Website or Etsy? Which is Best?

by Kym Kinnison.
(Glasgow, Scotland)

Briar Rose Necklace

Rena, I have enjoyed your newsletters for many years and would like to thank you for your valuable tips and advice.

I make one-off and limited edition re-fashioned vintage pieces, the photo I have sent shows a porcelain lid from a Victorian ginger jar, set in silver with silver branches, leaves and freshwater pearls.

I want to sell on-line, but can’t decided whether it is best to have my own website or to go for an one-line shop like etsy, any advice you have on this matter would be gratefully received.

Kym Kinnison
Cherry Bomb

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  • Hi Kym, thanks so much for being a long-time newsletter fan! I appreciate that. 🙂

    First, you probably already know this, but I’m going to mention it just to be sure:

    No matter where you sell your jewelry online (your own site / blog, Etsy, Artfire, etc.) – it’s up to you to promote your online presence and bring traffic to it. The online storefronts like Etsy & Artfire have a lot of great features and make a nice, professional showcase and salesroom for your work – but they don’t hand over traffic and customers to you. Attracting customers will be up to you.

    Also, regardless of where you decide to sell your jewelry online, I would recommend that you have some sort of permanent website (even if it’s just one page) that serves as your permanent online hub. From there you can always link people to your current stuff like:

    – wherever you’re selling your work online
    – your social media profiles
    – how they can contact you
    – a calendar or list of your upcoming jewelry events
    – places you’ve been featured – online and offline.

    That way, regardless of where / how you decide to sell your jewelry or evolve your business, people can always find you at your same permanent “hub” website.

    And of course the link to your hub website should be on your business cards, jewelry packaging, and anything else that goes out to customers or the public.

    I hope this helps, Kym – and hopefully some of our friends will drop in here and share their thoughts on choosing where to sell your jewelry online! 🙂

  • Rachael says:

    Hi!

    If you’re just starting out online, I would suggest starting with Etsy. Making your own website can be very expensive, while Etsy fees are quite low. Etsy is already a well known site where people look to buy handmade jewelry, while you will need to do a lot more promoting to get your own website out. Etsy also has feedback ratings which will let new customers know they can trust you. After you get going on Etsy, you can then use the money you make there to start your own website, and direct Etsy customers there. You can also make a free website at Wix.com, and then upgrade it to an eCommerce site later on for a cost. I have a free site there which has helped me get a few more sales by directing people to my Etsy shop, but right now I get many more views on Etsy, so I will be sticking to that for now.

    I hope this helps, and good luck! 🙂

  • Laura says:

    I set one up with Webstarts, and although their technicians are excellent in their support, I paid for a lot more than I am actually using because I didn’t know what I was getting! I am NOT computer savy, and would rather spend my time making jewelry than on a website. I think I am opting to NOT sell online for now.
    My website HAS been useful when I approach a possible event vendor and ask if he/she would like me to set up a booth at their event. Usually they say “sure” and then I find out about vendor fees and/or percentages that I am to give to the event organizer. Smaller events are much cheaper, and often people there are more excited to see/buy stuff than at the BIG events.
    I think it depends a lot on your willingness to be online posting, checking, revising, etc. As you can tell from my website, I still haven’t updated since the spring, and I know that’s no good!

  • Annette says:

    Definitely your own website. You could also have an Etsy presence as well.

    But having ONLY an Etsy store means you are promoting not just your own store, but the Etsy name as well. Its very easy for the customer to click away to another store by using the search bar.

    If Etsy they deem you to have done something incorrect they can suspend your store – then where do your customers go? One jewellery store owner recently had that happen and lost many sales because of it.

    You must keep whatever online presence up to date and add new stock regularly. THis is particularly valid with Etsy where the jewellery section is huge and are people really going to scroll down to page 67 (of 987!)?

  • Pam says:

    I’m so glad to see this thread, as I’ve been struggling with this decision as well. I currently have three shops on Etsy (peartreejewelry, peartreevintage, and destashndoodads for supplies.) My vintage shop has done very well, but I believe there is just such a glut of jewelry shops that we get buried very quickly in the search. The only way to keep fresh in searches, besides listing new items every day, (can’t possibly produce/photo/write up that many items!) is to renew a number of items, and while basic fees are low, this adds up very quickly. There are so many jewelry shops on Etsy now – that if someone searches for an item, there will be hundreds or thousands of choices that will come up before anyone may ever see yours. I’m wondering if a plain old Google search would be any less effective in finding my item, on my own site, than in the Etsy search, which is so densely populated in like items.

