Define Your Strategy On Etsy
New artists emerge every day looking for ways to sell art. Selling art on Etsy is an ever growing challenge that becomes more difficult each year.
The trick is doing this with a real strategy for growth over time. Know up front that this strategy is not a way to grow an audience as an artist.
Ultimately you will need to determine who will control your presentation and model. If the sum of your ambition is to remain within places like Etsy then you will be severely limited in exposure.
So how should locations like these be treated? The Etsy’s of the world should be nothing more than training wheels to aid you in getting going.
Let’s get into how an artist should use Etsy, if it should be used at all.
What Etsy Gives You As A New Artist
The up front answer to this is clear. You get a shop to sell art from. Yet there are some other advantages that you do not yet see.
You also gain experience in listing products, the importance to keywords, and also item presentation. Item presentation reaches beyond the image itself and into the text describing the art.
From an education perspective for a beginner it can be a good experience. It is also crazy fast to set up and have running.
If you have decent images of your work it can be accomplished over a weekend.
You also gain access to the internal search which Etsy offers. This engine is self contained, and is maintained by Etsy.
I will go more into the importance of this later as ultimately this is what you will leverage.
Artists such as myself at times call locations like Etsy a sandbox. It is called a sandbox for it has no real outside influence on a broader community.
It also is far more difficult to get organic traffic from outside engines than other options which are available to you.
You will also get the ability to use paid advertising internally within the Etsy sandbox. This can be a good experience to play with before dipping into deeper waters like Google.
Immediately Design Your Own Website
If you are serious about selling your work then immediately start your own website. You need an online gallery that you control.
Do not do this through Etsy. I will say this again, do NOT use any Etsy service for this whatsoever, it will hurt you in the end.
Get real hosting through a good company. Purchase your very own domain name that you and only you own.
Load a service like WordPress onto your new site. From here set up your very own Art Gallery and shopping cart.
Why should you do this if you are using Etsy? Remember they are the training wheels not the real engine to take you where you want to be.
More critically you are developing your personal art platform. Also you are learning how to market art. This is all part of establishing the supporting infrastructure for public relations in art.
I personally would consider Etsy as nothing more than a lower end E Gallery at best. Use it as a starting tool, not your end game strategy.
What The Etsy Like Shops Fail To Give You
You lose control of your business model. They begin to define for you aspects such as shipping, presentation, branding, and control of money. You surrender a lot to an entity that does not know you.
The bigger issue is that if you do not agree to some of their measures then you lose ranking position within their sandbox. This puts you behind the curve before the gate ever opens for you to run.
There is no way for your listings, pages, or associated content in Etsy to gain in authority or ranking within places like Google. You are one mere shop among thousands of others under a broader brand. Essentially you are in a lifeboat on an ocean trying to make waves like a cruise ship.
There is no broader value which you obtain from being a part of their system. It is like having a table at the local flea market. You rent the space to be there yet do not own it. Whatever you invest there can be taken away from you at any moment someone decides to do so.
Using Social Media
Do not point social media content towards your Etsy shop. All social media work you perform should point to your art gallery, in your website, under your domain, which you fully control.
What happens if you do not do this? If your media content points to Etsy, the moment that shop is closed or shut down all your hard work is lost forever. You are back to square one.
Redirecting that momentum is no easy task. It is always best to invest into yourself rather than someone else’s brand.
So How Do You Use Etsy?
With what I have detailed thus far it removes a lot of options from your marketing strategy with Etsy. Suddenly it should become very clear how much you give them in your hard work pointing to their brand. In turn you should see how little they really have to offer you.
Other than a portal for instant point of sale there is little else you can gain from them. Yet there is a hidden gem to take advantage of. You can leverage their brand for your benefit.
To do this you will need to take part in their advertising system. Personally I would remain within their sandbox. In other words I would only participate within Etsy’s internal ads and NOT ads on others like Google within Etsy.
Why do this? If you wish to use Google ads you can do so via your website and Google directly. There is no need for a middle man. Yet when you see the volume of visits to Etsy there is something to gain here.
Those who shop there cannot be reached any other way. The Etsy internal marketing engine does not pull in from other outside sources. Thus the ads which you see on Etsy are from Etsy sellers only.
Set Limits To How Much You Spend
Only invest into this as much as you are willing to lose. It is a branding campaign. The point is to get people to see your work. Every image you place in your shop should be watermarked with your website domain name.
