Squarespace or Etsy | Should You Create a Website or Use a Marketplace for Your Printable Shop?
Squarespace Or Etsy?
I chose Squarespace over Etsy for my online printable shop. In all honesty I don’t regret it either. For months I went back and forth deciding on whether to host my printable online shop using either Squarespace or Etsy.
I can not deny that Etsy is the hub for printable shops like my own. I mean, the competition is fierce and many womanpreneurs/mompreneurs own successful shops using the Etsy marketplace.
So, knowing where to get the most exposure for my printable products I decided to launch Printables by Nic on Etsy. This was nearly two years ago. I spent a lot of time uploading my products and writing tags so that my products could be found. But let me tell you it was short lived.
It wasn’t so much about playing the chess game that is required for shop owners to get found on Etsy. It was the lack of autonomy that forced me to make the difficult decision to close my Etsy shop and start over.
Having the added stress of knowing Etsy can change its policies like it has recently with the new Etsy Free Shipping debacle at the drop of a hat was unsettling. In addition, Etsy can close my shop for violating their terms even if I don’t believe I have and all my hard work would become undone.
My best option was to choose a platform that gave me the most autonomy without the fear of unjust policy changes and Squarespace won hands down. I’m sure some of you are asking why didn’t I choose Shopify instead? The short answer is that I’m selling instant download printables, not hundreds of physical products like clothes, housewares, jewelry etc. I wanted to keep things simple and Shopify didn’t fit my needs for my niche.
I plan to do a blog post in the future to answer the Shopify question in more depth, but I have additional reasons for choosing Squarespace.
Lastly, I’m not here to bash Etsy since the marketplace has served people well. But, I’m here to give you the 4-1-1 on why currently it’s a bit risky to launch your first printable shop using the Etsy market place.
Disclaimer: I am not receiving affiliate compensation for promoting Squarespace in this blog post. I am sharing an honest, unbiased review of the platform.
3 Reasons Squarespace is Great for Digital art Print Shops
1. Branding Flexibility
If you don’t know already branding is an integral part to running a successful business regardless of size. The most popular and timeless corporations can be recognized all over the world by mastering branding. So, why shouldn’t you?
Don’t underestimate the importance of branding just because you run a small, one woman shop. Heck, I do too, but if I want to scale my business and allow it to soar then I must put forth the effort to proclaim to others I exist and I take my business seriously.
It is easy to brand your printable shop with Squarespace because you have the opportunity to create a truly unique site that reflects your business values, products, and purpose. Unlike Etsy where all you are given is a page banner and profile pic, with Squarespace you can brand not only your entire store, but your site’s blog as well.
Although, Squarespace may not have hundreds of templates to chose from the templates it does offer are easy to make your own without coding to include utilizing easy plugins and the best part the templates are FREE!
Now if you are comfortable experimenting with coding all you have to do is search how to…on Squarespace and more often than not someone has figured it out. I’ve done this plenty of times when wanting to add individuality outside of the standard Squarespace templates. Good luck with doing that on Etsy.
Branding Outside of Website Design
In addition, branding goes beyond what your website looks aesthetically. What about your domain name on your business card? Does it entail an Etsy.com url slug or yourbusinessname.com?
This can make all the difference when a potential customer decides whether or not you run a legit/professional business based off your business card. Unfortunately, it’s a bias assumption that you can’t run a successful Etsy shop, but it’s called first impression and you only get one per potential customer so have your own registered domain name.
The great thing about Squarespace is that you don’t have to show the site badge in your footer or even acknowledge you built your site using the platform. The only people that would recognize you used a Squarespace template are those who are very familiar with those templates.
I personally have no qualms with showcasing I use Squarespace because I stand behind the platform, but you at least have a choice to or not to divulge that information. With Etsy you obviously have no choice in the matter.
Lastly, because you can add a shop blog directly to your Squarespace site, you are free to brand your writing style to fit your business. Whether you write candid posts, personal posts, informative posts, how to posts, or posts tailored to a specific niche, blogging is another way to let potential customers know your shop exists.
With Etsy you are forced to take people away from your shop to another platform that allows blogging. In doing so you can lose some of your branding cohesivenesses and potential customers during the transition.
2. It’s Cost Effective Long Term
Squarespace charges a monthly subscription fee and you can tailor your subscription based on the needs and scalability of your store. Initially, compared to Etsy it looks expensive with monthly subscriptions plans ranging from $18 for their Business plan up to $40 a month for their Advanced Commerce plans.
There is a 3% transaction fee for their Business plan, but for $8 more per month you can upgrade to their Commerce plan to avoid the fee all together and get added features. I personally use the Commerce plan and thus far it fits my needs. You can make an annual payment to save money if your budget allows.
