Should I Sell Art On Etsy? These 5 Facts Will Help You Decide

By Catherine Jeltes in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Founded in 2005, Etsy has made many changes in the interest of growing their business—but recent changes have caused some artists to re-evaluate their use of the popular online platform.

Handmade ceramic mug painted in light blue on a potter's table

Here are some things to consider before adding—or keeping—Etsy as one of your art sales platform:

1. Etsy is known for frequent (& sudden) updates

Etsy makes changes to their platform ALL. THE. TIME.

Often these occur with little to no warning. As such, a portion of your time will always be spent learning and adapting to changes, from how your shop looks to how to navigate your seller dashboard, to changes with how your finances are organized.

You will have no say in these changes. If you hate constant change and/or hate having to spend more time away from creating art, Etsy may not be the platform for you.

2. Many items on Etsy are no longer artisan or handcrafted

In the beginning, Etsy’s brand was original art and handmade crafts and sellers were heavily curated to ensure items were all handcrafted and handmade.

As the platform has expanded, less attention has been given to ensure authentic, high-quality handmade items and Etsy’s marketplace is now flooded with sellers marketing lower-priced items that do not necessarily qualify as artisan handmade.

Many feel this practice has cheapened Etsy’s brand, and some artists may not like that their artwork will be listed beside non-art items.

3. Etsy promotes sellers who offer free shipping

Over the years, Etsy has adjusted their Search Feature and algorithms for how items are ranked in Search. The most recent change has been to rank items with free shipping (and shops that offer free shipping) higher in customer searches than those without.

Ety's free shipping banner, encouraging sellers to set up free shipping in a single click

If you are selling smaller-sized artwork, consistent in size and weight (think prints, photographs, etc) this practice may work well for you.

However, if you are selling large canvas paintings, pottery, custom furniture, etc, it may be challenging to accurately include your shipping costs into your price—simply because shipping charges fluctuate greatly according to item weight, size, destination, insurance fees, and freight costs.

To encourage sellers to lower shipping charges, a pop-up message will display when Etsy determines that charges are too high for an item:

Shipping warning on Etsy if your shipping fees are too high

Etsy does not factor in item size—only price point—when making this call. For example, a painting with a sale price of $130 will trigger that notification if the seller sets the shipping price higher than $10.25.

It’s easy to see why this doesn’t work. If I were to ship this painting from Missouri to California via USPS Priority Mail with insurance, it would cost $12.10 (almost $2 over their suggested amount).

This is especially important to note because. . .

4. Etsy takes a percentage of your shipping charges, too

In 2018, Etsy raised their fees from 3.5% of the sale price to 5%—AND started applying that fee to the item’s shipping charge as well.

Let’s say you sold a painting for $715.00 with a $35 shipping charge. In 2017, your Etsy fee would have been $25.22 (3.5% of $715). Now however, that same sale will cost a fee of $37.50 (5% of $750).

If you sold that same exact painting through your own website with PayPal, your fee would be only 2.9% of the sale price plus a .30 fixed fee. This would cost you a mere $22.05 in fees, leaving your full shipping charge for its purpose—shipping.

In short, if you sell a lot of art, or larger-format artwork, those extra Etsy fees can add up quickly. . . and you may prefer to sell through PayPal instead.

5. Etsy has great resources for seller protection

Shipsurance logo

Etsy has Shipsurance integrated directly into their platform. When you utilize Etsy’s shipping labels, you can easily purchase additional insurance—and all the paperwork and details of the sale (including the contact information of the buyer) is accessible in one place.

If you ship internationally, this is HUGE.

I had a custom order disappear in Australia. Thanks to insuring my shipment with Shipsurance, everything went smoothly. My client was reimbursed and I kept the original payment. Because of this experience, I refuse to ship original art internationally unless it is through Etsy.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to selling art on Etsy. While Etsy remains a part of my business, I have made changes that work for me—keeping just some of my eggs in Etsy’s basket.

Special thanks to Catherine Jeltes for sharing her insights into selling art on Etsy. To learn more about Catherine’s art, please check out her abstract flower art prints & paintings!


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