My opinion on the Etsy controversy

As some of you may know, Etsy has recently announced a lot of changes, including that it is now going to allow sellers to use manufacturers to mass produce items they (the sellers) design. And the Etsy community is in an uproar.

These changes on Etsy are not a sudden thing. They have actually been a long time coming. Mass produced items were already all over Etsy when I started selling there. It’s just that in the past, it was supposedly against the rules, but when presented with obvious evidence, Etsy chose to ignore it. Now, these things are allowed in the rules.

Even Etsy employees are saying this now in a roundabout way – “The reality of the marketplace right now is that there are shops who are collectives, and there are shops who are using partial manufacturing assistance mixed next to solo sellers in the handmade category. You know this. This the landscape you’re already competing in. It’s the reality our complex policies created.”

(That same person – Kellan – also said “We also don’t expect all buyers to care. In fact we think most buyers aren’t savvy to the issues around handmade”. Let’s just put that one on the record for when it is edited away.)

So really, this changes nothing about the reality of Etsy. It does, however, change the public’s perception of Etsy, which can definitely hurt sellers – if people don’t trust the site, they won’t use it.

I feel that Etsy’s reasons for these new rules are bs and are going against the idea of handmade. If someone’s business has grown to the point that they are using manufacturers, if that is what they want to do – then they have outgrown Etsy. So why not move it off Etsy? They can keep their Etsy shop for the handmade things they actually make, and they can raise prices there quite a bit (think about how much Gucci fans would pay for something actually made by Guccio Gucci), and they would have less items there due to having less time (what with managing the manufacturing of their other items), but there’s no reason they can’t have an Etsy shop as well as a manufactured items shop elsewhere.

And while I understand that sometimes, manufactured items are still “handmade” (by multiple hands in a factory setting), that’s not what people coming to Etsy are looking for. IMO they are looking for homemade handmade items – items made by 1 person, or 1 person and their spouse or friend, in their house or garage or at most a craft shed they built on their property. I think that once you get to the point of hiring employees (which, let’s be honest, is markedly different than having partners, sharing a booth at a craft fair or in etsy language “collectively” having a craft business), you’ve grown beyond what people expect from Etsy.

I also understand that separating homemade would separate, for example, “traditional” artists sending art out to have prints made or items printed with their art. But as an artist, I would think that any artist would WANT that separation, to better explain why a mass produced, printed item can cost so much less than an item they handpainted at home or even printed at home. The only argument I can see for not wanting that separation is the desire to trick customers and sell mass produced “handmade” items at homemade-handmade prices. (And quite honestly, that is the only way I can imagine it being profitable to sell mass produced items on Etsy, due to Etsy’s fees, when there are so many cheaper ways to sell mass produced items.)

If someone truly wants a handmade-homemade item business, yet can’t keep up with orders… well personally what I would do in that situation is limit the number of orders I take, and anything beyond that, I’d direct to someone else that makes similar items. Some people are going to really want MY item and be willing to wait. Others will be content with that other person’s item. If I’ve got so many orders that my time is filled, obviously I have as much money as I need, so why not give someone else some orders too?

But I guess I’m odd in that I don’t see other handcrafters as competitors. In my mind we are on the same side, there will always be more people wanting things than we each have time to hand make, and only I can make items handmade by s0nicfreak. If you think about a craft fair, no one would come to a “craft fair” that was 1 person selling a bunch of manufactured items that they designed. People come to craft fairs because there are a bunch of different crafters, making things with their own two hands. And they’ve got the choice to buy from Joe, from Bob, or from both. So both Joe and Bob are going to say “Hey check out this craft fair next weekend” and there will be more customers for EVERYONE. More people that want to buy handmade items from the person that handmade them. Because if they just wanted a manufactured item they’d go to Target or Walmart or Amazon.

All that said, though – Personally, I’m not leaving Etsy right now. I don’t like the changes. I don’t agree with them. But I like the organization that Etsy provides. Knowing what is suppose to ship when and to whom, printing out postage to that person at the click of a button, knowing what has already shipped and tracking it right there, etc. Without Etsy I would have to do all this in a much more time-consuming way. My orders outside of Etsy have to be done in this way, so I know what it would entail. I’ve searched for another system that does all this and I have yet to find one.

However, I will be making an effort to make my site more of the focus, so that the site is the store and Etsy just the shopping cart. That’s going to come in the form of site redesigns and updates over the next few weeks/months. I’ll also be making non-Etsy options more clear – There’s always ways to contact and pay me if you don’t trust Etsy.

I am also trying to take more in-progress pics and update this site more about what I’m working on. You can rest assured that everything I sell as handmade is handmade by me in the USA (unless I someday win the lottery and am able to move to Japan – which probably won’t happen since I don’t play the lottery. But if it ever does, I’ll let you guys know.), in my home – or at the nearby park as I watch my kids play, or a few streets over as I want for a train to go by. When you buy something from me, part of that money goes toward more craft supplies, and the rest goes toward video games and paying for my family’s bills and food. There’s never going to be a manufacturer involved in my handmade business. On the off (very off) chance that I someday decide to start a business designing mass-produced toys, that will be a separate business – and it won’t be on Etsy.

Those of us that continue to buy on Etsy are going to need to be a little more diligent about buying from shops where we don’t know the seller. It’s going to require a lot more legwork that a lot of buyers aren’t going to bother with. That sucks for everyone, and imo defeats the whole purpose of Etsy.

But, oh well. Everything I am doing because of these changes are things I already planned to do eventually; the time frame has just been changed a bit. I’m just glad I decided to branch out when I did.

And that’s probably all I will say on the matter. I’ve got work to do – I don’t have a factory to do it for me.

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