Selling on Etsy vs Your Own Website

In this video, I talk about selling through an Etsy shop versus selling through your own website.

A lot of people who are considering e-commerce are probably looking at Etsy or looking at doing something on their own website. Perhaps you have one or the other and you’re not sure if you want to add to your online sales with Etsy or your own website. 

We’re just going to go through some of the pros and cons of each and find what’s the best choice for you.

Pros and Cons of Etsy

As you can see, there is a lot to consider so I will go through each one in more detail below.

Pros of Etsy – Easy to Use and No Upfront Costs

The first one is that It’s very easy to use and there is no upfront cost. You can set up and add products to an Etsy shop very easily. If you already have your product images and descriptions you literally can be set up within an hour depending on how many products you want to add. That’s something! 

It doesn’t really require any technical skills beyond using a computer or basic navigation and typing skills. Really, you just have to upload your product listings and add your payment information. Follow the very easy step-by-step process that they’ve set up, and your store is live, and people can buy start buying from you.

It also doesn’t cost anything to create your store – you only pay once you sell something. The transaction fees will happen once you get someone to buy one of your products. But you don’t have any upfront costs to join Etsy. 

Pros of Etsy – Target Audience Included

Etsy also gives you a very targeted audience. It has a very large built-in customer base. As soon as you open up your Etsy store, you are tapping into those millions of people who visit Etsy on a daily basis. Opening up a shop on Etsy does really give you immediate access to an established marketplace.

Etsy has been around since 2006. There’s a lot of people who go to Etsy first when they’re looking for gift-giving ideas for example. You’re immediately introduced to all of those people. A lot of the visitors who come to Etsy are already interested in unique handmade gift ideas, artistic, and creative products. So if that’s what you’re selling you’re already funneled down into that group of people who are interested in those kinds of products. 

Compare this to another marketplace like Amazon, where you know there’s just everything under the sun on there and you realize that you really have no idea what somebody might be coming to Amazon to look for.

They’ve also vetted those visitors. If that visitor has come from an advertisement or through their Etsy page or their Instagram or whatever, they’re already vetted so they already know they have an interest in what Etsy typically offers. They’re more ready to buy when they see your products. 

Pros of Etsy – Security and Trust

Etsy also gives people a lot of feelings of security and trust. As I mentioned they’ve been around since 2006 and in this past year, they’ve really become an online force for e-commerce. 

That reputation for being around that long and in general being a good experience for most people, gives people a sense of security and trust to purchase through Etsy. 

It also gives people the impression that Etsy is going to take care of them if their experience is not what they expected. Whether that’s true is to be debated.

But it also takes care of payments and ensures delivery. It does a lot of the back-end stuff that people are concerned about when they’re thinking about security and trust. It’s already built into their machine so to speak. 

I do personally think that gives people a lot of sense of security. At least it feels less risky. Because they know they have this trusted middleman to deal with any issues that might come up with buyers or sellers. Because in a lot of cases the buyers and sellers don’t know each other yet. So having that person, that relatively neutral party in between, does give you a sense of security and trust in the transaction.

Pros of Etsy – Lots of Traffic

The other great thing about Etsy is it’s going to definitely get you lots of traffic. Of course, there’s optimizing that traffic, but in general, Etsy is ranked in the top 100 global websites based on traffic. That’s incredible! The last time I looked it was like 71 on the planet. I’m not just talking about the United States – on the planet it’s in the top 100. So, man, that’s just incredible.

So just by the sheer numbers of traffic, you’re likely to find somebody who wants your stuff. Assuming that Etsy is going to show your stuff to these particular people.  Lastly, look there are over 3.4 million visitors per month to Etsy. That’s pretty powerful stuff when it comes to online sales.

It also helps you attract buyers or attract buyers and sellers from around the world. I think it’s really fascinating. I mean even if you’re a seller who’s got your own shop. A lot of sellers are buyers too. But what’s interesting is when it goes to a global level. I really think that that changes the game. That’s why there are so many people looking. That’s why there’s so much diversity there. That’s why there are so many amazing products on Etsy. Because it’s built to handle international traffic. 

