February 21st, 2015


The Etsy Criticism Machine (and no, I'm not closing my shop)

So this is going to make the rounds:

Wired.com: How Etsy Alienated Its Crafters and Lost Its Soul

I'm surprised this article got posted on wired, it's a very limited perspective, no data to back it up, and nothing about what etsy should be doing. Just about how it's wrong.

Her main complaint seems to be that etsy is "too big" which leads crafters to feel like they have to undercut prices to compete with the giant marketplace. So basically capitalism.

Last year I celebrated my 4000th Etsy sale. No, I am not quitting my day job, but it's been a fun past time and creative outlet to sell items on Etsy. I started out making zipper pouches, then realized the fabric I was designing for the zipper pouches sold even better, so now I sell fabric that I design. Ta-da.

Etsy has a nice forums area where sellers can talk to each other, and it's basically a pool of misery. Those of us who are selling are busy packing up our sales every night and making things. It's the sellers who aren't selling who go to the forums and feed off each other's anger. "I haven't sold anything all week!" "I haven't sold anything in TWO weeks!" "Nobody is selling anything! It must be..."


Usually, people with low sales are just trying to peddle stuff nobody wants to buy... bracelets that we could all make ourselves, redundant hair bows, letters wrapped in yarn... and no one is brave enough to be honest about it. So that's criticism #1: Etsy doesn't make magic sales unicorns descend upon every shop.

This is tied in with criticm #2: Etsy is too big, and allows too much stuff competing with *me*.

And everyone has their own line. When I started on Etsy, I was a bit surprised to see that 2D artists could sell prints in the "handmade" category. It made it hard for me to find original paintings and artwork. For some reason, everybody was okay with prints. But when Etsy changed their policies last year to say that just like an artist could use a printshop, a 3D artist could get a company to laser cut their art, people went nuts about Etsy allowing "manufacturers".

The truth is that you can read any seller's bio, find out just what part they play in the process of making stuff, and decide for yourself whether to buy.

Full disclosure: I personally am not growing my own cotton for this fabric I sell, kids.

Etsy is in a difficult place. They're a site for independent people who don't need big corporations... except they're a corporation. A store for people who hate stores. There's no better way to line yourself up for complaints and criticism. And they're negotiating tough lines... like the "what's handmade?" line.

It'll get even weirder when they go public, as they just announced an IPO... there will definitely be forum-mites saying that the sky is falling when Etsy has shareholders to worry about (and I can't blame them... shareholders actually are scary). But they're not even public yet! So 2014 was definitely not the year to lament the loss of etsy's soul!

I won't say Etsy is perfect. But I will say that when I visited their headquarters last year, saw the nice things they're doing for their community, for girls in technology, for the planet, I thought okay. I'm okay with paying these people 20 cents every time I list something up on their site. They're doing a pretty darn good job.