It's Time to Rethink Your Etsy Shop

When you read the headline what did you think was going to come next? A long tirade on the evils of Etsy and how you should close your shop now? Or pro tips for you to rethink your Etsy shop setup? I'm going to guess that your mindset about Etsy has a lot to do with what you thought you would read next. And I want you to change that.

Etsy has long been this one focal point in the handmade marketplace. Because it entered the scene and launched the career of literally hundreds of thousands of artists and has continued with very little real competition, it has been the focus of so much of the attention of both makers and buyers when it comes to shopping handmade. It almost feels like it's not within our brains to imagine a landscape different than the one we've had for about a decade.

But things are changing and have been changing. With Amazon's announcement of the creation of a handmade marketplace, Pinterest partnering with Shopify for a "Buy" button, Facebook already testing a "Buy" button, and Instagram getting in on the buy-direct-from-social-media action to0, we are finally able to really start imagining what it might be like to have multiple strong channels for makers to sell on.

The Marketplace is Changing and Will Change

Changes in the market are just business 101. EXPECT change. It's the only constant. And other cliches about change that are true. But really, every industry experiences "disruptions" (the tech industry basically has those down as weekly occurances) and so will the handmade marketplace as it matures.

This is both scary and exciting (as we alluded to in last week's Instagram post below). We are on the precipice of handmade, as a whole, growing out of the margins or "special" shopping experiences of Etsy, craft shows and Brooklyn (zing! I will be here all week) to a place where buying handmade will feel incredibly normal. And I think having that "specialness" disappear is making a lot of people nervous, alongside with a huge fear of the unknown.

So let's just list a few fears here:

  1. I won't be able to figure out all of the hot new ways to sell online. It already feels complex and I've just gotten down my strategies.
  2. I'm afraid I'll be left behind with the new changes and my stuff won't sell the way it does now.
  3. I'm scared I won't have the resources or infrastructure to meet the new demands and people will get upset and never shop from me again.
  4. I fear I'm not good enough to compete with more people in a saturated market.

All of these fears are rooted in the unknown. Which also means the exact opposite could be true. You could also be wildly successful. You just don't know. 

What you can do now though is prepare and act like success will be the outcome because you don't know that it won't. There are lots of things we don't know for sure in our lives but yet we act like they are certain. We make plans for next week, for next year, for retirement. The way you plan for life and move forward in it is no different than your business.

Your Business' Survival Depends on You

NOT ETSY. :) Or any other company. So, please make your decisions based on the best moves for you. Whatever that is. But also realize you probably have some fear mixed in there. Try to recognize it and push it aside as you make your next move.

If you are also doing a fair amount of volume on Etsy and already have your own website, a shop of your own that you can control is within your reach (as you can tell by this awesome spreadsheet Aeolidia made... she uses Shopify but honestly you can plug in your own numbers any number of ownable ecommerce platforms which includes Squarespace which is what we use and love). We, and LOTS of others, have long been beating the drum of the importance of opening your own shop. Having a homebase where you can nurture an audience that isn't dependent on the whims of an external ecommerce platform is becoming more crucial.

Change Your Mindset and Be Flexible

Etsy, and all of these new selling platforms, are merely tools for your business' success. Distancing yourself from feeling like you have to be on the "next big thing" and following the trend is going to be hard. But as we've seen from Etsy as it's matured, it's not best for everyone and sometimes it's just plain bad for others. So whatever happens, don't feel left out if these new strategies won't work for you. Make work what propels your business forward.

I think a healthy way to look at any selling that is external from your own shop is as an advertisement. You are spending money to make sales you wouldn't normally be doing on your own. You AREN'T paying for a place for people to buy your stuff (because you could just have that on your own) and you are also certainly giving up a lot in the process: 1) you lose your special branding and identity to the site's, 2) you don't get to build your list and develop the same kind of relationships with customers, 3) you don't get to set the terms the same way as your own shop, and 4) you are being shopped in a place where all of your direct competitors are being suggested to your customers... just to name a few.

Whether Etsy is still a leader in handmade in 10 or 20 years really doesn't matter to me. Like at all. Same goes for the survival of Amazon, Pinterest and all the others. What matters to me is that you are here (if you want to be!) in 10 or 20 years. That you are getting a fair deal. That you have all of the tools and resources you need to viably make the business you want. That consumers are easily able to buy from you. That they know and love your products. That you aren't making decisions from a place of fear or scarcity. 

So tell us, what excites you most about where handmade is going? What do you see beyond the near future?