Today I’m comparing the pros and cons of starting a brand new handmade shop with Etsy vs Shopify (or your own independent shop website). There is definitely no single ‘right’ answer, but I hope this post can help you to make the best decision for yourself and your business!
Throughout this video, I lump having a Shopify store or an independent shop on another platform/website host into the same category because the pros and cons of them are interchangeable, but Shopify is a front-runner for independent shops, especially for beginners.
As a disclaimer, obviously I am an Etsy seller and make lots of other videos about Etsy selling tips. However, I hope it’s obvious that this post is not at all saying that Etsy is the end-all-be-all or best choice for everyone. It is not. I did my best to layout the honest pros and cons of Etsy vs Shopify for beginner sellers, as this was a choice I made when I started selling and something I continue to research as my own shop grows. If you take anything away from this post or my business tips, I hope it’s that you need to make the best choice for you and your shop and to learn as you go!
This video will be the first in my series ‘Etsy Selling for Beginners’ and I have lots of other videos on Etsy selling and business tips so be sure to subscribe to my channel for more!
Etsy vs Shopify Pros and Cons for Your Business
Pros of Etsy
- I’ll start with the pros for both Etsy and Shopify. Etsy is a great option for unique, handmade, and custom items. Etsy was created for handmade-makers and hobby-crafters. It’s also set up for listing and selling custom goods.
- Etsy is great for beginners because the shop, seller dashboard, listings, and checkout is already setup and easy to use. You aren’t starting from scratch, and Etsy already has the shop and listing pages figured out for you.
- Another huge Etsy pro: the low cost to open your shop and post listings. It’s completely free to create a seller account. When you’re ready to post listings, each new listing costs $0.20 (USD) to post, regardless of whether that listing sells. So, if you didn’t make any sales, your cost would be just the $0.20 per listing posted. There are no monthly subscription fees for having a shop.
- You can start utilizing Etsy search and existing Etsy customers to start getting traffic to your shop right away. This makes Etsy a great choice if you don’t have a huge social following to drive your own traffic and sales.
- Etsy is a one-stop-shop for selling. Buyers can message you directly and you can message back, you can buy shipping labels for your orders, and you can run coupons or sales all directly from the seller dashboard.
- You can gain experience selling, building your brand, and growing a following/customer base. A lot of independent creative shops get their start on Etsy because it is so easy and affordable to get started. Once their shop takes off or they’re ready to have their own website, sellers may then leave Etsy in place of their own store (or run both together).
Pros of Shopify
- Shopify is a great choice for sellers because your shop and shop website are completely your own and you can customize the look and layout freely. (Read more: Why You Need a Website for Your Business)
- Shopify is good for building a longterm, recognizable brand, and brand loyalty for your shop. From your own shop website, there is no competition or ads for competing shops: your traffic is all your own.
- You can sell a wide variety of goods, and it’s arguably easier to change what you sell over time. It’s completely up to you what to sell, and you aren’t limited by any expectations or existing categories.
- Shopify is a great choice if you already can drive traffic to your shop or if you want to be the main source of your own traffic and sales. This option might be for your if your brand is more established or if you have a social following already. This also makes it a good choice if you already have a shop or if you have experience selling previously.
- Your store site is completely customizable, but there are still lots of shop templates and payment/checkout features you can use to get started and make things simpler to setup. It can be intimidating to start from scratch and create a professional shop website, but there are lots of tools and sites that help make the process easier.
- No one else has power or control over your shop. A big drive of independent sellers if having total autonomy and ownership over their shop page and site. For the most part, you aren’t subject to changing algorithms or rules of a larger platform. Only you can make changes to the way your shop runs.
- You can easily integrate a blog, your social media, an email list, or other pages onto your shop website. This can help strengthen your brand identity and gain a loyal following of customers to your shop.
Cons of Etsy
- The customization of your shop and listings is limited. You don’t have much freedom to change the look or layout of your shop from the existing Etsy setup. You’ll notice that a lot of pros for both Etsy and Shopify easily flip into cons or vice versa.
- There is high competition on Etsy and it’s easier for customers to directly compare between shops and competing listings. I’ve heard complaints from Etsy sellers that this makes things a bit of a ‘price war’ for who has the lowest price for a comparable good or who has the best combination of lowest price and fastest ship time.
- Etsy takes a percentage fee for each sale, regardless of whether that sale came from Etsy traffic or you driving your own traffic.
- There is less brand loyalty and brand identity (for the customers). Customers will infamously say they “bought it on Etsy” and will rarely say they “bought it from (your shop name)”.
- As your shop grows and as you gain selling experience, you may feel increasingly limited by the Etsy platform. You may want more customization for your shop and more freedom in general, or you may feel ready to have greater autonomy over your shop.
- You are subject to any changes Etsy makes to their platform, algorithms, or fees.
Cons of Shopify
- You must drive your own traffic and sales on your store. Customers on your site have to come from somewhere. It can be difficult to get people onto your website and to gain consistent traffic to your shop. No one is going to find or know of your shop unless you bring them in from social media, ads, or other marketing.
- You need to gain customers’ trust and build a brand that people will buy from over buying from somewhere else. This can again be difficult starting out, but it can also be more rewarding later on.
- There are monthly subscription fees, regardless of if you make sales that month. This was a big turnoff for me when I was starting out, because I had no guarantee that I would even be making enough revenue to cover the cost of keeping my shop open. Be sure to do your own research on what the monthly fees would look like for you and your shop needs.
- There is greater autonomy and freedom, but you’re still reliant on Shopify or your website host. This might not be as big of a deal for you, but it’s still vital to be familiar with the Shopify terms and any changes to their platform.
- Shopify is more complicated to run on the seller end, especially if you are less tech-savy. Any shop platform will have a learning curve, but like having your own blog or website, there is a lot more for you to setup and keep running smoothly all on your own, than if you were using a selling platform like Etsy, for example.
- Custom products can be more challenging to setup and manage. And, there is no universal messenger integrated into your site.
I hope these Etsy vs Shopify pros and cons were helpful for you! I talk about each of these points more in-depth in the video, but I wanted to outline the major points for you here.
Wishing you all the best with your shop! You got this!