Why I Left Etsy: Hosting Alternatives

{Editor’s note: This is Etsy hosting alternatives article a guest post by successful creative business owner + shining Luminary, Lorena Haldeman}

I have great respect for Etsy;  it’s a starting place for artists and makers who don’t have a lot of time and money to invest in hosting (and keeping up with) their own online shop. However, you can quickly outgrow a starter house! It’s very easy to find a new shopping platform that will work better for you, no matter what your needs. I moved off Etsy three years ago, and this is my story.

In 2010, when I was faced with unemployment after the local economy did in the yarn store I owned with two friends, I turned to the crafty things I knew how to make and wanted to sell.

I found Etsy and jumped in with both feet. It was great that I didn’t have to spend time on the back-end of the website or worry about how to accept credit card payments. I didn’t need to shell out a lot of money on extra expenses, such as domain name, hosting fees, and incidentals.

Etsy was good to me from the start. I make ceramics, soap, and yarn, and I was featured in a lot of different treasuries (great free exposure). While nothing of mine ever made it to the front page, I still got a lot of sales and inquiries for custom orders.

As I started to grow, though, I came up against some limitations. What makes sense for Etsy as a whole (all shops look alike and are run the same) started to irritate me and my librarian-like need for categorization.

Etsy alternatives | marketyourcreativity.com

Things that bothered me about Etsy:

  • Items are automatically sorted by date uploaded, not by title (whether it’s being raised by writers and librarians or 17 years of retail experience in bookstores, I’m a firm believer in alphabetical sorting)
  • Only twenty characters per category title (How can I get “Kitchen and Dining Room Ceramics” down to 20 characters?)
  • Only ten categories (so I couldn’t categorize by things like “mugs” and “soap dishes” and “sock weight yarn” because I’d run out of categories)
  • Shipping policies are challenging for someone who makes items of various weights and cannot estimate the “with another item” price in advance of the purchase

Since HaldeCraft was fast becoming my full-time employment, I considered moving off Etsy and getting my own domain. At first glance, it looked expensive and time-consuming; Etsy seemed the easier choice … until one of my ceramic pieces was featured in a niche hobby magazine.

Etsy gambles | www.marketyourcreativity.comI received 14 months worth of pre-orders for a handmade ceramic piece. It gave my business the jump-start it needed, but I had anxiety about Etsy shutting down my shop (which had been known to happen without warning). Many of my customers had pre-paid months in advance, and if anything ever happened to my Etsy account, I knew I’d lose their orders and contact information.

I was researching how to protect my business when I found Lisa. [Read: How Etsy Gambles with Your Livelihood] While Etsy is a great launching site, I need control over my shop. I need email, not Etsy messages. I need a better way to keep the customer’s information on file. I need … more than Etsy offers.

With an increase in orders, the expense of my own website was suddenly comparable to what I was spending on Etsy fees. I considered several options:

I eliminated Big Cartel because, although it was a good price ($30/month), it only allowed 300 items. At the time, I already had 250 items on Etsy, and I wanted to keep building without limit. That said, I liked their website, their focus on indie and handmade, and the example shops they feature.

I considered Big Commerce next, but at the time they too limited the listings (now they offer unlimited based on a pricing tier). However, I was unable to find information on their site about how they handle seller shipping charges. As real-time weight-based shipping rates were high priority for me, I passed on Big Commerce.

Craft Launch is really more of a shell for your Etsy site, but it allows you to link your own domain. I wanted to move away from Etsy, so even though I really liked the hand-made artsy vibe, the pricing ($15/month), and the showcased sites, this was not the choice for me.

Indiemade looked really great at first glance because they were designed by artists, for artists. The vibe was fantastic, the price good ($20/month for the largest shop, but it topped out at 300 items), the themes and showcased sites were great, but in reading the fine print I found that they, too, were price-per-item shipping; a deal-breaker for me. If that won’t affect your business, I recommend checking them out.

At Volusion, I didn’t see a lot of crafters/artists in their showcased sites, so I wasn’t sure how they treated handmade businesses. I was worried my needs might fall by the wayside when mixed in with their sea of larger clients.

