


  • Fees – you pay listing fees, relisting fees, a percentage of every sale (and this is on top of the Paypal fees you pay)
  • Not as professional – anyone can sell on Etsy
  • Lack of control – like Kate, they could shut you down anytime they like, and all the work you’ve done will be extinguished
  • Distraction – people are likely to favourite you and forget and move on and try to find the best deal within Etsy, rather than sticking in your shop


Your Site


  • Control, control, control – you can do exactly what you like, make it look how you like, and no-one can take it away from you! It’s your baby.
  • Professionalism – having your own site shows you’re a serious business
  • Focus – once people are on your site, they won’t be tempted to click away to all the myriad other options available like they can on Etsy


  • You don’t have access to an immediate customer base – you have to do the hard work to bring people to you
  • People may be hesitant to make their first purchase from you if they don’t already know and trust you (many of my website customers found me on Etsy or elsewhere first, and after their first positive buying experience with me, now happily shop on Epheriell.com)
  • Might be expensive if you don’t have the knowledge to set it up yourself


Obviously, my recommendation is to have both – an Etsy shop and your own site (and any other venues you can manage). Having a shop on Etsy makes building your business a lot easier, especially in the beginning. You’ll find that you reach a kind of critical mass there, too – the more sales you’ve made, the more you’ll make as you are established as a serious seller.

However, you can have a successful handmade business without Etsy. It will just take you a little longer to grow your customer base. But if you’re patient, work hard, market smart, and have a stellar website and webstore, you CAN do it.


Want to take your Etsy shop to the next level, or set up shop on your own site for the first time? Join the email list to find out when I launch my upcoming ecourse, Set Up Shop.

Grow Your Business With Pinterest: (1) Get Your Images Right

Pinterest-Get Your Images Right

This is the first in a four-part guest post series by Caylie Price about how to use Pinterest to effectively market your business.

Are you still relaxing after the New Year or back into the full swing of things? Wondering how you will ever get it all done? Couldn’t take on another thing? If you are that’s brilliant. It says you’re producing fantastic work.

The crazy festive times are starting to settle. The pre- festive rush is past and you can catch up on some well-deserved rest. There’s nothing as wonderful as chilling out with family and friends in the New Year.


Be very careful not to lose all the momentum you’ve worked so hard to create in your business. The last thing you want to hear is crickets as all goes quiet in your business.

Pinterest is perfect to keep the momentum without huge investments of time when you are flat out filling orders or recovering from the rush.

The beauty of Pinterest is its visual AND viral nature.

You can really showcase what your brand stands for and share your creations with audiences far and wide.

With Pinterest it’s super easy for potential customers to search for images by topic and find the original source (unlike Facebook).

To make the most of the opportunities Pinterest presents (with minimal effort) there are a few things you need to do:

  1.  Get your images right – probably not in the way you are thinking.

  2. Optimise your boards and descriptions – not nearly as scary as it sounds.

  3. Use the tools available to streamline your efforts – it makes good sense.

  4. Evaluate and refine – continual improvement garners the best outcomes.

Let’s start with images.

When preparing any image for pinning you want to make sure it tells your peeps a story and the action you want them to take. Is it a new product? A special? A giveaway?

Here is an example, using a competition I ran for Jess’ ebook How to Run a Rockin’ Mailing List a while back.

I could have just used and pinned this image:

Clock Tower

Yes, it’s a nice enough image but what is it telling us to do? What is the article it relates to all about?

Now have a look at this:

Clock Ticking

You can see the correlation between the clock tower and the story you’re telling. You could also include a copyright icon or web url.

To improve it further you could add “Click To Enter” or a similar call-to-action like this:

WIN - Rockin-Mailing-List-Cover

Now you might not be able to afford Photoshop to improve your images but don’t worry. (I don’t have Photoshop either).

Let me introduce you to PicMonkey!

