Etsy is a great platform for starting a business. It’s easy to learn and use, it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s a great way to build a following without a lot of outside effort. As a business grows however, Etsy may not always be the best platform for long term success.
I started my business from scratch in 2005 and in 2009 I opened my Etsy shop. It wasn’t until 2013 and 2014 that I really started putting energy into building my sales on Etsy, and making it a substantial part of my yearly business revenue.
My initial goal with growing my Etsy shop was to help supplement my larger, more custom projects. My idea was to create easily reproducible products that would keep a steady cash flow coming in to carry me through the larger gaps between larger projects since I don’t take on more than a handful of larger projects each year.
My team and I really burnt ourselves out in the years before trying to take on more and more custom work and we decided that wasn’t the answer. Etsy started out being exactly what we were looking for.
The one thing I learned with Etsy is that your shop won’t grow on it’s own. You have to work at it every day, constantly add new listings and always be willing to let go of products that aren’t selling and update listings to make them as easy for customers to buy them as possible.
5 years later and a lot has changed both with my business and with Etsy. While Etsy is still a great platform to sell on with it’s built in audience, I’ve found that as my business grows, the time needed to spend there takes away from many other things I want to do for my business elsewhere.
While I’ve automated as much as I can, Etsy still sucks up a lot of time answering questions to customers that could have found out what they wanted if they’d looked at the listing or cancelling orders because customers ordered before they read what they were actually ordering.
This constant drain on my time and resources means that I’ve not been spending time on my own website or doing the things I most love (blogging, creating new designs and products, etc.). This is what lead to my lack of joy in my work that I talked about a while ago.
Since facing the reality that I was no longer happy with the state of my business I’ve been working hard to make some major changes to my Etsy shop. It’s still a significant part of my business income so eliminating it altogether doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do however, since sharing that post this fall, I’ve been working diligently to streamline the shop to where it almost runs itself.
With the Etsy overhaul nearly complete, I can now start building my business on my own platform and here are a few of the reasons why.
Why I’m Growing My Business off of Etsy:
- Etsy owns its platform, its customers and has control over how shops look and operate.
- Etsy can make changes as often as they want without notice which means I constantly have to make changes to stay up with their ever changing algorithms and their changes don’t always work to my favor.
- My own website is mine, I control the changes, the policies, how I run it, who I serve, etc.
- I can focus on my target audience and my target audience only. With Etsy, the target is much broader and people are always looking for sales, discounts and the cheapest thing they can find instead of quality, artisan, one-of-a-kind products.
- My outside marketing efforts won’t drive traffic to someone else’s site, it will drive traffic to my site. I used to use Pinterest and other social media to drive people to my Etsy shop but once there, they could just as easily buy from a cheaper competitor so building my own site means they are going to my site alone. It doesn’t mean they will buy but it gives me a better change.
- Etsy is less personal. Most customers on Etsy don’t want to be bothered with a lot of extra fluff. They order, they want their item to ship and be done. When working with a small business, most people want to know who is behind the business. Most people shop on Etsy, not “handmade shop” on Etsy.
The list could go on and on and I admit to having a pretty polarizing love / hate relationship with Etsy in recent years. Etsy has done good things for my business and I am thankful for that but it’s also take things away from my business as well.
My goal with improving my website off of Etsy is more about focussing on the things that my business is based on and less about the discounts, sales and last minute rush orders. I want to bring back the experience, the personal relationships and the craft of creating beautiful paper and stationery.
Each business journey is different and wherever you are in your feelings about Etsy, I hope my reasons for wanting to distance myself more from Etsy at least show you an honest side that may not be as clear if you are just starting out.