Etsy is a fantastic site in which beginners and budding entrepreneurs can host their products for an online customer base.
However, there are a lot of reasons to hold off on using Etsy as your shop platform – or skip it altogether.
The biggest reasons not to open an Etsy shop depend on the size of your shop, your product, and how far you want to go with your business.
We’ve outlined many reasons in detail why you should not open an Etsy shop, either right now or not at all:
1. You or Your Product Isn’t Ready
This is probably one of the hardest things for new Etsy sellers to hear, but if you and your product are not ready to go live online, you should NOT start your Etsy shop.
There are a lot of creative people in the world who want to share their creations with the world – and even make a living off of them!
However, there are a lot of people who start a shop before they are truly ready. If something goes wrong, those people tend to get discouraged early on and give up on their shops before the first two years are over.
This is because many people don’t polish their products or business strategies before jumping into a shop. While Etsy.com makes it incredibly easy to start up your shop, that doesn’t guarantee you or your product will be ready to garner success right away.
How do you know if you are ready, and how can you work toward being ready?
Well, there are a few things to consider:
Market Research & Product Quality
Before you decide what you are going to be selling in your shop, consider doing some market research on Etsy.com and see what other sellers are currently creating that might be in competition with your shop.
The competition on Etsy is rough, but having something unique and eye-catching will help you stand apart!
If the item you create is very similar to other popular items on Etsy, you may need to rethink your design. You should also consider creating your item with unique or high-quality materials that other sellers aren’t.
Building or creating your items with high-quality materials may set you apart when someone is planning to purchase an item. For example, stronger or eco-friendly paints or glue will be considered “better” by those who know what materials are out there in this category of items.
For those who knit or sew, using strong and long-lasting fabrics or yarn goes a long way in the eyes of customers skimming through a sea of competition on Etsy.
Shop Teams & Individual Business Owners
Starting a small business – even on Etsy – can be a lot of work.
Often, Etsy shop owners are individuals who run their business on their own. If this is you, you need to consider a detailed business strategy.
Those with teams will usually have these roles in their shop:
- Product Description Writer
- Customer Service Representative
Teams like this can be two or more people doing one or many jobs all at once to try and make the business as successful and efficient as possible.
As an individual owning and operating every one of these roles on your own, you have to consider the labor, communication, and organization that is involved with beginning your Etsy shop.
Etsy doesn’t do anything at all to market or design your shop. While their tools are easy to use and the shop is simple to set up, the rest of it is all up to you. This means you are making, photographing, describing, marketing, and shipping your items day in and day out – this is difficult for Etsy sellers with full-time jobs.
If you don’t have the time or budget to go full-time in your Etsy shop, you won’t be able to make a living at it without sacrificing nearly all your free time for the shop.
If making it big on Etsy is your plan, you will have to work your full-time job and your Etsy shop simultaneously for months or even years before you’re secure enough in your shop to go full time.
Business Plans & Strategies
One of the biggest mistakes that Etsy owners make is beginning their shop before they decide what they want to get out of it.
Sure, everyone thinks that a little extra money on the side is worth the extra effort, but many times it doesn’t work out that way. Either you’re dedicating too much time to a shop that doesn’t get much traffic, or your shop gets popular too quickly for you to handle all the orders or customer complaints.
Many Etsy owners are looking to quit their 9-5 and make a living off of their passions. If this is you, you need to decide just how big you want your shop to go, and how you are going to take it there:
- How much do you realistically need to make per month in order to go full time on your shop?
- What does your budget for materials & supplies look like?
- How much money can you put toward marketing your shop each month?
- What kind of shipping will you use, and how often will you ship orders if they are consistently coming in? Weekly? Bi-Weekly?
- How long does it take to make one of your items? How many can you make a week?
- Make sure to consider all transaction fees, listing fees, ad costs, or marketing costs that your shop will need and price your products accordingly.
Without all the math, planning, organization, and scheduling that goes into starting a shop, you may never get it off the ground on Etsy.com.
Knowing if You’re Ready or Not
After all is said and done, knowing if you are ready to start your shop or not is knowing what you want to get out of it and how you plan to get it there.
If you are looking for a hobby that makes you a little money on the side, then you should be fine with the basic bits and pieces that having an Etsy shop has to offer.
