I had thought about Etsy and briefly dabbled with Etsy in the past, but I had decided to give it a solid try. I love making art and all sorts of things, and it seems logical to start providing myself with an income by doing things I love. Etsy seems like the perfect place to sell the type of things I make, such as this -
or these -
I mean, Etsy has created quite a brand for cute, unusual, unique handmade items. The initial idea sounds good – pay a small 20 cents listing fee, and 3.5 % of the sale. That’s it – Etsy has a huge customer base, and a strong brand to bring shoppers who are looking for cool, unique items to your site!
Well, I have had my trepidations in the past, and I feel certain that they are spot on. It has been a few weeks, and despite having a well (if not amazingly) stocked shop of neat, handmade items, I have had zero sales and I owe Etsy 32.63 in listing fees and fees to enable “search ads” which are supposed to give your items better visibility. So, I started doing some research.I was less than enthralled with the information I was able to put together.
Etsy is based on a “feedback” system, where buyers and sellers leave positive, negative, or neutral feedback based upon their experiences with each transaction. It seems that to make a sale, it’s best to have a lot of positive feedback. This makes it difficult to make an intital sale at all, I think. I have searched the forums for this matter, and one suggestion was to buy yourself or have a family member buy items and leave good feedback. It struck me as a little – cheaty.
Also, Etsy does not advertise for your shop. In fact, they are very hands – off about everything but collecting their fees. You are responsible for doing all your own advertising and promoting, which would be just fine – except that your shop is being showcased in a venue with about a billion of your competitors.You are also not allowed to link to any other outside links within Etsy AT ALL. Which means I can’t link my “About Me” profile to my blog, or my Facebook – quite annoying.
And about those fees – They seem really low, right? Well, they add up faster than you think. Here’s why – If you do any research at all about how to promote your own products, one of the most popular bits of advice both in the Etsy forums and outside on the rest of the internet is to continually relist your items. The initial item listing is supposed to last for 4 months, or until it sells. However, since the only way to have your item be seen by a casual browser instead of through direct search terms is to have it show up in the “recently listed” part of Etsy, the best way to get seen is to keep relisting it. And it seems like that is the main strategy for many Etsy shops! To spend hundreds of dollars and many hours monthly, relisting items, to try and get more views and thus more sales.
Also, I seem to have a bit of a problem with Etsy ethically. A little run around the web will find lots of info about their…… less than stellar business practices. Such as toting themselves as a handmade shop, yet blatantly allowing factory resellers to use their site. This creates a huge problem if you are trying to actually run a small, handmade business. Part of the problem with making limited run handmade items is that you are usually spending more than a factory per supply, and infinitely more man hours. Your items are unique pieces of artwork, and they are little bits of your soul. A buyer is purchasing more than an item, they are buying a small part of your life, your creativity. They are paying for a glimpse inside your mind. There are many intangible, beautiful things about connecting with another human being in this way – it goes down to the roots of basic human contact. A seller gets the satisfaction of a beautiful unique item, and also knowing that they helped support an artist they admire and believe in. An artist gets to share a bit of themselves with another person, and they get to keep creating because they are being supported. It is a beautiful circle.
However, taking a short tour around Etsy, you will see quite a bit of the same thing. Cheap, factory made items – all over the place. Seems that Etsy says they don’t allow this, yet turns a blind eye. Why would they do that? Well, they make a killing in listing fees – millions a year. Seems like they have no incentive not to do that. And, if sellers complain – Etsy shuts them down. Etsy has a “no mean words” policy on their forums, which means they delete any thread or conversation that has content complaining about Etsy – sometimes even permanently muting individuals or shutting down their shops. Anywhoo, all this reseller stuff hurts anyone trying to sell a few handmade items, because it gluts the market with cheap crap.
Here is what I have determined from my stint on Etsy – There are a whole lot of high volume reselling shops that sell things cheaply. There are a whole lot of small crafters also selling things cheaply to compete with the pricing market set by the resellers – and not making any money at all. And there are a few people also making very little money because they are actually pricing a decent amount for their supplies and time, which prices them right out of the market.
My conclusion here? I could spend all that time and money promoting my own store, here on the blog. That way, I won’t have all of my competitors on the same page as me, I can price what my time is worth, and I can control all of the aspects of my shop. Also, I won’t have to feel uneasy about ethics, because I know that I am ethical. So I will be working on setting up a store to sell art, papercuttings, and handmade thingies right here at home.