    If I do go for my own site, I would probably still keep an Etsy presence, but with my own site, (for which I would choose a storefront platform – there are many fine ones out there) I would have more freedom as to how and what I chose to list in my shop, and also be able to plug any listings I might have elsewhere on the web. Could also plug friends’ work on my site if I chose to do so.

    I have already bought a domain name from GoDaddy, and currently have it pointed to my Etsy jewelry shop. (This means that right now, as it is set up, one can reach my shop by simply typing “peartreejewelry.com”. If I open my own site, I can simply redirect the pointer to it.

    Bottom line, maybe having both may be the best option. I’m eager to see more input on this topic from others who have done it both ways, and hear their experiences.

  • Donna Jadis says:

    I started with my own site and have been pretty happy with it. I knew basic HTML when I started the site, so had a slight advantage in not needing to use the canned sites that most providers offer. The fact that my HTML skills are not very advanced, however, has held me back on implementing some ideas I have for my site.

    I look at Etsy, have an account on Etsy, buy on Etsy, and have heard people give talks on how they make a NICE living selling on Etsy (relist, relist, relist), but just haven’t done it for myself. I did set up a shop on another Etsy-like site a few years ago, but they changed names/ownership and I don’t really like the way they present themselves now.

    I think the key to being on Etsy is to have something that almost no-one else sells and do just that. Then carefully link your Etsy presence to your other web presences (carefully, because I have never quite figured out how their rules about promoting other sites through Etsy work.) Plus be willing and able to spend a lot of time promoting yourself on Etsy and pushing yourself up to the top of the listing regularly. Since jewelry is my hobby-job and I have a full time job, it’s very hard to spend that time.

  • Christa says:

    I have my own website for about a year, the first one I build on iWeb which has closed down recently. I have now a website I build on freeway, I didn’t use their templates and did my own design. So far I am only getting sales from repeat customers and no new customer from the search engines. I used to have my own jewelry shop in the Clocktower Mall here in Bermuda. Because of some difficult circumstances and my age, I closed my shop and sell now only on-line.
    What I really want to say is there are so many jewelry sellers on-line that it is very difficult to get top rankings with the search engines. The main thing is to have good “descriptions” and “key” words you use on your pages. Your site has to be attractive and easy to navigate.
    If you have a stone and brick shop concentrate on that and have a website as an addition.

  • Rain says:

    I talked to many people before making this decision and decided to do my own site. I chose Zhibit.org and have not been disappointed. Several friends had their jewelry sites hosted there and were really happy with their services. It was pretty easy to set up and they have all the features I needed. Plus, their tech support dept is very fast and helpful. Their fees are pretty reasonable (they give you a discount if you pay for the year all at once) and I have more storage than I could ever use, the ability to take credit cards and Paypal and connectivity to my Facebook account. They even have their own blog feature so I don’t have to start one on WordPress or Blogger and then link to it. Whenever I post new items on my site, those pictures are posted on my FB. I’ve made quite a few sales because people have seen those pictures! There are a number of other features that I haven’t even explored yet. If you have any questions or would like me to email you a referral (I got a discount on their services because one of my friends sent me a referral), just contact me!

    I think with any site – whether it’s your own or a site like etsy – you still have to work to get the word out. You can’t just set up a site or a store and expect the orders to roll in. It’s also my experience that the site helps people to get to know my work, but I do make most of my sales in person, either personally or through my rep. Even if I don’t make a ton of sales through my site, I think HAVING the site gives my business more legitimacy and encourages people to purchase from me when they see my work in person.

  • Sue Runyon says:

    Great questions, Kym. Looks like you have a lot of good responses. Some thing to think about is that you can do a lot with a free blog.

    Google Blogger allows you 10 or more free pages now, so you can purchase a domain name and customize a blog to look just like your own little website. I think you can set your landing page as a page other than the blog/journal entry page so it looks like any other website rather than a blog. From there you can add a sign-up box to sign people up for your own e-mail newsletter which is a great way to communicate with your customers every so often. You can link to an Etsy or Artfire Shop or other venue from a blog. You can have a “Meet the Artist” page, “Contact” page, “Gallery” page, etc. If you aren’t sure you are ready to commit to your own full-blown website with catalog and shopping cart, a blog is a good option to give you your own business hub on-line.