Now this is where I believe Squarespace beats Etsy long term when it comes to fees. Squarespace allows you to sell unlimited products without charging a listing fee like Etsy. This may not be a big deal if your shop is small, but if you have hundreds of listed products Etsy’s fees will begin to add up especially when you take into account Etsy automatically charges you, when applicable:
Etsy Payment Fee: 3% + 0.25 USD
Shipping Fee: 5%
Currency Conversion Fee: 2.5%
Transaction Fee: $.20
Listing Fee: $.20
Auto Renew Sold Fee: $.20
Multi-quantity Fee: $.20
Private Listing Fee: $.20
Not Synced Square Use Fee: $.20
With the Commerce and Advanced Commerce plans you do not pay a Squarespace transaction fee, but rather the standard fixed Stripe and or PayPal fee of 2.9%+.30 per transaction USD.
Let’s say you average 20 transactions per day on Etsy and currently you are only having to pay the $.20 transaction fee. Etsy is charging you:
20 (number transactions) x $.20 (transaction fee) = $4.00 a day
$4.00 x 30 days = $120
That is $120 a month alone in Etsy transaction fees NOT including the payment processing fees and possible shipping fees. In addition, you have to pay a listing fee upfront for each of your products and an auto renew fee every 4 months.
When you compare spending $26 a month for Squarespace’s Commerce plan you can easily see the savings, especially if your products are digital and do not have to be shipped.
If you do decide to offer shipping for some of your digital art prints Squarespace recommends using ShipStation. Their monthly subscription for their Silver Plan which includes 1,500 shipments a month is $49 monthly. Still cheaper than Etsy overall.
Whether you sale 10 items or 100 items on Squarespace the platform only charges you $26 a month under the Commerce plan. It seems as though Etsy nickel and dimes its sellers.
Please take into consideration the price point of your products too. $120 a month may or may not hurt your bottom line, but regardless if you can save $94 a month why wouldn’t you?
3. Shop Competition Pros
Okay, I know this one is a heated topic especially in Etsy forums. It’s the “C” word, competition amongst Etsy sellers. If you believe that you will not be competing against other printable shop owners because your prints are under the Etsy marketplace umbrella you are mistaken. Competition is everywhere regardless of which platform you decide to sell on.
The Mind of a Potential Customer
Let me explain using Etsy first. When you are selling instant art print downloads on Etsy you are competing with hundreds if not thousands of other shops selling a variation of your product.
The moment you publicly list your printable on Etsy your printable is surrounded by other similar art prints. You hope to be at the top of the first page, but even then there are listings to the right and left of you as well as below you.
Those listings are your direct competitors and when a potential customer views that page naturally they will have the inclination to scan the entire page to see which listing best describes what they are specifically searching for and their price points. The best case scenario is that your printable image will entice them to click into your Etsy shop, where they will most likely browse around to see what else you have to offer and to read reviews.
But that’s not all. If they saw another printable elsewhere that peaked their curiosity the potential buyer may favor your item before exiting your shop then go back to the first page search result, browse the shop they also liked then favor one of their items too. Now before making a final decision the potential buyer will review and compare their favorites and from there decide which printable to place into their shopping cart.
This is what I do as as well when shopping on Etsy and Amazon. It actually makes sense. Every purchaser wants to make sure they will not have buyer’s remorse.
After explaining a customer’s thought process before making a purchasing decision it’s easy to say, well if I’m on Etsy I’m just competing with Etsy sellers, not Amazon and so forth.
Unfortunately, that is not true. Whether your shop is on Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, Squarespace, or eBay you are directly and indirectly competing with EVERYONE within your niche on the internet.
When you are searching for a specific printable your search engine is going to bring up shops that are and are not part of the Etsy marketplace. This is true even on Pinterest where a lot of Etsy shop owners pin their store items alongside Minted, Creative Market, and other marketplace sellers. This proves that there is competition outside of Etsy’s exclusive walls.
Website versus Marketplace
So, why should you open a Squarespace shop instead of using Etsy in regards to competition. The number one reason I can give you is that your Squarespace website will stand alone, to an extent.
In other words, when a potential customer browses your Squarespace shop they are not enticed to click on printables from another store because all the printables seen are your art prints.
There is no direct competition in your own shop. The competition exists outside of your shop whereas for Etsy sellers there is competition within the Etsy marketplace and outside of it. So there is your double threat. The same goes for having an Amazon shop. You are competing directly with other Amazon sellers and sellers outside of the Amazon platform.
Having your very own shop website minimizes the competition even if only by a small degree. At the end of the day that degree may be enough to get a sale. Isn’t that why you created your printable shop, to make sales?
