There comes a moment in every online shop owner's life when they begin to consider what's beyond Etsy. Etsy has great organic traffic, but competition is high, and your ideal customer might be shopping somewhere else. Also, many shop owners report accidental shutdowns or restrictions on their Etsy shop, which can totally wreck a person's income. Moving to your own website is one way to move your business to the next level.
I just launched my own website, which has been a huge learning curve. I've got advice for you on how to transfer your Etsy shop's traffic over to your new site, and some steps you can take to ensure that the disruption to your sales is minimal.
If you're starting from scratch with no traffic at all, it might be easier (or seem like the only option) to move to another selling platform like GoImagine, Facebook, or Amazon. However, marketplaces all have their drawbacks, so exploring your own website is a good idea if you want more reliable traffic.
Not everyone has a good reason to move their Etsy shop to a new location. Sometimes, it may not make sense for you to leave Etsy. Moving from Etsy should be strategic, or it could backfire.
No matter how many employees you have or how much income you make, when you sell on a marketplace like Etsy, you can't control your brand. Etsy's branding is all over the sale, and all you get is a little shop name and description. If your customer gets asked "Where did you get that? It's so cool!" - they're going to respond Etsy. Not your shop name.
Small businesses everywhere rely on marketplaces to get started or supplement their income, but it's just not a good strategy to devote yourself entirely to the Etsy community. It'll take more than it gives.
Understandably, you want to control your brand for your handmade business. You can only get so far on Etsy. So if you want to get good at selling online, you're going to have to take a hard look at all the tools available to you - including your own website.
If you purchase something from an online vendor, you're usually automatically subscribed to their mailing list. It's standard practice now. But if you purchase from a marketplace where everyone is required to be on the same mailing list, it's far less likely that your customers will join your list.
This means that you're missing out on the opportunity to follow up with them and build that connection into sales in the future. Etsy offers minimal automated emails or post-sale follow up, meaning that you'll have to go to extreme lengths to stay in touch with your customer.
Common strategies include a coupon code for a newsletter subscription, or even an extended warranty if they register with you. However, all of these tactics rely on the customer actually going to their computer or phone post-purchase - a step that most customers won't take.
Having your own website allows you to build a mailing list that reflects more of your actual business. You can automatically subscribe every customer who places an order, which is the easy way to do it. But if you want to use some other kind of email marketing tool like Infusionsoft or MailChimp, then having your own website will give you the authority and autonomy to do just that.
Etsy is a handcrafted marketplace, but not everything listed on Etsy will sell well. I often use an Incognito (private) browser to search out my competition and also inspiration for new products. While there, I love looking at the total number of sales, because it tells me how well a business is actually doing. Chances are, many of your competitors aren't actually selling that much. Especially if you sell in something that's either really popular or very niche.
On top of that, I also see that there are a lot of shops that have traffic but only one or two sales. You can't blame Etsy for this - you've got to sell well! But when I look at the Etsy sellers who are doing really well, they're selling on their own website. The top sticker sellers have their own website, and so do the top soap shops, woodworking groups, etc. Every successful business person on Etsy has another platform - so you should, too.
The best time to move away from Etsy is when you have some sort of access to an audience not on Etsy. It could be an email list, a Facebook group, or other social media endeavor. If you don't have an audience yet, you'll be "shouting into the void" of the internet and hoping Google and Bing help people find you. Your new website may get zero traffic for months if you don't have a way to direct folks to it.
If you don't have an audience yet - you better start building one. Your success at your own business really relies on having an audience to sell to. Craft fairs are similar to Etsy - they might be great for sales, but they won't be great for repeat customers.
Look, I'm being super honest with you. Having your own shop online costs money. The move from Etsy to own website costs money. And it's not just the cost of your own domain and hosting, either. You'll also need a way to get yourself in front of search engines. When's the last time you scrolled to page 10 of search results? It's probably been a while.
So if you're short on cash, you may want to hold off on using a website builder or trying to start your own store. You can probably get a good start to your own site, and a hosting company will gladly take your money. But, that doesn't mean you'll get anyone to actually see your site. Not until you can put in the time or money to build a following, use search engine optimization, or buy some ads.
Speaking of websites: if you don't know your audience, you're not going to be able to reach your potential customers. You have to have a good idea of where they are. If you don't, then you'll be "shouting into the void" and the void isn't going to shout back.
For an Etsy seller, that's the benefit of Etsy - they bring customers to you. Yes, the fees are high, but their search engines deliver instant access to people who are looking to buy some stuff from your shop. That Etsy order costs you nothing in advertising or website maintenance - it only charges a small fee. Your Etsy listings are good for four months - plenty of time for an unsuspecting shopper to stumble upon your handmade goods.
So if you can't reach your potential customers yet, start working on that first. Social media can be a good approach as long as you're reasonable in your expectations. You'll have more control over an email list than you ever will a Facebook or WhatsApp group. It makes sense if you're just starting out, but if you've been in the business a while, take a hard look at why you don't have a good sense of your own audience.
You've gotten hit with a few snarky reviews on Etsy and it's just tanked your sales? Now is not the time to jump ship from Etsy. You need to build up your audience, and if you're selling on Etsy, people can find bad reviews there, even when you've moved to start selling on your own website.
Sellers who get hit with bad reviews often lose faith in the platform - they think their sales will never recover, but that's rarely true. Critically evaluate the feedback you're getting, and, if necessary, make changes to how you make and process orders before beginning to drive traffic to your new website. E commerce is definitely about the buyer, not the seller, so you need to manage the buying experience before you try to take it all on.
