As promised, I’m back this month to talk about opening a handmade shop.
There are so many options for hosting an online shop. I have used two, so I will stick to what I know, but do some of your own research. Talk to friends that have shops, read reviews, compare pricing and services. Every business will have different needs and therefore may prefer a different shop service. Get informed and then dive in.
I started out my shop on Etsy. I joined Etsy’s marketplace when it was relatively new and mostly unknown. At the time, if you typed “calendar” into the search bar you would get a few pages of results and most of them would be my products. Today when I typed “calendar” into the search bar I got 16,514 results. Etsy has grown.
I was on Etsy for several years, and was very happy with my experience. But while one of the amazing features of Etsy is that it is free to open a shop, as my business grew I realized that having a shop on Etsy is definitely not free. On Etsy you pay a fee for each shop listing and each transaction. As my business grew, my bill grew. When my bill grew into several hundred dollars a month I decided it was time to try another system so I switched to Big Cartel which offers shop hosting for one flat monthly fee. The fee varies based on the features you are using, but my bill went from about $500 a month with Etsy to $30 with Big Cartel.
Big Cartel offers a lot of design flexibility, and with a little bit of coding knowledge you can have a very custom looking presence on the internet. It was nice to have my shop on its own independent website.
The problem with hosting an independent shop is that no one is driving traffic your way. Yes, Etsy has fees. Those fees can be quite high. But you have to consider that you are paying for Etsy to market your product. In the few years that I was on Etsy I sold planners in every state of the United States, and in 8 different countries including Ethiopia! Ethiopia, for crying out loud! There’s no chance I ever would have found my way to Ethiopia on my own. When I made the decision to leave Etsy I knew that I would have to be much more intentional with marketing my products. And I was confident that I had enough of a following to drive business my way. My business continued to grow and expand, but I have no way of knowing what would have happened had I stayed on Etsy. Something to consider.
I used Big Cartel for one year. It was nice to have a little more control over my shop, and I certainly liked my bill being less that 10% of what it had been, but now I will tell you why I am heading back to Etsy.
The user interface for sellers in Big Cartel is very minimal. For the most part, you have to go through PayPal to track and ship your orders. While PayPal is an amazing service that I use and will continue to use through Etsy, it is SLOW. So. Freaking. Slow. And the search features are less than reliable. So tracking orders can prove to be a little tricky.
One thing that I will say about Etsy is that they have an amazing user interface. They have wonderful features for sellers including tracking and shipping services that make staying organized easy. I have seen them expand and improve and listen to user feedback. They are constantly upgrading features and improving on their system. I know that there have been some huge changes since I left, including the addition of gift certificates and a self-contained checkout that means that shoppers can pay right through the site without having to use PayPal. I’m looking forward to diving in and learning about the changes.
I am realizing that this post has quickly turned into an advertisement for Etsy, and while I didn’t intend for it to be that, I’m not sorry either. Etsy is a GREAT place to start your business. So maybe I take back what I said before and am now saying… just go open an Etsy shop. In all seriousness, you should do some research and find your own way, but one thing I will say for sure is do not put a lot of money into opening a shop. Websites can be expensive and time consuming, and Etsy is a great way to test the waters.
I had intended to talk more about actually opening your shop, but apparently I needed to get on my Etsy soapbox first. So how about next month I’ll give you a step by step for ACTUALLY opening your shop? Sorry… I’m a rambler.