Why I Quit Etsy:
My Etsy shop opened in 2014. During my time selling on the Etsy platform, I grew my business organically, earned enough money to quit two of my four other jobs, and maintained “Star Seller” status month after month. My shop was NEVER suspended or shut down by Etsy. I took advantage of Etsy’s changes to the platform when they occurred, including activating the “free shipping over $35” option and allowing Etsy to market my listings on Google. Overall, I had a good experience with Etsy as my shopping platform.
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So, WHY DID I QUIT? Several reasons.
Before I get into those reasons, however, I should mention that my business goal from the very beginning was to have my own shop on my own platform with my own stuff. I knew how I wanted everything to look and how I wanted my shop and my website to operate. I also knew I wanted a YouTube channel to host video tutorials and I wanted a blog to host photo tutorials and informative articles. But back in 2014, I was making cards and scrapbook layouts and that was it. I didn’t have any of those other technological components set up yet. It made the most sense for me at the time to start my journey with the shop component, since everything else would tie back to that.
WHY I STARTED WITH ETSY:
I could have easily started with one of the e-commerce platforms such as Shopify or Square or WooCommerce and just build everything from that. But financially, Etsy made the most sense for me at the time. At the time, Etsy only cost .20 (USD) to list each item, and I could start selling immediately. As I developed the other platforms from the back end, I knew I could just link back to my Etsy shop, which is exactly what I did. Mind you, I had no experience whatsoever setting up an online shop or working with shipping or anything like that. And although I’m pretty good at figuring things out in terms of technology, everything takes time. So Etsy allowed me to sell IMMEDIATELY while I took all the time I needed to figure out everything else.
What Etsy DOES and DOES NOT do:
WEBSITE & BLOG:
Etsy DOES offer sellers the option to develop their own website (a platform called “Pattern”) in conjunction with their shop. With the shop as the base starting point, sellers actually can click a button and magically a sample website appears with all the products in a nice, clean-looking interface. The seller can take advantage of a free trial and then opt to pay a monthly or yearly fee for the site (comparable to other shopping websites).
HOWEVER, (at the time of this writing) the “Pattern” website platform does not have a “posts” page option for me to be able to have my own blog on that same site. So, if I took advantage of Etsy’s website option, I would STILL have to get my own external site somewhere else if I wanted to have a blog… or if I wanted anything else of my OWN on my site (outside of the parameters of Etsy’s standard fields). In other words, I wouldn’t have the freedom to completely customize my website HOWEVER I WANTED. And I certainly would not be able to use third-party external plug-ins. It would be like being restricted to the “kiddy pool” (which is fine when you are a kid, but I knew I would outgrow the “kiddy pool” at some point).
THAT is the reason I chose to start my own website on WordPress. I could actually start for free, and then as my sales grew I could upgrade my site at my own pace. So, I bought my own domain name from GoDaddy and started my WordPress website in 2016 with the most basic plan they offer. I added a “shop” tab, but linked the tab back to my Etsy shop instead of jumping into e-commerce on my WordPress site.
Etsy makes in-person shopping relatively easy for the shop owner. Back when I first started with Etsy, I had to order an “Etsy Credit Card Reader” that plugged into the headphone jack of my phone, and then I could swipe credit cards to make in-person sales. Over time, Etsy developed a partnership with Square, making my life super-easy for in-person sales. Etsy inventory shares with Square, so any time I wanted to sell in-person or do a craft show, I was ready. I just worked my sales through the Square app. Square takes a transaction fee, (which I expected) since Etsy channels in-person sales THROUGH Square. No problem, right?
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My first-ever in-person craft show did fairly well, or so I thought. I soon realized, however, that every in-person sale was being charged TWICE: a transaction fee from Square (the platform for the in-person sale) AND a transaction fee from Etsy (the platform for being the storefront). That’s crazy.
