“Should you sell on Etsy or another marketplace? Or should you sell on your own website? Or should you sell on Etsy and your own website?”  I visit a lot of forums for artists and makers, and there always seems to be at least one thread on the front page devoted to some variation of this question. It’s a source of anxiety for a lot of handmade businesses, a kind of amped-up FOMO: a fear that wherever you are selling you’re not selling in the right place. So what do I say when someone asks me one of those questions? I start with my favorite answer: “it depends…”

Where does your Ideal Customer Shop?

The wonderful thing about the sheer number of options handmade businesses have for selling online is that there is a place for everyone to succeed. The trick is finding your people, your dream customer. I’ve written about finding your dream customer before so I won’t get into it here, but it’s what you need to do first, before you even think about selling anything anywhere!

Each marketplace—Etsy, Aftcra, Artfire, ArtYah, etc.—attracts a different type of customer based on how they position themselves. Etsy is the 800lb crafting gorilla (now there’s a mental image); Aftcra focuses on handmade, made-in-the-USA; Artfire and ArtYah target fine artists (and ArtYah adds intensive social media integration).

All the dozens of other marketplaces out there have similar niches. So now you see how important it is to be solid on what niche you want to address before you pick a marketplace.

Free Worksheet: Defining Your Positioning and Ideal Customer

The most powerful piece of information any business owner can have is exactly who their ideal customer is. Knowing that helps you decide where you should be selling, what your price points should be, and where your should be marketing. This worksheet will help you clarify your market niche and zero in on your ideal customer.

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    Why You Should Sell on Etsy and other Marketplaces

    If you’ve read many of my other articles I’ll forgive you for thinking that you might have accidentally clicked on to another site. I’ll readily admit that Im quite vocal on the fact that I think that every handmade business needs to have its own website and domain name. But that doesn’t mean that selling on Etsy and other marketplaces like Aftcra, Artfire, or ArtYah shouldn’t play an important role in your business.

    One very good reason why a lot of handmade businesses get their start on a marketplace is cost. Most marketplaces only charge you when you make a sale, so it costs you very little to set up a storefront, list some products, and see what sells the best. You aren’t paying for a website or Shopify account while you’re still trying to figure out your product line.

    After you’ve gotten established, your marketplace shops can be great places to test out new products or product lines.

    Another reason why your business should sell on Etsy and other marketplaces is the same reasons why you might decide to set up a physical table at a show or market: reaching more customers.

    Here are a few ways that selling on a marketplace can do that:

    • Some people are more comfortable buying online from a marketplace run by a well-known company.
    • By using marketplaces to segment your product line you can address a wider range of price points (saving the high-end stuff for your website)
    • Not every customer will use Google, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. to look for products. Some just go straight to Etsy or another marketplace, and selling there will let you reach them.

    Why You Also Need to Sell on Your Own Website

    For every benefit of selling on a marketplace there is a flip side. As your sales volume or average item price goes up, you’ll end up spending more and more in transaction fees. You’re limited in how much control you have over what customers you reach. And most importantly, you’re essentially just renting a booth at a virtual show.

    You give up a lot of control when you sell on Etsy or other marketplaces, and it’s never a good idea to put all of your business’s eggs in one basket. If all you have is a shop on Etsy or another marketplace, you’re at their mercy when it comes to policies, search, and shop appearance, and if they shut down for any reason there goes your store.

    A website is your business’s home base, its flagship store, where you’re the boss. That’s why every business needs one, and the goal of all of your marketing and outreach should be to get people back to your website where you can get them on your email list and show them your best work.

    Read my guide to integrating an Etsy shop and your own website here.

    You Can—and Should—Have it Both Ways

    Etsy vs. your own website, or Etsy vs. Aftcra, etc., don’t have yes or no answers. If you’re a small shop with limited resources, I recommend starting on a marketplace and then transitioning to your own website as soon as you can. But if you’ve got the ability, selling on marketplaces and on your own site gives you the best of both worlds and maximum opportunity for your handmade business.