Should You have two shops?
Creating Extra Work
This is a good question. Having two shops, one on Etsy and one on Squarespace can bring in more sales in theory. The problem is you are running two stores and having one is challenging enough.
Personally, as a wife, mother, Christian blogger, entrepreneur, and homemaker my time is precious. I have enough to juggle and don’t want to spread myself too thin so I choose to have one shop for my sanity.
SEO Ramifications For Running Two Shops
Also, you have to be careful not to have duplicate product descriptions. It’s not as simple as copying and pasting the same product descriptions onto both shops to save time. Google web crawlers can penalize you for this causing you to rank lower in the search engine results.
It’s important that although you may have the same products in both shops you’ll have to create original descriptions for each store to raise your SEO rankings. This is time consuming and more energy should be spent scaling your website to the point where profits are high enough having one store.
Which Shop Do Your Promote?
The other caveat is which shop do you promote more? If someone were to ask how to find your site do you lead them to Etsy or your website shop? If they purchase something will they remember your Etsy shop name or your website store name. These are important questions to ask yourself as a shop owner.
Launching a printable shop is suppose to be passive income, but if you’re running ragged operating two separate shops then what is the benefit?
The inevitable Etsy Exodus
Unpopular policy changes
Just scroll down to the bottom of an Etsy seller’s shop page where the shop’s links are located. You may see social media links, but more and more often you are seeing website links. Yes, links to the seller’s outside of Etsy shop website.
Initially, Etsy did not allow sellers to post links to outside shops because they did not want potential buyers leaving their (Etsy’s) marketplace. And I can 100% understand that. I wouldn’t want potential customer’s leaving my shop for another either.
This is where Etsy lost ground though. Etsy shop owners are now focusing more on their shop website than their Etsy shop. And for good reason. With the constant, unreasonable policy changes Etsy has recklessly encouraged sellers to utilize their exit plans. Sellers are shutting down shops and funneling Etsy buyers to their websites.
Etsy’s latest free shipping policy that bullies sellers into offering free shipping or their shops will not be promoted has caused such a stir it amazes me why people are still interested in opening an Etsy store. Maybe they are ill-informed.
Both sellers and buyers are boycotting the platform for their unethical free shipping policy. I wonder how the free shipping policy will impact the bottom line for printable shops who don’t have products to ship. Will they suffer not getting promoted in the Etsy search too? Most likely, yes.
Others have left or are planning to leave because the platform has allowed mass production from manufacturers to enter the marketplace drowning out true artisans.
And then there are the sellers who are tired of getting scammed by buyers who submit bogus dissatisfaction claims to Etsy against their shop. Let’s not forget how easy it is for unscrupulous people to steal designs from hardworking Etsy sellers. I mean Etsy is a treasure trove for such people.
With a mass Etsy exodus I understand why the company has recently turned to airing television commercials to promote their marketplace. In the past the vast majority of their marketing was through word of mouth and email campaigns. Just something to think about.
I saw Etsy’s once bright light dimming back in 2017 and I’m grateful I got out before it was too late.
Instead, for the last two years in between pregnancies and various moves, I focused on rebuilding the Printables by Nic brand you see today. I can run my shop without being micromanaged all while enjoying the new updates Squarespace has implemented to give my shop more flexibility.
Squarespace is a calm, drama free environment that allows entrepreneurs to flourish. People mind their business on this platform.
Creating a Printable Shop takes time
I enjoy using Squarespace because it’s an awesome platform for those who aren’t good with building websites. I’d be the first to admit that you can’t create a printable website in an hour despite what many advertisers say. A lot of work goes into it to include creating your printable products. I plan to write more about this process in future posts.
Launching an Etsy shop properly is time consuming too so you might as well reap all the benefits from your labor and launch your store website.
I truly feel bad for Etsy shop owners who have been around for 5+ years. The amount of relentless effort it takes to run a successful Etsy store only to come to a crossroad such as leaving the platform is unfathomable. One can only attempt to quantify the loss if these sellers shutdown their Etsy shop.
This is why I took the time to write and share this blog post. For anyone that is interested in opening a printable shop using the Etsy platform my sole purpose was to inform you that you have other options. Even if you go with another e-commerce platform like Weebly, Wix, Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. you’ll be better off using them than with Etsy in the long run.
To truly gain your total independence you must breakaway from marketplace platforms and Squarespace is a great place to start. There are definitely Etsy success stories and devout sellers, but I assure you that your shop website can be just as successful if not more if you stay focused, educate yourself on running a successful online printable business, and most of all have patience during the growing process.
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Please share in the comments your experience with Etsy as a seller and if you plan to leave the platform.