Etsy vs. Big Cartel: Which One is Best for You?

Since I joined Big Cartel and took most of my handmade jewelry off of Etsy, I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions that basically amount to “Which is better? Big Cartel or Etsy?” Now that I’ve had my website up at Big Cartel for a little over a month, I think I have enough information on both venues to compare them for you. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the pros and cons of Etsy.

Etsy Pros:

  • Marketing and Promotion
    • Aside from the storefront itself, Etsy offers a wealth of information on how to market yourself, how to take good product photos, how to write listings, and anything else you need to know. Etsy has put a lot of effort into teaching their customers how to market themselves to be successful. They have all kinds of tools and widgets that work in conjunction with social media, and have become a viable social media platform themselves.
    • On top of all of the tools they offer you to market yourself, Etsy also does a lot of promotion for individual shops, too. Etsy tweets shop listings and promotes them on Facebook, but that’s not all. They also promote shops on their front page, in the Etsy blog, in Etsy Finds emails, and they even do write-ups for featured sellers. If you’re new to selling online and you’re trying to build up a fan base, Etsy’s marketing and promotion tools are extremely useful.
  • Teaching You How to Network
    • Remember when I said that Etsy has become a viable social media platform? Etsy is huge on networking, and they want to make it easy for you to do the same. When I first opened my Etsy shop in 2008, I didn’t really understand networking and why it was important. Now, four years later, I have built a huge network of friends and acquaintances, the vast majority of whom I came in contact with through Etsy.
    • To help you network, Etsy provides forums, an activity feed (which is kind of like Facebook or Twitter, but without the ability to “Like” or leave comments), the Etsy convo system, and teams. Ah, teams! Glorious teams! I highly recommend that anyone with a shop on Etsy find themselves a team to join and be an active member. There are teams for just about anything. If you can’t find a team that suits you, make one! I am on two teams: EMC (Etsy Metal Clay), and the Etsy Metal Team. These teams, the friends I’ve made, and the exposure to other artists in my field have been invaluable to me. If there’s one thing I’m thankful to Etsy for, it’s for showing me the value of networking and teaching me how to do it.
  • Easy Search Feature
    • Etsy has a great search feature. You can narrow it down by vintage, handmade, supplies, people and shops, or even look for specific items in your favorites. Etsy’s search feature is great because it makes it really easy for your items to be found. If you use your tags and titles the way Etsy suggests is best, you’re bound to rank high in the searches. There’s even a syndicate feature which helps your items get found through Google searches.
  • Easy Set-Up
    • Setting up an Etsy shop is pretty easy. It really amounts to clicking this setting, filling in that box, and uploading a banner and an avatar. If you’re not sure how to make a banner and avatar, there are Etsy sellers who provide that service. You can have a new Etsy shop ready to start selling within an hour of signing up.
  • Inexpensive If You’re Just Starting Out
    • Etsy doesn’t charge monthly fees. There’s no fee to sign up and there’s no fee to cancel. This is perfect for someone brand new to the online selling scene. But that doesn’t mean Etsy is 100 percent free. So how much does Etsy charge? It’s pretty simple: $0.20 to create or renew a listing and 3.5% of each sale (excluding what you charge for shipping). That’s not too bad. Let’s say you list a $10 item and it sells. Your fee will be $0.20 for the listing and $0.35 for the sale, for a grand total fee of $0.55. It sure beats the $20 – $75 per month you can end up paying with some online venues that charge by the month.

Etsy Cons:

  • Limited Shop Customization Options
    • When I say limited, I mean that you can’t customize anything aside from your avatar and banner. If your art is dark and industrial, or masculine and earthy, you might not enjoy the teal and orange tones on your storefront. However, it seems to me that Etsy has made an effort to minimize these colors so they don’t clash with the shops.
  • Expensive If You’re Selling a Lot or Sell High-Priced Items
    • Remember when I said Etsy fees were inexpensive if you’re starting out? Well, if you’re pretty well established, renew listings frequently, and have a lot of sales or sell high-priced items, it can get pretty expensive. At some point, you’ll probably look at the price of a monthly fee website and realize that you’re paying more than that through Etsy.
  • Lots of Dos and Don’ts
    • All websites have their terms of service and guidelines they want you to follow. However, sometimes Etsy’s seem really restrictive. Read the dos and don’ts carefully. You might be breaking a rule and not even know it. There are things Etsy doesn’t want you to put in your title; no links to other websites that sell the same item in your listing; don’t abuse tags. The list goes on and on.
  • Lots of Work to Make a Listing
    • Listing items on Etsy takes a lot of time and effort. Because of the way the search feature works, you need to pay attention to the title you’re giving your item, otherwise it won’t easily be found in searches. Not only that, but there are a ton of settings and boxes to fill in. It’s better now than it used to be, but you still have to adjust several settings so your item shows in Etsy’s categories as well as your own. And then there are tags, also known as keywords.
    • Tags can be really helpful in getting your items found in search, but you’re only allowed a few. With so many changes to Etsy’s search feature, it can be hard to know which tags should be in the title, which tags should be left out, etc. Maybe it’s not that hard for everyone, but I always agonize over tags.
  • No Option for a Custom URL
    • No matter what, your Etsy shop will always be http://www.etsy.com/shop/yourshopname. In other words, there’s no option to pay a little extra to customize your URL so that it reads www.yourshopname.com. While this isn’t a big deal to a lot of people, it’s still something to consider.

