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Etsy or ArtFire or Zibbet or ....- What's best for you?

A lot of us, small business owners, that specialize in handmade arts and crafts, vintage items or supplies, have many different venues to choose from. The most popular sites for these categories seem to be Etsy and Artfire, and since I have shops on both, I'll share a bit of what I've learned so far on each. Since I also have a small shop on Zibbet, I'll add my thoughts regarding that as well.

ETSY

Etsy is the granddaddy of sites dedicated to handmade and vintage items and craft supplies. Etsy has been in business for - oh, I'd say 5 years or so now, and is probably the best known of the all of the sites for this market segment. What started as a small Brooklyn based experiment is now a multi-million business, backed by venture capitalists.

The best part about Etsy is that it is the forerunner, and has been around the longest, meaning that it's the most established venue for this niche market. Although many people have not heard about Etsy, it is still better known than it's competitors. It also gets positive press from influential public figures like Martha Stewart.

Getting started on Etsy is easy and economical. Listing an item is only 20 cents, and other costs come into play only if you renew (more on that later) or sell something.

Etsy has a huge built in marketplace, since many of its sellers tend to also buy from other sellers. This is especially a boon for people that sell craft supplies, since many people that create handmade crafts find it convenient to purchase their supplies on the same site.

With all this going for it, Etsy is pretty far from the utopia for crafters. The drawback with being the forerunner is that Etsy has gotten very big, and competition is especially intense in some categories like jewelry. To stay visible in such crowded categories, sellers resort to constant "renewals" at 20 cents each time, so as to stay on top of internal chronological searches. This quickly adds up and makes the site far more expensive than at first glance, unless you are really careful to not overspend on renewals. Success at Etsy is easier if you have a niche product, that not many other people offer. Etsy's focus continues to be to bring in more sellers rather than more buyers, and this exacerbates the problem. Also, the success of the site seems to have made the site attractive for "resellers" and mass produced items are rampant on what was meant to be a "handmade" site, leading to loss of reputation to the site and loss of revenue to legitimate sellers. Rules are enforced inconsistently leading to further confusion, and Etsy staff are not easy to reach.

Another issue is that while Etsy is a huge marketplace in itself, there is little external visibility. Although some listings do get picked up by search engines, this is a constant issue for many sellers.

The buyer experience can also be improved, and this probably leads to fewer sales than Etsy could get if it was easier to buy. Prior to purchasing, buyers have to sign up for an Etsy account, and also login to Paypal and pay each seller separately. There are no site wide gift certificate or gift registries or coupons, that could make it more user friendly. Selling is not very user friendly either, and basic tools that sellers have requested for a while do not get developed, while Etsy focuses it's development on it's own priorities that are rarely communicated to it's sellers.

Overall, Etsy is a great place for sellers of craft supplies, sellers of niche handmade or vintage products, or hobbyists, or sellers of products that appeal to artists or crafters. People that do well on Etsy tend to fall into these categories, or have been on the site since the early years.

ARTFIRE

ArtFire is relatively new, and is built on a different philosophy. While Etsy's model is based on a pay-to-play model, ArtFire (and many other newer venues) is based on a hosting model. Etsy charges a standard listing fee to list the item for 4 months and also takes a sales commission, which is a set percentage of the item price. Hence, Etsy benefits from sellers listing many items, renewing the items (another standard fee service) to stay visible on it's chronological searches, and from sellers selling their items at the highest possible prices. ArtFire charges a set monthly fee for unlimited number of items, and does not charge a sales commission. There is also a "Basic" option at ArtFire that is completely free, with no fee for either listing or selling, and is supported by ad revenue. Hence, ArtFire benefits from bringing new sellers to the site, and indirectly benefits from sales since people that are selling well on the site will continue to stay on the site and pay the hosting fee.

The biggest benefit that ArtFire offers is exactly the biggest drawback of Etsy - being seen outside of the site. Listings on ArtFire are available to search engines in a matter of minutes, and are reachable from many popular shopping portals. Hence, the size of the ArtFire community has very little bearing on sales at ArtFire, and most of it's buyers are not ArtFire members. This is a useful feature for people with products that have broader appeal than to just fellow crafters and artists.

Another benefit on ArtFire is sophisticated seller tools, which again, is a major difference from Etsy. Listing, importing, creating coupons, applying global changes etc. are just a few clicks away. ArtFire staff are also very responsive and knowledgeable.

The drawbacks at ArtFire are primarily it's newness. Few people have heard of Etsy and even fewer have heard of ArtFire. Since buyers do not have to sign up to purchase on ArtFire, this drawback is mitigated to some extent, but an established name does promote more buyer confidence and lead to more sales.

Overall, ArtFire is a great place for sellers looking for a consistent and hassle free experience (tools as well as knowing exactly what the site expenses are), whose target audience is beyond other crafters and artists.

