Our question today is from Laura in Halifax who's thinking of making cards, prints and shirts with her artwork on them, and she's wondering whether she should make her own website or use Etsy to sell her products. Excellent question, and definitely one that I also asked myself when I first started my shop.
Firstly, let me just say that I don't think that there's a right or wrong answer to this question, and that different makers would probably all have different answers. I suppose what it comes down to is what your needs and your intentions for your shop are. Here's how I see it, and how things went down for me.
I now have both a website and an Etsy shop, and I'm a fan of both. But for the first year and a half, I didn't have an Etsy shop. I used my website exclusively, and sold my products through it. And that was great. I've always seen The Girl From Away as a kind of weird, little art/life project, and not just a business or a way to generate revenue. I wanted a place where I could not only post and sell products but also where I could write and share information, post photos, and create a cozy, little home for myself online. So, for those reasons, it made sense to have my own site. As strange as it can be, I also enjoy using and sharing on social media so I knew I'd be able to generate some attention towards the site that way.
Etsy was around when I started The Girl From Away (almost 3 years ago) but it wasn't quite what it is today. Then, it was mostly a platform/storefront to sell products. It's still that but it's now also a community that supports makers by offering tips, guides, checklists and other resources, which are surprisingly helpful when you're a maker who mostly works alone.
If I'm going to be completely honest, I originally only got an Etsy shop so I could apply to the Etsy Made In Canada markets, which take place every year in September, and which, in Halifax, are some of the most well-attended markets. What I didn't realize upon first joining Etsy was how much more it would make feel like part of a community of makers. I love being a part of Maritime Makers (which is a group that connects Etsy sellers in the Maritimes and hosts events); it's probably my favourite thing that's come from opening an Etsy shop. I feel really supported by the team leaders, as well as the other makers. They're an endless source of information when it comes to all things related to running your own business, and their support and encouragement are priceless to me. So, even if there were no yearly Etsy markets, I'd still want to have an Etsy shop.
To get back to the question, I'd say that having a website and an Etsy shop are both of value, and, if you can do both, you should. I personally make a lot more sales through my own site than I do on Etsy. One of the downsides of Etsy is that it's quite popular and a lot of people are using it so it can be tricky to generate traffic to your shop. Even though I don't make as many sales as I do on my own site, I do still make enough on Etsy for it to be worthwhile.
There is no right or wrong way here. Making your own website and/or joining Etsy are both good options. And if you do one, and realize that it's not for you or that it's not working the way you'd like, you can switch to the other.
Whatever you decide, I'm wishing you the best of luck, Laura! Thanks so much for your question!
If you have a question you'd like to ask, about business or being a maker or, really, about anything (!), email me at thegirlfromaway(at)gmail(dot)com.