If, however, you are looking to make Etsy and your product a full-time job, you will have to dedicate a lot of time, energy, and planning to it for the first six months to a year before you start to see any returns on your efforts.
There are some Etsy success stories out there that worked hard to make their names, such as Maeven Vintage or Three Bird Nest (see reference links below for more).
You can be like them, too, if you work hard, stay focused, and grow your shop as big as you can handle!
2. You Don’t Have a Huge Following on Social Media
One reason not to sell on Etsy.com is the slow, almost agonizing process it takes to gain a following on their site.
If you don’t have a huge social media following already on your product – whether that is clothes, jewelry, art, stickers, prints, or any other number of things – it can be difficult to gain fans through only Etsy alone.
This is because Etsy features the most popular items and shops first on an Etsy search – unless you’re paying a lot for Etsy Ads or paying to be on the “Featured” page.
Having a pre-existing social media platform before you start your Etsy shop is a HUGE way to boost your ratings and sales from the beginning. The more good reviews and sales you have, the more likely you are to be picked out of a crowd.
If you don’t have that following to start, you may not see your sales rise for the first six months to a year of starting your Etsy shop.
Getting Your Product on the “Front Page”
On average, Etsy customers will only skim as far as the first 10-30 listings on an Etsy search result before clicking on something. Very rarely will they search page after page unless looking for something incredibly specific.
For example, if you search “winter hat” on Etsy.com (as of January 2020), you will get over 250-page results for that Etsy search. That is about ~318,000 search results!
Getting to be in the top 50 of those search results can feel impossible if you don’t already have five-star ratings and loyal fans buying, rating, and reviewing your products.
In fact, the first ten of those results had over 100 four or five-star ratings on their winter hats – unless they were a paid Etsy Ad.
Getting to the front page in this sense is all about SEO and how you market your product on Etsy.com. So, unless you are listing your hat as an “Organic, Wool, Navy, Original, Handmade, Warm, Pom Pom, Winter Hat” – or any other keywords you can think of – you may not get picked out of a crowd.
3. You Have More Than 500 Listings
One of the negative things about Etsy is that there isn’t much room to grow. This is something that many people don’t consider when getting an Etsy shop.
While there are some Etsy shops out there with hundreds of listings and ten to twenty categories to look through, growing your shop to give you a full-time living may sometimes mean graduating from Etsy or starting your shop on a different eCommerce site.
One of the most popular of these other eCommerce sites is Shopify (see reference link below), which allows for much larger shops and opportunities for growth.
Furthermore, customers are more likely to find your products through the Etsy search engine than by browsing your Etsy shop alone – in fact, if a customer doesn’t find what they are looking for or consistently buy from your shop, they most likely won’t return for a long time or even at all.
Customer Search Results & Browsing
Etsy is, first and foremost, a browser that hosts thousands of shops. This means that when you search for something in Etsy, you will be given hundreds of thousands of results – like if you were using Google.
The difference is that instead of finding your shop, customers will only see one of your “relevant” listings.
If you look for a “winter hat” as we discussed earlier, you may have to search hundreds of results in order to land on one of your products.
This method doesn’t work very well for shops that sell a large variety of products, such as stickers, pins, patches, stationery, and other small trinket items.
However, if all you sell are winter hats, customers are more likely to land on your shop than others. The problem with this tactic is that it limits you to one category of products in order to be picked over thousands of shops that might be competing with you.
So, even if someone likes your shop, they may not only buy winter hats from you and have no incentive to try a new item out – because you only sell hats.
Is Etsy Right for Your Business?
Knowing if Etsy is right for your business, again, is determined by your vision for your business.
If you are looking to make more than a steady living from your product or business, including hiring employees and creating a whole brand or online presence, you may need to think bigger than Etsy.
This means mass-producing your products, hiring teams of people to make your business bigger and more successful, investing in marketing campaigns, and maybe even renting a building or office space for you and your team!
If, however, you only want to make a small income or help add to your current income all on your own, Etsy is a great place to start with your handmade products!
Knowing When to Grow Your Etsy Shop
If you DO have a successful Etsy shop, you may have realized you’ve reached a sort of “ceiling” for growing your shop.
For example, with over 500 listings at $.20 cents per listing, you may find that the fees to stay on the shop isn’t worth sticking around.