Who I Chose + Why

Ultimately,  I chose Shopify to host HaldeCraft, though they were the most expensive of the bunch (packages currently start at $29/month). Why did I go with the most expensive? They offered almost everything I was looking for, including…

  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited categories
  • Unlimited characters in category names (hello, “Kitchen and Dining Room Ceramics”!)
  • Unlimited subcategories (for example: Ceramics > Functional Ceramics > Mugs)
  • Products sorted alphabetically (not by date published)
  • Out of stock products can be seen but not purchased (great for when you’ve been advertising something that sells out before your ad is done running; people can still see the item and even sign up to get notified when it’s back in stock)
  • Real-time carrier shipping prices based on weight of the item
  • Customizable shipping options
  • Shipping with USPS, UPS, Fed-Ex, or even local pickup/delivery
  • Customizable templates on both free and paid themes
  • Safety/privacy protection
  • Excellent technical support

Since I started with Shopify (2011) they’ve added more things I find useful, including …

  • Their own payment gateway, so I’m not pigeonholed into PayPal
  • A credit card reader for smartphones, comparable to Square
  • Gift cards/certificates
  • A discounted annual hosting fee
  • Integration with Google Adwords
  • Integration with Pinterest

Additionally, Shopify offers:

  • Unlimited product variations
  • User-friendly site tutorials
  • A helpful business-boosting blog
  • A large selection of free and paid-for apps to compliment your site, such as “sign up to be notified” lists, wish lists, adding customer Instagram photos to product pages, a customer review app that auto-posts to social media, and an email and invoice editor
  • Behind-the-scenes interviews + photos of the Shopify crew, and they seem like good, fun people. I like supporting, and being supported by, people I like
  • Superb customer service. I’ve never waited more than 24 hours for a reply to an issue, and in three years, I’ve had very few issues at all
  • Customer accounts and profiles (allows you to keep notes on their preferences)
  • Mobile-friendly interface
  • Complete coupon- and discount- control
  • Rich pins!
  • Mailchimp integration
  • Extreme safety: Shopify is Level-1 PCI compliant and your store includes a 256-bit SSL certificate.
  • Detailed metrics

If there’s one thing Shopify could improve, it’s their user’s blogging system. They offer blog capability on the back-end of your shop, but the formatting is not like what you’re used to (from Blogger or WordPress). Therefore, I run a separate blog on a self-hosted WordPress site. I copy the article to Shopify post-publish, but I definitely don’t rely on it as my only outlet.

Having said that (and considering how happy I am with everything else Shopify offers), the fact that their focus isn’t a great blogging platform isn’t something I spend a lot of time worrying about. The system itself is perfectly adequate; I’m just a WordPress addict, and it’s hard for me to get used to change.

The Aftermath

I would not say that moving off Etsy has hurt my business. I still keep a few things on Etsy, but my Shopify site is where most of my energies go.

If you’re facing a choice like this, the best thing I can tell you is that you need to think about what you want your shop to be/do/look like, and also what you don’t want it to be/do/look like. You need to think about what and how much you want to offer, look at your shop sales (both past and projected), consider where you want to be in X-number of years, and then make an informed decision for your own business. And don’t be afraid!

When I moved off Etsy, I was afraid that I’d lose customers (I didn’t), that advertising would be overly expensive (it wasn’t), and that I couldn’t handle the technical side (I’m rocking it).

If you do decide to move off Etsy, be sure to take your repeat customers with you! Allow two-to-three months to complete the transition; this gives you time to include new business cards with your Etsy packages and let the word trickle though social media. It also gives you time to customize and test your new shop so that it will be perfect when your customers arrive. Change is good, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight.

LorenaLorena Haldeman tries to cram every minute of every day with as much creativity as she can muster; most of her hours are spent handcrafting slipcast and handbuilt ceramics, making scented soaps in fun designs, and both wheel-spinning handspun yarn and creating hand-dyed yarns at HaldeCraft. When she can put down the clay and soap long enough, she knits like the wind. At night she dreams about feminist science fiction literature and hand-knitted sock designs.

 

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45 comments

  • Great article, Lorena! Because I sell patterns I list on multiple sites (etsy, bigcartel, ravelry) but my goal this year is to add a shop to my blog so I can sell them on my own site!

  • Timely post! I’m a newly single mother of 3 and in two weeks I’m having a product photoshoot to prepare for my own Shopify store 🙂 I’m so glad to see it has worked out for you – I also don’t plan on leaving Etsy altogether but I’m just so paranoid of being shut down, especially since my business has to now support my family. One thing that I liked about Shopify is that they have so many additional apps you can buy to help – my items are all customized/personalized, and so I can add that on to my shop so people can input/specify their customizations when they order which will save me tons of time.

