Did you see my post last week on a few reasons why Etsy is a great place to start your online shop? Here are a few things that I ran into when my Etsy shop got larger; if similar thoughts are running through your brain, you might want to start looking for venues other than Etsy.
1. While Etsy is inexpensive to start with, if your shop really takes off, your monthly fees can get pretty high. How high is so high that the expense of running your own shop is the lesser payment? Well, that’s a number that you’ll have to judge for yourself. For me, that number was $100/month. I shopped around and found many shopping cart hosts that offered what I wanted in a shop for about $60/month. I was paying Etsy between $100 and $120 a month… which meant that for me, it was more economical to start my own site. I could even stay on Etsy for a bit, if I got my fees down closer to $10/month, use another $30 per month for advertising my new site, and while I’d still be paying $100/month I would have a site that was more in line with how I wanted to my shop to grow. Again, though, what you decide is too much to pay Etsy for what you’re getting, is your call.
2. Etsy only allows ten categories. If you want more categories than that, you either have to open up a second shop, or you just live with the ten categories you can have. This was starting to be a deal-breaker for me, probably because I grew up around book lovers, worked in bookstores for about fifteen years, and compulsively categorize things. As I started to make more and more ceramics, more and more weights of yarn, and more and more types of soap, I found that I really started to stretch the limits of ten categories. And it bothered me to have to lump things like mugs and soap dishes into the same category just because I needed to have room for something else (like when I brought in lip balms and hand lotions). I resented the idea that I should have to open up a second shop just for lip balms and lotions, so I put things together that I thought didn’t match very well (adding floral soap to my woodsy soap section, for example). And don’t even get me started in how the default listing for things are publication date, and not alphabetically. If this is a thing that bothers you, looking elsewhere for an online shop service might be in your future.
3. Etsy owns your shop. If you run afoul (by your intention or not) of any sort of copyright violation (perceived or actual), Etsy can shut down your shop. You won’t have access to your listings to copy/paste your information into new listings in a new venue. You won’t have access to your convos, so any discussions with customers about custom orders are gone, unless you can convince Etsy you are not in the wrong. Any outstanding orders, unless you have the email with the customers address and list of purchases (so that you can fill them outside of Etsy), can not be filled.
4. Etsy controls how your shop looks. While this is great (see my other post) if you’re not web savvy, if you get to a point where you either don’t like the layout changes they make, or you want your shop to reflect more of your brand, you’re out of luck.
5. Etsy doesn’t allow live links in listings, except to other Etsy products. A live link, if you don’t know, is a clickable link; if you link to something off-Etsy in your listing, anyone wanting to see what’s on that link will have to copy the link and paste it into their web browser. So if you want to link to your blog, for example, to show a YouTube video of your process of Making, or photos of in-progress work, or a page on your other website with color charts or custom order options, it won’t be a live link. Sure, this isn’t a huge drama, but honestly, given the choice between a live (clickable) link and the copy/paste option, a good number of people are not going to bother with the copy/paste option (or worse, they won’t be able to figure it out).
6. Etsy doesn’t allow linking to your other online shop(s) where you sell the same thing. Sure, everyone does it. But you’re not supposed to. And if you get caught, you get a slap on the wrist for violating TOS (Terms of Service). So you’re not supposed to, for example, say in a listing “this listing is for a pink mug, but if you copy/paste this link you can see that I also offer it in six other colors on my other shop”. If you’re the sort of person who likes to follow the rules (are there any people like that left?), well, just sayin’.
7. Etsy seems to be going through a lot of changes in the last year or so. That whole thing a while ago about a featured shop interview, and then it turned out the featured shop was not an individual woman like the interview had led us to believe, but a corporation out of another country? And soon after that, Etsy decided to redefine “handmade” to include outside manufacturing, drop-shipping, and “collectives” (shops with multiple workers — and this can mean anything from two friends who live next door and work together, or dude with a small factory with 30 workers). If you read the forums, a lot of small, one-person shops are angry and confused about this. How can it still be hand-made if you have a factory with 30 employees? A lot of concerns have been raised about the direction in which Etsy is going (as in, less focus on handmade). This may or may not concern you, it’s your call. It did concern me; I would rather be on my own than tied in with a company in which I have no control over the direction of. Your mileage may vary.
All this may sound like I hate Etsy; I don’t. I’m very glad to have started with them and clearly since I haven’t 100% moved everything off, I do get some sort of return on my investment (my investment is much more time-than-money, as my fees are now down to about $10/month). I do plan on beefing up my shop there closer to the Winter Holidays. But they are in no way still my primary shop, and weeks can go by where I don’t even look at it any more. I’m much happier with the shop that I control.
It can be scary, if you’ve been with Etsy for a while, to think about moving away from the comfortable. You should make your own lists of what you get from Etsy, the positives, what you find increasingly irritating, and what you would want if everything in your shop was exactly the way you want it. If staying with Etsy works for you, awesome! But if you feel you should move off, there are lots and lots of other sites, many of them also geared towards small one-person businesses.