A few weeks ago, I sat down to write a very different blog. I was planning to share how transitioning away from Etsy had benefited me. But then, earlier this month, I had an honest internal conversation with myself and realized that having my own website was no longer worth the hassle. If you follow me on social media, you may already know that I decided to return to selling only on Etsy recently. With my own website, I was spending way more time on administrative tasks and way less time on the things that I started The Nerdware Store to do…creating things, connecting with fellow nerds online, making nerdy pins, etc.
Since switching back to Etsy, my sales have gone way up, I have spent more time making new art, and I am feeling much happier. So today, I don’t want to sway you either way, but I do want to share what I’ve learned so that fellow shop owners can know the realistic costs of setting up your own ecommerce website.
1. Traffic is on You
The primary reasons I set up my own website was to 1) save money on Etsy fees and 2) have a more customizable website. What I didn’t realize was how many intermittent Etsy sales helped to fill the gaps in revenue in between product launches. I ended up spending so much more time trying to create ways to direct people to my website, including setting up a pinterest, getting more salesy on instagram, setting up commerce on facebook / instagram, and more.
One of the biggest differences I noticed after returning to Etsy was how much less I had to work to welcome in new customers who stumble upon The Nerdware Store. Etsy’s SEO game will always be better than mine and so my Etsy pinterest posts and Etsy search results were far more successful than pinning from my own website and trying to get search results on google.
2. Administrative Tasks Multiply
In addition to having to work much harder to bring in traffic to my website, I suddenly found myself spending my weekends on administrative tasks when weekends used to be set aside for making new art, writing newsletters, and planning out instagram content. Tasks that got added to my list once I set up my new website included:
regularly tweaking listings for better SEO results
researching any possible way to collect and remit VAT without paying thousands of dollars
updating temporary banners on my website
keeping tracking of inventory split between two ecommerce sites
trying to manage orders coming in from two different platforms
making design updates to my website
downloading and deleting plug-ins (I was using wordpress)
researching plug-ins to add functions to my website that are included on Etsy
While Etsy’s fee increases & complicated structure continues to be frustrating, for me it it was worth it to be able to rely on Etsy to easily collect lovely reviews from customers, streamline the shipping and order tracking system, and provide easy ways to update announcements, listing info, and more. I used WordPress for my ecommerce site so that I could customize my website as much as possible, but perhaps Spotify or BigCartel may ease some of the administrative burden of setting up your own site.
3. the Web Is Your Oyster
I wanted to spend some time on the more positive side of leaving Etsy and setting up your own website. For me, the number one thing I valued about having my own website was how much I could control the look, feel, and experience on my website. I was able to craft a website that really felt like me, create popups to invite people to join the Nerdware Newsletter, and create fully customizable contact, blog, and gallery pages on my website.
For now, I’ve found an in-between that works for me through Etsy’s Pattern integration (which is what you are reading this blog on). Pattern provides a limited amount of customization but also makes it very easy to get a decent-looking website that is fully integrated with Etsy and eliminated the need for setting up any additional systems for shipping, order management, etc. It comes with a not insignificant price tag of $15/month, but it is worth it to me in this season to have a unique website and be able to continue my blog without all of the grief that my wordpress shop was causing me. UPDATE – I decided to return to a low-cost WordPress blog and lose the Pattern subscription so that all the shopping is streamlined on Etsy, and I can focus on writing blogs in wordpress, which I’m more familiar with and costs much less than Pattern.
Thank you so much for reading this reflection on key things to know when thinking about leaving Etsy. I really hope that this is helpful to any of my fellow creators out there weighing the costs of staying at Etsy versus setting out to make a personal website. I would love to know if you’ve considered leaving Etsy or already left, so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!