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING:
Let me start here by saying that Etsy DOES give shop owners the ability to share listings on social media. Etsy makes it relatively easy, in fact. I just clicked “social media”, and then clicked on one of my shop’s “recent items” (or I could choose to share reviews, coupons, or other pre-generated options). Etsy pre-generated sample text that I could choose to alter, and then I could share that link to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter.
This feature was fantastic for me as I was first starting out and setting everything up. HOWEVER, when there were issues on Etsy’s end of things, I had no control over them and had no idea how to fix them. One time, I shared a bunch of my new listings over a period of a few days. I shared links directly from Etsy’s social media on my new Facebook Business Page, Instagram Business Page and Pinterest Business Account Page.
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But when I checked back at the analytics and the individual posts to see how they were doing, I was SHOCKED to see that every one of my posts was shared with some standard generic stock text that led back to the Etsy site in general (not my specific shop or my item specifically, even though I linked the post FROM my item listing). What made it even worse was the fact that in the social post, Etsy substituted my product photos ALL for the exact same standard stock photo of some random woman in a white dress. It looked like I had shared a stock promotion for the general Etsy site on my business pages for like 4 days in a row. I was NOT happy and I had to physically go back to each of my social posts individually and delete them all from all three platforms. What a pain. Now, in Etsy’s defense, I only had that issue one time in all the time I had my Etsy shop, but once was enough.
Over the years I had my Etsy shop, Etsy did refine its social media sharing a bit. But I still found the pre-formatting extremely restrictive. I spent more time altering Etsy’s pre-formatting than if I would just post a regular photo on social media and include a link to the listing myself. So after a while, I quit using the social media marketing feature on Etsy altogether.
On that note, I found myself constantly creating my own “work-around” versions of posts for social media just to accommodate my needs in conjunction with Etsy’s extreme pre-formatting. I didn’t like the long url Etsy gave me for sharing my listings, or the incredibly long listing number in the url so I “worked around the system”, pretending to share a listing at least far enough to copy-paste the short custom “etsy.me” url. Mind you, this is not something I even knew about or cared about when I first started my Etsy shop. But as my shop grew and my social media presence grew, I realized that the LOOK of my social media posts (including the LOOK of the link to the listing) mattered to me. And Etsy didn’t allow me to alter the look of my posts without long-winded “work-arounds”.
SELLING ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
I wanted to join in with other small businesses and sell my Etsy shop products on social media. Since I already had “business social media” set up, it seemed like all I would need to do was to link my Etsy shop inventory to the selling features built into Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. A little exploring around the back end of these social platforms let me know that they all have the ability to sell products from an already-existing online shop.
But when I tried to do this, I quickly realized that Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest do not offer Etsy as an e-commerce option. If my home shopping platform was “Shopify”, all I would need to do was click a button and Facebook would connect to all my inventory instantly. But there was no “Etsy” option. Nothing was stopping me from selling my products on social media, but as long as I kept using Etsy as my “home base”, I would have to manually enter all my products individually on EACH social media platform to gain shopping exposure there.
Pinterest did allow me to “tag” products in my created pins, which I took advantage of. But Pinterest is particular about the way urls look, so I was constantly using my “Etsy work-arounds” to generate urls that were “Pinterest-friendly”. This didn’t give me the shopping appearance that I wanted, and it didn’t give me the look I wanted (or yield the results I wanted).
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“FREE” SHIPPING COSTS:
Etsy started the option for shops to offer “free shipping over $35” to their customers, and I took advantage of that as soon as it became available. Etsy claimed that shops who offered this to customers would get bumped up to the top of search results. My sales definitely went up as a result of the free shipping option. But my profit, however, changed considerably. I was spending an incredible amount on shipping costs. And customers are smart – purchasing items just above $35 to get free shipping. But free shipping to someone in the same state is much different than free shipping clear across the country.
I looked into the back end of my Etsy shop to see if I could change my “free shipping” threshold to $45. That was the average amount of my orders, and was more reasonable to cover my costs. But no OPTION exists. Etsy only offers (at the time of this writing) either “free shipping on $35” or not. I either choose to take advantage of this option and get bumped up in search results, or not. I cannot choose the option and then adjust the threshold. That’s big for me.
