Etsy: Dead or Developing?
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
Devovere was founded in April 2017, and has been at home on Etsy since its conception. In three years, there have been some significant changes to the company including a change of CEO. Since Josh Silverman took charge, Etsy has changed course. Once a haven for high-quality hand-made goods, every search is now populated by Print On Demand stores and resellers. On the sellers side, these changes have been even more drastic. We are now pushed to offer Free Shipping (paid out of our own pockets), whilst Etsy's features are getting rolled back. We have less control over our shops than ever before, and it's causing sellers to migrate off of the website in droves. It's the reason you're reading this now, as Devovere slowly pulls away from its reliance on the company. However, Etsy also grows year on year. 2019 saw more customers than ever and record profits for sellers. On the whole, shareholders and customers seem to be happy. On the whole, most sellers seem to be happy. But there are more than enough stories of Etsy's draconian policies costing real people their livelihoods. The argument can definitely be made that if a seller relies entirely on one platform, especially one that they're effectively renting from someone else, that they're shooting themselves in the foot. Etsy has no obligation to any of its sellers, as fees are taken per sale. At no point has any seller on Etsy ever paid for a service they did not yet receive. (Even the controversial Etsy Plus provides all it's credits and discounts immediately on payment.) This is a very dangerous position for a business to be in, because there's nothing but Etsy's goodwill keeping them there - they don't need an excuse to ban you permanently from their property. And it's a good thing for them that they don't, because they do so near indiscriminately. Etsy shuts down shops easily. Forums are full of cases where shops have been closed without warning due to customer complaints without merit. The new Order Defect Rate system leaves black marks against your shop for every poor review or case opened, regardless of whether Etsy decides you were actually in the right. But even worse than this, when a shop gets shut down it becomes impossible to reopen. Your IP is blacklisted, your name, your address, your bank account. And if anyone shares that IP or address? They're also banned. This has led to cases where dozens, if not hundreds, of shops have been shut down in one fell swoop due to one person being banned merely because they all used the same consultant at one point. The vast majority of appeals fall on deaf ears, as whilst Etsy has been implementing these policies they've also been rolling back on their customer service. So, you may ask, why on earth do you still sell through them? Why on earth should I trust this site? And my answer is that you shouldn't trust them. But you can use them. There is no alternative at the moment, not with Etsy's reach and not for Etsy's prices. Their 5% transaction fee, with no monthly fee, is the lowest you're going to find and their market is the biggest. Sites that advertise themselves as Etsy's replacements - such as NuMonday - have nowhere near the traffic Etsy does. For all the marketing I do, Etsy still brings in over half of my sales and my traffic and it does so with no upfront payment or investment aside from 19p per listing. To start your shop, it's absolutely no risk. There are hundreds of referral links out there which means you'll even get your first 40 listings for free, making it absolutely zero upfront cost (here's mine: https://etsy.me/2QxS4aS ). And I'm sure any seller could tell you that marketing is by far the hardest part of running a business, it could easily take months or years to build up the kind of attention you could get on Etsy within days. It's worth every penny of that 5% transaction fee. There are other fees that come with an online shop, but these aren't paid to or exclusive to Etsy. Every online transaction regardless of platform will be subject to a Payment Processing Fee and taxes. So, my recommendation? Don't rely on Etsy if you rely on the income you get from it. For a starter shop, or hobby income, Etsy is perfect. It's everything you could want. But the moment you reach the point of it becoming a necessity you MUST diversify. You need to build up social media accounts so you have a customer base ready should Etsy kick you aside. I recommend starting off by buying a domain name - you can get them extremely cheap for the first year and usually less than £20/$25 per year after that - and linking everyone to your shop through that. That means that if you suddenly need to change platforms, you can just redirect the link to your new page. For two years, Devovere.com fed straight through to my Etsy site. Now that I've created a new site with Wix, I was able to redirect it in less than 2 hours and my customers don't have to do anything different and my business cards and marketing are still all correct. If I decide to move off Wix, it'll only take moments to redirect it again. But that doesn't mean you have to make your own site, even splitting your sales between Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon Handmade would provide you with that security. However, moving to your own platform as soon as it's viable is the way to go. There are plenty of options, such as BigCartel and Shopify, but at the moment I'm very happy with Wix. I've been able to easily integrate my Etsy listings without paying a penny so far, and once I take the step to migrate my listing to my own platform Wix will only charge me £16 a month to do so - which is less than I'm currently paying in Etsy's 5% transaction fee. But I'm not going to close my Etsy shop down once I do migrate my listings and have my own website fully operational. It's too good in terms of value for money and near-free marketing, and I'd be a fool to let that revenue stream go before they kick me off it. Etsy is definitely changing, and it's definitely not for the better, but it isn't dead yet and it won't be for a long time. It's the best place for any hand-made seller to start their business, and for any existing business it's a valuable source of advertising for almost no money or effort. You just can't get too reliant, because you can be damn sure that Etsy doesn't care about you.