As an Etsy seller, your business is a source of income, your outlet to create, and most importantly, your passion. Value your business on Etsy by taking complete ownership of it and protecting all of your hard work and investment.
Know the limitations and barriers that could put your business at risk on Etsy. Don’t leave your Etsy shop vulnerable to a third party that does not value it as much as you do. You’ve read the stories and know the reasons. Save yourself from becoming another unfortunate story – make an action plan and take control of your online business today.
Look Beyond Etsy
Where does Etsy end, where does your business begin?
Making a transition does not mean you should abandon Etsy or your loyal customer base. It means to use what you have built through your hard work and dedication to growing your brand beyond Etsy. Start thinking of your Etsy shop as a business. Make a plan to have another selling channel in addition to your Etsy shop. It is a smart business decision that reduces risk when your Etsy shop is your only source for sales.
When building your brand, customer base, and social media engagement, drive the traffic you work hard to generate to your own website, not to Etsy.
Don’t let the cost and fear of technology prevent you from making an investment in growing your online business. A meaningful investment is important for your immediate and future success. Investing in a website does not happen overnight. With careful planning, finding the right e-commerce solution that fits your budget and business need is worth your time.
First and foremost, know that your business is not too small or too new to have its own website. Here are the benefits of having your own website to conduct and grow your business.
- Build your brand identity and recognition while increasing professionalism and credibility
- Control and customize your content without fear of violating the Etsy terms and conditions
- Share your personal and business story in depth
- Showcase your products creatively and integrate stories between your shop and blog seamlessly
- Flexibility to promote craft shows, wholesale opportunities, and other revenue sources to build your business
- Protect your brand and products from copycats that undercut your price and quality
- Manage and have complete control over your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy
- Control and direct your marketing efforts that are 100% devoted to your products and not be forced into offsite ads
- Plan for future growth and expansion under your own terms
Consider all options, plan, and prioritize. Always be mindful of the bigger picture.
Selling from an Etsy shop is an excellent option for new sellers. As a seller, you may feel completely happy and satisfied with your Etsy shop and experience. However, the fact that you’re reading this article means doing nothing is not an option for you, so let’s proceed.
Firstly, having a self-hosted website and shopping cart is ideal for an online seller; however, it does not have to be an immediate solution. Therefore I’ve outlined several options below with recommendations for your consideration.
Sell on a second marketplace
Etsy may own the handmade marketplace, but they are not the only player in the game. There are several to choose from – Amazon Handmade, Aftcra, ArtFire, GoImagine, IndieCart, Storenvy, Society6, Cargoh, iCraft, and more. These alternatives are similar to Etsy and vary in terms of fee structure, selling guidelines, and marketplace. Opening a shop on a second marketplace is an option; however, it does not offer anything new or unique from what you already have on Etsy.
Don’t be fooled by Pattern by Etsy, it’s redundant.
In 2016 Etsy introduced a website builder called Pattern. It’s marketed to Etsy sellers to help expand their online sales beyond the Etsy marketplace. At first glance, this build-your-own-website tool appears to look and play the part of a standalone website, but after giving it a closer look my suggestion is buyer beware.
Although a website builder that feeds from Etsy serves a purpose and has curb appeal, it is not what it seems and it’s not a complete business solution for having your own website. When you authorize Pattern to host your Etsy product listings, it only gives the appearance of a standalone website but your inventory is synced and managed centrally through the Etsy Shop Manager, and your customers will be redirected back to Etsy to finalize the checkout process. That means your product listings are still controlled by Etsy, you are still subject to Etsy fees, and you will still have to follow Etsy’s terms and conditions.
The fee for Pattern $15 a month and that is in addition to your normal Etsy fees for doing business.
- Etsy listing or renewal fee: $0.20 per transaction
- Etsy transaction fee: 5% per transaction
- Etsy offsite ads: 12% per transaction (applied to sellers grossing $10,000 a year)
All things considered, the cost outlined above is on par with an annual web hosting plan that would give you complete control and autonomy of your website and business.