Etsy made an overall change and automatically started marketing shop listings on Google. Etsy notified shop owners of this change and explained that they could go into their shop and “un-check the box” that was automatically checked (if they wanted to opt out). If shop owners remained in the marketing campaign, however, they paid nothing until a sale was made from an Etsy ad. From that sale, Etsy would then take an additional fee (on top of listing fees, transaction fees, and shipping costs).
Almost instantly, social media started blowing up with angry Etsy shop owners complaining that they didn’t like just automatically being thrust into a marketing campaign. And they certainly didn’t like having Etsy take an additional percentage of their sale.
I, however, decided to give this “Etsy Marketing on Google” thing a shot. In my mind, what was the difference if I went into Google and set up my own marketing campaign or if I let Etsy do it for me?
Again, my sales and my traffic increased considerably with Etsy’s ad campaign. BUT, my profit took a HUGE HIT. One order, for example, totaled $74.80. Tax was $6.80. Shipping cost ME $19.91 but was FREE for the customer (because the order was over $35). On top of that, Etsy took $10.20 for marketing, not to mention the standard listing fee for each item in this order AND the transaction fee for this order. After all that, I basically PAID this customer to walk away with my merchandise. After doing my business finances for that particular quarter, I realized that Etsy was taking at 33.3% of my total revenue.
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At that point, I started educating myself about other e-commerce platforms, but I still didn’t leave Etsy. I dreaded the idea of having to start all over again creating product listings for each SKU on some other platform.
ETSY TERMS AND CONDITIONS (random shut-downs):
This was the thing that made my decision to call it quits with Etsy. Ironically, before I even opened my Etsy shop in the first place, I had to agree to the terms and conditions listed very clearly in the mile-long document that few people ever read in detail. And I am one of those few types who reads the fine-print. It very clearly states that Etsy can shut down any shop for any reason that it sees fit.
Many shop owners who have experienced a “random” shut down on Etsy admit that they were able to restore their shops eventually, but I was no longer comfortable with Etsy having that kind of control over my entire business.
My shop began on Etsy simply because it was an inexpensive way to get “out there” and let Etsy handle the back end of EVERYTHING. But, that proved to be too costly for me as my shop grew. I became capable (over time) of handling the back end myself. even if it took more TIME to set up, it wasn’t worth it to ME to hand Etsy 33.3% of my revenue and ALSO have the means to shut me down whenever they saw fit.
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GOING ON MY OWN:
Creating my own shop was relatively easy to do since I already had my own blog website in place. In fact, when I chose the platform to host my blog website years earlier, I did so with the intention that I would someday also host my own shop on the same site. So fortunately, I was able to simply upgrade my site plan and activate the compatible e-commerce platform already available on the site I had.
Setting up my new shop was easy in process, but TEDIOUS and TIME CONSUMING. I literally spent every single day (at least 4-8 hours PER DAY) for three straight months setting up my new shop. I knew what to do, but it just took some perseverance to do it. I made absolutely NO handmade artwork during this time. My entire devotion was on setting up my new online shop away from Etsy.
Once I had about 1/3 of my products in my new shop (in “private” mode), I made them all “live” and then worked out the kinks from there. I also set up shop on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest all during this time. In addition, I installed YOAST SEO and Google Ads and worked on manually adjusting each of my products accordingly. There is a massive learning curve to this process, and it takes a tremendous amount of patience.
Several times during my “new shop journey”, I said to myself: “THIS is why Etsy takes 33.3%”. Because Etsy takes care of all that technical hassle on behalf of the shop owner. And the shop itself is the avenue through which the products are sold, which is worth AT LEAST 33.3%.
In other words, I would either have to pay around 1/3 of my income to have someone else set up, maintain, promote, and troubleshoot my shop or I would have to spend 1/3 of my TIME doing those things. That choice is up to me as a shop owner. And I am choosing to spend the TIME doing that myself.
