Etsy Strike & What It Really Means to Sell Online
So, here’s the issue… Anytime an artist uses a third party marketplace, they are going to lose control over many aspects of their business.
As a former brick-and-mortar store owner, a seasoned show artists, and an invited artist to Walt Disney World, I am not stranger to operation fees.
Etsy is a fabulous platform for makers that are testing the waters with products and for those that are not full time artists. I know many full time, large scale artists that are still selling on Etsy and it confuses me. They do a great business on that platform, but they always run the risk of customers not being theirs. Essentially they are like a mall store instead of a boutique.
In a mall store, a customer can browse all the stores and then make a purchase. Sure they may have their favorite stores, but they are pretty much unattached to any particular one and therefor shop with little meaning.
At a boutique, a customer becomes a valued part of the business. Often the rapport that builds between the customer and the boutique owner or staff leans into a friendliness that often blossoms into a full blown friendship. Thankfully I have so many of these!
So, Etsy. I still have an Etsy store although I do not advertise it. I use it as a way to funnel potential customers to my webshop at RachelleEason.com. At times, I have used it as an outlet store of sorts, putting the few remaining pieces of a collection in there while new collections get prominent retail space on my website.
As other artists and entrepreneurs can relate, I pay a ton to have my own website. The fees are astronomical. By the time I pay the monthly cart fees, the payment gateway fees, the credit card percentage fees, the platform fees, the monthly website fee, plus other fees, I am reeling. Add those fees to marketing fees, materials fees, operating expenses, studio expenses, shipping insurance and fees, and business taxes, plus so many other fees, I often question why I continue.
But I love what I do! Even more importantly, I hope that what I do makes an inspiring positive effect on my customers — friends. I started out as a teacher and that definitely wasn’t for the money. I don’t believe in the “starving artist” adage but I am definitely not one of those artists that is financially successful.
So I put my Etsy shop on Vacation Mode in solidarity with the more than 17,000 other shops on strike. But my real answer to the problem is this…
As artists we have to ban together to change the industry from the core problem.
- We need to educate our customers of the costs we entail to connect with them.
As an Invited Artist to Walt Disney World, I had many instances of guests trying to haggle prices with me until they realized that the price stickers on my work said Walt Disney World and they actually paid the Walt Disney World cast member for my art. They would haggle with me but not the mouse. Customers will haggle with independent artists but not corporations.
2. We need to raise the value of hand-crafted art on the emotional scale not just the dollar scale.
I used to have guests that said, “Why would I pay $100 for a journal when I can buy a $5 notebook at WalMart?” Well, that’s not the same thing, is it?
A hand-stitched journal of one-of-a-kind plant stains that were expertly designed by a seasoned artist to result in exquisite beauty is not anywhere close to a mass produced notebook; not in presence, not in purpose, not in any realm are they comparable.
And Pottery? Ditto for a potter’s mug versus a mug produced on a manufacturing line. The fact that each mug made by a potter carries the imprint of the maker, elevates the value of that mug beyond the level of a vessel for drinking. It is a piece of art.
Pottery is one of the oldest forms of art that has ever been found and has taught us about ancient civilizations. The mere fact of hand-made pottery being a relic is enough to demand a reasonable price for its quality, let alone the individual craftsmanship and personality that goes into each piece.
3. We need to hold each other in the art industry to higher standards.
We need to differentiate between crafters and artists. That sounds snobby and maybe it is, but it has to happen. It’s so easy for people to head to their local craft store, buy premade elements, stick them together, and call their finished piece art. Sorry, it’s not.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a place for that but really, let’s not pretend that anyone who knows math is an accountant, anyone who can debate a point is a lawyer, and anyone who can glue is an artist.
Can you tell I’ve had that discussion on the promenade at EPCOT also?
4. “Proprietary information” is a good response.
In this world of sharing everything via social media, there are not a lot of trade secrets out there and I think that is a shame. I am all for sharing and teaching. I spent many hours at Disney demonstrating for “edutainment” purposes. But in reality, I am a sole creator. I create best when I am by myself. I always have.
Yes, I have proprietary information. In my early Disney days I had to ask one of our location managers how to answer questions that pried too much into my technique. He was all about “proprietary information” as a reply. He said, “There are always secrets to keep when making your product solely yours. That’s the magic.”
I teach workshops and run in-person courses but never expect my demo samples to make the grade for my sales standards. If I end up selling them, it is because I put more work into them after the class demo. My proprietary information for both plant-stained papers and my pottery pieces is as much intuition as it is tangible. I’ve spent years, decades even, developing my styles, I am not going to hand over, nor could I really. Variables make a difference. My proprietary information stems from manipulating my specific set of variables into my magic.
I love how artists are showing more. I learn a lot from others too, but I honestly wish they didn’t show so much. Part of the amazing part of art is the intimate connection that artists have with their work. I find it incredibly challenging to have that intimate relationship with a camera filming over my shoulder or above my workspace.
When I watch other artists, I almost feel like I am intruding on their private time, their process. It’s mesmerizing, isn’t it? Like a fire that is hard to look away from.
Yes, the younger crowd feels like that is common place. They’ve grown up with a phone and camera in their hands and filming their every move is natural. But is it good?
Is it good for their art? Is it good for their art-making?
5. Accurate pricing.
This is such a hot topic in the groups I am in, but it comes down to this…you need to get paid for your work, the materials, your experience, and what it costs to put your work out there.
Not… “I just want to make some money so I can buy more materials.” Sorry, but you still should put your art out there at a price that reflects value. By not pricing your piece’s worth and your artist’s worth, you are diminishing the value of the art industry and we all pay for it.
Again, at Disney, I had guests that would tell me how they were artists too but they “give away” their pieces because it brings them so much joy.
That is great, but most of us have mortgages to pay and food to buy. It is our career choice. It is our job.
So again, I go back to Etsy and have my shop on Vacation Mode because I stand with the other artists in that the company has veered off their original mission, invited resellers who are not hand-crafters, and continue to make policies that are not in the best interest of the sellers or the customers. I am all for all companies making money, but sometimes companies get so big they lose sight of whose shoulders they stand on. The artists are Etsy’s success.
So, I ask you to find the websites of your favorite artists and shop from them directly. To steer folks away from Etsy this week, when you shop Plant-Stained Paper at https://RachelleEason.com you’ll enjoy a 15% discount automatically.
I appreciate my customers and I love that so many of them turn into friends. Let’s continue to put art out in the world and let’s elevate the meaning of hand-crafted goods beyond the ones padding the bottom line. Let’s see the artists making the beauty and adding their essence to each piece.
See mine at RachelleEason.com
Interested in finding out more about the Etsy Issue?
SIGN THE PETITION
*more info on the strike: