When I first opened my happy little shop of handmade lovelies, I thought long and hard about whether to forge out on my own or go with the flow and start selling on Etsy. Taking a look at my website, obvs, I took the road less traveled. There’s a couple of reasons for that, so I wanted to dive in to that just a l’il bit for you.
Control freak level 70 BILLION
I like to be in charge of my own destiny. At the time, my rationale with building my own web store was that I now had near total control of selling fees, marketing, showing up in search results, etc. Plus, i’m a nerd and knew I could figure out whatever needed to be figured out. In my utopian website world, I wouldn’t be beholden to anyone – except the company that’s hosting my website (I use Siteground, BTW). I thought about a Shopify store or a Wix or Squarespace website, but to me, that presents the same issues as Etsy. You’re at the mercy of their fee schedule, not to mention that they nickel and dime you for every enhancement you want to add to your service.
In the end, I chose to go with a WordPress & WooCommerce website. Both are open source and free platforms (with paid options, of course), and I had already worked with WordPress in the past, so it kinda seemed like a no brainer and a fun challenge. Is a self-hosted wordpress plan the cheapest option out there? It can be very affordable, but not in my case. And you know what? That’s OK because you can’t put a price tag on peace of mind. In a future blog post, I will break down what it cost me to get my website up and running, so stick around for that.
Look at all the pretty…SQUIRREL!!
The very nature of etsy is to be a marketplace. That means you can go there to find ALL THE THINGS. That also means you’re competing with other people who are also selling ALL THE THINGS. It takes skill and research to merchandise your products correctly and despite your best efforts, it’s hard to keep the attention of a buyer once they have found you. Yes there are things you can do to stand out — great pictures, cramming every keyword under the sun into your title until it becomes unreadable (MAJOR pet peeve of mine, right there — Sacrificing usability and user experience for the sake of cheesing a search algorithm. Shame on Etsy for requiring that to make your listing successful!), but at the end of the day, your beautiful handmade creation is one of many and you’re at the mercy of Etsy’s ever-changing algorithm to get your lovelies seen. With a separate website, you have a captive audience and you can completely control their shopping experience — show them related products that you want them to see, when you want them to be seen. The only squirrels they will be seeing are the ones you may be selling, if you’re a taxidermist or something.
A Penny for Your… sales?
Fees are another thing to strongly consider when deciding between starting your own website and joining the Etsy marketplace. Etsy nickels and dimes you for EVERYTHING. Listing fees (20 cents per item), transaction fees (soon to be 5% per transaction) — they are even going to start charging you that 5% on the shipping you charge to your customers, WTF, Etsy?!?!? All that is on top of the credit card processing fees everybody has to pay regardless of where you sell, unless you take cash only. Let me break down the fees I pay on each of my website sales: 30 cents plus 2.9% per transaction — your standard credit card processing fee. That’s it.
So, now that I have painted this utopian picture about how amazing it is to build and maintain your own e-commerce store, I’m going to say — IT AIN’T PERFECT. Not yet at least. In the marketing world there’s the saying “Content is king”. That’s actually only half the story. You can have amazing, fantastic content & products (I like to think I do, at least), but if there’s no one reading it, YOU GOT NOTHING. So, the phrase really should be “Content is king, and web traffic is the beloved, supportive queen that keeps the kingdom in order and everything moving like clockwork”. In the coming months, I will be exploring strategies to bolster web traffic to my shop and increase my exposure. And i’ll be documenting it here for you.
Please don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for people that are successful on Etsy and know that it’s a good solution for lots of folks. This post isn’t about that. It’s about finding the best solution for ME.
I think, for me trying to gain exposure to my budding handmade & floral supply business, the sweet spot is some sort of mix between Etsy and a standalone website, at least until I can get my name out there and generate a following (assuming people would actually WANT to follow me — for now, let’s assume that’s a “definite maybe” 🤨). I will be exploring listing a handful of things on Etsy (say, all of my handmade merchandise) and in those listings, link back to my website in case someone wants to purchase materials to make it themselves. Here on WoodlandBoutique.com, all of my handmade products listed on my website link directly to the listing on Etsy to purchase, and in that listing, I tell people to check out my website if they want to make it themselves. See what I mean here. It’s like the circle of life or something!
Pretty sure this falls within the Etsy Terms of Service, but I guess we will find out!
Fair warning, this will likely be a slow process because it can take 6 weeks for new listings on Etsy to start showing up in their search results (whomp whomp). And you know the title of those listings needs to be something like “Autumn wreath, fall wreath, door wreath for fall, fall decor” or else nobody will see it… =/
So tell me, blog readers! How has your experience been with selling on Etsy and how do you feel about the fee increase?
Until next time!