I will post in future about my experience and observations on other sites for buying and selling handmades etc. Let me know what you think too!! I am very interested in your experiences.

22 comments:

  1. Etsy sucks, the guy that started it stole the idea from a couple grannies, now they're so big and rich they're just deactivating people stores left right and center, and it seems almost cult like in its atmosphere. If you are a programmer, PLEASE PLEASE replace this shitty site with something better and less cluttered.

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  2. thank you for the insite in comparing the craft/art selling sites. It is very interesting and helps with all the confussion I have over where to sell.

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  3. Great post! I've been considering going over to (or at the very least, having another account with) ArtFire. I know I've spoken with many, many vendors at Etsy (I sell and get many of my supplies from other Etsy sellers) that are fed up for one reason or another with the Etsy Philosophy ;-) I hear though, that ArtFire is no longer offering a FREE account as of August sometime...? I don't know - Seems like Etsy is just starting to work for me a little bit (been on it for over a year and a half now). Going over to ArtFire may be starting from ground zero again. Decisions, decisions...

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  4. Where are your Zibbet comments? Nice article though.

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  5. Interesting and helpful. Thank you for taking the time to detail your experiences with both.

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  6. What about Zibbet? Thanks for your insight.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Thank you for great article, and I would like to read your Zibbet writing, too!

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  9. Artfire is terrible read this

    http://fairytaledesignstudio.blogspot.com/

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  10. It's worth starting with a free store at Artfire - they have sales every once in a while on membership that you can mean

    I still get more sales on my etsy store than my artfire store - but my sales on etsy are for cheaper products. My artfire store has more outsiders purchasing photos. My etsy store takes longer to register new products on google, but when they show up in searches, they show up earlier on pages than my photos on artfire do.

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  11. Hey there is another great new site that I found maybe you all should check this one out. www.crafterstown.com

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  12. We are quite happy with ezebee.com, you can link from there to your webshop/ blog/ artfire store, they offer shop plugins for Blogs and Facebook and have a very friendly community. It is still very European influenced, but I like to be inspired by all the stylkes and products... It is a place worth checking out... I will post this nice blog there too!

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  13. Etsy sucks, The only traffic you get is other etsy shops, It's like a snake trying to eat itself, It don't work !!!
    Artfire same thing, No promotion what so ever & searches suck, filters worthless & lots of cheap junk

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    1. My Etsy shop does great :)
      I tried artfire an am trying zibbet. Can't say I get the sane traffic.

      I had to close my artfire account (back then there wasn't a free account) and my fees were always higher than my profits due to lower traffic

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  14. Thanks so much for the article. I found it most interesting and helpful. I have sold for years on etsy. I do very well here and have from the beginning. I ship at least 2 pkgs a day--sometimes 10. I also have a shop on artfire and get about one sale a month. Artfire, as I see it, does not help bring buyers into the shops. Artfire seems like a ghost town to me. When I go into the shops, most of them say that the owner has not been in the shop for one, ten or more days. The sales are so rare that it does not pay to be there. I wish I could get along with just the artfire shop. They are much more considerate and helpful. Etsy is ruthless at times. I've seen them close shops and not even tell the owner why. It's very scary. lol I am going to bookmark this. If someone has anymore info, I would love to read it. Thanks for listening.

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  15. Thanks so much for the article. I found it most interesting and helpful. I have sold for years on etsy. I do very well here and have from the beginning. I ship at least 2 pkgs a day--sometimes 10. I also have a shop on artfire and get about one sale a month. Artfire, as I see it, does not help bring buyers into the shops. Artfire seems like a ghost town to me. When I go into the shops, most of them say that the owner has not been in the shop for one, ten or more days. The sales are so rare that it does not pay to be there. I wish I could get along with just the artfire shop. They are much more considerate and helpful. Etsy is ruthless at times. I've seen them close shops and not even tell the owner why. It's very scary. lol I am going to bookmark this. If someone has anymore info, I would love to read it. Thanks for listening.

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  16. Etsy has become cluttered with a lot of cheap factory items. The site has become more like Ebay. Zibbet markets itself as a handmade site and they do remove shops that try to pass off factory as handmade. I've moved my shop there and am very happy with Zibbet.

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  17. Thanks for sharing! I think Etsy is better. My interactions there have all been positive, and selling (and buying) on Etsy has been a great experience for me so far. I also listed up my gigs on ListingDock.com, this is also a cool place to sell or buy.

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  18. this is very accurate i would like to see a comparison of more sites

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  19. I sell on Etsy. I do quite well. I had high hopes that Artfire would offer another outlet for my sales. The site is awful. I only sold 7 items in over a year. I do more that that every week on Etsy. The sales never covered the costs. I tried to downgrade and I am having trouble getting them to stop charging me. Sellers and Buyers Beware!

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  20. The best place to sell is Shippi.com You choose your own url and they take care of the shipping so you don't need to deal with UPS or Greyhound.

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