Other shops are doing it - why can't you? The fact is that selling copyrighted art, pirated art, or fan art is illegal. When you do on Etsy, Etsy sends you a warning, then kicks you off their platform. When you do it on your own website? They'll sue the crap out of you.
There's a copyright issue going around to old blogs right now. Back in the day, people used to liberally borrow images - and credit where they got it from. Kind of like what you were taught to do in high school. Except, big companies that own those images are now going after people and hitting them with licensing fees of hundreds to thousands of dollars to avoid a lawsuit. And that's just for stolen pictures on recipe blogs. Imagine how much it'll cost if you're selling a Nightmare Before Christmas onesie? Disney will come for you, and you won't have Etsy to stop them from suing.
To be successful at e commerce on a new page, your products really need to stand out. Some of this is in website design. But, most of standing out is in product quality: great pictures, great reviews, and stuff that's unique enough to be purchase worthy.
There are so many scams out there that, when someone visits a new website, they're on the lookout for potential hate, spam, or scams. So pay attention to the quality of your products, website copy, and photos. Make sure that your website screams "I am a trustworthy seller!" or you'll have a hard time getting sales.
So, you're joining the thousands of Etsy sellers who have decided to create their own online store? Congratulations! Your handmade business should eventually grow and thrive on its new platform - as long as you're careful in planning your new website and marketing strategy. Follow these steps to ensure success!
Your first step in moving your website from Etsy is to choose a domain name and hosting service. There are a few common ones out there. I use WordPress for my own websites - it's a free, open source software. WooCommerce is a free e commerce service that is built for WordPress. Between the two of them, you can have a completely free online shop, only paying for your domain name and hosting.
For websites right now, I really like NameCheap for domains and their hosting company, EasyWP, for hosting. It's a managed hosting service, which means that it's fast and their customer service is excellent. Page Speed has become one of the most important factors for websites, and choosing a "managed" hosting service is one way to guarantee speed. You can get up and running on NameCheap/EasyWP for about $60/year, which isn't terrible for a website nowadays.
There are also paid services out there. Shopify is perhaps the most popular, and it's $29/month. But that $30/mo really adds up when you're not making anything yet. Shopify's biggest benefit is that it's idiot-proof, so if you're not strong with computer skills, Shopify might be the way to go. Shopify also links up with print on demand services like Printify and Printful, so if that's a piece of your business, Shopify might be a good solution for you.
The next big thing is getting your existing inventory listed. You can do an export from Etsy and then import it into your new hosting service with some growing pains. Shopify has an easy Etsy importer, and WordPress does too - if you're willing to pay a little. I use the Etsy Importer by OmniWP and it works like a dream to sync my Etsy shop to my WordPress page. They also do have customer support.
If you do custom orders, it can be a little tricky to move your shop over to your own site. Website platforms like WooCommerce aren't set up for custom orders - but there are a few tweaks to your shop that you can do to make sure that you can manage customs as they come in. You'll need to make sure that customers have the ability to message you from your website and from the store section of your website, too.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is key for building a website that people can actually visit. There are so many people on the internet, and it can be difficult to stand out in a crowd. The reason for this is that your website is going to be competing with millions of other e commerce sites who will also want to rank in Google's search engine. A website design professional will consider each one of your products and how best to get them in the hands of customers.
You can learn SEO using many free guides, tips and tricks, and even pay for a class or two. But the best way to customize your site so it gets organic traffic is to experiment and tweak as you go. What works for one person's website may not work for yours. Your business is just that - your business. We can't tell you what will work for your site - we can just point you in the right direction.
If you haven't already, make sure you sign up for social media accounts for your standalone website / brand. You need to have a social media handle for each of the major social media platforms, and a little bit of content there too. Sign up for Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram at minimum. Bonus point for TikTok and YouTube.
Create some content for those platforms so that customers know that you can be reached there if they've got problems. Heck, list a free product, or exclusive access to new designs. People love that stuff. At some point, you'll need to start building an audience on social media platforms, so do it now if you haven't. And make sure that all of them point to the same place: your website.
In the old days, business cards would do the trick. Now? Emails are the best way to get in touch with your customers. Other sellers have email lists, so you should too. You can share product listings, more posts from your blog, or behind the scenes looks for your customers. A monthly newsletter is a great marketing tool, and a few emails really aren't that hard to manage. There are plenty of free options for mailing lists, including MailChimp and SendBlue.
While you're working on your site, it can be helpful to have a blog too. Having all of this content under one roof means that customers don't have so many places to go, and they can get everything in one place without wading through dozens of other websites. This also provides great content for both search engine optimization AND your new newsletters.
At the end of the day, you'll probably need to customize some ads for Facebook, Google, or Bing. This type of marketing does cost a fair amount, but it can really help your business site get seen by your customers. Your website is the place for your customers now - not Etsy or other marketplaces. They need to be able to access your website free and easy, and it needs to beat out any other site in the same niche. Your shop will thank you.
Finally, don't forget about analytics for your website. Google analytics is a free way to track your audience and make sure that your store is optimized for making purchasers happy. Google even offers a free class to get up to speed on how to use analytics for your website - and includes demo data to make the process easy too.
We hope this free guide has helped you realize the value - and potential pitfalls - of starting your own standalone website. Join other sellers who have all the tools to leave Etsy for greener pastures. Got questions? We can help! Drop them in the comments below.