If you’re here, then I’m sure you’re creative. I’ve been a passable artist since I was a little kid, and even though my passion has always far outweighed my actual talent, I always wondered to myself – what if I could make a living with artistic designs and a little creativity? Well with the technology we have available to us today, it’s actually not only possible, but a viable path to total financial independence (i.e. not working a job, working where you want, traveling when and as much as you want, etc.).
Starting up a business, especially one centered around artistic designs, isn’t exactly encouraged by the education system in the United States where I grew up. Get good at math, or some other common core, conventional subject. Get a job… if you can. Give all your time to it. Hopefully retire in your late 60’s. That’s basically the rhetoric.
The late 2010’s are a very different time in history. Artifical intelligence can do more and more of the numbers stuff for us, so now creativity, emotion, and art, are taking over the world.
So, in this age of the internet, where you can reach billions of people with your products for pennies…. is it time to open your store?
Etsy is a website that connects millions of buyers (somewhere around 35 million currently), to over a million sellers. And since it focuses on artistic products, it might seem like the perfect fit for an artist trying to start a business.
Don’t dive in yet!
I’m a fan of Etsy, don’t get me wrong. And when my wife and I started our clothing brand, using her art designs, we were glad we had Etsy as an option. But let’s weigh the pros and cons, and I’ll explain why you SHOULD use Etsy, but ONLY as a secondary selling channel.
How Does Etsy Work? The Pros and Cons.
Point #1. Etsy already has a ton of traffic. Like I said, with 35 million buyers every year, you really don’t need to pay for a lot of advertising to get your products in front of people. And that’s huge! So before you have an established name, it can be a good place to start.
Point #2. Before you abandon Etsy when your products aren’t making sales, make sure you’re doing Etsy right. For starters, keywords and presentation matter. It’s no good to just describe your product, and hope that there are people searching for it. Use the keywords that the most people are searching. If people aren’t shopping for the thing you’re making, make something else. Otherwise, you’re waiting for people to find your products by accident.
Don’t take sloppy pictures! Make sure that your picture is done well, in the right lighting. Make it obvious what you sell. I can’t understate how important this is for your sales, guys! Have you ever scrolled through Etsy, or even somewhere like Ebay, Craiglist, and LetGo, and seen those pictures that are sort of… just… amateur? Blurred photos. The item is too far away from the camera. You can’t really tell if it’s a doll house, or the back bumper of a Mack?
Yup, me too. I notice those pictures out of the corner of my eye. Maybe they’re even good deals! But I never click on them, and neither does anyone else.
The good news is, if you’re using the RIGHT keywords, taking snazzy pictures, and selling products that tend to be pretty popular, you should be able to sell at a pretty high volume!
So.. what are the draw backs to using Etsy??
The Cons of Etsy
- They charge you for listings, and take commissions on your sales.
2. Etsy sellers don’t usually have a fully established brand like someone with their own store
3. Your products are displayed with hundreds of other people’s products. So competition with other sellers is tight.
4. And speaking of other sellers, when you launch a great new product idea, you always run the risk of copy cats.
5. Last but not least, you’re at the whim of the marketplace. Similar to the way Amazon recently wiped out the reviews of hundreds of Amazon sellers, Etsy could choose to penalize your store for any little thing. Your business is dependent.
Okay, so Etsy’s listing costs and commissions aren’t THAT bad. In fact, in comparison to Amazon, where a listing will cost you about $1 every time, and they take up to 15% of your profit in commission, you can see it could be a lot worse.
Etsy charges $0.20 per listing. That’s not per item, so you could fit about 100 products into a listing if you want to, to be economical. You’ll only feel this if you list a huge number of products. The real headache is just when your products aren’t selling, because you’ll be putting out money every time you want to list on Etsy, and run the risk of never making anything.
Similarly, the commissions they take of 3.5% are not nearly as bad as some other online market places. But these can still be a pain once you start selling lots. Especially if you’re selling with tight profit margins.
When you’re starting out, this is a small price to pay, but once your business is established you’ll wish you had your own brand and website!
What Is Better Than Etsy? A List Of The Etsy Alternatives
No, I’m not talking about the dusty Western show from the 60’s. Bonanza is another online marketplace, similar in a lot of ways to Etsy. Check it out! – Bonanza.com
Bonanza may not have as many regular buyers as Etsy, but it’s still got a few million users to get your products in front of. And while I would never recommend you ditch Etsy completely, and sell 100% on Bonanza, it’s DEFINITELY worthwhile as another alternative income stream.
Advantages of Bonanza over Etsy:
- Bonanza commissions are the same as Etsy’s. 3.5% of the profit. But their listings are FREE! Getting your products up there comes at no financial risk or loss
- The competition is less daunting. While your products fight for attention amid a wall of competitors on Etsy, the fact that Bonanza is smaller can help you to make a bigger splash
It’s not perfect, but with its 0 cost listings, Bonanza can offer you a solid second space for some free traffic.
Ever heard of Storeenvy? This is a solid Etsy alternative, dedicated to young indie businesses. And while its commissions are much higher than either Etsy or Bonanza, at 10%, Storeenvy comes with its own set of useful advantages.
With millions of buyers, looking for indie brands just like yours, you need to keep Storeenvy pinned to your business plan cork board.
Advtanges of Storeenvy over Etsy:
- Free listing of your products! You only have costs when you make sales
- You maintain more of your own brand! Storeenvy will give you a free store front. When customers click on your product, they’ll get a whole introduction to your brand, your other inventory, and your story.
Having my own Shopify store was one of my best decisions. While you may need to rely on the traffic to Etsy, Bonanza, or Storeenvy early on, when it comes to having your own long-term business, Shopify has no equal.
In the very early stages, before you’re making sales, you may need to rely on online marketplaces to get attention. Once your business is growing and selling, though, you NEED to have your own store! There’s hardly anything more rewarding than having your own brand, and customizable store.
Instead of customers seeing hundreds of products from your competitors to your left and right, your customers will be surrounded by just YOUR brand, and YOUR products. And while a Shopify basic plan costs $29/month, when you’re making a lot of sales and money, it makes a lot more sense to have just a $29/month expense, then having commissions taken out of all your sales!
On top of this, instead of the $29/month plan, you can get a Shopify Lite plan for only $9 and run your store right off of a Facebook page!
Advtanges of Shopify over Etsy:
- You OWN your brand and your store
- No distracting competitors surrounding you
- For business owners selling a lot of products, a monthly fee is FAR lower than the commissions taken out of profits
For a more in-depth of Shopify, and how it works, check this out! – Shopify in Review
And if you’re looking for details on Shopify Lite, check it out HERE!
You Can Do This! (Oh, and I’m not bashing Etsy)
Just a heads up guys, I am by no means hating on Etsy as a place to sell. You can drive a TON of sales through Etsy with the right products and strategies!
But remember, if you really want to have your own brand you need to think like a business owner. The most traffic, with the least amount of expenses, is key.
If you have any questions about these Etsy alternatives, let me know in the comments below!