Etsy is a great place for crafters to get started selling their products online. Everyone has heard about it, so it's an obvious choice, and it's known for being handmade.
Or so we think…
But it's easy to get set up and Etsy gives you a lot of tools for getting your products in front of potential customers.
Etsy is a marketplace. It's like Ebay or Amazon. There are thousands of different shops on the platform and it's powered by a search engine.
So what that means is you get the benefit of a built-in audience who are looking for stuff to buy! You don't have to worry so much about how to get customers because Etsy's already got them for you.
I love using Etsy, I've been on there for over a decade since they first came out. It's nice because I get to make somewhat passive income sales from there, which means I can make sales without any active effort on my part.
There are a lot of benefits to being on Etsy. Lots of beginners start there.
Now that I've made selling on Etsy sound so great, I'm going to tell you all the reasons why you should get off of Etsy, as soon as possible, and here's why.
Hi there! My name's Mei. I help makers, artists and designers make a consistent income selling their handmade products online.
Lack of Control
Etsy is kind of like an abusive relationship. I like to joke about this, but I don't think it's even that far off.
And I would like to preface this by saying I really hope you've never had the bad luck of being in a relationship like that before. I'm talking about a relationship where you have no control, you have no say, and nothing you say will actually matter or change anything.
It's completely dysfunctional, you're forced to play by their rules. One day they might be in a good mood, the next day, the total opposite and they're in a terrible mood.
Doesn't that all sound like I'm describing Etsy?
They change their algorithms all the time.
Their most recent one that's hurt a lot of sellers is they've forced people to give free shipping, and if you don't, your products will get lower priority in search.
You have no choice but to play their game, and if you don't, you'll lose out.
You have no idea how many times people have come to me to say they've had a great year with Etsy last year, but this year, their sales totally tanked and they're barely making anything anymore. It's so unstable and it's not because of anything you did.
It's hard to leave Etsy because you've invested all this time to get your shop set up, and maybe in the beginning, it even treated you well with some sales.
Can't Control Your Brand
With Etsy, you can't really control your brand.
I was asked the other day when I was joining a Facebook group, what is your definition of a brand. And I thought, hmm, good question. After thinking about it for thirty seconds, it came to me.
For a long time I had trouble defining what a brand is, but here it is: a brand is the experience of your shop that you give to your customers. It's the feelings and thoughts your customers have after they've been to your website.
Etsy is sterile and static. You can't make it your own apart from changing out your shop banner and making your product photos stand out.
It's so easy to accidentally click over to someone else's shop, and the customer wouldn't know any different because everything is using the Etsy brand.
Did you know that under your own product listings, there are links to other people's products in your own shop?
There are so many levels of unfairness happening around Etsy.
Just think about it; how does Etsy make money? Listing fees and transaction fees when you've made a sale.
It's in Etsy's best interest to push as many sales as possible. Which means, they're going to keep favoring those sellers who are already doing well and making a lot of sales, because Etsy knows they're proven!
If you're a shop with fifty sales and you have a competitor with one thousand sales, who do you think Etsy will promote more?
On Etsy, the rich get richer.
It's really difficult to break through or to make a consistent income on Etsy. You used to be able to, but not with all the competition that's happening on there today.
Etsy isn't “cheap”. Etsy fees are about 15-20% of your sales.
Honestly, I think the fees are justified considering they do give you the tools to make sales and you wouldn't have made those sales otherwise.
So let's all take a moment and be grateful for that.
But joking aside, what makes Etsy actually more expensive than the other great alternatives out there is their 5% transaction fee. That's not the credit card fee, because to sell online, no matter what platform you're on, you have to pay credit card fees.
Etsy has a transaction fee, which is different from the credit card fee.
You can look at that as being a commission for helping you make the sale and having a place online to host your products and your shop.
The more sales you start to make, the more fees you have to pay, and it doesn't take long before selling on Etsy actually becomes more expensive than other places.
But it doesn't stop there.
Etsy's 5% transaction fee takes out of your shipping fee too.
I don't know about you, but I don't profit from what I charge with shipping. All that money goes straight to shipping supplies and USPS for postage. So that's a direct hit on my bottom line.
When you're just starting out, that 15-20% cut of sales that you have to give them may not seem like a lot, but once you start making $200, $300 in sales, it ends up being the same cost as being on something like Shopify.
If you sell a more expensive product, it doesn't take very long until you reach that threshold.
There's an added hidden cost that you'll never find on Etsy's pricing or help pages.
The cost of your sanity.
Etsy shoppers are notorious for being impatient, unkind and very hard to work with. You can have all the details of your product in the description of your listing, but I guarantee you'll come across many customers who haven't read them.
Am I making a blanket statement, yes of course.