Now let’s talk about Big Cartel. Maybe I’m starry-eyed over Big Cartel because I’m still new to it, but I happen to think it’s the bee’s knees. That’s not to say there are no cons, but the cons are really nothing you can’t work with, or even use to your advantage.

Big Cartel Pros:

  • Some Shop Promotion
    • Big Cartel does do some shop promotion. They do a featured store write-up on their blog, and a Featured Store Friday post that runs all week. The biggest way I’ve noticed they do promotion is in the form of the store directory. There are 12 categories in the directory. When you click one, you automatically see 15 store avatars. These rotate regularly, so there’s always something new. In the last month that I’ve had my website, I’ve been on the Big Cartel directory page twice that I know of, and I’ve gotten a good amount of views from it. I don’t remember the last time I was on Etsy’s front page.
    • When you click the ‘More’ button on any category, you will see the avatar for pages upon pages of websites. You can view them by most popular, last updated, and by name. It’s a pretty cool directory to browse.
  • Inexpensive if You’ve Got the Sales
    • If you’re doing a lot of sales, a Big Cartel shop is probably exactly what you want. They have four pricing options ranging from free to $29.99 a month, and that’s it. There are no additional fees. You do not pay to list an item, you don’t pay extra to use any of their features,  and you don’t pay a fee when something sells. As the plans go up in price, they offer features that the less expensive ones do not. Make sure you choose the one that’s right for you. When I first decided to sign up, I almost went for the most expensive one. At $29.99 a month, I would have been spending less than half what my monthly Etsy fees were! However, I decided to go with the next one down for now, just to try it out.
  • Store Customization
    • Even without HTML knowhow, you can make your website all yours. Currently, there are three templates to choose from, and you can change everything from the background to the font and even the product layout. Once I got my website set up the way I wanted it, I noticed a few things that I didn’t like in the template. For example, my info block—which includes links to my bio, store policies, etc.—was showing up at the very bottom of the sidebar, and I wanted it at the top. If I knew HTML, I would be able to customize that, too. Since I don’t, I thought I was stuck with it. However, after a visit to the help forums, I had an answer from admin telling me exactly how to change it! Now my info block is at the top, and I did it all by myself with HTML. I feel like such a big girl. I’ve also done several internet searches and learned how to do things like add Facebook ‘Like’ and Twitter ‘Follow’ buttons to my main page as well as each item, all through HTML. If you do know HTML, the possibilities are endless! There’s also a super cool preview feature for when you’re editing HTML, as well as some safety features to minimize the possibility of saving a messed up page due to an HTML error.
  • Inventory Tracking/Management and Stats
    • The inventory tracking feature tells you when you have items that are sold out. I like that you can make an item still show in your product list even if it’s sold out, or you can allow the website to oversell items. I like the inventory feature better than Etsy’s because it’s all on one page, whereas on Etsy you have to search around through a few pages to see and relist sold items.
    • The stats are gathered through Google Analytics. Once you set that up, you’ve got some basic stats right there on your personal dashboard.
  • Easy to List Items
    • Right off the bat, I loved how easy it was to list items on Big Cartel. You don’t have to mess with tags like you do in Etsy. It’s still very important that you know what keywords to use, but you can work them into the title and description, which is much easier for me than picking a long list of tags.
  • Custom URL
    • Because Big Cartel is a storefront/e-cart, you can have a custom URL. This option only comes with some of the packages, so if this is important to you, make sure you choose the right package.  If you don’t opt for the custom URL, your web address will be www.yourwebsitename.bigcartel.com.

