Updated: For Artists, Comparing Etsy and Zazzle

About a year ago I wrote a post on my own experiences selling my original illustrations and cards on two online platforms, Etsy and Zazzle. It is a post that gets hits almost every day from readers – I presume, mostly artists like me. Then Zazzle changed their policies for the worse, and I deleted my account there. Now Etsy is also changing its policies, also for the worse for small business artists, so I’m updating this post to explain the new unfortunate wrinkle in Etsy’s policies.

Here is my initial post’s review of the two platforms:

My experience of ‘opening a shop on Etsy’ to display my Eagle Scout congratulations cards has been a very good one so far.  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 individual 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 $50 – 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. On Etsy, if I offer one item in two or three different colors or other characteristics, I CAN list the variations as an ‘option’ under the main description of the product – but again, I myself have to maintain ALL the varieties of the options in stock, so I can fulfill orders quickly when they come in.

Also important, is, 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.

Update 01/03/19: When I learned about 2 other options with payment for Zazzle:

  1. Under your payment settings and the PayPal option at the top (in very small print) it says
    Note: For PayPal there is a minimum threshold of $50 to be paid automatically. If you have less than $50 balance after one month of sales, we will hold your funds for future use, or you may request a PayPal payment for a $2.50 fee. Payment will be made within 45 days.
  2.  And if you are purchasing an item from another Zazzle store, you may use your account’s  “Cleared Earnings” against the cost of the item you are purchasing, sort of like a store credit.

So those are two ways to ‘use’ your Zazzle earnings, other than waiting for a check when you reach the threshold.

Update 04/17/19: When Zazzle made an unfortunate change

I have now deleted my Zazzle store, mainly because they announced “accounts that have been non-contributing (that is, haven’t either (1) published a public product, or (2) had a Referral Sale attributed to that account) for the previous 15 month period will be charged a “Non-Contributing Account Fee.”  I don’t make enough through Zazzle to incur another fee, so I’ve cancelled

Etsy now has announced as follows: “Starting on July 30, 2019, items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping to buyers in the US on orders $35 and above will get priority placement in US search results. Shoppers in the US will primarily see items that ship free and shops that offer free shipping on orders of $35 in the top, most visible rows of search. We’ll also begin to prioritize these items wherever Etsy advertises in the US—in email marketing, social media, and television ads.”

Why am I very unhappy with Etsy’s policy change? Consider that currently Etsy takes 3.5% off the top of the selling price (which does not including the shipping fee) of each sale I make – this is their fee, which is a fair commission for the service they provide. If I bundle my shipping fee into my product cost (which would almost double the selling price of my cards) and offer ‘free shipping,’ obviously Etsy will make a bigger commission on each of my sales. 

So Etsy wants to make more money off my sales – that’s not a crime, but this is the wrong way to do it. Right now when my customers are about to make a purchase they see exactly what I charge for my items and exactly what they’ll pay in postage, and that kind of transparency is ideal for seller/buyer relationships. I would prefer Etsy be honest and just increase its commission percentage instead of squeezing small artisanal businesses to behave like Amazon, with ‘Free Shipping” as one of their big selling points. Etsy’s brand has never been ‘discount rates’, it has been ‘unique and handcrafted items’ which most buyers accept usually comes with a shipping fee.

Many other Etsy sellers have complained about the difficulty of estimating how much to bundle into their prices, to accommodate selling fees that vary wildly across the US, depending on whether the buyer is in an easily accessible city or out in a rural delivery address. If you notice some Etsy prices jumping up soon, but offering “free shipping,” you’ll know they are bundling in the shipping cost to get a better location on their search pages.

With my narrow margins I can’t afford to absorb shipping costs for my cards. If I bundle my shipping into my product price, my prices will look absurdly high and I’ll certainly lose customers. And if I don’t, my products will be buried under lots of pages of ‘free shipping’ sellers. It’s a lose-lose for me and other sellers who like to be up-front with their customers.

Etsy really has been an excellent platform, but this change is really a step down for the buyer-customer relationship. For now I am keeping my AchillesPortfolio products and prices the same and customers can clearly see what their shipping cost will be before they click to finalize their order, though I might be more difficult to find on the site.

My Art at the CB Chamber Expo

I’m very pleased to say I have joined the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, a rousingly active organization of business people who are productively involved in every aspect of the Bucks County community. My good friend Debbie Wagner, who owns and runs the outstanding graphic design firm The Graphic Edge, described to me the CBCC’s great benefits to local business owners, and I felt it would enhance my work and connections to join.

Once a year the chamber hosts a business expo, and I welcome the chance to display my work and meet other business owners, so you will find me at my booth there. The CBCC Business Expo will be Tuesday, May 14, from 2 pm to 7 pm at the Student Center Exhibition Hall, Delaware Valley University. The University is at 700 E. Butler Avenue, Doylestown, PA. I designed the postcard below, featuring my illustration work, to hand out. The back has a few of my gag cartoons, and I’ve created a slideshow of my gag cartoons to run on my laptop throughout the expo.

