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The Pros and Cons of Selling your Art on Etsy

Considering selling your artwork on Etsy? There are both pros and cons to using this well-known online marketplace.

Most artists look to the Internet for a marketplace to sell their wares. Etsy is a popular destination for jewelry makers, fine artists, photographers, fashion designers and many other creatives to sell and buy work. As with any market, there are positives and negatives to using it. 


Etsy is huge. According to CIO, Etsy has more than 40 million active members and more than $1.35 million of merchandise was sold on the site in 2013 alone. This major e-commerce site has a huge audience to offer artists who are looking to sell their products. Plus, the reaches of Etsy are not limited to the U.S. and its territories - people from all over the globe go to the site when they want to buy handmade pottery, wood-burned custom signs and millions of other unique items.

Opening a shop is easy. Setting up an Etsy page is very simple to do. You simply enter your name, email, username and a password to begin. There is no verification process and you can start posting items for sale immediately. Choosing payment options takes just a moment or two, and you can even make shipping labels right on the site. Anyone can become an Etsy shop owner in less than 10 minutes if they have their bank or credit card information on hand.

You can sell digital works. If you create something that exists only in a file format until it is printed, you can use Etsy to sell it. Another common online retailer, eBay, does not allow digital or downloadable products. If you are looking to sell downloads of coloring book pages, for example, you can list the item and give it to the customer as an image or in PDF format. However, the product can still remain listed on your site so others can easily find it. There is no need to create multiple listings, which can be a big time-saver.


There's plenty of competition. Because Etsy is such a huge site, there is very likely at least one other shop selling similar items to what you're offering. Not only that, but it can be difficult for customers to find your products unless you happen to be in the exact niche they are looking for (ceramic elephant teapots, anyone?). The first results that come back on a search are items that are being advertised. Unless you have done some art marketing, it is unlikely that your goods will be featured near the top of search results.

Etsy does not allow you to customize your shop like a personalized website would.

You can't customize your shop. When you set up your own personal website to sell your products, you likely can customize your design. Everything from the color scheme of the theme to the widgets that live on the sides of the page (like a blog roll or your Instagram account) can be changed. With Etsy, however, that's not an option. The only thing that can be changed on your online storefront is the header image. This allows you to have an interesting image on your profile, but that is the only customizable area. If you are not concerned about the site appearance or don't have website and HTML knowledge, this may be a positive aspect of Etsy, but for those more Web-design-savvy individuals, it's a definite downside. 

Etsy has fees. If you want to list an item, you will pay 20 cents per product. If it sells, Etsy retains 3.5 percent of the total sale price before shipping and taxes. Depending on the prices of your products, this could amount to pennies or hundreds of dollars. It's important to take this into account when deciding how to price your art.