A powered by Etsy website is not an independent website despite the marketing efforts to convince you otherwise. It is still an Etsy shop. If you violate the terms of service agreement, your Etsy account will be suspended, terminated, and disappear along with your website. For the cost of having a website powered by Etsy, sellers would be better served by choosing one of the many hosted shopping cart solutions (Big Cartel, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) available that are not dependent on Etsy.
Don’t let this happen to your online business.
Imagine the panic and horror when one day your shop is shut down unexpectantly on the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
If the face of Pattern is not immune from an Etsy suspension then no seller is safe. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket!
If you choose Pattern or remain on Etsy as your only selling platform, I highly recommend that you backup your Etsy shop on a regular basis by downloading a CSV file of your shop inventory or use an automated solution like Backtsy. After each backup, save a copy on your hard drive or an external drive. Knowing that you have the latest version of your Etsy shop available to restore your shop or to export elsewhere will give you peace of mind.
Since the purpose of this blog is to offer alternatives to Etsy that will allow you to have more control of your business, we will now consider other viable options.
Let me tell you why Big Cartel is my second favorite alternative to Etsy. At its core, Big Cartel is a fully hosted shopping cart solution. Because it has a history of supporting true artisans, it deserves its own mention in this article as an Etsy alternative. Big Cartel was made to help artists, makers, and small brands open a store and start making a living doing what they love. While Etsy moves further away from being a community for artists and makers, Big Cartel embraces it. For Etsy sellers looking to take the next step to have their own website, Big Cartel would be a natural fit as a low-risk and affordable option.
In terms of flexibility and having a personalized site, Big Cartel gets the job done. It offers four plans priced from free to $29.99/month for up to 500 products. There are no listing or transaction fees – just one flat monthly fee depending on the plan you choose. Big Cartel features include custom domain, premade and custom theme templates, apps & integration capability, real-time stats, inventory tracking, and a host of other seller tools to manage your online business.
Unlike Etsy and other artisan marketplaces, Big Cartel gives the seller customized templates and a seamless front-end experience right out of the box. You can create pages (about, faqs, contact, etc.) for doing business. It’s also far less intimidating to learn and the ease of use compared to the more popular hosted shopping cart options is a plus for artists and makers that want to spend more time creating than building a website.
Big Cartel paired with an Etsy shop can give a seller an added sense of security of knowing that if their Etsy shop should ever become unavailable, the seller will have an alternative shop already in place. It is also a great training ground to learn how to sell from an independent platform due to its low-risk start-up cost and ease of use.
Big Cartel is not a perfect solution, but it is a viable one that I highly recommend for artists and makers who are ready to expand beyond Etsy and want to learn how to become an independent seller without the benefit of a marketplace. Big Cartel has its own terms and conditions, but unlike Etsy, they will not question or challenge your integrity as a maker or threaten to shut down your shop without warning.
Before choosing Big Cartel, consider some of the disadvantages.
- If you’re selling mass quantities, Big Cartel will not be able to fill your needs due to limited scalability and integrations. However, if you’re an Etsy seller looking to build your brand outside of the Etsy marketplace and don’t require a lot of advanced features, Big Cartel might be just what you need to get started.
- Unlike Etsy and other options, Big Cartel does not have a customer review or rating capability. Customer reviews are important to start building trust with potential customers.
- Big Cartel does not have a blogging capability. If you want to maintain a full website with a blog on your domain URL, I recommend setting up your domain URL on WordPress.com (or another blogging platform) with the domain mapping option. That way you can maintain a website on WordPress.com (e.g. bluebox.com) that you can use to direct customers to your shop website (shop.bluebox.com) or create a subdomain for your blog (blog.bluebox.com) and use the main domain for the shop (bluebox.com), the choice is yours. Because you will be using two platforms, switching between the two will not be seamless. However, many Etsy sellers maintain a separate blog already, so this limitation may not be a showstopper for some Etsy sellers.
For the record, Big Cartel is second to my preferred option of creating a self-hosted website on WordPress + WooCommerce.
