Written by Vena Carr, Craft NB Marketing Manager
You’re a local fine craft rock star! At one point in your life, you developed a passion for your craft and all of your friends and family encouraged you to turn that passion into a career. So, you become a slave to your work, you sign up for some local markets, then some festivals. Maybe you join a highly respected juried membership like Craft NB… Then, boom! You are now living as a professional craftsperson. Congratulations! You did it!
BUT… You might be a big deal in your locale, but you are missing out on a giant potential market…
Great, you’re ready to take the plunge into the online market! What an exciting next step for you and your business!
“Um… but, how do I sell my craft on the internet?” you may have asked.
Although there is a lot of options for selling online, let’s narrow it down to two main choices: Etsy and eCommerce.
Etsy is the largest site available to craftspeople looking to sell their work, and your Etsy shop will come predesigned, ready-to-go, and is relatively inexpensive. eCommerce requires a lot of work and needs to be designed, which means you might need a web designer, which means you’ll be spending money. Geez. Sounds like a no brainer, huh? Well, don’t act so fast!
What eCommerce offers that Etsy does not offer is the potential for a larger audience, without distractions from the other craftspeople, and it can be designed to put you and your craft on a pedestal. An eCommerce site is a one-man show, and you’re the (wo)man!
Let’s talk about the details.
“Etsy is the global marketplace for unique and creative goods. It’s home to a universe of special, extraordinary items, from unique handcrafted pieces to vintage treasures.”
On Etsy’s About page, they state that their mission is to “keep human connection at the heart of commerce”. They’re also an internationally recognized online brand for a new wave of makers and craft enthusiasts. Signing up with Etsy means that your part of a community of talented, passionate creators who are all in it for the same reason: They love what they do. Click the image below to check out Craft NB member Bella McBride‘s Etsy page!
Like I said earlier, your Etsy shop will be pretty much ready-to-go. Sure, you’ll have to make your listings, upload your photos, and maybe do some research on what keywords to use, but you’ll be up and running in no time! And at only twenty cents per four month listing, it’s practically free! Plus, if you ever need help with setup, marketing, or anything at all, you can turn to the Etsy community boards. There you can find at least one friendly, helpful fellow seller who is eager to give you a hand.
Sounds like the perfect solution, right? You want an online store right now and you want it to be easy, fast, and affordable. All that being said, there are some downsides to selling on Etsy.
Firstly, it is a very popular marketplace and you are not the only person selling on the site. Not only are there going to be many people selling similar products as you, but their work may very well show up as listings in the sidebar of your shop. “What? I don’t want to advertise other people’s work on my shop,” you might be saying. What’s worse is that there isn’t really any quality control on Etsy, so who knows what might be featured alongside your beautiful handcrafted art. You might think it makes you look good to be featured next to a lower quality item, but in reality it actually reduces the perceived value of your work.
Secondly, you have to abide by Etsy policies and administrative decisions. Yes, you may have a successful shop with a high sell rate, but maybe you missed that one line in fine print and now you’re saying goodbye to your shop. That’s right; many well-intentioned, successful sellers on Etsy have had their shops removed for inadvertently violating Etsy policies. You might get a second chance at redemption in order to get your store back online, but that does not guarantee the return of consistent sales or loyal customers.
In addition to competition and policies, Etsy is also limited in design options and isn’t really “practically free” like I had previously proclaimed. Yes, it is affordable at only 20 cents per listing, but they also take 3.5% of all your sales, so keep that in mind before opening shop.
Okay, maybe I turned you off Etsy a little bit… How about eCommerce!?
eCommerce solutions, such as Woocommerce and Shopify, allow you to open shop on your very own website with a unique domain name of your choosing. The shop on your website is all about you, not your competitors. Your website acts as an information hub for everything to do with your business, and it gives you more credibility. If there’s any advertising on your website, you’ll be choosing what your viewers see (and make some money off of it). Plus, you can customize the overall design and layout to suit your brand and your customers’ needs. Click the link below to visit Craft NB member Nancy Allen‘s website for her business, SNAZ Jewelry Designs.
“Great! But what are the downsides?”
Good question! First off, ecommerce solutions may be more expensive upfront, so be sure to do your research. For example, Shopify shop owners pay a subscription fee which can reach upwards of $299/month. That’s a mountain of cash compared to Etsy’s measly 3.5% cut from each of your sales… Or is it? If you’re grossing more than $2,260 from Etsy every month, then you are paying more than the subscription-based plans that Shopify offers. However, that is not factoring the cost of hiring a web designer.
Yes, many ecommerce solutions come with basic templates or drag-and-drop store builders that anyone could figure out. However, if you want a unique website that will wow your customers, than you need to have it designed. I’m not just talking a pretty website; I’m talking about a fluid user experience that makes it as easy as possible for visitors to buy your products. That’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. If you don’t know how to do that, than you’ll have to hire a professional. The exact cost of hiring a web designer will vary from person to person, but you’re looking at an investment of at least a thousand dollars or more. That being said, a knowledgeable web designer with a background in SEO and digital marketing could more than double the return on your investment. If you’re thinking big, than shop around for a web designer near you.
In addition to potentially higher costs, having your own webstore creates more marketing tasks, which is asking a lot when you already have to design and craft all of your products. In order to drive traffic and potential buyers to your website, you’ll need to put a lot of focus into content marketing. This means that you will have to up your social media game and consistently update your website with blogs. It also helps if you offer promotional handouts at festivals, markets, or other events where you may already be vending. I’m not saying that you don’t need to do these things with an Etsy store, but you definitely need to focus on marketing if you’re flying solo with your own shop.
As you may remember, I already said that Etsy is teeming with competitive artists and craftspeople, but that’s not to say that you won’t have any competition on the World Wide Web. Although you will not have to deal with competition directly on your webstore, you will have more competition in general than if you were to use Etsy. Think about it; instead of competing with everyone on one site, you’re now competing with everyone on the internet. That can be pretty intimidating, but have no fear! Your amazing Instagram feed and blog posts will help, and you can always use Google Analytics to help with keyword research that will help users find your shop.
What’s better: Etsy or eCommerce?
In review, Etsy is an online marketplace and ecommerce is an independent webstore solution. They both come with their own pros and cons, and your choice will depend on the stage of your career, the projected growth of your business, and whether or not you are confident frequently writing blogs and posting to social media. If you’re just starting out, Etsy is probably your best option. However, if you’re more of an established craftsperson who is ready for a big step, than you should consider ecommerce. Your third option is to just use both. Why limit yourself? Many craftspeople use both and even branch out to other platforms. If you can handle it, than the more, the merrier!
There are many ways to make a living as a craftsperson. That’s the beauty of the online world. Whichever path you choose to take, make sure you do your research and don’t forget about why you started this journey in the first place.