Sunday, April 5, 2009

So which venue is for you?

Well, if you've been selling your handmade wares for a while, I'm sure you've had to wrestle with the question I pose above more than once. Most of us go the route of wondering whether our products are good enough to sell (because creativity doesn't always come with a side of ego-mania, lol), and then we venture out to one site to get our feet wet and soon find out that there are a ton of sites out there that we could be selling on and end up with our head in our hands trying to decide which one is right for us or which two or three or eight? It's maddening regardless of where you are in your handmade success story. If you're not having any luck, you wonder if you just need more exposure. If you're selling like hotcakes, you wonder if taking on another venue is the answer to your bank account's prayers or just a fast track to an early death doing what you love. So instead of looking at the seller's point of view, I'm going to give you my perspective on the 4 venues where I sell in the hope that maybe you'll find your fit. And if other folks sell at other places besides these four and would like to comment, please do. The more info the merrier.

I currently sell at Etsy, ArtFire, 1000Markets, and Zibbet. For me, Etsy leads in sales, but I've been there much longer. Last month, ArtFire really started to pick up for me. I've had 1 sale on Zibbet and none on 1000Markets yet, but that's okay because there's something to be said for having an internet presence in more than one place. You never know who is looking. So, looking at the venues overall and assuming that you're new to the handmade carousel...

Etsy: (free to set up shop; $.20 to list an item; 3.5% commision on each item sold)

Optimally speaking, you should set up shop at Etsy if you have a defined brand, an identifiable niche and marketing strategy for your shop and product. Etsy is huge and when it grows, it's like rabbits having rabbits. If you know what you're doing and how you're going to do it, then GO! Etsy doesn't jury, so anyone can sign up. Hooray, right?'s the thing. Sure, anyone can sign up, but if you're not ready for handmade prime time and you're not aware of that and/or the reason why, it's going to take you about six months of relisting and promoting in the forums, etc., to realize that you've hit the handmade ceiling at Etsy--and it's pretty low, and Etsy's ceiling has layers; there's the front page and it's curated cousins, the featured sellers and those that fit that mode and style, the folks that have already clawed their way to the top before Etsy became humongous, those who list, promote, and make treasuries like crazy 24/7, and tons of suppliers whose listings you'll also be competing with. If you don't have a shop or product that hits it out of the park, you're going to find that you don't have seats in the press box either.

If you're wondering whether you fit Etsy's mold, go to the front page, click on the gift guides, look at the featured seller choice and then go down the list and look at previous featured sellers. These are great shops with great products, and if you look closely, you'll see Etsy's vibe as well. Etsy leans towards the minimalistic crafter, designer, and artist. If you want to claw your way to the top of the heap at Etsy, I have two words for you: WHITE SPACE. Just know what you're competing against--be it other sellers or Etsy's idea of trendy. Both can be daunting.

ArtFire: (free to set up shop w/ max of 10 items, free to sell; verified membership for $12 mo. flat fee, offer good for a limited time. Verified membership gets you extra bells & whistles like no competition on your product pages, etc.)

If you're just starting out and trying to get your ducks in a row, then ArtFire is a good option for you. ArtFire is a great place to set up shop, list up to 10 items for free, and then delve into the forums and get to know some people. Doing that will give you invaluable feedback on your listings, whether or not to improve your pictures and how, and answers to other questions you may have, and you won't pay anything to do that. Now, you may say, "Well, I can just as easily set up shop at Etsy, list ten items for a measly $2.00 and dive into the forums." Yes, you can, but be warned: once you become part of Etsy, you will start relisting because you'll want views and that's the way you're going to get them. Your $2.00 won't be $2.00 after the first day. (My actual average listing fee for each piece that I sell on Etsy is $.60. On a slow month, my Etsy bill is about $70; on a good month, it's $120. Convert that business model into ArtFire and BAM! $100 saved.) At ArtFire, you don't even have the relisting option so you have to learn other ways to promote and improve your shop. You can't rest on your relisting laurels because you'll end up on your butt. Now, you can also start out at just $12/mo. and take advantage of the extra features ArtFire offers like Rapid Cart which allows you to embed code right onto your blog and sell your products without anyone going into your ArtFire shop. One of the other really nice things about ArtFire is that they now offer No Account/Guest Checkout which means that your customer doesn't have to join ArtFire to buy from you. That's a nice bonus! ArtFire also has a 1 page listing process and gives you room for 10 photos of your product. (Somebody is hearing our prayers!)