Three Bird Nest, an Etsy success story we mentioned before, has taken their Etsy fame and now has their own site and company outside of Etsy – though they still have and maintain their Etsy shop as of the writing of this article.
Furthermore, having your own site and expanding your manufacturing, shipping, and a team of employees into a whole new enterprise will be a great investment in the future of your store.
Rather than spend $100 every four months on listing fees, consider “graduating” from the Etsy platform and beginning your own website, domain and create a unique brand for yourself.
4. Trouble Standing Out From The Crowd
As we mentioned before, standing out from the crowd on Etsy is nearly impossible.
In this case, it might be better to try and market your own unique website and brand on popular social media, rather than an Etsy site.
That way, when customers come to look at your wares, they won’t see “related items” of other Etsy seller shops to distract them and encourage them to click away from your store.
Instead, they will only see your store and your products to keep them interested and to buy from you, hopefully!
5. You’re Not Familiar with SEO & Marketing
The best way to get your products found on Etsy is to utilize Search Engine Optimized (SEO) keywords and phrases on your products.
Even the best-quality products won’t get many views if the Etsy search engine can’t find them or pick them out of the crowd.
In this case, you will want to make sure each product is utilizing SEO phrases or listing particular materials that customers may be searching for.
You will definitely need to market research and keep up on research every month to make sure your items are still showing up on searches and utilizing hot topics and trends!
Without them, you may not get your items found by customers who would really like them.
6. You Have A Low Marketing Budget
If you have a low budget to market and get your products found online or on Etsy, then Etsy.com may not be right for you.
When it comes to using Etsy Ads or Etsy Plus, there are a few things that you should know:
Etsy Ads & How it Works
Etsy Ads showcase your products on Google and Etsy and uses an algorithm to determine how much you should pay per customer click to increase revenue in your shop. While you are able to give a maximum amount you are willing to pay per day (such as $5 or $10), the Etsy algorithm will do its best to meet that limit each and every day.
$5 per day for marketing can quickly add up and cost new or beginner shop owners more money than they are willing to pay.
If you give a smaller maximum amount for your shop (such as $1 or $2 per day), you are less likely to get enough ads out there per day – and that means fewer clicks.
Furthermore, higher bidding shops are going to have much more success in marketing themselves on Etsy and through Google.
Etsy Plus & Problems
Etsy Plus is not guaranteed to be better for your sales than the standard Etsy option, but it does offer perks and helpful extras that can help someone grow their business.
Etsy Plus offers:
- $15 Listing Credits / Month
- $5 Etsy Ads Credits / Month
- A Custom Web Address to your Etsy Shop
- Restock Alerts for Customers when You Restock an Item
- Major Customization tools for your Shop
- Custom Shipping Boxes & Business Cards
A new shop that invests in Etsy Plus may not see returns on their investment for several months to even a year or more, because even with many clicks and links to your shop, you may not get the sales that you want if you’re a new seller or have a low or no star-rating.
7. Extreme Competition & Price Points
As we’ve mentioned in this article, the competition on Etsy is intense.
With over thousands of shops to choose from, customers are going to gravitate toward the best of the best, with tens of thousands of sales and high-star-ratings on their shop.
This is because customer reviews are key in getting your shop noticed by other customers.
The result of this is possibly being forced to lower your prices.
Even if you have lower star ratings, low prices on handmade goods are very attractive to customers. This means that you are going to have to lower your prices as far as you can while still making a profit.
This is a last-ditch effort or something that many Etsy sellers do when they first start on the site.
While it might be a good way to get yourself noticed on Etsy, you should be able to sell your products and hard-earned effort for what it is really worth.
8. Intensive Labor Without a Team (Beginners)
If you don’t have a team to back you up when you start your Etsy site, you may be doing all the work yourself.
- Product Description Writer
- Customer Service Representative
Completing all these tasks every single time you get a sale really adds up, especially if you aren’t financially ready to take your shop to full-time on Etsy.
This means that you are going to have to consider either hiring help, getting help from family and friends, or spending most of your free time getting sales out to customers all over the country or world.
If you’re not ready for this, you may need to re-think your budget and possibly consider waiting to start your shop until you think you’re ready to complete each task on a regular basis.