  • Sandy says:

    Rena, thanks for posting, this is such a relevant topic! I always enjoy your newletters and learn something valuable each time.

    Kym, your necklace is beautiful, I would love to see more!!… I have been selling my beadwoven jewelry at my sister’s hair salon for a year, and have recently opened an Etsy store. I haven’t made any ‘online’ sales yet but getting word out through email and facebook has, I think, given me a more ‘legit’ presence and I’ve made some word-of-mouth sales after people had a chance to view my work on Etsy. So definitely get yourself set up on Etsy! 1) it’s cheap; 2) you won’t be spending tons of time setting up a website or blog…which is a real time suck. 3) you will have lovely photos in a gallery on Etsy which will naturally promote your work!
    best of luck with everything! =D

  • Dennise says:

    Great questions.

    I have a website for my jewelry but don’t have the time to manage it. As a result, I get few hits. I don’t have a shopping cart either.

    I also have a bead business that is on Etsy. I don’t have to do marketing for Etsy. They do it for me for a price, of course. But, last month I made over $1000 with little effort.

    Consider Etsy. You won’t be disappointed.

    Dennise

  • Chelle says:

    I use both my own personal website as well as an Etsy store. I promote on Facebook, Facebook groups and Deviant Art, Deviant Art groups. How much you sell depends on how much you are promoting. On Etsy become part of circles, go through and find items to “Favorite”, you’ll find people will often do the same for you.

    Facebook and Deviant Art, request to be added to groups. Post twice a day, once in the morning when everyone has woken up and check their computers and once in the evening when people are getting home from work and settled in. For those worried about website costs.

    I have my own domain name (moltenmania) that I pay for yearly. It’s one set price. I use Weebly to host my website that I’ve created and there is no cost. IF you don’t have a domain name it’s still free but will have “weebly” in your website url. You can upgrade to Pro and pay for it to have the “Weebly” link removed at the bottom of your web pages. It’s so tiny it’s barely noticeable so I don’t even bother. Pro also gives you tech support if needed.

    The site builder is very user friendly, the easiest I have ever come across. It’s all drop and drag with everything, then fill in the blocks with photos or text. It has a shopping cart feature that you can link to PayPal. The only problem I had with it, shipping was to be handled once a customer was at PayPal with their purchase. To solve that I incorporated my shipping charges into the product price otherwise from what I could figure out, I’d have to set specific charges for each piece of merchandise through PayPal by price amounts directly and that would have taken to much time. Good luck to you Kym!

  • Kym Kinnison says:

    Thank you all for your thoughts on this matter, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has trouble deciding what’s best. From all the comments I’ve had on here and from other sources it seems split 50-50. I do know that whatever route I go down it is up to me to promote that site. Thanks again for all the input.

  • Pam says:

    I have just started to build my website for free with Weebly. You can upgrade to a pro account but right now I need to keep my costs down. I have gone back and forth in trying to decide if Etsy was the right way to go. There are so many jewelry shops on Etsy and that’s why I decided not to go there first and to just try a free website.

    Website sales can be tricky if your goal is to get traffic to it which involves SEO optimization and using the right keywords so that search engines will pick you up and place your site on the first few pages.

    My designs are also one off and one of a kind as I tend to buy things that are deeply discounted or on sale. Therefore I am going to use my website to promote a home jewelry party business and to give people an idea of what my style is and what I sell. I also plan on doing some Wine Festivals and other Fairs of this type even though I know the competition can also be quite daunting at these venues.

  • Lisa W. says:

    Definitely both. Etsy will garner more sales, but people like to use your website as a resource, and to see that you are a “real entity”. One doesn’t preclude the other, and they can be linked to each other as well.

  • Robyn says:

    I went with a website first, and the Etsy shop came later. I bought my domain inexpensively through GoDaddy, and used Word Press to build the site. They have a lot of great templates and it was very user-friendly. I never set up a shopping cart on the site, and opted for Etsy because of the ease of use. My website points to Etsy (and Twitter, and Facebook), and vice versa. I like that there’s several ways for people to find me, and I include both Etsy and my website on my business cards.

  • Chari says:

    I recently set up my site on wix.com and opted to pay for premium so as to have a shopping cart. Etsy just seems so oversaturated with jewelry! I’ll be looking into adding a blog too, but so far I am happy with the look and feel, and have made some money. Now I just have to keep promoting, and adding product of course.

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