Etsy has become almost synonymous with handmade selling, and I at one point had a few Etsy shops, as well, for my various crafting expeditions. However, after several years trying to make Etsy work for me I eventually stopped using it for selling, and I refuse to set up shop there again. This is not an anti-Etsy article in the sense that I don’t think anyone should use it. It’s simply an explanation of the reasons I don’t use Etsy and some of the flaws I think the platform contains.
Traffic Goes to Etsy, Not the Seller
For awhile I had an ArtFire shop, and for all intents and purposes I like ArtFire. I don’t really have any online shops anymore – mainly because I prefer the face to face nature of craft show selling – but I spent a good number of years attempting to sell my crafts online and ArtFire was pretty wonderful. On ArtFire all of the traffic (as in web traffic) is sent to the artisans. On Etsy it’s sent to Etsy, and the people running Etsy get to decide which shops get the traffic after that. Favoritism runs rampant, and it becomes more of a mission to make Etsy successful and pretty instead of promoting artisans. I think this is wrong, and I’ve seen many great craftspeople suffer failing businesses on Etsy simply because their shop was not one of the “chosen ones”. In my book, that’s not fair.
Selling Fees are Ridiculous
This may have changed since I ran an Etsy shop, so I am not sure, but when I had an Etsy shop the selling fees per item were ridiculous. It was $0.20 to post an item, if you wanted to post multiples of an item it was $0.20 per item copy, and in order to even survive on Etsy you had to “relist” your items several times a day. You guessed it – every relisting was a $0.20 fee. You might think that $0.20 is no big deal, but if you consider that to really be seen on Etsy (or any online venue) you need hundreds of items in your shop, at least five of which are relisted daily, that can add up very quickly. I saw this not as a way to help artisans but, again, to help Etsy gain money. I’ve heard that you are no longer charged for multiple items and that there have been several changes made to the structure of the pay schedule, but from what I know it’s still $0.20 per item and relisting is still encouraged. Whether it exists still or not, it never should have been a business practice.
Let’s say you’re running your Etsy shop and you run into a problem. Who you gonna call? You’d have as much luck with Ghost Busters as you would with Etsy because, the last I checked, Etsy has no phone support. That’s right, none. You can email – and wait – and if you’re one of their “chosen shops” you might get a fast response. But usually you have to wait quite awhile for a response, and after you do hear back the response is typically ambiguous and unhelpful. One time my response to a request for help was to ask the forums. At one point they told all of the Etsy sellers they were working on a new phone support system, which ultimately was their idea of a funny joke because what they really did was purchase – no joke – handmade stuffed phones put them in cubicle-like areas. After that they posted a blog that had a “tee hee how cute!” feel to it about their new phone support system. Nobody was amused, and if people outright criticized them for it several of them had their shops shut down. Which leads me to my next point.
Unethical (in My Opinion) Practices
I can’t tell you how many people I know whose shops have been shut down by Etsy. When I was selling there I personally had my shop shut down multiple times for reasons that were either unfounded or had been taken care of (with happy customer approvals) by the time they got around to dealing with whatever they thought was an issue. More than once I saw people’s shops get shut down because they spoke out (politely) against an Etsy practice or something like that in the forums. If we talked about it on the forums, even more shops would be suspended, shut down, or the owners would receive threats of being shut down. The tyrant attitude of Etsy management was one of the main reasons I stopped trying to make it work there. I’m not sure if the same people are running Etsy or not, but when I was there this was very much the case.
These are my main complaints about Etsy. A lot of successful Etsy sellers won’t speak out publicly about the environment there, even though many privately observe the same things, for fear of retribution. However, there are many people who are experiencing booming success on Etsy. And I’m happy for them. I would never deter someone from opening a shop on Etsy, because I think for a certain handful of people it can really be a doorway to success. But my issue with Etsy is the same issue I have with all of those online selling sites; if they go down, you go down. I don’t like to put control of my business in someone else’s hands, particularly when there seem to be arbitrary rules about who gets to stay and who gets to go. When I go sell at a craft show I’m not afraid that someone will come in, pack up my stuff, take down my tables, and tell me to leave simply for asking a question or offering criticism. To do that would seem ridiculous to most people. However, that’s exactly what Etsy managers did on a regular basis when I was there. If you want to use Etsy as a means to success for your crafts business I think you should definitely try it out. However, I would also encourage you to put your business in other locations and explore other venues at the same time so that you still maintain control of your success.
I hope this has helped explain my reasoning for not having an Etsy shop. I think many people are surprised at Etsy when they open a shop and begin to experience the culture there. At the same time, many people are quite successful, and I honestly do hope that if you try them out you are successful, as well. I’m a fan of full disclosure, though, and since every single “how to succeed selling crafts” book seems to really be a “how to succeed on Etsy” book, I figured I’d throw my two cents in the ring. Whatever you choose to do I wish you all the success in the world with your crafts business!