For a long time, Etsy has been the place where handmade artists go first to sell their items. It used to be an amazing platform where artists would see tremendous growth in their business through increased exposure and sales. This is, unfortunately, no longer the case. The direction that the company is taking is geared more towards who ever is going to be making them money.
There are rules in place that sellers must be making their products, or they must be vintage. Yet every other store that you pop into has products that are not made by them, they are dropshippers or they are resellers. Even though Etsy is made aware of these shops via reporting and their internal investigations, these shops continue. They are selling there items cheap and they are making Etsy money, so their rules go out the window. This doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon, and why would it.
I have been on Etsy since 2018. In that time, I was only able to muster a measly number of sales. I attribute this to a few specific things:
Competition is tough against people selling underpriced and incorrectly labelled products.
There are A LOT of vendors on Etsy selling jewelry. Unfortunately, quite a large number of those jewelry businesses are selling factory-made in China items, which means that they can significantly underprice something that is truly handmade with quality materials. It is no secret that the labour force in China is paid a dismal amount – this is how the Chinese economy works. I simply cannot compete. I need to price my products in a way that are going to pay me a liveable wage. Whether they are independent, North American based small business, or large Asia-based resellers, the details are the same. Fortunately for them, people love a cheap product.
To top that, a lot of the products are labelled as “gold-filled” or “genuine gemstones” “Freshwater Pearls” when they are in fact, fakes. Chinese products are regulated by their import and export department, the AQSIQ, but that doesn’t mean that the Chinese standard of gold-filled is the same as the American standard. In fact, most of the time it’s not even comparable. The base metal is not necessarily jewelers brass, it is often copper or stainless steel, and the amount of actual gold is generally unknown. I never consider Chinese made and labelled gold filled products to be gold filled, and legally, I cannot sell them as such. Instead, I consider and sell them as gold-plated.
I have also ordered gemstone and pearl supplies from Chinese manufacturers, only to discover upon delivery that they are fake. The number of times that I have received “Mallorca” Pearls is beyond frustrating and a waste of money.
Listing items is time-consuming and difficult.
Listing items on Etsy is a full-time job in itself. Apart from the 20+ listing details that need to be entered for each item; Etsy has its own algorithm that needs to be catered to. Which means that you need to be posting new listings and updating each listing on a regular basis. There is also a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to cater Etsy’s specific SEO requirements. This, compounded with the other reasons I am mentioning, did not make it worth my time.
Fees are high and ads are necessary for exposure.
Etsy has fees for everything. There are fees for listing and for each renewal. When you actually make a sale, they take their percentage of the purchase price, plus the fees for the transaction and then re-listing the product again. The biggest kick in the stomach is that they also charge the same percentage fee on the shipping costs that the customer pays. At the end of the day, I was finding that I was paying almost 30 – 40% of the total purchase price and my profits were minimal.
As there are so many other sellers on Etsy all competing and underpricing each other, you really need to have ads turned on in order to get traffic to your store. This is another cost that eats into any profits that you might be seeing. If your store is lucky enough to make more than 10k a year, then you cannot opt out of these ads.
Your customers are not your own.
If there is anything every business owner knows, it is that connecting with your customers is critical. Especially after they have purchased. Getting someone who has purchased once to purchase again is much easier than getting a brand new client.
However, with Etsy’s platform and rules you are not allowed to engage with customers outside of the platform. Which means that it is very difficult to get them onto your outside email list. Connecting with them again or letting them know about new products is entirely up to them.
Another important factor is that many customers don’t really think about your shop when buying on Etsy. They simply think “I’m buying this off etsy” not “I’m buying this from Seren and Skye”. Your branding efforts are almost mute on Etsy, while Etsy’s brand recognition grows and grows.
At the end of the day, the effort that I was putting into Etsy was not worth it for me. Some people make good money on Etsy, but they are also spending a considerable amount up front. I prefer to put that money in making relationships with individual store owners who become retail partners, as well as putting the effort into my own website. On my own website I can control what the client sees, I can utilize my SEO efforts to gain exposure across the entire internet and multiple channels.