Popular E-commerce Solutions
The big three: Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace. They all have various pricing plans and come straight out of the box with many features and have beautiful ready-to-use template designs. In general, the appeal of hosted platforms includes hosting, automatic upgrades, and security upgrades that come with full support as well as maintenance and management tools. Sellers that have no technical or web development skills will prefer the hosted shopping cart option to be the perfect e-commerce solution.
Shopify is a fully hosted web application to create an online store. It provides a wide range of free and premium themes that can be customized to meet the user’s business needs, and it allows users to sell physical and digital products.
As of 2021, Shopify has 1.6 million online stores. This growth is due to the one-stop-shop to set up an online store It is straightforward to use and has a clean and intuitive interface. In addition to Shopify’s core functionality, it has an app store that store owners can access to obtain free or premium apps to improve functionality and add features to their store. Another benefit of Shopify is the print-on-demand and dropshipping capabilities.
Shopify has a free 14-day trial available to familiarize yourself with the platform. No credit card is required during the trial period.
- Shopify Lite: $9/mo
- Shopify Basic: $29/mo
- Shopify: $79/mo
- Advanced Shopify: $299/mo
Before choosing Shopify, consider some of the disadvantages.
- Despite having a variety of themes to choose from, they are harder to customize, and changes can only be done by a developer unless you have coding knowledge.
- There is no built-in email hosting. One of the benefits of having a self-hosted account is to be able to create your own email accounts – firstname.lastname@example.org. Email forwarding is an option, but that requires set up by a third-party email host which is another monthly or yearly cost.
- Maintaining a store can become expensive. The base price for a standard plan is $29 monthly with limited features; however, that price can quickly increase if you include subscriptions you have to pay for using certain apps to add functionality to your website. If you need to scale your business, the next plan up is $79 a month plus monthly subscription fees may no longer make Shopify a feasible option.
- Running an e-commerce shop on Shopify presents SEO challenges. The most common issues are forced URL structure, duplicate content and page titles, no customization of pages, limits on page titles and meta descriptions, inability to edit tag pages, and locked robots txt. Having complete control of your SEO to improve your search ranking to increase the quantity and quality of inbound traffic to your website.
- Subject to the platform terms of service.
Wix is a popular cloud-based website builder. Individuals and small business owners are given tools to build a beautiful and professional-looking website. Although Wix is a free service to start, users can opt-in to improve their website functionality by subscribing to premium plans, one of which is an e-commerce platform.
Wix is known for its beginner-friendly design and simple processes. The intuitive drag-and-drop site editor capability allows for customization with ready-made designer templates based on your business need or industry. In addition to creating a beautiful website, Wix allows one year of free domain name registration, web hosting, security (SSL certificate), 24/7 support, and a host of other out-of-the-box features to showcase a professional site.
Wix’s e-commerce platform allows for various business types – physical and digital goods products, dropshipping, print-on-demand, services & membership, and multiple channel sales to sell across social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram).
There are three Wix business & e-commerce plans. Users can also try Wix for free, with no time limit.
- Basic plan: $23/mo
- Unlimited plan: $27/mo
- VIP plan: $49/mo
Before choosing Wix, consider some of the disadvantages.
- Wix makes it easy to build a website, but once it’s built and published you cannot change your site design/template later. You are stuck with the design you initially selected. This can become a barrier as your new business takes shape and grows.
- If you outgrow Wix and decide to move on from the platform, you cannot migrate your website data elsewhere easily.
- Although workarounds to make a Wix website mobile-responsive, the website that you build with Wix is not fully responsive. With approximately half of the web traffic being generated from mobile devices, it critical to ensure your website has a responsive web design. This is an important factor to consider before building a website using Wix as an e-commerce platform.
- Websites built with Wix don’t currently meet Google’s Core Web Vitals standards. In other words, Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics related to the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a website. Until Wix can comply with this new standard, you may want to strongly consider investing in another e-commerce platform. Failure to comply and maintain these standards can lead to actively lower search rankings on Google. Core Web Vitals goes into effect May 2021.
- Subject to the platform terms of service.
