It’s the timeless conundrum for every small business that starts to grow – is it better to use marketplaces like Etsy or your own website?

A lot of my SVG customers have started to grow their businesses past the “word of mouth from local folks” stage.

What often happens next are questions about selling online… which come with some things to consider.

Specifically – is it worthwhile to pay fees to a marketplace like Etsy?
Or would it be better to set up your own (paid or free) website?

And the thing is – the answer varies… so I’ll lay it out for you when it would be best to go with a marketplace, vs. when you might want to think about your own website.

(also, like usual, this is a LONG post so be forewarned)

Better To Use Etsy Or Your Own Website:
Pros & Cons of Marketplaces

Marketplaces, like Etsy, etc can be a great, lucrative place to sell your items.

Factor to consider: the fees

While there ARE fees, yes, the fact is you’re paying for the massive amount of traffic they have on their platform.

The fees on Etsy are actually very reasonable for what you get from them – a super easy place to “house” your items, a professional looking site, built in traffic, the option to run ads…

And the Etsy community of sellers in the forums & whatnot can be incredibly helpful as well.

I know people who have built million dollar businesses on Etsy.

Now – you do have to make sure you educate yourself on how to get found on the platform, which to be honest can feel like a moving target sometimes.

But honestly – I think marketplaces are a great place when you’re just starting out to make your business “home.”

You usually pay per transaction, which minimizes your expenses and can make it very affordable.

Factor to consider: You’re just one in a crowd

One BIG con though – is that you need to understand you’re just one of a crowd there.

Story time!

I remember this one order to an Etsy customer.

See – I used to include a little card in all my orders that offered $1 back on their order for any shout-outs on social media where they tagged me…

And so this lady ordered a personalized phone case and loved it, so she posted on Twitter, tagged me, and gave me a shoutout.

It was super cool – and then I noticed someone else had responded to her pic saying “Hey, cute phone case, where’d you get it?”

And her response was…

“I got it on Etsy.”

Yep – she got it on ETSY. Not from my business, who she literally had JUST tagged.

That’s the problem with marketplaces (well, one of the problems).

You’re just an Etsy seller, one among thousands. You aren’t “you,” if that makes sense.

The end result of this is that it makes it tough to brand your business and get loyal repeat business. Yes, you can absolutely get that, but it’s harder when you’re on a marketplace.

Factor to consider: your business is under someone else’s control

The other big risk of marketplaces is that your entire business is in their hands. Trust me, you do NOT want your entire business to be in the hands of another business.

One single algorithm change could tank your sales.

It happened to me – I went from $3000-4000 in sales per month to $750 in six months because of an Etsy algorithm change.

Because – you need to understand this:

Marketplaces are looking out for THEIR business, and what’s going to make THEM the most money.

What benefits YOU is almost never a factor to them unless it happens to align with what’s good for them.

Because of this, they have a vested interest in keeping their customers on their own site.

Etsy WANTS you to be just another Etsy seller.

This means it can be hard for you to do things like grow a mailing list, etc.

Now – does this mean that you should always just get your own website?

Nope! Not so fast.

There’s definitely pros and cons to your own website as well.

Better To Use Etsy Or Your Own Website:
Pros & Cons of Your Own Website

When you have your own website, you are the only game in town as far as traffic driving.

Factor to consider: How are you going to get people onto your site?

There aren’t going to be thousands of people automatically running to your website searching for what you have to offer.

You have to learn how to drive traffic – social media, search engine optimization, tech stuff, and all of that.

There is definitely a learning curve, AND it takes a lot more of your time.

Factor to consider: Fees can be expensive for low volume businesses, but cheaper for medium+ volume businesses

Most of the time, having your own site is a flat fee every month.

Shopify, for instance, charges a base rate of $26/month.

Now – I’m not gonna lie, I am not a fan at all of most free websites like Wix, etc. Most of the time, they have ads on them which I think looks unprofessional on a website when you’re selling something already.

You CAN build out a great looking, entirely free website (other than hosting fees) using Woocommerce on WordPress (that does take some tech skills though to make it look good).

Anyway – it can actually be CHEAPER to run your own website than at a marketplace, even with a monthly fee.

Generally speaking, it costs less when you’re doing a low volume to stick with a marketplace…

But once you’ve got some good traffic going in and some volume, it would make sense to get going on your own website since your business will grow faster and it will cost less.

