(image by Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot, used under CC BY 2.0, modified from original.)
Many handmade entrepreneurs (I’ll even venture to say, most handmade entrepreneurs) begin by opening up shop on Etsy or some other online marketplace…and then eagerly begin working to drive traffic to it. It becomes the Grand Central Station of their business; in other words, every aspect of their marketing, such as their email newsletter and their social media campaign, routes their customers right back to their Etsy shop.
This is such a huge mistake.
Why? Because the very last thing you want to do is simply drive your hard-earned customers to someone else’s website. And that is essentially what a marketplace such as Etsy really is…someone else’s website.
When you set up shop on Etsy, you are basically renting a piece of their real estate. The success of your business is therefore dependent on them.
Does this mean you should stay away from Etsy? Oh my lord, no. I love Etsy. It’s an awesome tool. But always remember, that is simply what it is: a tool, to drive business to YOU, and not the other way around.
It is absolutely essential that you also have your own website or blog.
Your website is the capital of your business…always. You always maintain the power to govern your own capital, no matter what else happens. It would never be a good idea to give anyone else the power over the business that only you have worked so hard for, right?
When you own your own website, the state of Etsy or any other external website or marketplace will never have a make or break impact on your business, because all along, you have been driving traffic to YOUR own website, you have been building an email newsletter list, and your thousands of Facebook or twitter followers have been coming to YOU.
With the capital of your empire still intact, you can weather any tidal wave that comes your way.
And, here’s a slew of other reasons why you should have your own website:
- Etsy charges fees based on the sales you make. How about paying a lot less of those fees?
- With your own site, you have complete control over your content, your design, your branding, etc. No rigid listing structure to adhere to. No list of rules to follow, other than your own.
- When a potential customer finds your products through Etsy, they will not only see your products, but they will see other seller’s products as well. However, if (and when!) they find your website, they see only what you want them to see: YOUR products. After all, if you’ve put in the effort to market your business, then your work should benefit YOU, not your competitors. I know that when I’m putting in all the effort to optimize my business so that a customer can find it on Google, the very last thing I want is to hand that customer off to my competitors (no offense, competitors).
- Having your own website looks so much more professional to a prospective buyer (and to other sites, blogs, magazines, press, etc who may be interested in featuring you).
- One or two unhappy buyers have the power to ruin your feedback rating on Etsy, casting a negative light on your hard worked business…even if their unhappiness wasn’t your fault.
- If you’ve ever checked out some of the forums over at Etsy, you will find that sometimes, the unthinkable can happen – Etsy can shut down anyone, at any time (check out this scary article on Handmadeology.com). This has happened to many sellers, and frequently, the seller had never even realized they were in violation of Etsy’s rules. So, if this happens to you after 4 months or 4 years of faithfully marketing and driving traffic to Etsy…then what? Your business and work is gone, and all that’s left is…Etsy.
- Etsy is just one tiny sliver of the potential market you could reach on the internet… and that potential is utterly limitless. Why box yourself in to only one place?
A fully optimized Etsy shop is one of many venues to take advantage of and allow more customers to find you. But, your business deserves to have its own Grand Central Station, don’t ya think?
(I feel really strongly about this subject. Here’s another article you might want to check out: You don’t own your Etsy shop. Etsy does.)
Linda DuBosOctober 15, 2013
I tried to join but your mail site isn’t working. Please let me know when its up again so I can join. Thank you.
Staci AnnOctober 15, 2013
Linda, I’m sorry about that, and thanks for letting me know… I just checked it and it seems to be working now, so I guess it may have been a temporary issue. Will you let me know if you still can’t join? If it still won’t let you, I’ll add you manually and email you the eBook directly if you’d like…
TiffaniMarch 18, 2014
I have my own domain as well as one for my shop. I am more than just my business. I am building a brand based on who I am so my domain reflects that.