We’ll get into it in a little bit but your own website has to do a lot more to get that level of traffic.

By default, if you do well on Etsy it’s going to make it easier for you to have an internationally known business. I don’t know about you but I’d be quite satisfied if I had a state-known business, let alone the United States, but internationally – that’s again just taking it to a whole other level. 

If you have aspirations for having an international business it does expose you to people who wouldn’t otherwise know about your business or your products.

Etsy Pros – Easy and Affordable Order Fulfillment

Etsy is also easy and affordable when it comes to order fulfillment. Shipping Labels let you ship orders through different options directly from your shop. Once somebody purchases and you print the label for the order, Etsy will automatically mark the order is shipped and send out all of the necessary communication. 

You can also save up to 30% on shipping costs if you use that system. You can send packages worldwide. They help with the custom forms and all the wonderful additional things you have to deal with when you ship worldwide.  But they do make it as easy as possible. Shipping in general is not easy. I do give them kudos for making it relatively seamless. 

Etsy Cons – No Brand Awareness

Now let’s move on to the Etsy Cons. What you may already be aware of is there really isn’t any brand awareness when you’re on Etsy. If somebody asks someone where they got that beautiful necklace. Most people are going to reply, “Oh I got that on Etsy.” They’re not going to remember that it was a specific Etsy shop or the person who was running the shop. That would suck if you were trying to build brand awareness. 

There’s also limited branding options available in the Etsy shop design. So you’re really constrained to their structure. There’s not a lot of opportunity for you to show your uniqueness or your brand consistency. It’s very difficult for people to realize whose Etsy shop they’re clicking on. Because I’ve even literally gone in and tried to find a specific one. I thought I was on there. I got confused because I clicked on the wrong thing. They look so similar that it can be quite difficult to know which shop you’re on and not get distracted by someone else’s products. 

Etsy Cons – Additional and Unpredictable Fees

Also with Etsy, you do get a lot of additional or unpredictable fees depending on how they change their policies. It’s hard to prepare for their random policy changes. To them, it’s not random, but to most people it is. Because your profit margins are probably pretty small in most cases. So when you get an additional fee attached to that it can really make a big hit to your bottom line. 

Then the whole free shipping thing. You know it’s not free for you as a seller and it’s such an expectation anymore. You really have to roll that into your general overhead costs. That can be quite expensive if you’re shipping globally for sure.

Then optional fees like the advertising fees can add up quickly. Sometimes they’re really difficult to opt-out of, if at all. You can get in a pickle with having barely anything left after someone purchases your product if you’re not pricing them correctly. Accounting for these additional and unpredictable fees is important. 

Etsy Cons – Inflexible Control and Policies

It’s also really Inflexible. There’s not much control. There’s very little room for customization or any kind of personalization in the process. Which I alluded to in the branding. But also just within the format of your Etsy shop.

If you have difficulties your options are pretty limited and let’s say you had some kind of customer complaint or issue with a transaction. Etsy is normally going to err on the side of the customer. Just because they want to keep people happy and they want to keep people coming to Etsy.

You don’t own your customer base. So when somebody buys from you you can only reach out to them via Etsy. It’s very difficult to get recurring or repeat business with Etsy for lots of different reasons. But mainly because you don’t own that customer. I guess you don’t really own them ever, but I mean you can’t get their email. You have to correspond with them through Etsy. If somehow you do get their email technically you’re not supposed to add them to your email list. 

Etsy also just dictates which shops are featured and which ones are seen in the search results. That’s a lot of control and it’s not really flexible.

Etsy Cons – Extreme Competition

As I mentioned before, there are a lot of people on Etsy; both buyers and sellers. So there’s a lot of extreme competition even within the niches on Etsy.

There are 30 million-plus items listed on Etsy. It can be difficult for shoppers to find your products. There’s probably a lot of similar products. Even though yours might be unique, it is very difficult to stand out.

Etsy is also allowing manufacturing partners and resellers to show their products. Which is kind of flooding, I mean flood is the right word. There are a lot of pretty big manufacturers on Etsy now. It’s very easy to get lost amongst those listings. 

Etsy’s also promoting your competitors on your shop and product pages. Which is understandable on some level, but also just crazy if you’re trying to differentiate yourself. 

