Whose Shop Is This Anyway?

Breath Of Fire by Emily Dewbre-Young
Breath Of Fire by Emily Dewbre-Young

So, we tried the Etsy, Artfire, deviantART and other things over the past couple of years and here’s what we thought of the experience. As always your mileage may vary but, again this is our experience with such sites. When you build your online presence on someone else’s site the relationship is always more to the benefit of the someone else than it is to you.

You invest a lot of time in making your arts and crafts or what ever it is you do that makes your business yours. You take great pictures, write good descriptions, fill in all of the tags and go out there on the net to promote, promote, promote your shop and drive people in. But what happens when people get in there? In a lot of cases, if you look around, the site you have set up shop on does everything they can to pull that traffic you have been driving in to other shops on the same site. Sites that are based on a per sale commission are worse about this than flat rate ones but the key thing here is they make their money if a sale is made on their site and it doesn’t matter to them if it’s your sale or someone else’s sale so while people are looking at your item or your profile they are seeing other people’s stuff.

Now don’t get me wrong. We LOVE to promote our fellow artists and craftspeople too but there is a time and place for that and your shop is  YOUR shop. When they are in YOUR shop you want them looking at YOUR stuff, not someone else’s. It’s not like when you go into Mc Donald’s you see a lot of Burger King ads on the tables and stuff right? Also, you only have so much control over the presentation of your items on these mall type sites and quite frankly, most people who see shops like that look at it kind of like being set up at a flea market rather than in a stand alone shop and they value things accordingly. A stand alone website just looks, to the general public, like you are serious about your business and it’s not just a side hobby you play around with after hours or on the weekends. This is a worthwhile thing to consider.

For about the same amount of money that most folks are spending on having their items on those sites you could easily pay for a hosting service and register your own domain. I know some folks don’t feel they have the technical expertise to set up a website of their own and it seems like a daunting task but believe me, these days, it’s much easier than it was in the old days. Most web hosting companies offer an interface like cPanel or something similar and usually through it you can install WordPress to run your site. The nice thing about WordPress is there are tons and tons of great plugins and themes to customize the look, feel and functionality to pretty much whatever you want it to be. Most of these things are free but a few cost some money if you want additional functionality. The setup we are running on right now though is totally free except for our hosting costs and domain registration. The shopping cart plugin we use is called WP e-commerce and it’s just as easy to use as most of those interfaces you see on the shopping mall type sites you may be set up in. You can add your products, pictures, tags, descriptions, etc. Set it up to work with PayPal or other payment gateways and, get this, it even generates an XML file for you to feed your products straight into Google Merchant’s database.

Now, once you are set up and running you can still do all of those things you were doing before to promote your shop but instead, once you have driven the people there YOU are in control of what their eyes see instead of someone else. You can go with a theme that truly reflects who you are and what you are all about. It’s kind of like the difference between living in a home of your own in the country where you are free to build it however you like, paint it whatever color you want and park whatever kind of car you want in your driveway versus being in a Home Owner’s Association and having someone else dictate to you how you are going to live. Now, if you enjoy living in neighborhoods with Home Owner’s Associations then more power to you but we artistic types tend to be more free spirited and enjoy doing things our own way.

Anyway, that’s our two cents. Feel free to add your own below!



The Abundant Artist has a great article along this same subject that gives even more reasons to build your own website instead of someone else’s.

9 Responses to Whose Shop Is This Anyway?

  1. I have to agree with you. I've had an Etsy shop for years now, most all my sales come from my own networking. I may have sold ONE thing to someone I had never met or known from somewhere else. I recently renewed my listings there. I am going to "pimp" my site to try and get sales. BUT the problem is that I still have to do all that part myself. SO it really is no different than if I had my own website. The biggest thing about it is the convenience of having it all set up for you. They make a whopping .20 cents per item once every three months. Its one of the cheapest so that is good. Paypal take more than Etsy does. haha One day I hope to be able to just have my own site and have it look as professional as I would like. I'm so picky about that. Recently my confidence in my "talent" has faltered. I am beginning to wonder if my art and jewelry is really worth all this trouble.

    • Pam, don't lose confidence in your talent. You do superb work but you have to keep marketing yourself so people can discover you. The thing about the 20 cent listing at Etsy though is that the way Etsy lists items on the search results. The longer your listing has been up the lower it shows up when people are looking for your stuff. So if it's been close to three months and someone is looking for a "green fairy pendant" or something and your listing is kind of old they might never see it because so many other "green fairy pendants" have been listed since yours. Because of this, a lot of people we know who do Etsy continually relist their items on a regular basis so they can be seen. This of course drives up their overall cost but they look at it as an advertising expense. That it may well be but I have to wonder at the return on this advertising investment. In our experience it wasn't so good. We actually get better results from our free Craigslits ads (in appropriate places and not spammy) and Google Adwords or word of mouth through social media and friends than we ever got from advertising in one single place like Etsy, Artfire, etc.

  2. Too true! Down with art malls, and up with self-sufficiency!

  3. Spot on! Just like we talked about last weekend! I'm still looking through hosting and print on demand options now, so hopefully the website will be sooner than later. Working on getting a bigger web presence through Twitter, Google +, and blogging outside of my page on FB.

  4. I have been looking over free word press themes for an art website and would like advice on which ones you can a have a gallery of thumbnails that enlarge when clicked on. Clean looking with categories at top home etc and able to set up email newsletter page or box? And also be able to sell by using buy now or some form of eccomerce cart? Some say free and then there is $99 a yr etc for support etc. How does one know how to use the free themes if not paying? If you down load a free theme and it does not do what you want, can you delete it and try another/? Thank you for your great article here. Judy

    • Hi Judy and thank you for dropping by! I'll try to help you out as best I can but please bear with me as Em' and I actually only dove into using WordPress ourselves about a month ago at the advice of the ramblings of an insane entrepreneur whose podcast I listen to. But we've learned a lot in that month. Here's what I can tell you so far. Yes, you can swap out themes at will and lose none of your content. It will get rearranged, the colors will be changed and background images too but your stuff will still be there. Now, for the email newsletter box you can get a plugin to handle that for you, the one we use is Subscribe2 and it's pretty basic, not the prettiest one I have ever seen but it is free and gets you up and running. The beauty is, if we decide we want to upgrade to another one later we can download our subscriber list to import into the new one so, again we lose nothing. You can also get plugins like this NexGEN Gallery http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/nextgen-galle… to handle your gallery functions for you. We're just using the built in one right now and mostly have only implemented it on the Pyrography page and in a few items in our Shopping section (which runs on the WP E-commerce plugin by the way). But, long story short, with themes, plugins, etc. If you try something out and decide it just doesn't work for you then you can easily yank it out and try something different. That's the beauty of it! Hope to see you around more and would like to see your website and art too. Take care!

      • Hi Again Judy! I just checked out your site, beautiful artwork by the way, and noticed that you are using a feedburner subscribe box on your Blogspot blog. I've got a couple of blogs on Blogger too and I am assuming you used the widget that lets you place HTML/Text in the sidebar that comes with Blogger to put that there and guess what? WordPress has that same feature so you can just move your Feedburner subscriber box right on over to your WordPress powered site with you. How convenient is that?