Staci Ann LowryMarch 18, 2014
Awesome, awesome! 😀
JoAnne BellMarch 18, 2014
Web site not up yet. Have craftybell FB page. A networking friend just designed a neat logo for CraftyBell. Working on perfecting craft items; for instance, I believe I can do the tile coasters without brush marks. Am trying that today. Just found out I apparently still own sewingsenior.com. Not sure what I’ll do with that yet.
Staci Ann LowryMarch 18, 2014
It’s good to hear from you, JoAnne, and super excited for you about the logo. 🙂
Gari AnneMarch 18, 2014
Asolutely! I started selling online over 13 years ago on ebay, my own website was second. It has been through several changes over the years but I beleive it is in really good shape now and I have been giving it way more attention than Etsy or Ebay so that it will produce more 🙂
Great blog post!
Staci Ann LowryMarch 20, 2014
Thanks Gari Anne! 🙂
Carmen WhiteheadAugust 4, 2015
Hi Stacy, I just recently added my own shop to my own domain website. I still have some of my prints on Etsy and I’m also part of their wholesale division. But, you’re so right about those darn fees! They were killing me! So, now I’m trying to drive traffic to my own site and shop. It has not been easy, I’ve had a slump in sales. But, I have a growing email list and I’m determined to make this work. Thanks so much for your insight and information!
Staci Ann LowryAugust 7, 2015
You’re very welcome Carmen, and keep up the determination…. I hit those sales slumps, too (I’ve just went through my 3 slowest months of the year)….but with time, building up that traffic to your own site and email list will be awesome for your business. It really just takes time and persistence. (But it’s worth it!)
DeannaAugust 26, 2015
I started my own site about a year ago, but have just recently taken it more seriously. I did a total makeover, and am now in the process of setting up a store there. I’ll keep my Etsy shop, but direct all links to my own page. Just created an e-mail list. There has definitely been a learning curve with Mail Chimp! 🙂
Staci Ann LowryAugust 26, 2015
Awesome, Deanna, congrats! I’ve not used Mail Chimp, but so glad to hear that you’ve started an email list. It’s SO, SO good for your business. You’ll be glad you did it. 🙂
LucindaSeptember 1, 2015
I have my own web site. Working on my e-mail mailing list. Thanks for all the help about keeping in contact with my customers.
Staci Ann LowrySeptember 3, 2015
You’re welcome, I’m glad it’s helpful to you! 🙂
BrittanyOctober 9, 2015
Absolutely I have my own website! whoop!
I created it for all the reasons you stated & more. Another thing to add to that list is when one of my customers adds one of my products to her cart she then sees the other 50 things she wanted to buy (from other sellers) in the past but forgot about. Then maybe proceeds to buy something from another seller. I know I’m guilty of it.
Not only that, but when a customer uses my shops search bar to search a product in my shop & are unsuccessful at finding that thing, Etsy automatically prints that same search term in Etsy’s search bar at the very top. So my customers only needs to click ‘Search’ to find that same product from all the other Etsy sellers.
Etsy is a great pace to be for additional exposure but don’t rely on it.
Staci Ann LowryMay 2, 2016
I’m sorry for the very slow reply here, but I agree 100% with everything you said, Brittany, and it’s frustrating.
Something I just noticed yesterday that drove me crazy – I was searching for something in particular on Google, via the image search. One of the product photos I saw was from Etsy and it was just what I was looking for, so I clicked it – and instead of taking me straight to that person’s product, it re-directed to a search page on Etsy showing me an entire page of various related products. I had to search AGAIN for the product that had made me click there in the first place.
So, even with the SEO benefit that seller had from coming up in Google for her image, she still had to share my click with a bunch of competition on Etsy. I kept looking for her product, but not everyone would.
Betsy RogustaApril 12, 2016
I have taken the step forward and started building a website on Fat Cow with Word press. It’s slow going but there are a lot of tutorials, so as I have time(I am a teacher) i work on it. thanks for the “push” To take this leap!
Staci Ann LowryMay 2, 2016
Awesome, Betsy, good luck and let me know if I can help with anything! 🙂