  • What a fantastic review! I’m so glad you have so many options in this post! Thank you so much! Shopify shops always look so pretty!

    I’m using Storenvy right now as it’s free (minus marketplace sales when they take 10%), although I pay the $5 a month to use a custom domain. I’m not able to invest as much time as I’d like into my shop as I’m currently working full-time and taking classes for a Graphic Design degree.

    I’m definitely going to keep Shopify in mind! 🙂

  • This was a good read! I want to weigh in & highly recommend Storenvy as well – not only is it 100% free to list & sell up to 500 items you get full control over customization. You can opt out of the marketplace to avoid fees and operate your custom store 100% free as your own site (like mine is luanded.com instead of luanded.storenvy.com). They are now integrating with Stripe so checkout will be seamless. You can embed blogs, photo galleries, videos, slideshows, reviews & more on Storenvy – again, all for free. I just really like the platform & all the people behind it & it has really helped me grow my brand into what it is today with less maintenance & fees than many other sites.

    I have heard really good things about Shopify as well & will be sharing this posts with my friends who are looking for Etsy alternatives! 🙂

    • I’ve been checking out shopify but I’m a little scared to sign up as in the beginning it really doesn’t say you can have your store, minus the marketplace (10%) fees. Does the option to have your store only come later on in the process?

  • I too am on Etsy and when I see over 100 expired items wonder why. A friend built and hosts my website on WordPress – there’s still a lot to learn, but this post encourages me to start listing my designs on my own site rather than renew on Etsy and … I’ve got to dig into SEO and Google Analytics this year to optimize my listings. Hmmm, maybe one of my goals is to set a cut off date.

    Thanks for this encouraging post.

    1 question: On my website, I have a link to my blogspot blog. What would you do if you’ve been on blogspot for years? I am not fond of the blog with my theme on WP. What are the pros and cons?

  • Very informative article, thank you! I currently sell on Etsy and about 12 months ago set up my own store using Big Cartel, with the hope of moving the majority of my sales to that platform to cut down on Etsy fees and become a bit more self-reliant. After 12 months I’m still only seeing 1-2 sales per month through my own store while Etsy is going strong. I have a lot of repeat customers but most are new customers who find me through the Etsy search engine. Running 2 online stores can be time consuming so this month I have closed my own store, and now use my Big Cartel page purely as a website and wholesale store, while directing retail customers to Etsy. I get a bit nervous that most of my income is tied up with Etsy, so my goals for this year are to grow my wholesale business and also investigate options for non-online income such as running craft classes. Always a challenge running your own business but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thank you again!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Shannon! That’s always been my fear in leaving Etsy, too – that I’ll also leave the marketplace behind. I also agree that two shops can be extremely time-consuming. It’s a conundrum, and I wish we could have a decent marketplace alternative. I appreciate your comment.

  • I don’t often leave comments, but I couldn’t help myself. I have been sifting through google searches all day for some REAL information and insight on transitioning away from Etsy (and their micro-management) and what that could exactly look like.

    This is the first article I have read that I felt I actually got honest and valuable information instead of what felt like sales pitches from affiliate bloggers. It has given me some confidence that I needed as I was fearing the same things you mentioned, mainly order declines , traffic etc.

    Thank you very much! So glad I found you. Bookmarked. 🙂

  • Thank you for this! I am slowly transitioning from Etsy to Shopify right now. Your article helps validate my decision to do so. It will be a few months of transition but I already feel a beginning sense of freedom and empowerment by being able to control my shop’s destiny. Even with only a few products listed so far I am coming close to equaling the “views” I get on Etsy. It is even a relief to know that if I fail ( which I won’t!) I have no one to blame but myself. I do have some great customers through Etsy so I will pace the transition to ensure I can maintain that base. Thanks for a great post!

  • Thanks so much for the great article. I’ve been batting around leaving Etsy for about 6 months. Recent changes in Etsy have me very concerned and I’m convinced I need to move things along. I currently have over 1000 items, some with over 80 variations. And have been looking for an option that would allow me the freedom I need.

  • If your products don’t contain animal derivatives, or are tested on animals – it may be worth taking a look at EthicalStores.com – they offer totally free listing and are a non-profit organisation.