Being creative peeps you might be using it already. If not, oh boy you will love it. I am completely addicted! PicMonkey is a FREE image editing and collage creating tool. It is very simple to use and offers a variety of design functions. {Jess’ note: I use Google Picassa for a lot of my image editing, which is also free and awesome. Also, if you want to get a bit more serious – try GIMP, it’s basically the free version of Photoshop.}

You can turn drab to fab!

Action: This week spend as little as fifteen minutes improving images in PicMonkey. Make sure you tell a story and include a call to action.

Once you’ve got your image, upload it to Pinterest as you normally would, add a description (including a link that you want your peeps to follow) and pin it.

Mission critical is the next step!

Now your image is uploaded, click on the image’s edit button. You will see a box like the following appear:

Edit Screen

See how the link box is empty. If someone clicked on your image currently they’d be shown a bigger version of the image. You want to direct them to a specific location instead. Maybe your mailing list opt in, your store, a new blog post, to enter a competition.

Wherever it is make sure to add the specific link in the box and save the pin. When someone clicks the image they will be taken directly to your chosen destination. This is what you want – after all, you are using Pinterest to drive momentum for your business.

Let’s recap!

  1. Pinterest is an awesome tool to maintain or build momentum for your business.

  2. Always make sure your image tells a story and includes a call to action. (PicMonkey rocks!)

  3. Edit the image once pinned and add a direct link that takes your peeps where you want them to go.

Easy isn’t it! You’ll love the results!

Action: When you’ve completed your first image in this manner leave a link in the comments so I can have a look.

Next week’s Grow Your Business With Pinterest post will focus on verifying your account and how to convert to the new business accounts.


Caylie Headshot

Caylie Price is the founder of Better Business Better Life.

A social strategist, copywriter, SEO consultant and all round great chick, Caylie helps you blast your business to success so you can live the life you want.

Sign up now to be first to know when she releases her new Pinterest For Business ebook!

Don’t let this fear stop your business from gaining the attention it deserves

{image by Andy McCready}

This is a guest post by PR maven Brigitte Lyons.

Every time I talk to a group of makers and creatives about going for publicity, the same reservation comes up.

“I’m afraid to promote my work, because I don’t want someone to steal it.”

Especially in the indie and handmade communities, where product is valued for more than its ability to generate profit, this fear looms large.

Because this is such a personal and charged issue, I stayed out of the conversation. Today, I want to share my perspective as a communicator and a marketer.

The threat of theft is the cost of doing business.

You can choose to respond with fear and bitterness… or to seize opportunity.

Before you throw rotten tomatoes at me, let me elaborate.


1. The second you show your work to another person, you run the risk of being copied.

This is so obviously true, but you might be saying, “Of course I know this, but the risk grows as my audience broadens.” Well…


2. Publicity can actually protect you.

When you’re small (in both customer base and funding), it’s really easy to steal from you. A schoolyard bully doesn’t pick on the other big kids, right? He steals the lunch money from kids that are smaller than him. He’s safe, because he knows they can’t, or won’t, fight back.

The same is true when you guard your work from the world. Your only defense is a lawsuit, which accomplishes just as much as running to the principal. You might get reparations, but you’ve still been wronged.


3. Free yourself to focus on opportunities, not threats.

When you stop letting fear make your business decisions, you can expand. What dreams do you only half-admit to yourself now, because you’re too scared of all the badness that could happen along the way? Do some free-writing right now. Spend 10 minutes each on the following prompts.

If I weren’t afraid of being copied, I would:
This would affect my business by:

How do you feel looking at your lists? Are these rewards worth the risk?


4. Success is the best revenge.

Let’s say you’re having a hard time visualizing the good. Fine. As they say, don’t get mad, get even. Wouldn’t it feel more satisfying to become successful beyond your wildest dreams, on your own terms, than to cower?


5. Even an instance of copying can be an opportunity.

Here’s where we really get our PR on. How can you actually profit from copying?

Let’s say Urban Outfitters steals your design (since they’re so notorious for it). First, you’ve learned something about your audience. If Urban wants your art, then it’s gonna appeal to spoiled teenagers (because how else could they afford it?) and 20-something hipsters. Why not use what you know about hipsters to beat Urban at its own game.

