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The HoopMama Facebook group has had a lot of talk about Etsy and their fun little trademark bullies lately. So I just wanted to explain what I think Etsy’s roll should be in your business. Some people avoid Etsy like the plague, which I completely understand. It is frustrating when you’re running your business the right way and then someone comes along crying and yelling that you’re infringing on their trademark that they just APPLIED for yesterday. Trust me, I’ve been there, too. With rolling eyes and gritted teeth, I’ve been there.
Etsy is a platform that is owned by someone much larger than us. Therefore, they get to call the shots. Period. Their house, their rules. One of their rules is that they do not mediate trademark allegations. That means any Betsy on Etsy can cry trademark wolf, and get your listing taken down. Etsy does this because they are not lawyers and if they said they would mediate, then they would legally be responsible for their actions. So they take a hands-off approach and sadly, trademark bullies end up running the show sometimes. But again, their house, their rules.There isn’t much we can do to change that.
However, their house…. is a big one….. and it gets LOTS of visitors. Visitors that you wouldn’t ever get on your own. For that reason, I think Etsy can have a good place in your business if you are not relying on it completely as your entire income.
But before we dive in, I want to say this before I say anything else…. YOU NEED A WEBSITE! Not just a Facebook page. If you want to grow a brand and appear as a professional… you need a website. Whether it’s an entirely free one from Weebly, a $30 plan from Shopify or BigCommerce, or a self-hosted site through WordPress, you NEED a website! (I said it three times, which means I mean it!)
I recently left BigCommerce and now currently have HoopMama and CraftMockUps a wordpress site. I used to use Bluehost for hosting but the demands of my site were more than their servers could handle. But keep in mind, I have THOUSANDS of DIGITAL products. So that definitely comes into play.
But there is A LOT to learn on a wordpress site. And there’s ZERO support like you have on the other platforms. I mean, if you’re a YouTube ninja you can definitely work your way around your site. But if it breaks… good luck, Chuck! You have to figure it out or hire someone. Over time you do learn what breaks your site and you do get comfortable with it, but there isn’t a “help” button to push. So if you want to do it this way, just know that it is very hands on! But with hands-on…. it means you learn SO much in the process!!
You can get a FREE 2 week trial for Shopify or BigCommerce if you use my links! If you’re thinking of going the WordPress route, if you use my link for BlueHost, you can get your hosting at $3.95 a month instead of the normal $7.99!
But back to Etsy and Trademark trolls.
Here are 3 reasons you SHOULD be on Etsy.
- Shoppers! As mentioned before. Etsy has a large audience that you will most likely never reach on your own. Etsy has over 25 million active shoppers! People know Etsy. They are comfortable buying from Etsy. They go to Etsy probably before pulling out their list of small websites. Since Etsy is a marketplace, shoppers know they can look at LOTS of items on one site and not have to go to a million websites.
- Competitors. Wait… what? Yep! I’m saying you SHOULD be around your competitors! If your competitors are on Etsy, then they will get 100% of the sales from Etsy-only shoppers. YES, you want to draw your customers to be loyal ones, but that is why once you get your customer through Etsy, you entice them to sign up on your newsletter through inserts in their packaging, and then draw them to your website! OR entice them before they ever make a purchase! For example, my SVG shop on Etsy’s banner looks like this:Then in the shop announcements, I have the link to my Mailchimp newsletter. Mailchimp is completely FREE for up to 2,000 subscribers! I have a blog post about why you need a newsletter that I will be adding onto shortly about how to build your list. But if you have an Etsy shop, having an offer like this in your banner is one great way to help!
- Get Experience.. and Some Tough Skin. Etsy shoppers are ruthless sometimes. They are brutally honest and live in a Amazon Prime “get it to me in 2-days” world. Don’t get me wrong I LOVVVVE my Amazon Prime, I did the 30 day trial a few years ago and I now use it for everything. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, click here and you can get a 30 day FREE trial, too! But as handmade shops, we just simply AREN’T able to pump out items AND have them delivered in 2 days. I mean, I don’t know about you but my magical delivery fairy is out partying with my cleaning fairy and it just isn’t going to happen. But since these customers are so honest, they will provide a LOT of valuable feedback that you can consider and then make adjustments to your business. Some things may be a little hard to hear, but I read a the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz many years ago and I the one agreement that has always stuck with me was “don’t take anything personally.” Learning to do that, has really helped me so much in my business. Etsy shoppers will challenge you, but will make you stronger.