  • I am so confused about where to sell my items. Etsy seems to have a lot of competition. I looked at Shopify and was confused as to how to get setup. If I sell pillows in various sizes and colors, would Shopify work for me?

    • Barbra,
      Shopify would absolutely work for you. Each product listing has an option for variations and as many as you might want. You could have one variation for size with a dropdown for different size selections and one variation for color, with another dropdown for color. It’s a wonderful option. I opened my own shopify store in March and I LOVE IT.

      Shopify does give you a free 14 day trial so you could go out there and poke around and see what you like. They do have an option for uploading items directly from Etsy, it won’t bring over everything, but will grab titles, tags, images and description. You’ll probably have to manually set up your variations, but once you get the hang of the interface it’s very simple to use.

      Best of luck!

  • Lorena what do you think about creating a website on WIX? I know that it is a dedicated hosting site so moving it is not possible, but I found building my site on there pretty easy. They have a Shopify plugin that I am considering using. I am currently on Etsy exclusively at https://www.etsy.com/shop/IreneIreneArt but I would like to start branching out. I don’t want to waste a lot of time with WIX if it isn’t a good choice. Thanks!

    • Hi, Laura! To be honest, I’m not familiar with WIX at all, so I’m not 100% sure what to tell you. I did read up on it a little, and it seems like using that app would work fine; it would just be a matter of how cost effective you thought it might be to run your website off WIX and pay for the Shopify app. The app didn’t seem that expensive, so depending on how much you’re spending for your base website, I’d guess that would be a fine option. And you can’t go wrong with a two week free trial… if you get it set up and don’t like it, just uninstall the app!

      Best,
      Lorena

  • Hey all, we aren’t a web-builder type site but we’ve recently launched a marketplace called “I Am Attitude”, aimed strictly at the alternative fashion scene (think pinup, punk, goth, metal, rock, etc!)—hand-picked, high quality boutiques and designers only, including lots of handmade, and currently commission free. Check it out at http://www.iamattitude.com

    • Hi Lisa and Lorena,

      I really enjoyed your post! I’m an Etsy seller looking for a way to start over… ELSEWHERE! After I spent most of this month on searching for a new platform, honestly, I’m more confused than ever! :/ I like Shopify and Storenvy, even if they are a bit pricey for me and the fact that I’m a complete tech dummie freaks the hell out of me! Will I be able to run my own website? Will I still have time to make new products? I’m knitting and crocheting and making a vest takes about 4 days (of more than 8 hours of work each day), a coat takes never less than 2 weeks to complete… And I need a “silenced” mind to knit. Unfortunately my brain can’t switch from reading mails to knitting to shipping to crochet to order new yarns to whatever in seconds… Do you think having my own website would be doable anyway?

      @Martin: I took a look of your “I Am Attitude”. Wonderful! Can you add a new section so my shop can fit in? 😉 Something like “bohemian” or “unique weird stuff”? Let me know! Here is my Etsy store so you can have an idea of the things we make: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Pippiripi

      Thank you very much for your answers and have a wonderful weekend everybody,

      Pippiripi

      • Hi Pippiripi,
        I’ve discussed it with the gang and we’ve decided that your stuff, great as it is, isn’t quite alternative enough for us. It’s right on the edge for me so i hope that doesn’t disappoint you too much.

        The best of luck to your store!
        Martin.

  • You’re right on with the issues we all experience on Etsy. It’s a great platform in the beginning, but as your store grows, you start seeing their true colors.

    If you’re coming over from Etsy, I would recommend Shopify as well mainly because it’s easy to work with and doesn’t have the same limitations.

  • After months of personal deliberation and self arguments, I finally paid the $29.99 to Shopify just two days ago. It is taking FOREVER to transfer over my Etsy items (and I only have 55!). I am going to keep my Etsy store open and have them both running at the same time. I was advised that maybe Shopify would be better for my PRODUCT because it is organic sugaring for hair removal and botanical skincare – lady stuff – not so much crafty stuff, though every listing IS customizable. Great article. You really helped me “pay myself on the back” for making I think I the right decision. I’ve already been approved for Pinterest’s buy now button and rich pins and maybe now I’ll finally be able to verify my website (Never could get Pinterest to verify my blog…)
    Thank you!
    Jennifer Bueschel
    JBHomemade

  • Hello,

    I operate a website that caters only to artists that sell handmade and people that want to sell vintage items. We have been around for about 6 months and it is finally starting to pick up. It is free to list items and we have a very classy seller’s store that we affectionately call “Seller’s Gallery.” We have a good amount of traffic and getting more every day.
    Our website is Artyah.com.