Squarespace Commerce is an all-in-one solution for small business owners and solopreneurs looking to create a beautiful website. As of 2021, it has 2.6 million sites and online stores. It is a hosted e-commerce solution that gives users with minimal technical skills the ability to get started online with their own website.
Squarespace is known for its very attractive and contemporary templates. With over 100 templates, there are plenty of options to choose from for the business or industry of your choice. A unique feature of Squarespace is having access to all of Unsplash’s library of royalty-free images to add directly to your website. All templates are fully responsive, meaning that your site design will automatically adjust to appear correctly on the device you are using to view the website. This makes your website more accessible and provides some SEO benefits. Additionally, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) on your Squarespace website will speed up the delivery of the content on your mobile devices through the use of stripped-down code known as AMP HTML.
In addition, Squarespace is an all-in-one platform and you don’t have to worry about plugins, widgets, or apps when you use the builder. It also has built-in analytics. Unlike other e-commerce platforms, Squarespace has full blogging capabilities. In addition, it offers a free domain name with a purchase of an annual plan, free WHOIS privacy, SSL certificate, web hosting, 24/7 support via email & live chats, and a host of other out-of-the-box features to manage your e-commerce website.
Squarespace has a 14-day free trial period and their pricing is based either monthly or annually.
- Personal: $12/mo if you pay annually or $16/mo
- Business: $18 /mo if you pay annually or $36/mo
- Basic Commerce: $26 /mo if you pay annually or $36/mo
- Advanced Commerce: $40 /mo if you pay annually or $46/mo
Before choosing Squarespace, consider some of the disadvantages.
- There is no phone support for immediate support. All support requests are via email or online chat. This can delay troubleshooting easy-to-fix problems with your website.
- There is a learning curve to get a feel for the interface when editing and adding content. Adding new pages, setting up a new blog, or trying to edit your design templates is a challenge. If you want to add or move elements, the process can be time-consuming.
- Squarespace lacks advanced SEO capabilities. It allows for editing your site title and meta description, but it does not allow for specific content keywords and it has a limited basic meta structure. SEO is the most crucial part of a website. It is what helps the search engines rank and index websites, drawing readers to your content.
- Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial period, but it does not offer a free plan like other website builders to fully test its capabilities without a time limit. It is also pricey. For advanced e-commerce, the monthly fee is $46 monthly/$40 a month annually. For a monthly plan, that’s $500+ a year for a fully functional e-commerce website that you don’t have 100% control over. You could purchase a year of web hosting and domain registration for half the price.
- Subject to the platform terms of service.
In conclusion, Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace each have equal pros and cons, but the platform you choose should depend on the type of e-commerce shop or business you plan to open. Cost may be your biggest consideration, but there are other important components to consider when deciding on a business platform – SEO capability, scalability, mobile-friendliness, site speed, user experience, and software integration.
When maintaining a separate website, you won’t have the benefit of having a marketplace on Etsy to rely on which means you must learn how to drive traffic to your website through creative marketing strategies and social media engagement. Have good intentions when looking for creative ways to engage and redirect Etsy customers to a new site without spamming them with unsolicited email.
- Add a business card or an insert into Etsy packaging to engage interest in your new website.
- Drive potential customers to your website by offering your full product line while limiting inventory options on Etsy.
- Offer discounts, free shipping, and other incentives on your website that potential customers cannot get from your Etsy shop.
- When promoting on social media, YouTube, or other media platforms, direct all links to the website, not Etsy.
- No matter what you do to drive potential customers to your website, always make shopping on your website a more appealing option than on your Etsy shop.
When starting a new website as an alternative to Etsy, my best advice is to consider a platform where you feel you can comfortably set up your shop in a way that is both easy for you to use and for your customers to buy from. A successful website will require work on your product, understanding your customer and how to market to them, as well as having the right e-commerce platform to facilitate sales. Finally, whatever platform you choose, please weigh the advantages vs. disadvantages, and seek out advice before making a time and financial commitment.
How can Plan in Action help?
Send a message and let’s discuss how I can help you plan a road map to transition your business beyond Etsy to your own website.
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