Then one thing I’ve always noticed about Etsy is their categories. The options for the categories are so limited. If your product falls in a very small niche of a certain category that’s not even shown, you kind of have to plop your stuff into a category that may or may not be a good fit. Or it may not be a logical fit for the people who are looking for your product.

Etsy Cons – Lack of Human Support

Etsy is also known for its lack of human support. They do have a lot of online materials and access. They have the forum and all that good stuff, but you can only contact a human through an online submission. If you have an immediate issue you have to either find the answer on your own or wait for them to reply. 

By definition “immediate” is usually important and it can be quite uncomfortable waiting for them to get back to you and maybe not even having a resolution for it. 

Pros and Cons of Your Own Website

So let’s move on to having your own website. Here are some of the Pros and Cons of Having Your Own Website. We’re going to go through each of these just like we did with Etsy and get you some more details.

Website Pros – Ability to Customize and Build a Brand

When you have your own website you have absolute Ability to Customize and Build a Brand. You have control over a multitude of design elements to create a really unique brand experience.

The freedom and flexibility that it allows is incredible. You can create an experience that is completely tailored to your market and your customers. When you carefully craft and brand your website, it looks way more professional and further legitimizes your business when someone comes to visit your site. 

What your customers see or don’t see is completely up to you. You’re not constrained to a specific format at all. You have absolute complete freedom to customize it however you want.

Website Pros – Fewer Fees for More Flexible Technology

There are fewer fees for more flexible technology. A lot of the e-commerce platforms will provide built-in selling tools to grow your business. Most of them do not charge transaction fees for these tool. They might charge you an annual fee. They might charge you a one-time fee. But they’re usually part of a package. So it’s a fixed cost not a transaction fee per transaction fee.

It’s going to give you a lot more power and flexibility to build and manage your business on your own terms. Less fees mean less transactions which means less bookkeeping. Which is always a good idea.

Website Pros – Put the Spotlight on Your Products

It also helps you put the spotlight on your products. There’s no competitors to be seen when someone’s visiting your website. Unless you’re crazy and you want to put some on there.

You can also better merchandise your crafts or your handmade goods. With multiple images, zooming, different perspectives, different highlights of how they’re made, videos – all the beautiful media options you can think of to show people what’s so freaking special about what you make.

The product descriptions normally don’t have a character limit and you can do all kinds of fun stuff. Like upsells bundles and suggesting related products. Which is going to definitely boost your sales.

Website Pros – Personalized Customer Support

You also get personalized customer support. When you have your own website you’re normally dealing with a reputable e-commerce provider. You’re their customers so they’re going to offer you free real-time customer support. 

They’re not going to just only allow you to send an email. They’re going to offer phone numbers. They’re going to offer online resources. They’re going to offer 24/7 chat. All kinds of really good customer support. Because they want you to be a satisfied customer.

That makes building and managing your site a lot easier when you know you have someone you can reach out to with questions. Your immediate issues are usually resolved quickly if not immediately. Because they understand that if for example the website’s not working and no one can buy from it, that’s an immediate issue that needs to be resolved quickly. They’ll do whatever they can to help you.

Website Pros – More Marketing Opportunities

Having your own website is definitely going to give you more marketing opportunities. You have access to all of your customer data. So that you can make strong connections and build brand advocates.

You have the freedom to reach out to those new customers via email marketing and social media and newsletters. You can list your products seamlessly on Facebook or Ebay or any other shopping outlet. 

It’s all kind of working together and importantly you can optimize your SEO so that your website appears at the top of the search results. Not mixed in with other people. 

Website Cons

Website Cons – Website Management

As you may have guessed. Website Management is a lot of work. I will not sugarcoat that. You are going to be completely responsible for the management of the website. If something goes wrong you’re going to have to deal with it or hire someone.  Hiring people can be kind of a nightmare too. 

Website Cons – Learning Curve

There’s going to be a big learning curve. Anytime you’re switching to a new platform or software it’s always going to involve learning something new. Some people thrive in that circumstance other people don’t. 

