Dolly Henry is a sewing and design blog for the creative wanderer, where style meets play and making is a lifestyle.

Hi, I'm Megan - owner, designer and writer at Dolly Henry! Join me here as I explore the ins and outs of creativity, dabble in dollmaking and raise my voice on issues facing creative entrepreneurs.

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Creative Business: Sell Your Handmade Work on Etsy

After my Etsy ramble the other day it seemed my experience and feelings resonated with quite a few people. I have sold my work on a few different platforms before, and as the confusion as to what website would be a good place to sell your creative work seems mutual, I thought I'd unpack some of my personal experiences in a little mini-series, in case you find anything I have learned useful!

I thought I would start with Etsy, which might seem a little funny but as you will see below, the platform does still have its merits, and should be considered if you are totally new to selling your handmade pieces through an online store - particularly if you aren't very technologically minded and simply want to sell your work as an extension of your hobby.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Etsy is by far one of the simplest ways you can launch your handmade products into the world of e-commerce. Aside from selling your pieces via social media, with a simple PayPal invoicing system, it would have to be the least complicated way of starting your own online store. They also have quite a lot of support available in the form of selling advice and inspiration too if you are completely new to the whole kit and kaboodle.

You don't need to set up a domain name, subscribe to a monthly plan (although Etsy does have this option now) and you don't need to configure a theme or style for your site.

Ideally, you will also receive some traffic from Etsy itself, though this can be a little more difficult these days when there is SO much available on the almost feels like a matter of luck if people find you!

Chances are, you will still have to drive a lot of traffic to your shop through your other marketing channels (such as social media or a newsletter list) and then there is always the potential your customers will wander off or perhaps find a comparable product and buy from another store - I found this particularly when I was selling fabric on Etsy.

As Etsy suggests similar products to buyers, it was a bit of a nuisance that the exact same fabric I was selling would come up for a cheaper price - cheaper because it retails in the USA what I pay wholesale here in Australia. Because there is the cost of importing the fabric into Australia, and the middleman in between, the price is close to double than the price shown in US dollars.

I didn't suffer this issue with my handmade products, however, because it is easier to sell a unique product when you make it. Craft supplies often suffer price comparison, because they are a commodity and people will shop for the best bang for their buck. Given the exchange rate between the USA and Australia at the time I am writing this article, on top of the expensive shipping charges, it often works out at the same price per meter of fabric if you buy it in Australia anyway, plus you get it faster!

You will also need to take into account the listing and selling fees Etsy charges. If the customer checks out with Paypal, you will also lose a little bit more with the payment fees. I know Etsy fees can really add up and do bother a few people but I always used to think of the extra money I paid being part of my advertising budget, not just a selling fee.

If you do a particularly high turn over on Etsy, I personally found it was cheaper for me to sell my products through my own website. That said, I know quite a few established and successful sellers who have never left the platform, and continue to drive traffic to their Etsy shop from their website (a website without a shopping cart) and their social media platforms.

As far as selling PDF patterns or digital files go, I still need to consider Etsy over my own website simply because I am required to collect VAT on all digital sales to countries where VAT is charged. Even though I am in Australia, it's still a requirement. The trouble is, in spite of the amount of reading up I have done, I still find it overwhelming and the whole thing seems like a massive pain!

The fact Etsy collects and pays the VAT portion of a sale where relevant, it is much easier to simply sell my PDF files through Etsy than having to collect and pay VAT myself. Alternatively, I could use Payhip to sell my patterns through my blog, as it also sorts the VAT for me.

A downside to Etsy is the fact they do not offer weighted shipping, which can make it difficult depending on what kind of products you sell. Shipping is a huge part to how successful you are online, and if your shipping seems over the top to the customer, they may not contact you to see if you can adjust the price and choose to shop with another store. Unfortunately, the need to cover your shipping costs, especially when it comes to selling internationally, can often blow out your shipping fees if someone is purchasing multiples.

Given there can be a massive $20+ difference at Australia Post if your international order goes over the set weight category, it always feel better to overcharge. You can get around this a little bit by mentioning in your listing that you can offer combined shipping rates, asking buyers to contact you for a more economical quote.

A Quick-Five Summary:

The Pros: Selling Your Handmade Products on Etsy 

- You can set your shop up in an afternoon with no prior technical knowledge, complex payment systems, website experience or the need to purchase a domain name or engage a web designer.

- Exposure - the additional traffic Etsy provides, with a database of customers that haven't yet discovered YOU.

- A great app that makes it easy for you to communicate with buyers and process orders from your phone or tablet. And if selling digital items, the VAT issue is taken care of!

- The ability to participate in sitewide promotions for the holiday season etc.

- No plans, no commitments (if you don't want them!) and a relatively low investment in a few dozen listing fees to get you started - you will only pay more when you actually sell something - excellent if you are on a budget or simply testing the water.

The Cons: Selling Your Handmade Products on Etsy

- A massive amount of competition and not all of it is handmade. It can be difficult for buyers to find you in the search, with thousands of similar products also available.

- A 5% transaction fee on both your product AND the shipping price (at the time this article was written) plus the relevant payment and processing fees.

- Marketing time spent driving traffic to your shop, which also includes driving traffic to Etsy itself and potentially having your customers wander off, distracted by other shops or similar items.

- No control over the appearance or layout of your shop, and an inability to create strong branding, therefore less focus on your products and what you offer. You also cannot easily capture sign-ups to your newsletter list, which is a valuable marketing tool to establish relationships with your tribe.

- Very simple shipping options, which can be a nuisance if you need to be able to price your postage by weight.

All of this information is gathered from my own personal experience of using both Etsy and other website platforms to sell my products, which I will share in a separate post. I hope by sharing my thoughts I will have illustrated both the hurdles and benefits with selling your handmade pieces on Etsy and assist you in deciding what is best for you and your work.

If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave them in the comments, I am happy to help where I can!

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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