Sell on Etsy {and nowhere else?}

Selling on Etsy and only on Etsy? I think it’s entirely “smart thinking” for a new company to form with the idea that they will only sell on Etsy. Forever.

The first and most important reason I think that is because of the Etsy brand. If you make a great product and take great pictures and put them on Etsy today, then your “store” will look just as good as the store down the block that’s been there forever. In fact, it will look the same. I think that’s good for you as a start-up.

As the Internet grows, I think it’s going to get tougher for independent websites to differentiate themselves and get sales. People like to buy where they’ve bought before. When they have made one successful purchase on Etsy, no matter who the seller is, they become confident in purchasing ON Etsy.com. This is a huge hurdle for new websites that you don’t have to deal with selling on Etsy.

So, reason number one… The Etsy Brand.

Other reasons include ease of use, reasonably low cost, good (and sometimes instant) presence in search results, and a great community of like minded people in one place. Not to mention the gravitational pull of a site so huge. You just get lots of people there.

Did I already use reason number one? {I’m thinking about “simplicity“}

Sure, there are circumstances when you’ll want to branch out and build your own site on your own domain. For example, I just opened up a felt shop on my own domain {shameless plug}. It seems much nicer to me to be able to sell $2.00 sheets of felt without paying 10% for listing the item (.20 listing fee) every time it sells and I want to be able to sell downloadable felt patterns automatically without having to physically send an email.

No doubt, there are times when you want to sell in more than one place, or not sell on Etsy at all. It’s not perfect for every single circumstance. But, often, selling on Etsy is the perfect solution.

What do you think? Is “putting all your eggs in the Etsy basket” a bad idea? Is the Etsy brand still on the upswing?

We’ve got a one questions poll here, and would love your opinion. And let’s not stop there. Let’s talk about it in the comments. Feel free to speak your mind!

Do you think focusing ONLY on Etsy is smart business?

View Results

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you so much for this. Most times I hear ‘do two or more different places’. Well, I put in enough time in ONE. I don’t need to have my listings in several different places. Etsy gets tons of traffic. I just need to funnel it to my shop and that takes promoting. Not another shop. Thanks!

  2. says

    When I jumped into the world of online selling I considered getting my own website. In fact, I did. I paid for the domain name and never built the site up because I found that Etsy took care of all my business needs. There was also the added plus of knowing that if something went wrong on the site, I wasn’t on my own (or on the phone for hours with a hosting site) trying to fix issues I didn’t understand. (I’m pretty bad when it comes to that stuff). I love the Etsy community and I think the network provides something you otherwise wouldn’t experience on your own.

  3. says

    You raise some good points here. The only issue that I’ve experienced with selling on Etsy is that I’ve had a couple of customers who didn’t want to have to be a ‘member’ to buy something & so they’ve gone to my ArtFire studio. I prefer the one stop approach, that you’ve talked about here & I’ve had far more sales on Etsy. I haven’t been able to talk everyone into signing up for Etsy, yet, so I currently need an alternative. Thanks for posing this interesting discussion.

  4. says

    That’s a tough one to address because there are a lot of people that are not particularly satisfied with etsy (have you seen the etsy bitch website?). I personally have had decent luck and have felt good about most of my experiences. I would prefer a better search function (so I do not have to renew things every day and continue to pay .20 to do so each time) but my business does continue to grow slowly.

  5. says

    I think the only way you can give your Etsy shop the care, updates, and sales it requires is to focus on just one shop. I don’t enjoy the photo, listing, description part enough to want to do that on more than one website. I like to create, not complicate!

  6. says

    Hello Kim,
    I have actually been contemplating leaving Etsy and opening a shop at Big Cartel. To be honest, I find it very hard to get noticed on Etsy…just getting too big. I also have a big problem with the favoritism that Etsy admin seems to show their top money making shops.
    I received an e-mail from Etsy admin advising me that I had some improper tagging on a few of my listings. They recommended I look at some of the more experienced sellers and how they tag. Also to read their tagging rules. I did look at most of the top 10 shops and 80% had improper tagging. In fact the Front Page Featured Seller on that very same day had improper tagging….and they were being showcased by Etsy!!
    I told Etsy that I would happy to correct my tags and that I hoped these ‘big’ shops would be getting the same e-mail as I got…fair is fair!
    Finally, I hate the new Teams only forum set-up. All the circle stuff..I am not there to be social..I’m on Facebook and Twitter for that. I want to sell to my customers, not spend hours chatting with other sellers.