Get together with all the artists you know that were ripped off, create marked-up editions of your copied work, and use the proceeds to start a public awareness campaign about big brand theft.

In fact, if anyone wants to run with this idea, I’ll consult for free. Public awareness campaigns are how I got my start in PR.

This is a deeply personal issue for creators and innovators. It’s practically impossible to say: “You could be copied, but you have to move forward,” without stirring up a wasp nest.

That’s a big part of the problem. Often, when you’re copied, it’s your ego that suffers, not your business.

If you can make the switch – if you can see the threat but focus on the opportunity – you’ll see that being copied isn’t nearly as damaging as the script that’s holding you back.




Brigitte Lyons is a media strategist for microbusiness, who has helped clients get covered by CNN, Daily Candy, Entrepreneur magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Design*Sponge.

She  dishes out free PR tips and is the creator of Your Media Map — an 8-week course that systematically eliminates the barriers to getting the PR coverage you deserve.

Some of you are not going to like this, but I’m going to say it anyway…


Chances are, you became a crafter because you love making stuff. (I know I did.) By now, you’ve probably worked out what you like making the most. And if you’re here, reading this, I’m going to assume that you like making that stuff so much that you’re trying to make (at least part of) a living by selling the stuff you like to make.

Let me make it really clear – Making stuff you like is awesome. That’s why we craft: because we have a passion for it.

But here’s the bit you may not like:

Just because you love making it does not mean there are people who want to buy it.

The craft community is a warm and fuzzy place – that is part of what makes it so freaking awesome. We love to support each other, help each other, and share with each other.

We’re not so good at telling people the truth when we think it might hurt their feelings. I have been in the uncomfortable position of having to say no to featuring certain products because they (or, the photography of them) is just not up to scratch. It’s a place you find yourself in when you run something like my craft blog, or a magazine.

It sucks to say no. It’s really, really hard.

I hate doing it. But it’s part of the job I’ve made for myself. (And why is it so hard? Because I know there is a person there, on the other end of the e-mail, who is just like me. Who wants to make their dream happen – and I really, really dig helping people make their dreams happen.)

But back to my point.

When you start making for profit rather than for pleasure, your perspective needs to shift.

You need to stop thinking exclusively about you, and what you enjoy – and you need to start thinking about your customers.

Sweet Spot 2

If you’re doing all the right promotional ‘stuff’ but your work is not selling, I want to encourage you to really have a long, hard, cold look at your products from an outsider’s perspective.

I would advise you not to ask the opinions of friends or family, because – let’s be honest – they love you, and they will find it mucho hard to tell you the truth if they think there’s any sort of negative there.

Or, on the other hand, they may not understand what you do at all, nor that there is a possible market out there for your work in this burgeoning handmade movement. In short, they’re not objective – they have a vested interest in you one way or the other.

This whole crafting-as-a-business caper is hard – and it’s a never-ending process of growth and discovery.

I’d like to encourage you to have a peek at one of the very first things I sold in my Etsy shop.

Yep, pretty ordinary, hey? (And check out the totally heinous flash photos!!! Eww… talk about what NOT to do!)

I believe my product has come a heck of a long way since then. I’ve worked on my designs, my brand, my focus, my photos, my descriptions, my packaging… and I have no doubt that I will continue to work on all of those things in an effort to become more successful in my business.

Is my work/product perfect? No. Is my business model perfect? Hell no. But I believe I’m going in the right direction.

(And, just so you know, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as ‘perfect’. There’s ‘good enough’ and ‘awesome’ and ‘unique’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘squeee’ – but no ‘perfect’.)

Is there some aspect of your product that you need to change? Are you doing/making the same thing as a million other people? Is there a market you could be tapping into, but aren’t? Heck – maybe the problem isn’t your product, but your photos of it – when you’re selling online, that’s the magic key to the door.

Go to it, people: examine, grow, adapt, take risks, and make something awesome.


{top image by Amanda Mocci}

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