I’ve been selling online since the 1990s as soon as I coded my first website. It took me zero seconds to grasp the concept and potential of the internet. Since that time, I have had a website selling my art and designs, which means this was before eBay, Amazon, Google and definitely before Etsy.
Since there were no payment processors online, I used a little known site called Kagi to process payments and mail them to me, or people wrote me checks and mailed them.
Anyway, I’ve been selling online for all these years, and I’ve always had my own website that I designed or coded until 2016 when I moved Blue Morning Expressions (2004) to the Shopify platform.
In all fairness, I have/had three or four Etsy stores since 2006 and have done a decent amount of business there over the years. That changed dramatically when Etsy decided to let people outsource in 2015. I changed directions and never looked back.
Today, I still throw things up on Etsy on occasion, but here are the Etsy things that I don’t have to deal with by having my own site:
Ads on my listings directing people elsewhere
Twitchy SEO that seems more like keyword stuffing than true SEO
Ending up on page 15 in a search result because they decide to give new shops exposure
Pretending that there are no shipping costs
A star seller ranking that comes and goes
Independence from people who don’t have my best interests at heart
Some crazy offsite ad program that doesn’t allow you to see the metrics involved
Limited buyers who are on the Etsy platform
I sell on two platforms: Shopify and Amazon Handmade. Amazon Handmade is the bulk of my handmade sales while my Shopify website comes in second, but both of these are relatively hassle-free, so I am good with that. Amazon Handmade has some hefty fees, but the exposure and sales make up for the difference. Shopify is less expensive than Etsy and have way more bells and whistles than you’ll ever use.
If you sign up for Shopify, I might make a little money, so thanks!
When I started my website, the year was 1997. I was selling hand-drawn graphics and hand-drawn fonts. I also sold products I made from my fractal art that included mousepads, posters, t-shirts and coffee mugs. All of this was before there was even an eBay. I found a payment processor that would handle my credit card sales, but mostly, people sent me checks, and I sent them the product. My website was all coded by me, and it was a very simple site. You see it; you like it; you buy it. I didn’t even have the benefit of Google.
In 2004, when I opened www.bluemorningexpressions.com, I hand-coded my site, but I also dabbled on eBay with my handmade beads and polymer clay work. When Etsy started in 2006, I opened a store there, as well. Since this time, I have moved on from Etsy and am focused on my site, but for those who are looking for a viable site for handmade sellers, here are some of the places that I have found to be good choices.
I have several friends who have made the move to Indiemade. They moved in this direction several years ago when other handmade sites either failed or provided a miserable seller’s experience.
This website/eCommerce solution offers the sellers a solid place to sell their wares. They only support handmade, so you don’t have to compete with bulk resellers. You do have to do your own promoting since they don’t have the built-in traffic as Etsy does. They also have a blog, so you can generate traffic to your site by writing about your product.
While Etsy has been around a long time, its focus has been less and less on the handmade artist and more on supplies and other mass-produced items. While there is a need for supplies in bulk, there have always been plenty of places to find those on the web rather than having the sellers infiltrate a handmade site.
As well, they allow for manufacturing partners now that make mass-produced items even easier to sell. Yes, this helps me sell my pillows, prints and mugs, but I don’t have them listed on Etsy for sale. About once a year, I use Etsy to push my handmade beads when sales slow down for me on other venues.
The search engine on Etsy has always been wrong-headed by making you cram all the keywords into the title and description rather than the more organic and natural flow of the current Google search engine.
The key to Etsy, if you want to go that route, is that they have built-in traffic that goes through their homepage, so you don’t have to do all of your own promoting.
When Amazon decided to open up to handmade and give Etsy a run for their money, I signed up immediately. There are a lot of people who shop on Amazon, so I saw no reason to not take the time to get my handmade items in front of as many people as I could.
It is not listing-friendly, and there are a lot of pitfalls to selling on Amazon, but there are a lot of really great benefits from doing it, too. I sell a lot of my regular bread and butter things on Amazon like keyrings, thimbles and other things that I can quickly reproduce.
Here is a link to my shop on Amazon Handmade:
While not handmade-specific, Shopify has an extensive suite of tools that handmade artists can take advantage of to build a robust site with everything from payment processing to SEO management.
Handmade sellers – Do you need a Shopify account? Click below to learn more
When I got tired of coding my website and decided that Etsy had become too big as they moved away from handmade, I shopped around for a website/eCommerce solution that would meet my handmade needs while making it easy for me to do business.
I always liked to build my own sites because I felt like I had better control over things and was not relying on one site to keep me in business. While I still feel that way, after six or seven years with Shopify, I can say that I’m glad that I no longer have to waste my time redoing the site every time something changes on the web. I only have to concentrate on selling my handmade beads.
No matter which direction you choose to go, it’s better to focus on a marketplace or eCommerce solution that supports the needs of handmade sellers over mass-produced products.
If you find this information useful, then please share it with your friends. If you have any suggestions on how to make it better, then please contact me or comment below. I am always open to suggestions. Looking for more tips? Check out the list at the bottom of the post for more ecommerce articles.