Is Etsy a Good E-Commerce Platform?

I’ve been using Etsy as my e-commerce venue now for about 5 years. I set the first shop, Cool Creek Designs, up in 2011, the second, Country Chic Shoppe, came in 2012, and the third KnobSnobbery, in 2014 ... well, it was 2013, but I revamped it completely so it was actually 2014.

sell crafts, start craft business
Can You Turn a Hobby Into An ECommerce Shop?
I have always been a crafter, so doing things with my hands came naturally. But selling them? ... well, that was a whole new can of beans!

I saw a piece on the Today show with a gal who gave advice on selling your own crafts, and the venues you could use to do that. I’d never heard of Etsy before, so was excited to check it out.
Well…it has been a slow go.  And in all honesty, I cannot say that it has provided me with a great income.  After 5 years, my first shop has only sold a little under 500 items. Nothing to boast about there.  As the experts on Shark Tank have been known to say, and I had to admit they were right, “This is not a
business…it’s just a hobby.”

Hobbies Don’t Pay the Bills
So naturally, my first thought was that having a second shop would help fill in the gaps. That made sense, right? Why wouldn’t one think that?

What I didn’t consider was that doing so just involved that much more start-up money I had to invest, finding more storage space for finished inventory and supplies, and twice the time spent creating, photographing, copywriting, and trying to figure out whether people would even invest their hard earned money in my awesome creations or not.

Now, it’s a pretty well known fact that the first 2-4 years in a business, you’ll likely be operating in the red. So that was expected, but wow, I was really working my tail off. Besides my part-time computer job (at home, yay!), I was also working 8 to 10 hrs a day on my shops.

Wearing All The Hats
Wearing all of the hats – creator, curator, photographer, copywriter, promoter, research tech, bookkeeper, customer service rep, tax preparer, gopher (that was a big one), shopper & orderer – whew, I’m exhausted just listing them all.

Has My Ecommerce Venue Been Worth It?
By the end of last year thanks to my trusty GoDaddy Bookkeeping system (it used to be Outright), I thought for sure I would finally see a profit. After all, it was the 4th year!

I about fell out of my chair. My “taxable income” was a mere percentage of the fees that I had paid out to the Big E! I mean, great for not having to pay out too much for taxes, but … wow, what did I live on for a whole year? It was staggering to think what my average hourly wage had been? Maybe 3¢ an hour?

And more importantly, would I do that again in 2015? The answer has been a sad “yes”, because I felt I had no choice.

Farmer’s Markets | Advantages of the Etsy Platform
That is not to say that there aren't a number of great advantages to selling on Etsy.  There are many things they do very well.

My dad was a farmer. For 20 years or so, he sold his wares at a large farmer’s market. It was a good distance from the farm, and he went twice a week.

Now, farmer’s markets may not be the “Mall of America.” But what’s nice about them is that people already know to come to this large pre-arranged complex of vendors.

You don't have to worry about advertising, or SEO, or distributing flyers to let folks know where you are...because they already will be a-comin’ .

The same is true with Etsy. It is a pre-arranged online platform where you can set up your own shop, and to a degree, design and organize it how you like it.

You can design your own banner. You get your own URL, but it is a shared URL in that it always is www.yourshopname.etsy.com  or  www.Etsy.com/shop/yourshopname.

I am impressed with Etsy's statistics reporting. And due to their abundant selling population, they are able to provide access to a shipping service, Endicia, that helps reduce shipping costs.

They’re set up pretty good for SEO, and work closely with Google and other venues to enhance searches. Not to mention they are constantly updating and modernizing.

And I think a big plus ... they seem genuinely concerned with both their selling partners and their buyers.  So for those reasons, they have been a good business partner.

Disadvantages of Selling On Etsy
Still, the competition is FIERCE!!! Just as a for instance, in searching the word “jewelry organizers” in the Etsy search bar today, which by the way I sell and have all along, there are 21,927 results. A whopping 1300+ pages of them!

And where are mine listed? Since I’ve been making them for 4 years? I scrolled through the first 20 pages and didn’t find one. What I did find, however, were LOTS of copies of mine and for half to two-thirds the price.

Same thing for “Leather Cuff Bracelets” – 56,929 results…
... and “Decorative Knobs” – 10,369 results

Is the Etsy Venue Good for Sellers?
It depends on your definition of "success."   Etsy is a wonderful platform when you are just starting out.  You can learn a lot about how to set up and design a shop, how to create and promote an appealing product, how to approach packaging and shipping, how to deal with customers, amongst other things.

In recent years, however, they have encouraged more international selling participation, and now boast 1.5 million shops worldwide.
Denim Baby-Leather Cuff Bracelet
For me, that only adds to the stress and aggravation.  I don't begrudge any crafters to be able to make a living,...but my leather bracelet that goes for $30 here in Missouri is sold overseas for $5.  For emphasis, I repeat ... competition is FIERCE...not just in the sheer number of competing shops but also in price variance.

For most small shops, it is impossible to compete with that!

So..What Next for This Crafter?
I guess every crafter has to figure out the best venue for their own wares.  Maybe a combination of venues is best.

I'm in the process of setting up this e-commerce site, and it has definitely been a learning process!  What I'm going to love is being able to also blog and share what I have learned along the way...not to mention be able to also learn from you!
Happy Crafting Everybody!    And remember ...     

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way"  -Napoleon Hill

How about your crafts shop?  Have you been using more than one venue to market your craft or jewelry shop?  Which ones have you used, and do you feel that has helped your shop to grow?  Won't you share your experience with us fellow crafters?