Here are 3 reason why Etsy should NOT be your focus.
- Fees. Etsy has a lot of fees. They have 20 cents per listing, plus 3.5% of the total sale. Not to mention the other fees like PayPal fees and direct checkout fees. HOWEVER, you will have PayPal and credit card fees regardless of where you go. So it’s really just the additional .20 per listing and 3.5% of total sale that is the big difference. That is actually a small price to pay for the reach that Etsy provides. On a $20 item, your Etsy fees will be $.90 cents. Not too bad when you consider that the sale may have come from an Etsy-only shopper that you may not have been able to reach on your own. But when you start building your e-mail lists, and start growing your brand, those fees really add up fast! So you don’t want your customers to STAY shopping on Etsy! You want to get them… and then move them over to your website for future purchases!
- Not Yours. This one is the scariest one to me. It’s not mine. If Etsy goes under, or if they decide to close me down… I have no say in the matter. It’s completely theirs. Which is one reason why if you do have an Etsy account, you should be backing up your data every so often. You can do this by going to: Your Shop – Shop Settings – Options – Download Data. Then downloading your current items for sale as well as your orders. This way, if your shop does get closed or suspended, you can still have access to all your item descriptions and details. You items SHOULD already be on your website *ahem* but in case you don’t have that fully operational yet, it’s helpful to have all of this information just in case you need to reference it in the future.
- Trademark Tolls. Sigh. I know many of you just rolled your eyes. I have nothing bad to say about people who go through the steps to trademark something the right way. It’s the people who put in an application on Monday and come out guns-a-blazing on Tuesday! It takes 3 months to be reviewed by an attorney, and that’s just to be reviewed! No promise of if it actually is going to go through or not. Many of these bullies are known for trying to enforce things that they don’t really have full rights to at all, which can be very frustrating and confusing to those of us who are trying to play our cards right. It is very important to understand your legal rights. As a mompreneur, sometimes it is hard finding the correct information and resources but thank goodness there are people like Joey Vitale in the world! He is an attorney for creatives and he is focused on businesses like us! His firm, Indie Creative Law, has a WEALTH of information listed on the website. His blog is full of trademark and copyright guidance that will leave you feeling empowered. He is truly an answer to the “small-business” world!
I personally believe that Etsy does have it’s place. But I also believe that you will and SHOULD grow out of Etsy. You should one day get to a point where you say “I don’t need it.” Which is where I got to last year with HoopMama. It’s such an awesome feeling to own your own website and not fear a huge company shutting you down for a reason that you’re not even clear of.
I know it said it three times at the beginning of this post, but YOU NEED A WEBSITE! Etsy cannot, and should not be your only revenue source. But if you look at with knowing that it could be gone at any moment, then that is when I believe that it is okay to have a shop because it can be a great extra income source as well as a way to grow your customer base if done properly.
If you don’t have an Etsy shop, but want to try it out. You can get 40 FREE LISTINGS by using my link. However, if you’re doing just fine on Facebook and still have zero interest in Etsy, I HIGHLY recommend trying out the free trials of Shopify or BigCommerce and getting your website up and going.
If you go the website route, and find that you need a little more freedom than what the Shopify or BigCommerce templates provide, then going to WordPress with BlueHost hosting will be a great move! No matter what you do though, I do recommend to purchase your domain name from somewhere like GoDaddy because if you do the “free domain” that the other’s offer, sometimes they hold on to your domain and you have to wait until a year is up to point it to another host. Meaning, if you start with Shopify, then later want to go to WordPress. Shopify will hold on to that domain until your year is up, regardless of if you cancelled your website plan with them.
The more people you have coming to your website, the more chances you have of them not going anywhere else! If you give your Etsy shop, they may be distracted by a competitors item and even though they went to visit your item… you lost them to your competitor. I always say to let Etsy customers find you on Etsy. You should promote your website only.
Building your business is hard and expensive, I get it. But the ultimate goal is to be able to hold your own. If you rely on Etsy for your businesses success… you will only be as successful as Etsy algorithms allow you to be.
So one more time, just for fun, GET A WEBSITE!