As far as the fees go, let’s do a little practice math, okay? Because let’s face it – one of the big reasons why someone might wonder if it’s better to use Etsy or your own website is mainly because of the cost.

👀 Side By Side Comparison – Etsy Vs Shopify Fees 💵

Let’s say that someone sells t-shirts, and they sell them for $25 each.

We’re going to calculate how much they would pay in fees as of today when I’m writing this.

On Etsy, each sale will cost a $.20 listing fee, $1.63 for a 6.5% transaction fee, and if they use Etsy direct checkout, the payment processing fee would be $1.00 (3% plus $.25) for a total of $2.83 in fees per item sold.

On Shopify, you just have to pay the payment processing fee which would be $1.03 per item sold (2.9% plus $.30) since the fee is a monthly fee.

Let’s say our seller is just getting started and sells 10 shirts in a month.

For those ten shirts on Etsy, they would have paid $28.30 in fees.

If they sold on Shopify they would have paid $36.30 in fees ($26 monthly plus $10.30 in processing costs) for those same 10 sales.

NOW – what if they are selling 100 shirts?

For 100 shirts on Etsy, they would have paid $283 in fees.

For 100 shirts on Shopify, they would have paid $129 in fees ($103 + $26 monthly) – which is less than half.

Factor to consider: Your own website makes it muuuuch easier to grow your business

On your own website, it is a zillion times easier to turn all your visitors into loyal repeat buyers.

  • It’s easier to grow your email list (which, by the way, you SHOULD be doing) and THAT can be very difficult on a marketplace.
  • Your average order value will probably be higher – most of the time they are.
  • It’s easier to do other fun things like – run Facebook ads, have a loyalty/frequent buyer program, etc.
  • It makes your business come across more professional
  • It’s also a good way to use content marketing (blogging) to bring in customers.

So as you can see – if you’re doing a low volume, it makes WAY more sense to sell on a marketplace…

But once you’ve got a decent number of orders coming on on the regular, you might want to make the transition to your own website.

The nice thing is – that doesn’t mean you have to stop selling on Etsy – but just that all of your marketing & promotion efforts point to your website instead of the marketplace.

Better To Use Etsy Or Your Own Website:
Honorable Mention – Selling On A FB Page

I wanted to give a special mention to selling via a Facebook Page.

I know a lot of people sell that way, and I think it works in a pinch. They are free, dead easy to get set up and you’re probably already hanging out there anyway.

I think it’s the easiest way to reach local folks sometimes.

The problem is that Facebook pages aren’t really set up for sales, if you’re looking to expand beyond the local folks.

While, YES you can make sales via a page, it’s not a good longterm option.

  • There’s no way for a customer to easily look through your listings to see what you offer – no one is gonna scroll and scroll and scroll to see everything!
  • When you make a post, it’s there for a day and then it’s GONE.
  • There’s no search engine optimization benefit that might bring you in traffic
  • It’s hard to get in front of people’s eyes as well.

I think Facebook is great for relationship building and marketing, with limits. But I don’t recommend trying to sell via Facebook itself longterm.

Honestly – my biggest reason for even saying that is because of the algorithm changes mentioned above – and Facebook does them a LOT.

It can be just devastating when you’re able to reach a certain number of people, and are making sales at a steady clip and then Facebook makes an algorithm change that tanks your sales and you basically have to start over.

Better To Use Etsy Or Your Own Website:
The Verdict? It Depends!

So – back to the original question – is it really worth it to pay the fees for a marketplace instead of making your own website?

I think absolutely YES! At least, when you’re getting started.

But – once you’re selling a decent number of items every month, you may want to look into starting your own website.

I personally love Shopify and that’s what I keep going back to. I haven’t used any of the other e-commerce store builders, so I can’t recommend them.

I have used Woocommerce briefly, but even though I do have the tech skills to do it, they are higher maintenance than my Shopify store so I figure I’d rather spend my time marketing than doing tech stuff on my website.

And – of course – I am still on Etsy, because why not? But I never actually try to drive traffic to my Etsy. That’s what I pay them fees for. Any of my own marketing efforts get directed to my own store.

So – I hope you enjoyed this rambling little lesson from me, and I hope it was helpful for you!

😘 Love, Bethany

Better To Use Etsy Or Your Own Website?

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