    Ok…enough negativity…these are just my realizations and I wish the best to my fellow Etsians.
    I love your website Kim and always enjoy reading your posts.
    Janet xox

  7. says

    Sorry to start a conversation then bail! Tim and I walked to put a check in the bank and ended up hopping from place to place in downtown Punta Gorda. A twenty minute walk turned into four hours! (fun though)

    @Susan – Great point! The challenges of figuring out a bunch of income streams can be a lot of work and keeping it in one place helps with that!

    @Mandy – I think you hit the nail on the head. The real marketing work, no matter where you are, is in promoting your stuff. If you focus your efforts on that, it’s gonna pay off.

    @Laura – I think you represent a large group of Etsypreneurs :-) who don’t want to have to worry about hosting and domains and the problems that arise with those things. Etsy does take all that off your plate. Thanks!

    @Pat – You rock! Thanks for being a great MIL and raising such a great guy to be my bud.

    @Samsstuff – wasn’t aware you didn’t have to join Artfire to buy. Makes sense. I wonder if Etsy will make that change in the future?

    @Tricia – I know some people have had trouble with Etsy but that’s going to happen with so many customers and members. I wonder sometimes if some people spend more time trying to squawk and make noise than trying to be successful in actually selling something. You don’t hear any complaints from the people who are selling and they aren’t successful because Etsy “favors” them, it’s because they work their tails off. IMHO

    @Lisa K- Thanks for your input. I think you’re making a good choice focusing on the one shop.

    @ Tricia (2nd Tricia) I’ve never tried shows but lots of people at Etsypreneur say they do well at shows. I think shows and local shops is a great way to expand your reach beyond online.

    @ Janet – Thanks for loving EverythingEtsy even if Etsy is rubbing you the wrong way at the moment! I guess I understand what they must have meant about looking at what the bigger sellers do. No doubt about it that the most surefire way to being successful is looking at someone who is and doing what they do! But I also know what you mean about the frustration of being told to do something different if it appears that others are doing the same thing and succeeding. I know some people love Big Cartel, but I really think it’s much like moving out of the busiest mall in town when you leave Etsy. The people are there, it’s just a matter of getting them into your shop.

    Thanks for all the great comments! :) ~ Kim

  8. says

    Etsy helped me get a foothold in the online selling world. Since I only sell supplies for makers (fabric and patterns) it’s difficult to list 15 yards of fabric per bolt and pay 20 cents per yard! I also didn’t like getting hit three times, twice by Etsy (to list and again a transaction fee) then by Pay pal to process the sale. I branched out into my own website and my sales actually increased. But I’ve kept my Etsy shop and started another one in fact, just focused on my solid fabrics. It took me awhile but I think I might have figured out how to make Etsy work for me. Good luck to everyone in their shops!

  9. says

    I feel like the best thing I did for my business was leave etsy. I wanted a shop that was ME. Janet makes a very interesting point. I hate the way you have to be a member to shop and you have to check out with etsy and with paypal – every seller prefers to look at a different address, and being someone who moves a lot myself, I always have troubles with multiple shipping address spots.

    Good topic, Kim!

  10. says

    @Anna – I’ve had those same concerns about the fees, but then I notice that some of the biggest sellers on Etsy sell low ticket supplies all day and all night! So I think it’s just a matter of pricing. That said, it would be nice to see reduced fees for small ticket items.

    @Katie – You chose strong words when you say that “the best thing I did for my business was leave Etsy”. Obviously, I don’t agree that this would prove to be true in the long-run for most readers here.

    One thing I can say is this: If you can’t get people into your Etsy shop, there is no way you’ll get them into your own website.

    When you start your own site, you’ve got two ways to get people in:
    1. Your own network – Twitter, Facebook, your blog, your email list, etc. If your network is big enough, you can get people in.
    2. Advertise – Spend money on Google AdWords or other online advertising. Probably starting by paying per click, then if you’re making money, move into more expensive types of ads.