    Thank you

  • Great guest post by Lorena. Very helpful, as I am weighing in on what web host to go with. I’m seeing this post 16 months after it was published, but it still seems very relevant. Thanks again Lisa, for your outstanding blog. AAAAA++++++

  • A fantastic review! So many details in this post that I as looking for! Thank you so much! I simply loved Lorena’s cabled sweater mugs!
    I’m now thinking where to move from Etsy. Shopify? Storenvy?.. The thing is I’m a beginner in handmade business having a shop on Etsy since December, 2015. Not much of a success, though I’m doing everything possible and impossible for that trying to make unique things and some of those truly don’t have analogies but I simply can’t compete with my 52 positions of absolutely handcrafted wooden and pyrography creations against 300+ laser cut mass productions items that Esty allowed and doesn’t offer a separation between us.
    I would appreciate any advice of a more experienced seller than me on whether it’s worthy to create my own website without having a lot of traffic or move to other platform or something that can push things forward? Thanks in advance for any comment.

  • Hello,

    I found the article truly inspiring. I recently put up my own website on WIX, an ecommerce one, except i’m struggling!

    In the sense, I get so much more traffic on Etsy, as compared to my own website. Not that I’m complaining, except I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I even offer a discount for my Etsy buyers, to encourage them to shop from my website, but the repeat buyers still seem to come back to Etsy (maybe a comfort factor?)

    I have not done paid advertising ( Did you try google/ or fb? )

    Maybe there is a trick I’m missing?

    Also would you recommend selling directly through Facebook? There seem to be some free shop engine apps.

    Cheers,
    – Mats

  • Hi Lorena,
    I opened my etsy store 3 months ago, and, to be honest, it hasn’t been very lucrative for me. I know that it takes time to build a store, so I decided to go with promoting on etsy, which was very costly, and hasn’t paid off for me at all. Also, I opted in for an extra monthly cost, to use the Pattern platform that Etsy offers. With pattern.com, you can seamlessly add your etsy shop products onto a separate url, which is powered by Etsy, but it looks like a independent website. This hasn’t proven fruitful to me either. So, I am planning to set up a shopify website. My question is about SEO. Does shopify have an app to boost your presence on the web? Do you have to pay for promotion? How many organic customers do you receive from people surfing the web?
    Thanks so much for your time!
    Angela

  • thank you for sharing! I have honestly been thinking about moving onto etsy (currently use shopify) but was afraid of their oversaturated market and expensive fees. It’s nice to hear of people moving off of etsy and still being successful! I Wish you the best.

  • Thank you for this article. You gave me the courage to jump from Etsy to Shopify! I didn’t know about shopify, i thought it was a “big business” website thing. I’ve gotten a few sales already and don’t have much listed! I am loving it! Thank you Thank you!

  • Thank you so much for writing this post! I just found your post today. I am in the process of moving my items from Etsy to my own website. It has taken a lot of time so far but I hope that it will be worth it over time. I purchased a HostGator hosting account and installed WordPress after watching several videos on YouTube. It’s not perfect but I am trying. I will be continuing to update and improve as time permits. I may have to call on others for help. If you would like to see the progress that I am making, please check it out at https://www.catheryncollins.com.

  • Hi there!

    I realize this was posted a couple of years back, but is totally relatable to our shop today. Excellent article and comprehensive list of alternatives! Our (www.thefarmmechanic.com)biggest challenge is shipping costs and it is what keeps us tied to Etsy. We, too, need the real time front/customer facing shipping quote in the shipping cart. Etsy has awesome shipping discounts via USPS. We have done extensive research on discounted shipping platforms – again customer facing discounts. We don’t make money on our shipping. Reducing the shipping cost for our customers increases are sales exponentially. Do you have any suggestions? Is there such an animal in existence? Or are we just looking for a unicorn?

    Thanks,

    Leigh Spiteri

  • This is perfect timed read for me! I have actually signed up with Shopify but still need to build my website. I have a WP with Woocommerce website at the moment and I keep having to update plugins (no idea how without risk, so I pay someone to do it for me) and it’s costing me too much to host too! Did you do migrate yourself? How long did it take?

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