Disclaimer: all opinions are my own.
You landed here because you’re a good entrepreneur who is doing a bit of research before starting an Etsy shop! And possibly you want to know how to make extra money at home.
Etsy was my gateway platform into the e-commerce world, but there are some things I wish I knew before selling on Etsy, and I wanted to share those things with you today.
Etsy is a great platform to start on, but I don’t recommend Etsy being your only e-commerce platform and I’m going to give you the nitty-gritty details why (and how I almost had to go to court over my Etsy shop…).
I’m also going to give you other places to sell your products so you can maximize your potential profits!
First, let’s talk about some of the pros of starting an Etsy shop.
Pros of Starting an Etsy Shop
While there are reasons you don’t want to rely on Etsy 100%, I do think it’s a great place for newcomers who don’t have a large audience of their own to market to.
Here are some reasons why I think starting an Etsy shop is a great idea.
1. Starting an Etsy Shop is Quick and Easy
When you start an Etsy shop, you don’t need to worry about domains, hosting or hiring a web designer. Everything is already done for you.
This is a screenshot of my Etsy shop, and as you can see, the only items you might need to have custom-designed would be a header image and a logo. You could easily design a header image yourself on Canva, making your Etsy shop free to set up!
I also like the design of Etsy shops. I think they are user-friendly and clean. Etsy has obviously done their research into making sure the layout of their shops is as high-converting as possible.
You can also upgrade your Etsy account to have more features, such as a scrollable banner at the top of your page to showcase different promotions just as EasyPrintablesShop has.
While there are options to customize, it’s nothing like the customization you get by starting your own shop on your own website, but having a shop ready to go in as little as an hour is very appealing, regardless of the customization limitations.
2. You Have Access to a Large Audience
Etsy is a search engine and the people who go to Etsy are looking to buy.
If you are just starting up and don’t have your own audience yet, starting an Etsy shop is a great way to get your products in front of a larger audience to increase your chances of making sales.
When I first started my Etsy shop, I hadn’t built up a large audience on my own, so being able to leverage the shoppers on Etsy helped me make a few sales.
3. You Can Integrate Dropshipping
If you don’t plan to manufacture your own products and instead plan to use dropshipping, Etsy can integrate to many dropshipping platforms meaning you can sell apparel and different items without having to worry about actually stocking them.
Dropshipping is a great method to build a profitable business with no inventory, and Etsy makes it very easy to integrate. Before you choose a dropshipping platform, just make sure they are compatible with Etsy.
Here’s a list of dropshipping companies to help you get started (if that’s the route you’d like to go)!
4. Etsy is Established
Etsy is established and is known for being a marketplace full of unique items. Your future potential customers are likely on Etsy looking for the items you sell right now.
That doesn’t mean you won’t need to learn how to market your goods, however. Just like any other online business, starting an Etsy shop will still require you to learn about online marketing.
5. People Trust Etsy
Trust is a major factor in the buying process. If your customers don’t trust your shop, they may not feel comfortable buying from you and handing over their credit card and personal information.
Brand new online shops can often face this drawback as they lack reviews, social proof and authority.
This isn’t much of a problem on Etsy.
On Etsy, buyers can purchase products confidently knowing their personal information will be stored properly. They can also feel comfortable knowing that if the item doesn’t arrive, they’ll be able to contact Etsy and get a refund.
Drawbacks of Starting an Etsy Shop
While the pros I just listed with starting an Etsy shop might make Etsy seem like a dream for beginners, you should also be aware of some of the cons. I wish I knew about these prior to opening up my Etsy shop (it would have saved me a ton of stress).
There are a few reasons why I eventually moved my shop off Etsy and onto my own domain.
1. Your Products Are Shown Beside Your Competition
If a customer walked into your store and picked up a beautiful necklace you spent weeks creating, would you run over to them and say, “if you think that’s nice, you might also like this necklace that you can get from my competition just down the road!” as you show them a photo of your competitor’s products?
But that’s what Etsy does, and that’s what will essentially happen to you if you start an Esty shop.
At the bottom of your Etsy shop, Etsy shows products they think the user will also like.
This means that your competitors may (and likely will) be shown to your potential customers on your own shop page.
Etsy makes money when an item sells, so they want to make sure that when a potential customer is browsing, they have lots of choices to increase the likelihood they will buy.
Etsy doesn’t care what store sells what items, they just want to make sure something sells.
And that means promoting your competitor’s products on your own shop’s page.
2. You Have Less Control
I almost got sued. You’ll want to read this section entirely.
When started an Etsy shop, the last thing on my mind was going to court to fight over some silly little Lightroom mobile presets I was selling…but that’s almost what happened. And I wish I knew how prevalent this was over on Etsy’s side of the pond because after speaking with other Etsy shop owners, my case wasn’t unique. It happens every single day.
It happened to me because a jealous competitor accused me of frivolous copyright (I didn’t copy anything), however, by law, when you are accused of copyright infringement, Etsy has to take down every single listing in order to avoid getting sued themselves.
Here’s the quick and dirty version of what happens when you get accused of copyright infringement:
- Someone reports your account to Etsy and issues a DMCA takedown notice
- Etsy immediately removes the item(s) in question from your shop and notifies you with two options: 1. either admit you’re in the wrong and delete the items from your shop OR 2. counter the DMCA claim. Countering the claim legally opens you up to go to court. Countering is essentially saying “I’m not backing down because I’m not in the wrong, and if you want to take me to court over it, bring it on”.