    The thing is, that for most of us, if we do these things for our Etsy shop we’re going to succeed.

    Additionally, it’s a pretty big job to set-up a shop. It takes lots of work (and usually a good bit of expense) to design and build an e-commerce site. And it’s not free to maintain either. There are hosting fees and the more current and highly featured e-commerce platforms are pretty pricey, but they have the features you would want in your own shop.

    I really think that Etsy is an answer to prayer for the majority of sellers who are serious about building a business. They can focus on learning the most important aspects of success: Product, Photography, Marketing, SEO, Packaging, Shipping, and Customer Service in a place where, if they get the above things down to a science, they WILL sell. You can do all of the above exactly right in your own shop and still not sell if you don’t have the people.

    ———
    In general thought about the “required to be a member to buy” – this isn’t all bad. It might be a hurdle to begin with, but once a buyer has gone through the process of buying on Etsy the first time, they’re IN. They’re part of the community and I think they feel like they are part of a movement in our culture. (handmade/indie) There are now 7.2 million members of Etsy and last year, they purchased an average of over $40 worth of product each. $314 Million in total. That’s a whole lot o buyers who don’t have to “become a member”.

  11. says

    I started with a local Fall craftshow and continue to do it every year. I am now trying to get involved with another craft show that is held in the Spring. I have made more sales at my show than I have made so far on Etsy but I like the fact that on Etsy I can showcase my jewelry year round. It is better to have some people looking at my items and have the possibility of making a sale than to have them stored away until my next craft show. So far I am pleased with Etsy and don’t have any desire to leave. My intention was not to leave my ‘day’ job but to be able to keep on making the jewelry that I love to make and hopefully selling it along the way!!
    Denise
    from
    BeadedEmbellishments
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/beadedembellishments

  12. says

    I love selling on Etsy! I do have my items on other sites as well. The reason, google searches. Since Etsy does not syndicate the shops automatically and it can take years. My items in other shops are the ones that show up in google searches. Until, my Etsy shop is syndicated, I will have to juggle.

  13. says

    I really think whether you stay exclusively on Etsy or not depends on what you sell,what your budget is and how much risk you’re willing to take. In certain Etsy categories there’s lots of competition and I see some sellers reducing prices to stay competitive.
    As a seller of soap supplies I would like to see Etsy shops have more flexibility with categories and subcategories. I think it can be confusing for a buyer to see the same fragrance listed four different times for four different sizes!
    I also agree with Jamie about the Google, I am/was number one keyword search for bath bomb molds…but everytime I sell one it can takes days to get back on even the front page!
    Having said that…I really love the Etsy community and all the great talented Etsians I’ve met.

  14. says

    I probably will, at some point, have my own web site (my dear husband is skilled in building such things), but I will keep some product listed on Etsy- it’s been a great way to start out as a first time small business owner. Fairly low risk financially. Etsy definitely has some things I disagree with. I get irritated at times, but over all, not bad.
    I have noticed that some people prefer not to become a member, as others have mentioned here – it’s a shame to loose customers that way.
    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts here – :D
    ~Heidi

  15. says

    I sell on both Etsy and ArtFire.
    Etsy does okay because it has been around for awhile, but ArtFire is a much better site. It is cheaper and has more features.
    I highly recommend it.

  16. says

    Art Jewelry: I will check ArtFire out – I have heard of so many craft people that use it, but have never before looked at it myself. :D
    Thanks!

  17. says

    Thanks to all of you for your thoughts!

    Our blog is EverythingETSY.com and we also have ETSYpreneur.com and the Everything ETSY directory, and I have two active Etsy shops myself, so maybe my opinion is a little bit biased :-), but I don’t think I’m being biased when I say that I firmly believe that as of today, the best place for the majority of handmade sellers to get started is on Etsy.

    The traffic is so much stronger, the brand is so much more recognized, and the community is so well established that it’s hard to make good business sense out of putting all your efforts into another venue. Now, if someone personally wants to do that for their own reasons, more power to them. I’m talking about business reasoning here.

