My experience of ‘opening a shop on Etsy’ to display my Eagle Scout congratulations cards has been a very good one. I would recommend Etsy to other artists, and I’ll explain why for me it is a better fit than another popular platform for selling product art, Zazzle.
At Zazzle you can also open a ‘shop’ page, but a big difference is that Zazzle actually does the production work on your items – whether you wish to sell your art printed on cards, t-shirts, mugs, etc. So when someone orders your Zazzle item, it ships directly from Zazzle and you don’t see the finished product – therefore you cannot judge the quality of the print job. Because Zazzle does the heavy lifting of production and distribution, you, the artist, receive a very small percentage of the asking price.
With Etsy the artist herself has to have the products made and in stock, so she gets to monitor and approve the print quality – I like this aspect better even though it means I have to do the production myself. (I have a terrific printing partner in Cortineo Creative, here in my hometown of Doylestown.) When a buyer orders my cards, I receive the full asking price that I list on my shop page. Etsy also estimates, from a form I filled out on the dimensions & weight of my product, what the postage will be on the package, and that is added onto my asking price so the buyer pays that postage as well. Etsy provides a customized shipping label and packing slip that I can print out and put on the package; when Etsy deposits my earnings, they deduct the cost of the postage from my total earnings, since the buyer initially paid that postage cost to me.
The tradeoff in payment between the two is this: I can list my products on Zazzle for free; with Etsy there is a charge for each item in my shop. The charge is 20 cents per item per quarter of a year. So I do pay 80 cents per year for each card on Etsy – so far this seems like a good tradeoff, since I am being paid the full price of my cards. Another disparity is, Zazzle has a threshold you must pass before they will send you your earnings – I believe it is $25 – and it takes a number of sales to accrue that amount since you are making a small percentage of the payment on each purchase. Etsy, on the other hand, deposits your earnings into your associated bank account once a week.
One other detail, on Zazzle, there is an option to allow your buying customers to ‘customize’ the item they are purchasing. These custom changes range from changing the color of the t-shirt and ink color, to adding their own words to your design. While this may be attractive to buyers who want the item for a very specific purpose, as an artist I hesitate to let others adjust and modify my designs. I have complete control with my Etsy products since I do the production.
I’ll also mention, I have done no advertising at all – until this post – to promote my cards on Etsy and yet I’ve made a number of sales, and have received great reviews from my customers, without even soliciting reviews.
I’d be happy to see comments from other artists giving your pros and cons in selling products on Etsy and Zazzle, as well as other online platforms.