There’s always resources that you can find for learning how to do things. But it’s likely going to take some time to help you feel confident about using the new tools. If you decide you don’t want to do it yourself it’s still going to take time to hire someone. 

Website Cons – Increased Marketing Responsibilities

The marketing aspect of it is definitely going to increase too with your own website. So you’re 100% responsible for getting any traffic to your site. It’s not built-in and if you don’t do something to get traffic to your site it’s just going to sit there. 

Ideally you’re going to know which strategies you want to use and how to implement them. But if you don’t. This is going to be another learning curve that you’re going to have to deal with. It can take some time.

Website Cons – Customer Service Responsibilities

Customer service is another big responsibility with your own website. You’re responsible for the resolution of all customer service issues. Although it can be a great opportunity to wow your customers, it can also be a challenge. Especially if you just get somebody who’s a “crankster” and will not be happy. There’s not going to be a middleman for you to buffer that experience.

You’re also going to be responsible for all of the policies and procedures. For handling the issues and make sure that all the emails or the chats or all of the automation, you’re building into your site, is not going to let someone slip through the cracks.

Because the worst thing that could happen is they’ve sent you an email and you didn’t get it or it went to your spam folder. It could have been something easily resolved. Now it’s two weeks later and they’re pissed. 

Then you’re gonna get public reviews on third-party websites saying not so nice things about your company. So it’s always good to monitor and manage those two. But that is also going to be something that takes time.

Website Cons – Upfront Costs

Having your own website also involves upfront costs. You have to pay for the services needed to create a website before it goes live and anyone can buy from you. 

If you decide to hire someone to help you build the website it’s usually going to require at least a 50% deposit., depending on how they do things. But that’s the industry standard. 

Even if you go with a monthly website service, they’re going to offer you free trials but they’re time-limited and they’re usually pretty fast. I mean it’s like you know 14-day trial. I bet most people couldn’t get a website up and running and evaluate whether they like that service in two weeks. That would be asking quite a bit.

There are free website services out there. But they’re usually so limited in what they offer because they’re free. You can start with them but it’s usually not a good long-term strategy. Because then you know you’re gonna eventually have to move away from it. Then you’re just gonna go through this process again.

If you have the funds now it’s always better to just go with a paid platform that you know you can stick with. Or at least it’s gonna satisfy you for three to five years and be scalable for your business. So you’re not dealing with that relearning everything on a new platform. 

Etsy Is Best for Someone Who…

…doesn’t have a proof of concept for their product yet and want to use Etsy as a low-risk market research platform. 

…doesn’t have a lot of money.

…is just getting started with online sales.

…is not very comfortable with learning new technology. 

…does not want to or does not have the time to run all aspects of their business.

A Website Is Best For Someone Who…

…has robust sales and strong customer base and brand. You just need to translate that into your own space on the internet. 

…has money to invest in creating a professional website.

…has been selling online long enough that you know how things work. You’re comfortable with the logistics of it and you can dedicate some time to learning this new website business.

…knows that learning technology is a good investment in the success of your business. You don’t see it as a negative. 

…likes having control over all aspects of your business. Even if you eventually delegate it to someone else. You thrive on knowing how everything works. You can control the changes that are needed to optimize your business and the success of your business. 

…feels ready to take your business to the next level. A website is a very logical next step for a lot of people who are selling in marketplaces or other online platforms.

You usually can tell as a business owner that you’re ready to take this on. That it’s going to be a good positive step towards the growth of your business and your sales. 

Create a Powerful Online Presence with Both

I’m not saying that you have to do one or the other. I personally think that having both and Etsy Shop and a website is how you can create a powerful online presence.

 If you already have an Etsy shop or you start with an Etsy shop, you get all of that market research. You start getting enough sales and you start making money and you do all of those foundational things. 

You combine that with a website and you keep your Etsy shop open. But you combine that with the website and start tweaking all the things about your website until you get that running like a massive machine.

You are going to be unstoppable with both of these. 

So my overall philosophy is that if you build on your Etsy foundation and you create your own professional website you can use both to future proof your brand and sell on your own terms.

I hope this video has been helpful to you. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me. There are lots of resources on my website too.

Thank you so much for watching and have a wonderful day!