Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

X

Navigate / search

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?

 

Etsy

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Jess

Van Den has written 338 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at Epheriell.com. You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.

Comments

Tonya
Reply

Hmmm… I have Madeit and Ecwid on my blog and FB, but I’m now thinking I should have Etsy too… thanks for food for thought and clear reasoning!

Jess
Reply

Tonya, Etsy is ESPECIALLY awesome if you want to crack the US market. If you want to focus more on Australia, then madeit is definitely a good choice, in my opinion.

Kristen
Reply

Great article, the reasons you listed are many of the reasons I have an Etsy shop. I do need to expand and create my own website though!

Lindsay
Reply

Another I’d like you to address is blogging. I suck at it, have no desire to do it and my general skeptic nature isn’t good for business, at least not for the happy, bright, and cheerful (mostly) things I make. I can’t be fake and I have a hard time believing people will just accept my skepticism and cynicism and buy from me anyhow. Did I mention I hate blogging? So, can you be successful without blogging? I’m on twitter, pinterest, instagram and facebook more often than not. Just reopened my flickr, but I’m not on there much. So, my reach is about as far as I can handle. I’d like to hear your take on the blogging thing. Thanks.

Jess
Reply

Lindsay – that’s a truly great question. I’ll add it to my ‘to be answered’ list, so keep your eye on the Friday Q&A posts 🙂

Lindsay
Reply

Thanks Jess. I’ll keep an eye peeled.

Cath @ mybeardedpigeon
Reply

Food for thought, I guess it’s about stock levels too. Etsy has worked great for me I am currently weighing up madeit vs big cartel as my other option. Am also about to start selling with a new site called choosy.

Jess
Reply

Awesome, and good luck, Alisha!

Peony and Thistle
Reply

Thanks for this post! I’ve been selling on Etsy for almost 3 years (as well as Folksy, WOWThankYou and Not On the High Street) and think it’s definitely time to set up our website so that I can sell directly through that…. Now to find the time….

Christine
Reply

Hello and thanks for the post! I have saved on costs by excluding the US and Canada from my insurance. Do you think Etsy is worth setting up when I would be excluding sales from North America, or should I just stick to Madeit and my own site? Or should I look for some insurance that allows sales in the US? Thanks for your thoughts.

Jess
Reply

Hi Christine,

What insurance are you referring to exactly? Putting that aside – yes, I still think Etsy is worthwhile, as plenty of Aussies (myself included) shop very regularly on Etsy.

Christine
Reply

Thanks for your thoughts on this Jess. The insurance I have is product liability insurance.

Sarah
Reply

That’s a question I was only asking a few hours ago! The problem I have is when I am marketing and sharing products I always share my website as it doesn’t cost me to list/when I sell. For this reason I have very little footfall through my etsy shop. How do I grow my etsy shop without just transfering sales I would have had usually directed to my website? I was hoping the audience already searching etsy would come across my items but that hasn’t happened yet? Is it possible to build sales within etsy this way or do I need to be sharing my etsy shop when marketing and potentially directing users who would have gone to my website to etsy instead? (Sorry if I’m rambling and not making any sense)

Jess
Reply

Sarah, I think you have 2 choices. One, split your marketing across your website and your Etsy shop. Sometimes people will be more likely to buy from you first time via Etsy, then come across to your own site once they trust you. Two, work hard on photos, titles, descriptions, tags etc. in your Etsy shop to become more competitive within Etsy. Most of my Etsy sales come from Etsy traffic rather than my own marketing, but it’s taken a lot of work to get to that stage.

Sarah
Reply

Thank you for the reply. Great advice. I think I will need to split the marketing to build my reviews etc and hopefully in time with lots of work I can decrease the marketing and hopefully attract more etsy traffic. I struggle being consistent especially when sales are slow I loose heart and slow marketing down which just adds to the problem! Thanks again x

Briel
Reply

Hello there!

Long story short, my Etsy.com shop was shut down due to a few shipping issues with clients. I custom restore and rehab vintage furniture and do professional upholstery. While we are not new in our trade, we are beginners at shipping large furniture and have had some issues with clients and damaged goods during shipment. Although we have made good on all issues with clients and cases – Etsy.com has shut down my store for good. This is my ONLY source of income and although my store is on various other online markeplace platforms, 80% of my business comes from Etsy.com
I have tried using other personal information of my assistant and husband (last names and credit cards, etc are all different) however Etsy.com seems to know that these new shops I am attempting to create are somehow linked to my old shop – although ALL of the information is different. Even used different computers as to be assured they weren’t tracking the IP address. Anyone had this issue and were you able to create a new shop? My business is going under every second I am not live on Etsy.com!!! Thank you.

Kay
Reply

I had the same problem because I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and couldn’t ship orders…something I never realized is that if you use the exact same photos they link it automatically so at least retake with new background and also your street address

Briel
Reply

Kay,

I have used an entirely different computer with a different IP address, new personal information, CC, bank account, photos, etc, etc. Somehow Etsy.com still knows that despite the entirely new information – that somehow my old shop/myself is linked to the new store I am trying to setup and open. I have contacted Etsy.com to dispute this issue and prove my professionalism and good bsuiness practices however they have no interest in hearing my side of story and refuse to reopen my shop. It’s pretty pathetic that they find a good seller guilty without any consideration of the facts and shut down my only source of income based on hearsay from crazed buyers.

Kimberly
Reply

Great article! But I am here to say that you can run a successful business without Etsy. I left Etsy after only a couple of years; only had a handful of sales. Even though I have current wholesale accounts; Etsy decided not to allow me in the Etsy Wholesale market. Whatever. I have my own website only. I now stock 16 stores in 4 states; all without the help of Etsy.

Nette
Reply

Thanks Kimberley that is a success story that’s good to hear. I’m ever so slightly bemused with Etsy at present and find that even though the Magic Earth Mumma shop gets lots of favourites it is NOT translating into sales, and with the new ‘pay per click’ promo platform I am now losing money through the fees for internal promotions each month just because of the clicks. (Stop bloody favouriting everything and just goddamn BUY it!! *chuckles*)

Time to resurrect my Madeit shop methinks 😉
I also find that wholesale is looking more like my forte and a few seasonal market stalls bring in tons of interest. Collaborating with a compatible biz in the area is making my website light up lately, so the power of social media and word of mouth seems to be where I can see the path forward.

But I hand it to Etsy for their marketing info and tutorials etc. They do offer plenty of assistance for sure.

Great thread to find out about other handmade platforms 🙂
Thanks for the article Jess 🙂

Michelle Emma Kay
Reply

Thanks for sharing generously and arguing clearly as always Jess. I’m on etsy only at the moment, but intend to build my web presence by listing on other sites such as Made itin the coming months so this is helpful. My own stand alone website is definitely on the agenda, I’ll tackle it at some time in future after I gain a bit more experience.

What say you?

Google+