Big Cartel Cons:

  • No Sold Items Info
    • On your Big Cartel dashboard, there’s a list of all of the sales you’ve made and when. But that’s it. If you want more info on these sales, you can click the link, but it takes you to the Paypal invoice. This isn’t too big of a deal, especially if you’re good at inventory tracking. If you’re not good at it, now’s the time to learn how to do it.
  • Stats are Different from Google Analytics
    • I’ve seen a huge difference between the stats reported on my Big Cartel dashboard and those on Google Analytics. Being that Big Cartel gets their data from Google Analytics, I’m not sure what the difference is here. Some have said that Big Cartel stats don’t filter out bots that hit your pages. For example, one day my dashboard reported that I’d received 224 page hits. However, Google Analytics told me  I only had 28 individual views, with 101 page hits.
    • One thing about the Big Cartel dashboard stats I do love, is that the it shows incoming links and any search terms that brought visitors to your website. Google also shows this, but it’s easier to find on the Big Cartel dashboard. If you see search term from a search engine, you can click that term and it takes you directly to the search. It’s pretty cool to see where your page comes up in a Google search!
  • Cannot Search all Big Cartel Stores for Specific Items
    • While the store directory on Big Cartel is pretty cool, it’s limited to searching for specific stores. You can’t search for products through the search feature.

Verdict

Both Big Cartel and Etsy have some great features. I don’t believe that one or the other is right for everyone. Look over my pros and cons for each and see which ones are the most important for you. My advice: if you’re new to online selling and you’re not sure how to market and network, Etsy is probably the right choice for you. If you know how to market, have a good network built up, and a professional online presence with a custom URL is important to you, Big Cartel is probably for you.

I hope I’ve answered a lot of your questions. If you have any others, please feel free to let me know!

~Jane

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25 responses to “Etsy vs. Big Cartel: Which One is Best for You?

  • Lou

    Great post! i need to work on my big cartel some more. i did read somewhere that big cartel updates their stats in real time which is why it shows different to analytics. The only thing i wondered about the directory was is it only big C users that know about it or the general public too?

  • Beth

    Thank you SO much for this! I’ve been on the verge of redoing my Big Cartel shop (since I opened it and have done nothing with it for years!). I definitely have fallen in to the “losing money every month” w/ all the fees and commissions I pay to Etsy. I’m so happy to hear you like Big Cartel so much.

  • Big Cartel (@bigcartel)

    Hi Jane, Matt from Big Cartel here. We just stumbled on this post and the team loved it. We’re so glad you chose to open up shop with us.

    To address your cons:

    * We definitely hear you on the orders / sold items stuff, and that’s an area we’re focusing on right now.

    * We don’t get our stats from GA, we actually track it ourselves, so there are a few differences to be expected. We talk about some of those in the “Notes about Google Analytics” section at: http://help.bigcartel.com/articles/42-google-analytics#notes

    * Thanks so much for your feedback on the directory. It was never really designed to be a shopping destination, merely a roster of Big Cartel stores for other stores to see. However, we’re always thinking of ways to improve it, while not trying to become a community marketplace like eBay or Etsy.

    Thanks again for the wonderful post. If you ever need anything else, we’re always happy to help. Just holler at us. 🙂

    • Jane Font

      Hi Matt! Thank you so much for your feedback, and I’ll make some updates based on it. Being that I’m still pretty new, I guess I kind of missed a few things, heh.

  • Diane

    Hi Jane, thanks for this post, I’m finally getting around to reading it. I’ve been thinking for awhile about signing up with them again (I did a few years ago with the intro free account, but didn’t get my act together to stock the store, so they eventually cancelled it). The one lingering question I’m left with is – – how are your sales there compared to Etsy? Has the volume dropped off at all?

    From Etsy’s stats page, it looks as if the vast majority of my views come from within Etsy, and I’m not sure if Big Cartel makes sense unless I’m doing a lot of my own marketing and directing buyers there, or, if I want to pay the monthly fee even if I have slow or no sales from it just to have a “real website” that hopefully will get more traffic at some point. Maybe it’s all about optimizing SEO and internet marketing, which is something I know very little about.

    Very curious to hear your thoughts on that, since it sounds like you already have an established customer base, and maybe they will all just come find you on Big Cartel, now. I do love the look of your shop site!

    • Jane Font

      Hi Diane! Yes, my sales have slowed a bit. I know most of my traffic was from Etsy, so that was to be expected. I just felt like I had outgrown Etsy, and it was time to move on. I’m still selling on both sites, I just don’t have the exposure like I did on Etsy. But I’m ok with that. I figured it was time to stop letting Etsy hold my hand and learn how to market myself. I get a good number of hits from my Facebook page, so I’m focusing on that and my blog now.

      I read something in Big Cartel that says they do all of the metadata work for you so now I’m working on SEO stuff. Thankfully, my awesome husband is a writer and does a lot of social media marketing for companies, so he’s able to help me out (hint hint. He’s available to help others out too! vincefont.com). I’ve actually had my website show up in Google searches quite a bit (much more than my Etsy shop ever did), so that’s really encouraging!

