e-Commerce Website for Your Handmade Business – Why You Need One!

Kate Pullen
By Kate Pullen / July 15, 2016

If you’re serious about making a success of your handmade business, you have to start planning your own e-commerce website.

As a handmade seller, it can be very tempting to think that the beginning and end of the handmade market falls firmly at the doors of Etsy. After all, Etsy has pioneered the handmade marketplace and on a global scale. In so doing, they democratized business and made it possible for artisans the world over to sell their lovingly created work.

And while it remains true that Etsy is certainly the big beast in the handmade world, having your business solely focused on Etsy is not without its risks.

At the very least, as we’ve seen recently, any Etsy technical problems are Etsy seller problems. These problems could potentially hurt the individual Etsy seller more than the Etsy corporation as small businesses are much more vulnerable.

Who Has Control?

Perhaps most importantly, if your business is 100% Etsy focused, you don’t have complete control over your business. The most important part of it – the sales and customer service side of it – are under the control of Etsy. If Etsy makes a change to its policies which you don’t like or to its terms which have a negative effect on you, without alternatives, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Likewise, we’ve all heard stories of stores which have been closed down for reasons which have been outside of the seller’s control.

However, let’s not dwell on doom and gloom. While Etsy isn’t perfect, it remains a great place to showcase your work and reach a truly global audience of handmade fans and buyers.

It’s also a great accompaniment to your own e-commerce site. For most artisan businesses, having a shop on Etsy to run alongside an independent e-commerce website is a common sense business decision. It makes sense to keep a foot in both camps, at least while you’re building your independent business and possibly beyond. There are many makers with established self-hosted online stores who continue to use Etsy as a key sales and marketing channel.

Why Having Your Own eCommerce Website Will Help Your Business

Having your own website empowers you to run your business as you want. You can set your own store policies, set your own standards and have no fears of your business being shut down or affected by things out of your control. However, there are many other great reasons to have your own e-commerce website and I’ll highlight many of these below for you.

Marketing

While Etsy’s a great showcase for our products, marketing opportunities are limited and generally passive. More powerful marketing techniques have to be done off Etsy using our own blogs or websites.

For example, an email list or a segmented part of it is core to effective marketing campaigns. Etsy, though offers no tools to capture an interested prospect’s email address. Therefore if you’re going to be busy creating new marketing initiatives off of Etsy, why not point them at your own e-commerce website? A good one, beyond just being a store, will include all sorts of essential marketing features, such as landing pages, opt in forms, flexible coupon codes and more!

Build Your Brand

Having your own e-commerce website, complete with blog, gives you the perfect opportunity to build your brand. You can use the blog to develop your brand authority, writing about things that will interest your target market. This will help people get to know the person behind the brand. It’s a simple truism that the more people get to know us as individuals, the more they are likely to trust and buy from us.

On Etsy, Shop Updates are arguably the nearest equivalent of a blog post. In fairness, these visual updates may resonate particularly strongly with some users, but they don’t offer the same flexibility as a blog post.

Engage

If you have your own website you can encourage customers and potential customers to sign up for your newsletter. This is a great way to really engage and sending out informative regular newsletters is a wonderful way to build your following. It keeps you in direct contact allowing you to speak to your customers when you like. If you have comments turned on with your blog, this can instantly become a two-way conversation, allowing your followers to get involved.

SEO

At the moment, the effort we put into SEO in our Etsy stores drives customers to Etsy rather than to our stores. Having your own website means that all your SEO work, in your store listings, your blog and elsewhere in your store will drive people to your store, not to someone else’s. Your own store will also give you enhanced SEO opportunities, for example using keywords in the ALT tags of photos.

Pricing

You’ll have the ability to price your products based on their true value without the fear of people clicking on search results based purely on price. While, of course, people can still make price comparisons, you are in a much better position to demonstrate why yours is a premium product and commands a premium price on your own website.

Policies

With your own store, you can set your own policies and not need to worry about whether this will hurt your placement in search results. While the Etsy store policies are comprehensive, they don’t work for everyone. Therefore when you have your own store you can do what is best for you and your business.

Control

Ultimately, you have complete control of your business. You can set your own goals and work towards them knowing that you’re your own boss. That’s not to say you’ll be immune from outside influences. For example you’ll need to work hard to get Google to recognize your store and then work hard to ensure it continues to recognize your store. However, your own e-commerce website gives you as much control as any other business has.

The Drawbacks of Having Your Own E-Commerce Website

While having your own e-commerce site has some very large positive points, there are some negative points to also consider.

It’s not a case of building it and they will come. You may create the perfect e-commerce website for your brand, with fantastic functionality and eye-wateringly delightful graphics. None the less, if you don’t get the store in front of people, it’s going to be a sadly undiscovered treasure.

Having your own e-commerce website is hard work. While you are queen of your own castle, certainly to start with, you’re also janitor and bottle-washer. You have to work hard to promote your site, sort out any usability problems visitors to your store may have, work on SEO etc. It’s not an easy alternative to Etsy or other selling marketplaces.

You will need a very clear plan of what you want from your site and how you are going to achieve it. However if you are serious about your handmade business and taking it to the next level, having your own website is going to be key.

e-Commerce Website Options

So having said that having your own e-commerce site is nigh on essential if you are serious about growing your business, what options are available to you?

  • Etsy Pattern: Cost – $15 a month. This is not an independent stand-alone store so it may not offer you all the advantages. However, we’re mentioning it because it is an alternative if you still want to be under the Etsy umbrella.
  • Shopify: Cost – Basic – $29 month. It’s worth noting that plugins are required for some additional features on a Shopify store. This can rapidly drive up the monthly cost, so check out the functionality before committing. Shopify is quick and easy to set up and is also offers access to Buyable Pins.
  • Magento:  the Zoey service is $89 a month or you can self-host the Community Edition, which is free to download.
  • SquareSpace: Cost – $24 per month. SquareSpace is much loved by many creative businesses.
  • BigCartel: Cost – the cost ranges from $9.99 – $29.99 a month depending on the number of products.

There will usually also be payment processing fees on top of the base costs. Of course, you only pay these when you have made sales.

Why Not DIY?

You could take advantage of WordPress, the free and open source website CMS, and build your own site. This could be easier than you think, though may not be the best option for everybody. You could check out our article on what is WordPress and how to get started to get a feel for this solution.

As an alternative to DIY, you could take advantage of DFY. In a little bit of self-promotion, we offer a DFY WordPress solution. For our users, we get WordPress installed and configured on your web hosting to make this a worry free process for you. We’ll install your chosen theme and an essential selection of plugins that will give you all the tools and features you need to market and sell your handmade goods. We also offer one on one WordPress training and other services to make managing your site a breeze. Just click on the link to find out more.

Are You Ready?

Regardless of which route you take, having your own e-commerce website will help to give you more control over your business. If you are serious about growing your handmade business, there’s never been a better time for considering your options when it comes to selling online.

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About the author

Kate Pullen

Kate is a long term marketing professional who made a lifestyle change and moved to Spain to follow her dream. She learned how to apply her business skills to her creative skills to grow a business. Her goal is to help others follow their dreams too.