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THE REALITY OF GOING ON MY OWN:
It is a LOT of work. Most things are trial-and-error, and you are really ON YOUR OWN. The biggest challenges? Figuring out HOW my shopping website needs to have the information put into it so everything comes out the WAY I want. Basically, trying to do everything Etsy does is the biggest challenge. It seems obvious and silly to say, but that is the biggest challenge. Etsy has a TEAM of people to do what I am trying to do on my own. And I don’t have a coding or programming background. I just try stuff and as I get orders, I try to correct things that are wrong.
You need to be willing to lose some money at first. It took me about four orders to understand what it means to “capture” a credit card transaction. I saw an order come through. I saw that payment had been made (or so it seemed). I packed and shipped the orders. Two weeks later, I couldn’t figure out where the money went AND why I couldn’t find the order at all. It was all due to one teeny-tiny box that I had not checked off in my settings of my shop. After a chat with a virtual assistant, I was all fixed and understood the issue.
But that’s the kind of thing you can expect – there are a million settings and you often will have no idea which ones your shop needs and doesn’t need. Yes, there are several YouTube videos and help screens and lots of places to go for help, but when you are setting things up you don’t always know what you need help with. Entering settings seems self-explanatory. Yet, I had no idea that checking or un-checking one single box called “capture” was so crucial. It literally meant that I either gave away free product to everyone OR got paid. That’s huge!
HINDSIGHT – SHOULD I HAVE STAYED WITH ETSY?
You might be wondering if I regret my decision to leave Etsy. So much time, so much effort, losing money (at first), decreased sales (at first)… those seem like strong arguments to stick with the successful Etsy shop I had established and maintained for 7 years. So, if I had to do it all over again would I leave Etsy? YES.
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For me, having my shop directly on my website is what I wanted all along. Customers can read blog posts, check out unique creations like Craft Outfitting™ and Tackle Your Stack™, and make purchases from the shop ALL WITHOUT LEAVING MY WEBSITE. That is what I wanted all along. I was prepared in my mind that I might need a few years to re-build the same (if not, greater) success in my own shop as I built on the Etsy platform. So, perseverance has been key. At the time of this writing, my shop is not yet where I know it will be, but I am giving it more time. I make my own deadlines. I don’t have to deal with any hidden fees or costs or surprise changes or updates to my shop. I have to work hard and I have to have a lot of patience. But I am confident that leaving the Etsy platform was the best choice for me.
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2 thoughts on “Why I Quit Etsy”
Hi Erin, it truly does not surprise me at how much Etsy takes from the top, given that their platform is functional nowadays and they ironed out all their kinks, their backend does all the work for them through its programming and data base. Setting it up, just like you have done with your own site would have been their initial outlay of hours of coding and programming, working out TOS, overheads, costs, etc but once that backbone was complete, unless they updated or added new functions and features their downtime was complete. Basically Etsy runs itself which is why the occasional hiccups will occur, because data and code can and will get old or malfunction especially with the changes to the server side of their data bases, anyways blah blah lol The point is their overheads are much lower now than at point of entry and given the amount of new and established sellers they have worldwide they are like anything big, they make a killing off the backs of the people they take 1/3 of their income from. Sadly the hard workers lose and the big fish win, yet again. It is why I am glad you ventured out on your own, as hard as it is, at least you can see where your efforts are going and those efforts are of value to you and not someone else. I found you on Etsy with no help from advertising and then tracked you to your own site and have ordered from both and have always been treated extremely well by you. Your customer service has always been wonderful, which is why I will be a repeat customer. Good Luck with everything and I hope you and your business thrive.
I wholeheartedly and honestly honor your feedback and your loyal business. Thank you for your very kind words. It feels so good when someone acknowledges the effort it takes to start and maintain a business (even a small one 🙂). Thank you again and again! 🥰