    The votes in the poll in this post showed an interesting result. The majority of people felt that the smartest thing to do was to start only on Etsy and then expand or branch out from there.

    Thanks again for all the comments.

    ~Kim

  18. says

    I sell on Etsy and have my own website (for informational purposes now, although do recieve local requests throught the site). I might consider selling elsewhere but keeping up with too many shops might be quanity not quality. I still need to do more work on Etsy (more inventory, SEO and social networking) before I can really say I’ve given it my all. I like Etsy and plan to stay, I might try some others in addition to Etsy but not anytime soon :)

  19. says

    This is for Denise above stating that she does craft shows to make her money. That is just what i plan on doing as well.
    I just joined and started adding my jewerly 3 days ago however I don’t know how to close my store to due a show and take the pieces that i will have on display. I dont want something selling and i sold it at a show.
    Can you or someone please advise me how to go about doing this.
    Thanks Denise

  20. says

    Denise – I’m not selling on Etsy just yet, but can’t you put up a vacation notice and temporarily shut your shop down when you’re doing shows? I think I’ve seen others do that before.

  21. says

    I’m a newbe on Etsy (Nov 2010) and feel like I’m really trying very hard to get noticed on Etsy will very little luck. It makes me crazy that there really is no good category for my art (recycled/upcycled). Why is this? I honestly can’t imagine how anyone gets anything made if more time is required than what I’m doing….I feel like everyone is sharing a secret but me.
    How in the world can it be that someone can list something and almost immediately get so many views? I need an Etsy mentor!!!!

  22. says

    Oh, and I got a groovy shop set made by a fellow etsy seller. It’s a brand. I chose a tag line, which I feel is very important. I limit my networking to 2 hours in the morning, as I need to spend the rest of my day creating ( I am a full-time artist) and running my home. I use twitter, facebook and my blog to advertise my goods, as well as buying cheap ad space where I can ( like here, with an enhanced listing for 5 bucks a month). I go to chats on Etsy – I circle and heart shops I like. I create product using hand-made items (supplies like amulets, stamps and other goods) from fellow Etsy shop owners and am certain to give them a plug in the listing as well as letting them know I did so. A new listing gets promoted, and I have seen an increase in listings I promote when I renew. It’s like magic, try it. Renew an item, noting how many views you had prior to the renew, then promote it at twitter and then refresh the listing view. I have seen as many as 100 extra views simply by renewing an item (before expiration) and promoting it on twitter ( which is fed to my FB business page).

  23. says

    Great article! Nobody would have noticed my products without the attraction of Etsy. It’s still tempting to try it on my own, but then I remember how difficult that would be without having people already there and ready to shop. I believe its good to eventually diversify to take advantage of other online shopping sites, but I haven’t tried that yet.

  24. says

    Great discussion. I’m a huge fan of Etsy and still just stick with my Etsy shop. It’s alot of cash to start your own- functioning website and even more work to get folks to notice and buy from it. One of my favorite reasons for keeping with Etsy shop is the ability to control my inventory. If my family life gets too busy or needs my attention, I can not list something that is not in stock. Two many websites makes this harder for me.

  25. says

    Wow this is a great discussion. Although I am new to Etsy, I am not new to the internet. I have done lots of Internet Marketing over the past 4 years – some success, lots of failure. You can build lots of websites, but if no one knows you’re there, you will not make sales.

    I had a Big Cartel store for 4 months or so before selling on Etsy and not one sale. I switched to Etsy and almost immediately had sales. Big Cartel is great for those who have an established blog, with a decent following, so you can put a link to your store from there. It’s not free, I paid $10/month and you can only list 25 items for sale. You pay more for additional services.

    I also do shows, mostly around the Holidays and I try to get my business cards in local shops. You can also advertise your shop online at free ad sites. Just my thoughts…

Trackbacks

  1. […] We’ve been a part of the Etsy community for many years and have always seen Etsy as a place of opportunity. We’ve written about that opportunity countless times and we’ve never waivered from the idea that Etsy is a wonderful place to start an online business; very likely the best place of all.  We’ve even discussed the idea that it was a perfectly sound business plan to start off from day one with the intention of always selling on Etsy and never bothering to sell anyplace else. […]

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