First, check yourself.
Why do you want to sell things online? What are you selling? When do you want to make it your full-time job, if at all? How much time can you devote to it? Do you already have a following, or are you just starting out and trying to generate one? Asking yourself these questions will help you determine what you need from your online venue.
Next, weigh your options.
Etsy PROS: You will be immersed into an online community of (primarily) female artisans on a website that caters to them. Etsy has a unique feel that has you constantly oogling at gorgeous designs and soaking in inspiration. Also, the free educational materials (video lessons, tutorials, helpful links to online sales and marketing resources, uplifting stories) are nothing to scoff at. It's easy to navigate and you don't have to learn HTML to make your site look professional. Etsy drives traffic to you with great SEO on Google, and puts you on a playing field of people eager to be inspired to buy a beautiful, unique item (yours!).
Etsy CONS: It's one of the most expensive ways to sell product online. The customization options for your shop are fairly limited... you can edit the banner, info, and shop sections, and that's all. You will be billed both by Etsy and Paypal, a double-whammy of fees that hurt your bottom line. Your customer must first create an account with Etsy before they are able to purchase anything, and that extra step could easily lose you sales.
A Down-and-Dirty Comparative analysis of Etsy Fees vs Big Cartel and Storenvy
In the case study of a woman maintaining a maximum of 250 listings per month, the average Etsy bill was $68 per month. Maybe you think that's not too bad, but consider this...
Etsy and Paypal combined shave off a nice chunk, with transaction fees and a percentage off the sale price.
Etsy: $0.20 listing fee per item (which you must renew every 4 months) and 3.5% of your sale price, not including shipping.
Paypal: 2.9% of total price plus $0.30 transaction fee.
Had this same woman used only Big Cartel and had the same amount of traffic, she would have saved $580. That's because of Etsy's listing fee (you pay whether it sells or not, and must renew every 4 months, or more to stay at the top) and its 3.5% transaction fee. Big Cartel only has a monthly fee. Storenvy has no fees at all, so that woman would have paid NOTHING for her sales, except Paypal fees.
All that being said, I recommend Etsy. Why? I think all those PRO's I listed really do outweigh the cons for the beginner. It's just more user-friendly. As they say, the secret to success is support. Big Cartel leaves you standing alone on the world wide web, and the internet is a really big place. It's also hard to "get found" and generate sales on Storenvy, for several reasons- its users are less connected, its SEO isn't as good, and its educational resources are non-existent.
Here is another thing that might help you before you get too deep into the online world, it's a resource I wish I had before I started my own Etsy shop one year ago. I recently read this great book by one of Missoula's own woman business leaders, Linda Faulkner. I met her at the Missoula Businesswoman's Network Symposium and purchased a signed copy! I highly recommend it. Taking the Mystery Out of Business is full of ESSENTIALS and may be a great way to start before even setting up an account with Etsy or any other venue. If you need a boost on your business knowledge, this book is for you!
Get a SNEAK PEEK inside this book by taking the link I've provided. It will take you to Amazon where you can read pages from inside the book and read its great reviews.
Maybe this book will be of help to you as it was for me!
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