Etsy can be great and Etsy can be a nightmare. Etsy gives and etsy takes away. Like everything, there are pros and cons to setting up a store on etsy.
Lets just ignore the obvious one (will my product sell?) because no one can answer that until you try. We’ll skip right to the part where you’ve got your store set up and your product is selling. You’re making around $200 a week and that’s climbing every week. Yay! Success! Over the next year that amount doubles and then triples without spending a cent on marketing. You’ve made it!
That can happen with Etsy and when it does, its wonderful. So here are the upsides of Etsy
Upsides of Etsy
Etsy is a huge marketplace. A ready-made marketplace full of customers looking for handmade or unique products. If you start your own website it might take years for you to achieve the same kind of traffic that an etsy store gets automatically on the platform (unless your shop/product is terrible).
Cheap and low risk to start up
The fees are relatively cheap, cheaper than ebay or amazon for example and definitely cheaper than setting up your own website (unless you have web design/development skills).
Etsy is a trusted marketplace. People are happy to order from Etsy, knowing that its legit whereas they might not want to hand over their credit card details to your little webstore with no brand awareness.
Easy to get started
Setting up an etsy store is very simple. Their interface is very easy to use and there is plenty of help on how to do various things, and how to improve your listings. All you have to focus on is taking great photos of your product and set up is a breeze. You can be live and online in a matter of hours (depending on how many products you sell).
Downsides of etsy
Yes the biggest benefit of Etsy is also the biggest downside – Etsy is a huge marketplace. Many categories are saturated and its hard to stand out. You need a product that fits a niche market and ideally one where you can make repeat sales.
Lack of ownership and control
You don’t own your store, etsy does. And etsy controls their search algorhytm and they can bury your store in the search if they choose to. Mostly this isn’t on purpose, but they make changes and suddenly your traffic disappears. And there is NOTHING you can do about that, except hope they change the algorithm back. Two months ago Etsy made a change and my traffic halved and my sales havled. Then halved again. I’m now barely selling 5 items a week. And that was entirely outside of my control. My only choice is paid marketing campaigns, which never work as well as natural search. I spent a lot of time on my listings, learning SEO for eTsy and overnight they made a change that destroyed my store. Such is life.
Lack of control over policies that affect your store
You don’t have any control over policies. Two years ago Etsy decided that shop owners who offer free shipping on sales over $35 US would get priority in search. This is fine for US shops, but impossible for overseas shops. I can’t offer free shipping because shipping costs me $21. I would make no profit, on some orders I’d actually be out of pocket. So my shop lost traffic and search placement and that was entirely outside of my control. Etsy decides on their policies as to what’s best for Etsy, not what’s best for individual stores. And US stores are almost always benefitting while overseas stores suffer. Understandable, Etsy is American, but it is more difficult if you’re overseas, unless your product is a high value product.
Etsy is full of copycats. If you start making sales someone WILL copy your product. Some people are so brazen as to even steal your photographs. I’ve had two people copy my product so far, with slight differences. They make a very similar product and they undercut my price. And if they’re in the US, they can offer free shipping. That has cut into my business as well and uness they use your actual photographs, there’s nothing much you can do. You can ask Etsy to take their shop down, but there’s no guarantee etsy will do that. And its actually to Etsy’s benefit to keep their store active, sales are sales to Etsy, doesn’t matter which store they come from.
No brand loyalty
There’s not much customer loyalty on Etsy. If someone buys a product, they’ll say “I found it on Etsy” not “I found it on Xyz store”. And in recent years there are more and more people demanding cheaper prices, free shipping, instant shipping despite your product being handmade to order. These people should be on amazon, not etsy, quite frankly! My product is hand made and takes time to make. I use quality materials and every piece gets my complete attention. I can’t rush both because I have rheumatoid arthritis and peripheral neuropathy in my hands, and my product would suffer if I rushed, or used cheaper materials.
Our society is getting less and less polite, less nice, less kind, especially online. I’ve been called a scammer and all kinds of nasty names because it took me 24 hours to ship my product out. I’ve been called an effing con artist, a piece of shit, horrible names, because I won’t drop my prices to the same as a the product they show me on Aliexpress. This sounds like no big deal, but when three or four people are sending abusive messages daily, it gets you down. Etsy does nothing about these horrible customers. They protect the customer, not the seller, most times. People have become more demanding, more rude, and I don’t care if they’re stressed over the pandemic. There is NO excuse to be that rude. Ever. Period. And there are a lot of rude people on Etsy. Scamming on the platform is ever increasing and Etsy will usually side with the buyers, for the sake of their business model.
People asking for freebies
You will get a lot of people asking you for freebies. They’ll give you the story of their sad, sad life, or the charity they are setting up to help people. And all they want from you is $200 worth of FREE product. Some of these are genuine people, but some are just assholes. Either way, it gets very wearing, having people asking you for stuff for free. Honestly, I’d never have the nerve to ask the way some of these people do, but clearly it works, else they wouldn’t do it. In the beginning I fell for ALL of these people and I gave away a lot of stuff. I’m a softy (easy mark). Now I answer politely if the request is polite. I ignore it if the “request” is rude.
You can’t easily set up a newsletter
You’re not allowed to contact your customers except for the current transaction. That means I can’t go back and email all my previous customers and ask them if they’d like to be on my mailing list for special offers and deals. You ARE allowed to message them during the current transaction, which is something I didn’t know. I should have been doing that from the beginning, and building a mailing list that way. But now I can’t do that. Etsy doesn’t want you to leave the platform so they don’t let you build a mailing list easily from your Etsy customers. Fair enough, but also a drawback.
I’m in the process of setting up my own website because my etsy store has been buried by a combination of an algorithm change, the ‘free shipping’ policy, and the pandemic. My sales have dropped to less than a quarter of what they used to be.
I have the skills to set up a wordpress website, but it’s a lot of work. And then there’s building a social media presence and marketing the website in other ways. I won’t be regaining that Etsy income any time soon via my own website.
But I don’t have much choice, because the Etsy changes are entirely outside of my control, and I have to make an income somehow.