- If you go with option 1, you can’t sell those items again. If you go with option 2, Etsy will notify the person that you are countering their claim and they will have 14 days to take you to court. If they don’t take you to court in 14 days, then everything is over and your items can be listed for sale again.
I went with option #2 because I knew I was not infringing on anyone’s copyright, however, those two weeks where I had to wait to potentially be asked to go to court were very stressful!
And Etsy’s legal department was no help, unfortunately. My options were to wait around and see if my competitor decided to back down or to get an attorney and go to court.
Oh, and if I put my listings back up without doing either of the above options, I risked getting banned off Etsy for the rest of my life. To be fair to Etsy, this isn’t their fault. It’s just the law and they need to follow it so they don’t get sued as well.
By the end of it all, the person who claimed I was infringing on their copyright didn’t come back and take me to court (obviously, they were just trying to scare me). Nonetheless, my listings were taken down for two weeks and my Etsy SEO was severely impacted.
I lost money over this, even though I wasn’t in the wrong.
When my shop finally got approved to sell again, my sales had plummeted. I reached out to Etsy and asked why traffic to my shop had gone down.
They told me that due to their algorithm, it could take some time for my items to find their place in the search results again. My shop suffered tremendously even though I did nothing wrong.
I had worked incredibly hard on my SEO for my listings to appear higher in the search results, and because a competitor decided to take me down unlawfully, I had to pay the price by losing out on income while my listings were shut off and then had to work my way back up the search results again.
And what if this happens again in a few months? What’s stopping my competitor from doing the same thing again?
Could this have happened on my own website? Absolutely, but it’s highly unlikely.
I also wasn’t the only shop owner this happened to. I reached out to many of my other competitors when I noticed their listings seemed gone, and they confirmed they were all hit with the same frivolous copyright infringement from the same sour competitor.
While it was a bad situation, it was the kick-in-the-pants that I needed to move my products over to my own website and stop relying on Etsy!
You might think this is a one-off situation, but this is actually a huge problem on Etsy. With Etsy, it’s so easy for bitter shop owners to find hundreds of their competitors and issue frivolous claims so their products get taken down.
This Facebook group was created to fight against frivolous trademarks, and I highly recommend joining it if you’d like to stay in the loop!
3. Etsy Has High Fees
I sell my products at a lower price point, so Etsy’s fees really hurt my bottom line. When I totaled up my fees, 15% of my revenue went towards paying Etsy’s fees.
Depending on the price point of your products and what you are selling, your fees may vary. Here is a breakdown of Etsy’s fees so you can have an idea of what yours will be.
As my items are priced low, the fees I have to pay account for more, so let’s say you have higher-priced items and you are paying Etsy only 5%. If you sell $1,000 per month on Etsy, you will be paying (at minimum) $600 in Etsy fees annually.
Here’s the thing: You could put that $600 towards building your own e-commerce website. E-commerce website builders like Squarespace and Shopify make it simple to get your own site up and running, without having to hire a designer.
5. You Are Limited to Etsy’s Audience
In the pros, I mentioned that you have access to a large audience, but I didn’t say that their audience is also your audience.
Is your target audience even hanging out on Etsy?
Before you spend time starting an Etsy store, you should do some research to see if your audience even uses Etsy to shop.
6. You Cannot Grow an Email List (Sort of)
Let me preface this section by saying that some email marketing platforms will connect to Etsy so you can collect the emails of your customers (IF they choose to opt-in). But let me explain why that’s not ideal…
If you are just starting out in e-commerce, the last thing you are thinking about is probably growing an email list. But it should be the first thing you think about.
Email marketing is a highly effective and targeted way to promote your products to your audience. In fact, email marketing has a 66% (on average) conversion rate when it comes to making a purchase as a result of seeing a marketing message.
So, what is your email list? Your email list is essentially a group of people who you have direct access to, who are also fans of your brand and your products.
These are people who are either past customers or potential current customers but one thing is for sure: they are people who have the potential to one day make a purchase from you.
Like I mentioned, with Etsy, some email marketing platforms connect with Etsy where you can collect emails (but only from people who purchase from you, and only if they choose to subscribe).
However, there is no streamlined way to collect emails from those who haven’t purchased from you. By streamlined, I mean you can’t add opt-in forms directly to your listings.
Here’s an example of an opt-in form on one of my blogs:
Since you can’t add these to your Etsy listings, you aren’t able to collect opt-ins in an easy manner. Yes, you can hyperlink to an opt-in form, but generally speaking, the conversion rate will decrease since most people aren’t going to click off of Etsy to access your opt-in form. Users like the path to least resistance, which is why linking to an external sign-up page isn’t the best option.
For me personally, once I moved my shop from Etsy over to my own website, my income grew by 2,000% because I was able to do better-targeted ads, use my email list, my products were no longer shown alongside my competition and my website traffic was converting to sales.
Is Etsy Worth It?
Here’s my honest opinion: starting an Etsy shop is great for those who are looking to dip their toes into e-commerce. Had I not started my own Etsy shop, I wouldn’t be where I am today with my products!
Etsy is also a great way to diversify your streams of revenue. There’s nothing wrong with starting with an Etsy shop, seeing how things go, and building out your own e-commerce site in the future. You can even have BOTH Etsy and your own e-commerce site run simulteansouly.
Aside from starting an Etsy shop, I would also look into putting your products on different platforms such as:
If you want to start your own online shop, check out my list of over 65 different digital products to start selling today!