“Should I start my pottery business by selling my ceramics on Etsy® or similar marketplaces?”
Simple answer = No.
You should not start your pottery business by selling on a marketplace.
Well, let’s look at why people start selling on Etsy…
1) It’s a marketplace for creative things..
Yes and No…
(In our opinion)
What started out as a wonderful artist-focused marketplace has sadly turned into another Amazon style marketplace…
Great for big factories to sell cheap items.
What do you find when you search for “handmade pottery”?
Those heat changing mugs with cheap slogans on them?
How about if you search for necklaces?
Buy a Billion at a Time Plastic Beads? Fake Silver Pendants?
How about handmade t-shirts?
Nope – all Print on Demand.
2) It’s Easy.
Is it really though?
There’s loads of stuff to learn if you really want to sell on Etsy.
In fact, it can be so complicated to get your work seen on there, that you end up thinking you only have a chance with Adverts…
which is what they want you to do.
There are a ton of other really easy shopping platforms out there.
And the competition only gets better each and every year.
3) There are lots of people looking through the marketplace to sell to.
Ahh… The dream of “Free Traffic”.
Sure, there are lots of people looking through Etsy, Folksy, Amazon, eBay…
But just like the people walking though shops and galleries in real life – these people are not your target audience.
So what you end up seeing when searching for products is something like…
“White Mug. Good Mug. Amazing White Mug. Homemade White Mug.”
We’ve seen many good potters list their work on marketplaces like this.
If you’re wondering why they do that, it’s because they are trying to get their work seen by the people browsing the marketplace when they search for the same words.
Doesn’t really make you want to buy it though, right?
When you see things for sale like that, it decreases the value of the item.
Sure, you might get some traffic off Etsy, but if you are naming your products like this, you are not going to be able to charge much for your work, because it seems cheap.
You don’t see luxury brands selling on Etsy® doing the same, do you?
“Rolex watch. Good watch. Gold watch. Gold Cat Watch. Cat Watch”
The free traffic you get from is not good traffic.
And if you try to get the free traffic by stuffing your product descriptions and titles full with search words, then your sales will suffer.
You end up trying to get your work for the search engine and not for the customer. You’re trying to get your work seen by loads of people, but they are not your target audience. You might get seen more, but you’ll sell less.
4) It’s cheap.
Yes it’s cheap to list your items in the market place.
When you sell on a market place, then the main thing you are competing on is price.
That’s maybe not what you think, but to the customer browsing through Etsy®, all they see is prices stacked up next to each other.
They get conditioned to look at price before the product.
And then if they see your work, they ask themselves…
“Is this $150 mug 10 times better than the $15 mug?” … … “No”
So how can you expect to get them to purchase yours for $150?
If you’re selling to people in a market place…
then you will just compete with price.
And if you can only compete on price…
you’re always going to lose.
There’s always someone who’s going to sell cheaper than you.
You can’t win the race to the bottom.
Plus, what you save by listing your work on a marketplace, you are paying for with your lack of branding and premium pricing.
You can’t brand your work on Etsy.
Not only do these marketplaces make it impossible to brand your work, they actively promote other peoples products next to sours.
They just want to make money after all, so they don’t care if it’s your product they sell, or one from your competitors.
Now, sure, this affects sales, but it can also affect your self confidence.
You could quite easily end up thinking…
“No ones buying my work at $18… my work is rubbish…””Should I go cheaper?”
And if you do.. then you will probably start thinking…
“There is no way I’m going to be able to live off my ceramics when I’m only making $2 profit for every sale.”
And that’s not a great way to start your pottery career is it?
So why do so many potters start out selling on Etsy®?
The 5 Big problems:
- You’re selling in a market – with other vendors next to you & other vendors get promoted to people looking at your work.
- Online Marketplaces are overrun with cheap Factory-Made items, and Print-on-Demand or AliExpress stuff.
- To get people to see your work, you have to pack your product description with a ton of random search words – which makes your work look cheap and takes away sales.
- You can’t brand your shop, so it’s harder to charge more.
- They charge you money for every listing / sale…
How should you Sell your Ceramics Online?
If you want to really sell your ceramics for what they are worth, then you need to sell via your own branded store.
Your own branded online shop.
If you cannot rely on Market Traffic – you have to be working to bring people into your online shop anyway.
You probably have a simple Marketing Funnel setup anyway – in the form of sending people from your Instagram or Facebook pages to your Etsy® Store.
So you’re already doing the hard work.
You’re already finding potential customers and sending them to your shop.
So why send them to a Marketplace?
Think about it, which demands a higher price?
Pottery for sale in the market stall, or pottery in a branded high street shop?
It’s in the Branded High Street shop everyday.
Do you have more chance to sell your work when it’s the only thing on display, or when you have hundreds of other products lying next to and on top of your work?
You have more chance to sell when you have your own branded shop.
There are a lot of options to choose from when deciding on an online shopping platform.
I know, it can get overwhelming comparing all the options.
But remember, they only have to do one job.
Where should you sell online?
Well it’s really up to you, but we recommend the following:
Weebly for Potters
There are tons of platforms like Weebly out there. (Wix, Instapage, etc)
But Weebly is owned by Square, so you can also sell in-real-life too. Weebly started out as a website builder, and then expanded into online shops with the help of Square. It now comes with a beautiful Online Shop, that’s really easy to brand and setup.
Pros: Weebly is a Drag-and-Drop website builder that’s super easy to use. You can make beautiful pages & online shops.
Cons: It lacks certain features like full customization (e.g. easy ways to add custom fonts)
Shopify for Potters
Shopify is an eCommerce platform. It’s the big daddy of eCommerce, and tons of high profile big brands run their online shops through Shopify.
Pros: It’s clean. It’s professional. It’s great if you get lots of orders.
Cons: It has less options to add and customize pages, like a typical website. If you want any extra functionality, you’re looking at buying plugins that are sold with subscriptions ranging from $10 – $100 per month, per plugin.
WordPress & WooCommerce for Potters
If you want to truly brand your website yourself, you should consider setting up a WordPress website and linking in WooCommerce.
To keep things simple, we recommend pairing it with a page builder like BeaverBuilder or Divi.
Pros: It’s free (You just pay for hosting) You have full control over your website and online shop. There are loads of free plugins to customize everything you need. There are loads of free themes to make sure it looks beautiful.
Negatives: You can have too many options. You have to look after your website yourself and make updates every month. Can become quite technical.
Please. Please. Please… Stop selling on Marketplaces.
Take the time and setup a professional branded website and shop…
- You can make more sales,
- start charging more,
- and start to invest in your pottery business
Even if you are just starting out…
Even if you are just starting to make sales…
Start building up your own brand now.
And start selling on your own website.
We want you to be successful.
We want you to own a successful pottery business.
But we know that doing it all yourself can be overwhelming and complicated.
That’s why The Ceramic School are running an Online Marketing Workshop throughout July 2019.
It’s an intensive four-week online workshop, where we will take you by the hand, and show you exactly how to you make your own brand, your own website & online shop…
So you can start charging what you are worth.
Read about it here –> Online Marketing for Potters