In addition to meeting and learning about your local business owners, you can also enjoy some goodies from generous CBCC members, including Annie’s Water Ice, Tru-Brew Coffee and food from Applebee’s. Also, Fine Art Appraiser Lauren Travis will do free verbal approximations of value for a Fine or Decorative Art item from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Capping off the day will be the Chamber’s Largest Business Card Exchange of the Year – from 5 to 7 pm, in between networking with new colleagues, all can enjoy complimentary food courtesy of Chambers 19 Bistro & Bar with wine courtesy of Buckingham Valley Vineyards. Major event sponsors include Provident Bank, USI Affinity, My Benefit Advisor, NJM Insurance, and Delaware Valley University. This entire event is free and open to the public – I hope you stop by to see me!

Eagle Scout Thank You Notecards

When a Scout makes his Eagle rank and is celebrated with a Court of Honor, there are always some exceptional people to be thanked. The journey to Eagle is guided by Scoutmasters, parents, friends and others who inspire and encourage the Scout to accomplish the challenges needed to achieve Eagle rank.

For these special mentors in a Scout’s journey, several customers have asked me to produce smaller thank-you notes for Eagles to use. I have now listed these on my Etsy shop, AchillesPortfolio. My Eagle thank-you notecards come 20 to a pack and have my “Eagle Scout on a Hilltop” illustration on the front. To see my Etsy shop for further ordering details, click HERE.

I drew the artwork on this card when my son was in Scouts, because I was so impressed with these fine young men who achieved Scouting’s highest rank. I have these cards printed in full color on sturdy glossy card stock, invitation-size, which is 4.25″ wide and 5.5″ deep. No envelopes are included, but invitation-size envelopes that fit these perfectly are easily available at any office supply store like Staples. The card requires standard first-class postage. The cardstock is made from partially recycled paper and the cards are printed in the USA, and the cards are blank inside so a thank-you or other message can be written by the sender.

For special orders of quantity or size on these notecards please send your questions by clicking HERE to go to my Contact page.

St. Patrick’s Day Humor

Update: I recently deleted my Zazzle account – the company has instituted new policies that make it not worth-my-while anymore. For now, to purchase my St. Patrick’s Day humorous cards please just drop me a note on my Contact page and we can work out details of delivery & payment. If you want to know what Zazzle has done to make me quit it, see near the edit near the bottom of this article >>
https://achillesportfolio.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/for-artists-comparing-etsy-and-zazzle/

Over the years I’ve drawn three greeting cards for St. Patrick’s Day – two are funny, one is a sweet Irish scene, with a traditional Irish blessing inside. All are available at my Zazzle shop, and with Zazzle you can even personalize the message inside, if you’d like, to send your customized wishes.

If you want to send merry Irish wishes to friends, please take a look at my Zazzle products by clicking on any of the pictures below. (When you are on the Zazzle page, be sure to click on the little squares along the left hand side of the image, so you can see the inside message of each card; and if you want to add your own personal message, click on the blue “Customize” button to the right of the card image.)

St. Patrick's Day Wish: Irish Cottage Card

St. Patrick’s Day Wish: Irish Cottage Card
by AchillesPortfolio

St. Patrick's Day Humor: Driving Out the Snakes Card

St. Patrick’s Day Humor: Driving Out the Snakes Card
by AchillesPortfolio

St. Patrick's Day Humor: Pot of Mashed Potatoes Card

St. Patrick’s Day Humor: Pot of Mashed Potatoes Card
by AchillesPortfolio

Cartoon for a Business Greeting Card

I’ve been drawing cartoons related to Thanksgiving for a number of years for Proactive Performance, often about turkeys, sometimes Pilgrims, but always with some touch of business jargon involved. This past Thanksgiving was no exception, as I moved from the first quick sketch –

to a tighter version –

to the finished cartoon for the card, painted in the classic black and white New Yorker style. Inside the card, Proactive Performance President Jim Shute thanks his clients, associates and colleagues for their business and wishes them the best for the holidays. I always enjoy doing Jim’s card since it blends humor with its sincere goodwill.

Eagle Scout Congratulations

Every so often I remind my friends that I have created two illustrations that are quite popular as greeting cards for new Eagle Scouts. My son is an Eagle and he had such a great experience with the Boy Scouts, learning great practical skills and making good friends, while reinforcing the responsibility and morals that we tried to instill as he grew up.

I drew the whimsical Eagle Salute Congratulations card first, for a friend of my son’s who achieved the rank a few years before him. When my son made Eagle and had his Court of Honor alongside his best friend, I painted the Eagle Scout on a hilltop scene.

eagle8cards2

To see the inside card messages and other information about my cards click here to visit my Etsy shop, where you can purchase my Eagle Scout cards and other cards I have illustrated.

Business Birthday Card

Every year I am requested to illustrate a birthday card that Kohlhepp Investment Advisors sends to their clients on the client’s birthday. This year the idea of a hot air balloon ride was suggested, and as always I draw the five principals at Kohlhepp involved in the scene.

I started with a rough pencil sketch –

and when approved, tightened up the likenesses in another sketch

And penciled in a rough color sketch

before painting the finish, below, in acrylic washes on illustration board, with a charming birthday wish inside the card.