Online eCommerce for the indie artisian, part 1 by Dingbat Press. The online Etsy Store.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about the launch of our self-hosted shop. While I’m no eCommerce web programmer guru, we’ve set up a few shops for ourselves and other indie sellers and are starting to get the hang of things regarding pros and cons. This series will give you a run down between joint hosting with another marketplace provider (Etsy, Storenvy, ArtFire, BigCartel and other smaller online marketplaces) vs. taking the big leap and self-hosting your shop.

This post is going to focus on Etsy, since most, if not all of you are familiar with it.

Etsy, the online marketplace for indie artisians holds probably the largest market share for online hosted storefronts. It’s the go-to for easy start-up selling, and is often referred to as the Artist’s eBay. I’d have to add in addition that I feel much safer shopping on Etsy than eBay due to community (I’m an artist too – like minds shop with like minds) and reputation.

The BIG PRO regarding Etsy is that set up is PAINLESS, literally. A shop can be set up in a few hours with a PayPal account. It’s THAT easy and that’s why it’s the first choice for so many artists looking at selling their goods.

The BIG CON on Etsy is that you pay fees for different services (advertising in 24 hours slots, listing/transaction fees, and quantity listings). Etsy listing fees = .20 per listing/per item. While the initial listing fee is low, there is a catch that I found frustrating after selling on Etsy since 2008. You pay your listing fee in quantity as well. So if I list a new item, letterpress recipe cards it will be .20 for the first listing. If I have a quantity of 3 sets that I’d like to sell, then it will be an additional .20 per quantity of the same item. So what was .20 to list just jumped to .60 for the same listing for multiple quantities. Not only does this make it hard to keep accurate track (and lets you be lazy) with inventory on hand, but it also makes it hard for shop owners with more than 50 different products listed in their shops. While the listing fees and renewal fees aren’t too bad on a small shop, it really starts to add up with more product listings.

While Etsy’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is ruled from product tagging (how you label/tag your product so buyers can find you) – the most easy and reliable way to be found as a new seller via Etsy is to rank high in their searches. To do so, not only do you have to tag your item well, but it is advisable to re-list your original listing to stay at the top of the searches. This can be an expensive habit and ultimately if not done wisely, can take your profit margin completely away from the product you are trying to sell. To re-list you take your currently listed product and “renew” it for .20/renewal per quantity. Again another .60 for a $10 product just spent to renew. Did I mention that your listing/renewal expires in 6 months and you have to either relist or renew at that point anyways? Hopefully your goods sell in 6 months, but a starter shop can take a little while to get off their feet!

I have found along with many Etsy shops that a way to side-step this is to list just one quantity of every item in their shop for the .20, and renew it to stay high in searches, while posting a shop notice to convo or contact if you desire more quantity.

While this works, it gets annoying if you hit the Front Page or a treasury and people are pining to buy your item and it “sells out” only for you to have to renew it and potentially miss out on impulse buyers.

While I understand that Etsy provides a GREAT service, they have to make money somehow. Through listing fees, and transaction fees (did I mention they take a cut of the product selling price when it sells too?) it can get to be expensive. Again making your profit margin smaller. We’ve been happy with our Etsy storefront, it’s nice to be aware of the impending costs as well though so hopefully you’ve been enlightened if you’re considering opening an Etsy storefront.

There are ways to get well known around Etsy without investing a fortune of money, instead it’s the time you put into forums, Etsy Teams, curating treasury lists and more. Just remember that time is money too – I would love to participate more in the Etsy community, but for me it’s cheaper to renew and re-list than to really search out topics in the forums that I’m passionate about. Not that I won’t enter the forums if I have something to ask or answer, but ultimately the key is having your product rank high. If even for only 30 seconds, so that someone searching “letterpress” can see me at the top of the search (or you and your product).

This is a bare bones run-down but covers the costs of an Etsy start-up and you can see how it could be good or bad for your business model. The thing that got expensive for me was re-listing, multiple quantity and larger listing sums (the wedding invites were expensive by the time a transaction fee was cut from both Etsy and PayPal).

Feel free to add your expert advice or questions in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer where I can.

Next week I’ll be going over Storenvy, followed by Art Fire and Big Cartel and finally SELF-HOSTING!