You'll find nightmare customers everywhere, but Etsy, in particular, is a hot spot for terrible customers that take up a lot of your time, make you unhappy, and stressed.
There comes a point where you have to ask if it's all worth it anymore.
Everyone at some point will go through feedback ransom.
When your customer buys something from you, they can leave any kind of feedback they want in your shop. They can be total jerks about it, and hold your shop rating hostage when you don't do what they want.
They might even make totally out of scope demands or it may have been a problem that wasn't your fault at all.
And guess what?
If someone leaves you one-star feedback because they didn't read your product description, there's very little you can do about it, and that really hurts your shop.
Sure, you can appeal that feedback with Etsy, but I wouldn't count on it.
Let's not forget all the competition from other Etsy shops.
I don't think having competition from other makers is in itself a bad thing. I do think that there's enough room for everyone to play.
But I think Etsy made a terrible mistake a few years ago when they allowed manufactured products to be sold on there.
Etsy used to be a really beautiful marketplace where you could find unique, gorgeous products that you couldn't find anywhere else. Now that you can sell Made-in-China, mass market produced products on there, it's really diluted the quality of the site.
I used to shop on Etsy myself. Recently when we moved into our new home, we had sold all our furniture and I was looking for new stuff to decorate our really empty house. I went on Etsy and I was really frustrated at how difficult it was to find products that didn't all look the same.
Etsy, in general, has a huge problem with price competition.
If you sell anything that's remotely a higher price point than the next shop, good luck. With the nature of Etsy, the customer can see your product right next to the competition's.
All things equal, they're almost always going to choose the cheaper option.
Not to mention, because it's so easy to start selling your handmade products on Etsy, there are a lot of new shop owners who don't really know a lot about how to run a business. So many of them, don't know how to price their products correctly. Most are pricing it just based on their material costs, so they're not making any money.
You have to compete with that and that's impossible.
You can't compete with that while making a sustainable living without burning yourself out.
Being on Etsy really pressures you to compete on price, and that's not exactly a recipe for success.
If you're reading this post, you've probably experienced some of what I've just said yourself. And you're probably thinking about an exit strategy.
Now before I talk about that, I don't necessarily think that anyone needs to quit Etsy. Just set up your shop the way you would without any of the Etsy pressures I just talked about.
Get your listings search engine optimized, and once that work is done, just set it up and forget about it.
If you target the right keywords, you can make a few sales here and there on autopilot just because of that huge built-in audience of customers that Etsy has.
But if Etsy is the only shop that you have, you need to transition your focus away from Etsy. We're not going to abandon Etsy completely. We're just going to shift your focus.
What To Do Instead
But where or what do you focus on now?
Remember I said, Etsy's a marketplace just like Ebay or Amazon. So I believe the wrong answer is to move over to another marketplace site, because you're going to suffer from similar problems as Etsy.
I mean, I encourage everyone to have an Amazon shop, but it's not the answer for all the problems we just talked about.
Instead, what you need to do is create your own platform.
Understand that your own platform is not a marketplace anymore. It's a standalone website and it doesn't have its own built-in audience like Etsy.
Because of this, you will need to be prepared to drive your own traffic to make sales. I have a ton of videos on my YouTube channel that talk about how to do that, so please go check that out if you want more information on this. Here, I'm going to walk you through the transition.
There are a lot of platforms you can choose from, but I highly recommend Shopify.
When you're on Shopify, there are apps you can use to import your Etsy listings over to your Shopify store so setting them up will be super easy to do.
Choose Your Theme
For your Shopify theme, which is how your website looks, I recommend using the Minimal theme that's free to use. It's simple, clean, and converts customers to sales very well.
Don't feel like you need to spend a hundred bucks on a paid theme in order to do well. That's absolutely not true.
Building your Shopify store is going to take time. It's important that you maintain what you're doing with Etsy, so you're not completely stopping sales from there all together.
Set Up Your Coming Soon Page
As you're building your store, you can set up a coming soon page for your Shopify site where you collect email addresses from people who are on your waitlist to check out your site.
Set Up Your Custom Domain
If you have your own custom domain name, like tinyhandsonline.com but you were directing that to your Etsy shop, now's the time to change that redirect to point to your new Shopify store instead.
We want to put every effort we can into growing that email waitlist, so that when your shop is ready to go live, hopefully in one or two weeks, you'll have several dozen people who are just waiting for your new shop to open.
Set Up a Launch
When you're ready to launch, I do recommend doing some sort of online party or event. This could be a treasure hunt, giveaway, sales, or you could even coincide your store opening with a launch of a new limited edition collection.
Give people a reason to go to your shop when it's launched. I've had a lot of students do it exactly like this, and get some really amazing results even with a completely new Shopify store, so I know it definitely works.
So give it a shot.
If you have any questions, just leave me a comment down below and I'll get back to you.