      • Diane

        Awesome, Jane, and I will definitely keep your husband in mind because I need help with that stuff. I don’t know if you caught my FB page mini-rant last night about my job dissatisfaction and wanting (rather desperately) to transition out of it and into the jewelry design and manufacturing full time or at least close to it. I thought better of it later and deleted it, but it was all true….. Once I grow my wings and get the courage to take the leap, I will definitely need the assistance of a few pros to help me look like one, too!

      • Jane Font

        Oh, I hope you get to do it!! I know the feeling. Although I wasn’t dissatisfied with my last job, I couldn’t wait to run out those doors to do this full-time! I really wasn’t very prepared for it though. I’ve been doing this full-time now since September, and I’m just NOW starting to realize that I have to learn how to market. It’s been really hard for me, and I find that I spend about 25% of my time making new designs, 25% filling orders, and 50% marketing and research. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. I thought I’d get up every morning and go work until my fingers were black. Good luck to you, and you know you can message me any time you like to rant about those things 🙂

  • Matt (Tonka Park Themes)

    Great Information for people looking at setting up shop. I always look at the comparison of shopping carts keeping in mind there are basically two types of shops. One is centered around community and the other is centered around your specific brand. I think ETSY and STORENVY and others offer the community aspect and do some of the marketing for you. But shops like BIG CARTEL and SHOPIFY allow you to create a unique brand and set yourself apart from the masses. But then you have to market yourself and work the social media like crazy to build a brand following.

    There is definitely something to be said about being on multiple platforms, it just creates a bit more work but then you have more of an audience to sell to.

    Thanks.

  • Amit

    Just found this…2 big things its lacking are
    – You mentioned about searching all the shops. As a consumer, when I want to find a custom product, right now I search on Ebay or Etsy and get the results. I really wish I could do the same thing on BigCartel. So as a user…a big NO NO.

    – I forgot to mention, before I go on Ebay and Etsy, I search on Google too…and almost every time I get the links for Etsy and sometimes of Ebay but very rarely for Big Cartel. Seems like their site and stores are not search engine optimized.

    • Jane Font

      Those are absolutely valid points, Amit. That’s why I mentioned that if you’re not very savvy at marketing, Big Cartel might not be the best option. Some people are crazy good at getting their name out there. If so, Etsy’s not going to add to that, and going off on their own is probably the move they want to make. I fell somewhere in the middle of being a good marketer and being a crappy one, that’s why I had both 😉

      Jane

  • Marnie Gaertner

    I am just reading this article now, almost 8 months late. But I just had to reply. I feel exactly the way you did about outgrowing etsy and wanting to move on. I have been on etsy since 2009 and had 2 really great years on there but it does feel restrictive. My biggest problem with etsy is that others on etsy steal your ideas, pictures and even use the exact wording from your listings. I feel like if I really want to make my brand grow I must move on. I recently found Bigcartel and have already set up the free (5 listing) shop just to get an idea of it and I must say I really like it. I am so glad you wrote this article because I know now that Bigcartel is right for me. I am really excited to branch off and make my way on my own~ Thank you so much for all the wonderful information.

    Marnie Gaertner

  • emily

    Jane,

    What are your thoughts on going both directions – Etsy AND BigCartel?? Too crazy?

    Emily

    • Jane Font

      Emily,

      I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you! I’ve kinda fallen off of the jewelry wagon in the last year. In fact, I closed both my Etsy and my Big Cartel because I just wasn’t making jewelry anymore. I don’t think there’s an issue with having both. In fact, I did have both. I think it’s probably best to get yourself out there however you can. That said, I’m starting to get back into making jewelry, and if I decide to sell online again, I’ll do it through Big Cartel and not Etsy. Etsy and I have grown apart over the years, so we decided to call it quits and go our separate ways.

      Good luck to you in whatever you decide to do!

      Jane

  • hwhat

    Etsy gives you a url of both etsy.com/shop/yourname or yourname.etsy.com…….Just fyi

  • Sze-er

    Thanks for the review!

    Great little article summing up the main differences between the two…
    As a vintage start-up eshop, I love that with Big Cartel I can show my branding and stand out, but with an Etsy shop, customers will be coming through the doors via the excellent community & search function.

    There’s definitely something out there for everyone.

    Thanks 🙂

  • Rachel Cox

    This was very helpful! Thank you so much for the break down now I know what is right for me and my new site to be.

  • Kyle

    Thanks for your efforts. It’s great to read about something someone has already experienced.

  • Ji

    Very informative and just what I needed to read. Thank you!

  • october moon

    Really helpful! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

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