Handmade Jewellery: Selling on Etsy/Folksy/DaWanda, or Your Own Site?

Deciding where to sell handmade jewellery: this may cause you to Panic and Freak Out. But no, don’t! Just make a cup of tea, and read this…

People sometimes ask me whether it’s better – for someone who is starting out making their own jewellery or other handmade craft – to sell from their own website, or instead to sell via a third party marketplace that specialises in handmade goods.

The short answer is that I think it’s good idea to do both, simultaneously – if you can make your marketplace as broad as possible, that’s bound to result in more sales.

However, there are good and bad ways to attempt both strategies, advantages and disadvantages to each, and there are some ways in which the type of person you are may influence which one it’s best for you to start using first.

There are, of course, some universal factors that will help sell your jewellery or other handmade goods regardless of where and how you try to sell them: excellent product photos are essential (and, as I’ll mention later, it can be particularly helpful to follow a certain format for these when selling on Etsy). And obviously you’ll need to be making high-quality products that you think people will like, and will want to buy. If you make necklaces from the eyes of dead rabbits preserved in resin, sure, there’s probably a niche market for that, but it might be quite tiny, so if you’re after a lot of sales that may not be your best initial product range…

Selling from your own website: some advantages

  • Once the potential customer has arrived on your website, they are browsing exclusively through your products. They can’t easily be led away to look at a competitor’s product on the same site, as they easily can on a third party site such as Etsy (although, as I’ll mention later on, the inverse of this is, of course, also true).
  • You can completely customise the look and feel of the site – if you know how, or pay a web developer to do so
  • You or your web developer have full control over the search engine optimisation content – this can have a huge effect on how much traffic you get
  • You don’t have to pay listing fees – you can list the products yourself, [hopefully!] free of charge. (If you’re having someone else make your website, whether editing it on your own will be possible in future is an important thing to check. There are many content management systems that will allow this without knowledge of HTML and other web coding languages, so if you don’t want to have to pay your web developer each time you edit or add a product, make sure they’ll provide something that will let you edit your product listings easily yourself.)

Selling on Etsy / Folksy / DaWanda: some advantages

  • As well as marketplaces, these are also social networks – particularly Etsy. This gives you the opportunity to network with both other creators and with buyers – you can add them to your circle, promote each other’s work, discuss techniques via a forum – all within the site’s built-in functionality.
  • Even if you’re not into the social side, if you have nice products with good photographs, the chances are that someone else might include on of them in a “Treasury”. This is a collection of other people’s listings, picked out by a member, which you’ll often see featured on the front page of the site. Being included in a Treasury means many more people will see your items. The first time I tried Etsy, I was just starting out, had no-so-great photos, and this only happened to me once. Now I have much better photos (and I’m not talking about those awkward lo-res web cam shots up there, of course – more like this kind of thing) I’ve been featured in over 100 Treasuries in just a few months – not to mention making far more sales than the last time.
  • People who arrived on Etsy via someone’s else’s Etsy shop may browse for similar items, and find yours that way (of course, this does also happen the other way round, too!).
  • Some people will shop on a handmade marketplace as their default, one-stop shopping stop when they’re looking for gifts, jewellery etc. They’ll skip Google and go straight to Etsy, DaWanda or Folksy, so if you have products listed there, some people who might never have otherwise found them (especially if your site doesn’t come up very high in Google’s search results) may do so.
  • It’s really easy. You don’t need any web design knowledge, as all of the marketplaces come with easy to use, aesthetically pleasing shop fronts into which you just add photos, descriptions and a banner or logo.

Selling from your own website: some disadvantages

  • If you want to be found by search engines, you or someone else will have to put a bit of work in to make sure that your site shows up in search results. Search Engine Optimisation isn’t actually difficult, but some people seem baffled that they can put a website up and make no sales at all because nobody ever finds it. Having good SEO is one of the essentials to selling online.
  • There is substantial work involved in making the website in the first place: I enjoy doing this, as I already know how, but it’s not for everyone! You can either learn to do it yourself (time-consuming, and who knows whether you’ll come up with a good design? Horrible-looking, hard-to-navigate websites are a sure way to put customers off immediately) or pay a professional. Or there are some ready made website templates available, some of which are free, and some of which are not. Some are good, some are bad. Self-hosted WordPress (free, but sometimes needs some tweaking) and Mr Site (paid) are the ones I’d recommend.
  • You are not automatically plugged into a ready-made and populated marketplace – again, you have to put in a bit of work to build up your own brand. However, I like this aspect. Having a site that looks exactly how I want, rather than a non-customisable Etsy shop – definitely appeals to me.

Selling on Etsy / Folksy / DaWanda: some disadvantages

  • There’s a lot of onsite competition. Instead of having people browse your products on your site, they browse everyone’s products on the entire site. However, make your shop distinctive enough, and fill with enough different-but-related products that you will keep people’s attention, and this isn’t necessarily a problem.
  • There’s also competition on price, as some makers might price very low if making things is their hobby. I find that it’s best to ignore other people’s prices, though. Set them at what you think is reasonable, rather than trying to undercut other sellers. (For example, there are some people selling button stud earrings for as little as £1 on Etsy. However, they are probably not made with sterling silver findings, which mine are, and the buttons are maybe not as appealing as the ones I use – so I still sell plenty of mine for £6. Some people want to spend more money, anyway!)
  • You don’t get much control over optimising for search engine results, Etsy’s own search results, or the appearance of the shop. However, you can maximise the possibilities by writing good, keyword-rish descriptions and including lots of good tags on your listings.
  • There’s always, you know, that tiny chance that you might end up on Regretsy… (If you’re the one making the resin-preserved dead rabbit eye jewellery, there’s actually more than a tiny chance.) But all publicity is good publicity, right?

Where you start should depend on which appeals to you most, and where your skills lie – web design and SEO, or social marketing? if you want to place heavier emphasis on the former, try your own site; for the latter – an online marketplace may suit you better. (And you can have an additional presence on any social media channel, whichever route you try first.)

Building a shop, web presence and – of course – a collection of products to sell takes time and work, so whichever approach you choose, you’ll need to bear in mind that you have work to do before it really takes off. Good luck!