Today I’m thrilled to share a guest post from Rebecca Inkrote, a WordPress designer and website consultant for handmade sellers. Since 2016, she has been dedicated to helping creative entrepreneurs elevate and take control of their brand by launching their own e-commerce sites. You can learn more about Rebecca at her website bexmarie.com.
As your handmade business grows and you’re making more sales, you may start to wonder if you should launch your own website. How do you know when it’s the right time to tackle that project? Are you leaving money on the table by selling solely via marketplaces (Etsy/Amazon Handmade) and craft fairs?
You’ve got goals. You’re ready to level up and grow beyond what your not-so-understanding friends/family call “your little side business.” So for all of you who….
– want to quit your 9-to-5 and spend more time doing and making what you love…
– want to supplement the family financially while cherishing time with your little ones or home schooling…
– have aspirations to be featured in magazines and gift guides and have your designs picked up by big-name retailers…
This is for you!
Do you really need a website anyway?
If you’re committed to your business and you want to level up your brand, then it’s time for your own site.
The potential benefits and opportunities are totally worth the effort and can help take your shop to new heights. A professional website can open doors to more collaborations, media placement, news features, partnerships, and wholesale opportunities. The truth is people take you more seriously when you have a professional website.
Not only does a website elevate your brand, it can also alleviate a bunch of growing pains handmade business owners face as they grow. If you’re experiencing heart palpitations when you look at your Etsy bill or feel like the listing and transaction fees are squeezing your profit margins then you know what I’m talking about.
Selling on marketplace website is awesome when you’re starting out because it’s a great way to tap into a huge pool of shoppers and reach a lot of people. But eventually you will realize the limitations and lack of control that exist when you don’t own the platform. You want to customize your shop and listings more than is possible or sell complementary items that don’t qualify as handmade. You want to create an immersive customer experience that embodies your brand and connects with your visitors instead of a vanilla product page flooded with your competitors’ product listings luring your customers away (and depriving you of that cha-ching sound you love).
If you are thinking to yourself now “OK sign me up! I need a website, like, yesterday!” Hit that pause button – because launching a website too soon in your business has the potential to add more work to your plate and expenses on your P&L without yielding a great return on investment. So let’s discuss whether it’s the right time for you to launch your own site.
4 Signs you’re ready to sell on your own website
1. Your primary sales channel is one you don’t own
Take a look at your sales numbers. If you sell through multiple sales channels try to break down your revenue (or estimate) by sales channel/source. Write down a list of all the avenues where you handle sales transactions:
- marketplace websites (Etsy, eBay, Amazon)
- social media accounts (FB, IG, TikTok)
- your brick-and-mortar store
- personal contacts/in-person network
- events (craft shows/vendor fairs)
Then write the percentage of total revenue or number of sales that come from these different categories; estimate if you don’t have the hard data for now (but put a system in place that will record these invaluable insights!) Now consider how many of these sales channels you do not OWN or have control over.
Let’s say you sell on Etsy (55%), four big events per year (20%), in-person network (15%), and Instagram (10%). You don’t own Etsy or Instagram, and you *theoretically* could lose those platforms overnight (not probable, but possible – I see tragic “Etsy shut down my shop” stories in seller groups almost daily unfortunately). For events, this is a bit of a gray area. Barring a global pandemic *cough cough* there will usually be a number of local events where you could vend. Even though you don’t “own” the events, this probably wouldn’t dry up completely. But if you only sell at one huge annual fair, then that is riskier than selling 20 smaller events.
So with this example, a whopping 65%+ of transactions (or your revenue) take place via 3rd party owned sales channels. This business model could take a serious hit if things went sideways with those platforms (Etsy shop lost in search or shut down, a bad weather market day, yet another Instagram algorithm change…)
If the majority of your sales are taking place somewhere you don’t have control and ownership, it’s time to consider your OWN STORE (whether brick and mortar or your own website).
2. You rely on your business income
What does your personal financial situation look like? Is the income from your business helping to pay your bills and support your lifestyle? If you have “made it” to the point where you are paying yourself, that’s awesome! Maybe you use that income to fund your vacations; maybe it’s allowed you to quit your day job or even become the family breadwinner!
When your personal finances, your business, and your dreams are on the line, you must protect that revenue stream with all you’ve got. Moving sales over to sales channels that you can own and control is a low-hanging fruit assurance
3. You drive your own traffic to your shop
Now let’s look at some different numbers. Looking at the bigger picture, before the sales transaction, where are your customers coming from? Even if most of your sales are on Etsy, it doesn’t mean most of your sales are generated BY Etsy. To clarify, not all your Etsy customers originated from Etsy (search results, suggested listings, their off-site ads/marketing, etc). You have probably been hustling to drive traffic to your shop too. So why would you pay a sales commission to Etsy when YOU did that work? That’s effectively what you’re doing when you send your hard-earned traffic over to checkout on Etsy and then pay a 6.5% transaction fee.
In your Shop Manager, navigate to Stats. Scroll to the section titled “How shoppers found you” and there is a very simple breakdown showing you exactly what percentage of traffic you are driving to your shop vs the traffic Etsy provides.
Imagine if all YOUR traffic had the privilege of shopping a completely branded website where you can truly convey the benefits and nuanced details of your products and deeply connect with your visitors. Imagine if you could KEEP that extra 6.5% (15% on Amazon Handmade) as profit to pay yourself or continue improving your visibility, product quality, and efficiency. Or maybe you could finally afford to hire someone to help clean your house or manage your social media or take the tedious minutiae off your plate? HELLO to more TIME to do what lights you up, get more sales, AND make more products!
If you are bringing in a significant portion of the traffic to your marketplace shop, it’s 100% time to get your own domain (even if you’re not ready to tackle the whole website project just yet). Start transitioning your print materials (labels/tags, business cards, banner) and links (social media, news/media features, etc.) to your own .com address as you prep and plan your website.[See a side-by-side comparison of Etsy Fees vs. Website Expenses and determine if you can save money by selling on your own website! Crunch your numbers with the Etsy Fees vs Website Costs Calculator https://bexmarie.com/calculator ]
4. You’re feeling stuck or held back by your shop
Back to your business goals and dreams – are there things you wish you could do, products you want to offer, or financial goals that are just not an option or feel out of reach right now? I’m a numbers person, but sometimes your intuition is a good indicator that it’s time to switch things up.
Here are just a few of the possibilities you now have when you launch your own website:
- Reduce transaction fees and keeping more money in your pocket
- Take more control over the cart & your checkout process with the ability to add cross-sells, upsells, and other average order value-boosting efforts
- Craft a completely custom brand experience with more control over your photos, videos, typography, and aesthetic
- Increase your brand loyalty and recognition so customers reply to compliments with “Thanks I got it from [brand].com!” rather than “I got it on Etsy”
- Completely customize your product listings and categories
- Choose your own threshold for triggering free shipping to strategically increase your average order value
- Offer non-handmade products that complement your current selection
- Add a blog (great for SEO), contact forms, about page, site chat, wholesale request form, downloadable line sheets, etc.
- Take control over growing your email list so you can actually be seen by your audience (instead of 5% reach on social)
- Showcase a portfolio of your past works that are no longer for sale
And many more!
If you have big dreams for your brand and you feel like Etsy is unable to facilitate them or even holding you back, it’s time to create and launch your own website so you can make them a reality.