If you're still banging out your brand and trying to iron out your niche, ArtFire is a good place for you to start. If you're dying to set up shop at Etsy as well, but you don't quite feel ready, set up a buyers account there under a different name than your shop name and get comfortable in the surroundings. You'll be amazed at how fast the learning curve is and how much more confident you'll feel after you've listed items for awhile and gotten a few views, hopefully a couple sales, and some feedback!

Zibbet: (no cost to list, 7.5% commission on final sale)

Zibbet is a fairly new site, is still in beta and has a strong art focus, but it has a nice clean, sleek design and should appeal to those who find Etsy's framework appealing. There is a 2 page listing process compared to Etsy's 4 and it only allows you 4 photos instead of 5, but since the site is still in beta, Zibbet, like ArtFire, welcomes suggestions from the community as it finalizes it's design. Several artists on Etsy are frustrated with what they feel is a weak committment to the promotion of fine art on Etsy's part--both from a lack of active promotion from Etsy in a consistent top-down way and because a lot of faux art seems to flood Etsy's listings on the weekends. Zibbet is trying to learn from this now and remains aware and committed to promoting and showcasing fine art alongside quality handmade items. I like the atmosphere at Zibbet. It's warm and welcoming, but also thoughtful and gives real consideration to the fact that each shop is both someone's passion and most likely their livelihood. I find this kind of respect refreshing. Perhaps Zibbet's view is a bit different because they're not American, lol. (That's a slam on my country, not theirs). Zibbet's founders harken from Australia so perhaps that's where the more laid back attitude comes from. They're less consumed with defining what art should be for everyone else and more concerned about giving each artist access to showcase their talent to the world.

1000Markets: (juried process, shop is approved before it can go 'live,' no cost to list, 5.5% commission on sales)
Lastly, there's 1000Markets. I haven't necessarily saved the best for last, but definitely the most intriguing for last. I encourage you to visit that link about several different times because each time you do, you're going to see something different, and that for me is the genius of 1000Markets. I would spend time on that site even if I didn't have a shop there because it's gorgeous, and the fact that it's randomly gorgeous and not lockdown gorgeous is a tribute to the work Matt and the other admin have put into it. 1000Markets isn't a hard-core juried site, but there are rules; you do have to have a good product, take good pictures, and have solid and comprehensive store policies. You feel like you're amongst real crafters and artists there, and that you're really browsing in an open air market when you're shopping, and that makes all the difference to the buyer. I participate in 4 markets on the site even though I only sell jewelry. All of my pieces aren't represented in each market, though, because they might not fit each market and that's fine because the markets are designed around the buyer's experience. If the buyers wants to wander into a retro-themed market, then those are the items they'll see. Maybe I'll have pieces in that market or maybe not. There are seasonal markets created as well; many of my pieces were part of a Valentine's Day market there.

But the actual genius behind 1000Markets was in the foresight. Because they approve each shop in the first place, every merchant operates on an equal playing field from the start and that makes the depth of site and the buyer's experience truly dynamic because no merchant or product is ever discouraged or excluded from prime placement on the site. Everyone's exposure is equally random, and in this hand-over-handmade world, 'equally random' and 'free to list' are two of the most beautiful phrases I've ever heard!

If you sell at any of the other handmade venues such as DaWanda, Trunkt, Big Cartel or one of the many others, please feel free to add to this post. The more information the better!

Take care, Lori

There's still time to enter our April ArtFire Giveaway! (thru 4/7/09)

Pieces featured in this article are (in order):
Some Days are Harder Than Others by The Midnight Orange, $18 at Etsy
Bunnies Print at The Secret Nest, $15 at Etsy
Home for Bunnies Print by NoosedKitty, $18 at Etsy
Let's Not Blend In by Colorfly Studios, $6 at ArtFire
Just a Dream Within A Dream by aMelancholyDwelling, $15 at Zibbet
Inspire Me-Spool Sentiment by goshery, $6 at 1000Markets


  1. This is really nice article! Thank you, Lori for sharing your thoughts about all those different online selling venues.

  2. Very insightful. Very informative. I've never heard of Zibbet before. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  3. Great article; really highlights the pros and cons of each site.

    Thanks for featuring my Inspire Me-Spool Sentiments!

  4. Thanks for this article. Never heard of Zibbit. Concur that etsy is only for those established and in the "clique"
    Artfire rocks!


  5. This is great information. I had heard the names of some of the other sites but hadn't put any time into researching them. This is a good overview.

  6. Great info...thanks for including my artwork.

  7. Great info! I mark your blog. thank you for your helpful tips.