Perhaps you consider yourself to be a talented crafter. Perhaps also you’re hopeful that you can share your handmade goods with the rest of the world while also making some money. A common question that then arises is whether you should you use Etsy or build your own e-commerce site to launch your homemade business.
It’s helpful to consider the pros and cons of each.
With Etsy, you can leverage the power of an already established marketplace and community to help get your name out. This is often a perfect starting place for newbies to the sometimes confusing world of online sales. Etsy also makes getting started simple compared to designing and setting up your own site.
True, there are a variety of drag-and-drop website builders available. Yet with Etsy, it couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is get together some information like your bank’s information some photos, a name for your shop, some items to sell- and you’re set!
With your own e-commerce site, you will likely have to spend a little more time upfront setting up the basic layout and working on ecommerce seo. However, for the extra time you put in initially, you will also reap plenty in freedom and flexibility. On your own site, you’re free to change your policies and website layout whenever you want. You won’t have to worry about competitors advertising their products right next to yours.
Less control over your business
On Etsy, you’re limited by the templates available and it’s easy for your listings to disappear in a sea of similar products. An additional point to make is that many sellers have had their Etsy shops shut down without notice. Obviously, this is something you would never have to worry about with your own site.
While both routes have their merits (and their shortcomings), there are no absolute right or wrong answers. Each business is as unique as its business owner, and therefore there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. However, it may be worthwhile to consider a hybridized approach.
Many sellers have benefited from taking an “Etsy-first” approach as a way of launching their business. These sellers later transitioned to their own e-commerce store once they had built a large enough following. Here’s the reasoning:
On your own site, it can be difficult to funnel traffic organically. You are responsible for your own branding and marketing, as well as coming up with and maintaining your own policies. With Etsy, it may be easier for new customers to find you since they are already on the site with the intention to shop. This can be a boon for new sellers, allowing you to get lucky early on, but it may pose too much of a gamble for more seasoned shop owners.
On Etsy, it can be challenging to stand out from your competitors. No matter how well you optimize your shop and your listings, at the end of the day, your competitors are never more than a click away. Once you’ve started to create a unique identity, it may be time to consider expanding beyond Etsy.
So how can a seller get off the ground with this Etsy-first approach?
The first step is to identify what you’ll be selling and to whom. You’ll want to understand where you can make your mark with your shop and goods, and be sure you’re offering something that is original in some way.
Don’t overlook the other first steps you’d want to include if you were starting any other kind of business, either. Go ahead and write that business plan so you can help budget your time and prevent burnout. Craft a marketing plan as well for creating and communicating your brand. Include any social media marketing you will want to incorporate.
When you go to open your Etsy shop, it can be easy to obsess over the shop’s name. It’s a little-known fact that you can change this later. Your username, however, can never be changed on Etsy. Be sure that whatever username you have is one you are comfortable showing your customers.
Do take the time to personalize your shop, with a logo and banner. Also, create an ‘About You’ page, and include your shipping guidelines and any FAQs you may want to add. Having a photo of yourself as the shop owner can also be valuable in providing a human face to your business.
Listing and marketing your products
Much has already been written about how to craft the perfect listing. For instance, you will want to be sure that you are taking top-notch photos of your products. You will also want to think of useful keywords that increase the likelihood that your products will be found in the first place. What may be even more helpful is to check the stats on each of your products after they have been listed for a few days to see how much traffic they are generating. If you feel a product isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you can tweak the keywords, the description or the images to help it stand out more.
You will want to make sure as many of your listings are selling as possible. Keep in mind that you will be charged a listing fee whether or not the listed item sells within the four-month window. At the end of those four months, you will be charged the listing fee of $0.20 for each listing unless you cancel auto-renewals.
Using the power of Etsy’s built-in community can also help you improve your business. Find an Etsy team with like-minded sellers or post on the forums. You never know what customers you may attract from these sorts of interactions.
Once you’ve managed to make some sales and attract a small (but growing) base of returning customers, it may be time to think about how to make the next big leap into your own e-commerce site.
One thing to keep in mind is that you never have to actually leave your Etsy shop behind. You can always keep your shop active as a place where new customers can discover you.
When starting your own site, one can’t overstate enough the importance of having it look (and be) professional. You are trying to establish trust with your customers and show that you care. You may want to find a designer or developer to assist you if you are uncertain of where to begin. Keep in mind that there are many website builders like Wix or Weebly that make creating professional-looking sites easy.
Once you have your e-commerce site, you’ll want to train your potential customers to find you there first the next time they shop. You can do this by printing your web address on all marketing materials you send out, and on all your Etsy listings as well. When you make a sale, you can email your Etsy customers to visit your e-commerce store in the future. Consider creating a newsletter that allows your engaged customers to keep up with what you’re doing- and of course, to promote your own site.
Another important step could be to create and maintain your own blog. Blogs are a great way to loop your customers into your creative process and vision. With engaged readers, you will better solidify your client base. Not all shoppers are impulse-buyers. When a customer is actively reading your blog, you are more likely to be at the front of their minds when they are ready to buy.
In the end, the decision to start with Etsy first, or plan your business entirely around either Etsy or your own site, rests with you. No matter what route you choose, remember always that customer service matters and to stay positive! With time, you will discover what works best for your business and allows your products to shine.