Pros & Cons of Selling on Third Party Websites

If you are selling your art or handmade work online, you may have your own website, or are possibly using a third-party platform. What are the benefits of each?


Pros and Cons of using a third party website to sell your handmade work.


Third party sites, such as Etsy, Facebook, or other places where you either rent or have access to free space, own that space online. They make the rules. They can throw you off, charge you fees or increase them, or require terms that you aren’t comfortable with.

The benefits of these sites are that you have a place where your images are easy to upload, and you don’t have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. Many times, they have high Google rankings and their sites are easy to find. They do a lot of the marketing, and they provide other services, like a shopping cart that make it simple to get into the business of selling your handmade items.

But, they are also crowded with the work of many other artists, and you must find a way to stand out. You might have to spend hours every week trying to get featured on the front page of the site, or you might have to buy ads, which involves time and/or money. If you feel it’s working well for you, you may want to keep your online presence there. If not, consider your other options.

Many times artists feel that although they started out displaying their work on a third-party site, they have outgrown it. Etsy for instance doesn’t give you a slideshow featuring your work on your shop page, or a way for customers to sign up for your email updates. If you have moved beyond that level, you will want to move to your own art website.

This is where an individual artist website really shines. You are, of course, the one who is in control. No one can close you down, tell you what you can and cannot do, or change your business model.

Fortunately, there are ways to incorporate e-commerce right into your own website, through plug-ins (on WordPress for instance), linking through to a third party site to act as your shopping cart, or using a storefront such as Shopify or SquareMarket.

There are also providers with easy templates for individual artist websites that you can easily customize, and act as a free-standing art site that is your own. This helps minimize the cost for artists who want exposure without the big price tag.


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  1. Yes, this is such a challenge for most of us! I run a collective of handmade shops, Artizan Made, and we started out as a place for promoting our members through the blog and social media. We are using WordPress and in October, I tested setting up a shop on the site with one product from each member linking back to their site. Most have shops on Etsy, but increasingly we are seeing people leaving and setting up their own sites with their own carts. The experiment showed clearly that visitors clicked more on the products than on blog posts. I think this is because there is a clear way to search and find things that interest them.

    I think Etsy is a great place to start out as they do have excellent seller tools, tutorials and infrastructure. But, it has gotten so huge that many of us have seen a tremendous drop in sales and views. It also has so much junk now that shopping there can be a bit of a chore. The best strategy, I think, is to have your own site and shopping cart, have a small presence on Etsy as a “hook” or almost like an ad, just in case you do get found there. There is also a trust issue where shoppers might not feel comfortable shopping on a small indie site. If something goes wrong, there is no accountability, so an umbrella site can help provide that security.

    The model we are developing on Artizan Made is something that I think others should explore. We are set up as a collective. The members pay a monthly fee which goes to help pay for my time, site costs and marketing. It’s a lot of work to do this but being a part of a group provides support and helps alleviate some of the promotional stress. In March we decided to set up an actual market where the members can list products for sale, link to their other sites or create made to order listings. Now it’s June and we are still not quite finished. The tech challenges have been a nightmare and it’s been an expensive process as many different pieces have to come together to make it all work (the right theme, marketplace plugin, a huge hosting space, cart infrastructure, and so on…).

    I think of this as a chamber of commerce approach where different themes could come together to attract the right customers. Our focus is on functional art or high craft and eco fashion. We just started accepting handmade supplies as well. We are at 70 shops right now and want to grow to 500 which will give us enough income to pay for staff and the kind of marketing we want to do. I don’t think we will go bigger than that as we would start having the same kind of problems on sites that are too big. People would get lost in the shuffle once again…

    Nothing is easy, but a strong group can make a huge difference for an indie shop. One of my mottos: “Together we can do great things!”

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