The watermark does not need to distort or cover the artwork. Yet it needs to be visible. Etsy will tell you that they do not recommend this. I am telling you that I highly recommend it.
Why? Even for those who do not click your image they still see your brand name. If it is catchy it will begin to be recognized.
Control your losses through the advertisement program and consider it a brand investment. If you are lucky then you will break even. If you are very lucky then you will make money.
Why Selling Art On Etsy Is So Difficult
Years ago it was not as difficult to sell original artwork on Etsy. Today the art scene there has changed dramatically. This is true for other locations such as Amazon as well.
Each of these hubs were great ideas in the beginning but become ruined within a few years. The problem comes from three key issues.
First to continue generating more revenue they allow lesser mass produced products to come into the scene. What was dedicated for small home based business or artists becomes flooded with overseas cheap imports from mini factories.
Secondly as prices drop and competition gets more difficult the margins are squeezed to a point where original work cannot compete by price. Sales slow and the struggle to sell your value becomes more difficult. It would be like trying to sell an authentic Monet at a flea market, it just doesn’t work.
Thirdly you lose control of your business model. The larger corporation streamlines this for you and wants to force compliance. Issues such as free shipping, returns, and how sellers are not protected is just the beginning of problems.
At the end of the day you will begin to feel as if you work for Etsy and not yourself. You have zero control over seo, are limited by how much content you can produce, you cannot even 301 redirect if you wanted to. You are at their mercy.
Leveraging The Disadvantages To Your Advantage
The key to making this work is having your own website and sales platform under your domain name. If you are into content marketing then all social media points to your website. Yet the additional component of advertising must be done in two phases.
Any Google, Facebook, or other advertisements you use need to be done through those portals pointing to your website, NOT Etsy.
The advertising you partake in within Etsy is for Etsy alone and no other location. In this way your two campaigns are isolated from each other. They will want you to connect everything to point towards them. Do NOT do that. Isolate them.
In 2020 Etsy had over 32 million users monthly. That is a really big sandbox. It is a sandbox that you cannot penetrate any other way than by being in that box. If you are wanting to reach an additional 30 plus million people then it will require you being a part of it.
This may require you to charge more for items in Etsy than on your website. Locations like Amazon really frown on this and it can cause problems. So it could also mean an across the board change in prices for what you want.
Nevertheless it is a choice you will have to make when deciding on whether or not to partake in their program. There is no doubt that they are growing. Yet I personally have a distaste in the direction they are moving in.
Should You Experiment With Etsy?
For an artist who is brand new to selling art online I would say, absolutely yes. You will learn a lot of basics. In the meantime build your own site.
The biggest fear many have is building their own platform. You really need to overcome that and just accept the challenge then go do it. It will take time and a lot will need to be learned.
Yet in the end while you are doing this use Etsy and their sandbox to get your feet wet. There is no danger early on. They will not require you to sell your soul to them. Just invest only what you absolutely must then move on.
Why I Refuse To Use Etsy
Despite there being 32 million, or probably more by now users per month, I refuse their service. Why? If an artist is creating original artwork would they try to sell at Walmart or Target? I guess you could do this, but would that be your first choice?
The products offered on these massive shop based sites are makers and home designers which have been massed under a big brand. It is too cut throat, unoriginal, and through time quality has deteriorated.
If all you are wanting is to sell fast made cheap home decor then go for it. Yet I have a hard time imagining the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso or others using an Etsy if it existed in their time.
So the question becomes, how do you want your brand to be seen? What do you want people to think about when they see your name? Do you want them to think bargain bin or Monet?
Etsy will feed you a lot of technical mess about how to present your listings on their site. Yet they will tell you absolutely nothing about how to really represent yourself as an artist or a business.
Understand that this is merely my opinion of them and how I see these locations. It does not mean that they cannot be used or leveraged especially when starting out. Just remember that they are training wheels.
Use them while giving them as little as possible of yourself.
Warning To Artists On Etsy
This article is really brief in that it barely scratches the surface of this strategy. I wanted to give a common sense outline for those who are genuinely serious about being a real artist and selling their artwork. At some point when learning to ride a bike the training wheels must come off.
When the training wheels do come off you need to lose as little of your hard work as possible. When Etsy is no longer needed your business model must be streamlined in order that the social media and other marketing content is retained for your main front line of income.
Artists struggle enough as it is in the world. Selling art is one of the most difficult businesses to be in. An artist representing themselves is even harder. So do not let some corporate entity walk away with years of work because you cannot own the shop within their site.