I am currently in the process of changing over my shop from Etsy to Bigcartel. After a year of being on Etsy, I'm less than satisfied with the platform for many reasons. I thought I would compare each platform that I have considered here as a resource for anyone who is thinking about opening a shop.
Etsy was the obvious choice for me when I was just starting out a year ago. I actually didn't research any other platforms at the time because I knew that Etsy was the place to be for beginning artists. I was right because Etsy has a built-in customer base that will stumble upon your shop and may become your customers. The added traffic to your shop is Etsy's one and only perk, in my opinion. Although they just added a feature of calculated shipping and an ability to print out shipping labels and pay for them through the site. I have yet to try either of these new features, but I could see them being a huge help especially because in the first year, I lost quite a bit of money on shipping because it's such a guessing and checking game. You will run into this problem with nearly any eCommerce site at this point because you have to set an average shipping rate for your products. After a lot of error, I set my shipping at $5.00 which is a bit on the higher side for most shops like mine. After I really started calculating everything that would go into a shipping cost, this was the appropriate cost for me. You need to consider everything from the cost of gas to drive to the post office to the price of the clear sleeve you're shipping in and the ribbon or whatever little packaging extras you have and then there is the actual cost of shipping the item. For me, that cost never goes below $3 with tracking, so I averaged my prints and cards to be around $5.00 but sometimes it's more and sometimes it's less.
Some aspects I don't like about Etsy is the conversation feature. According to Etsy, you're not supposed to let those conversations sit for more than 24 hours and I think that's ridiculous because then you are always expected to be in work mode because people will message you with any request at any time they feel and they pop up on your phone. I would much rather set aside a time to answer emails about inquiries on my own time when I'm in business mode. Another downside is you can't have a custom url if you have an etsy shop. You will have two urls that work to get to your shop. Mine look like this etsy.com/shop/queenikathleeni and queenikathleeni.etsy.com they are both way too long because of my shop name and they both have etsy in the url which I don't like. The thing I dislike most about Etsy is that is feels like I have an Etsy shop, regardless of how I organize my products. The shop will always look like their branding over mine and that doesn't feel right to me with the amount of money I have to pay them. For about the first year of being on Etsy, I paid extra for ads so I would show up in their search results and it was costing me so much money (anywhere from $25-40ish) every month that I just cancelled them. I figured that I could just work harder through my social media networks where I have established a customer base and see what happens.
Lastly, every time you put up a new listing on Etsy you pay .20 and you pay to renew an expired listing. Long story short, you're always paying on etsy and those fees add up quickly. There are so many shops on Etsy that I decided I wanted my own shop that looked like queenikathleeni and screamed my brand.
Squarespace and Bigcartel
When I was decided where to open up my new shop, I compared two main platforms I heard about Squarespace and Bigcartel. Both seemed like they would be a step up for me compared to Etsy. In the end, it came down to a small cost difference. I would recommend looking at both of these platforms, it just depends on what features are most important to you as a shop owner. Here is the price breakdown and options for big cartel and squarespace.
I originally was just trying to set up my qkcustom site separately and not until recently did I decide I would change my entire site over to big cartel. The main feature I wanted was a drop down menu that would allow you to "build your own" illustration and add aspects to your cart separately, something Etsy doesn't offer. I love a few features on each of these site options. Squarespace offers a free custom domain name which is a must. Bigcartel allows you to have a custom domain but you must purchase it through another site like iwantmyname.com. Squarespace allows you to have unlimited products when you upgrade to a business profile for $30 per month. Bigcartel, you can have 100 products listed for $20 a month, at their highest tier, you can have 300 products for a cost of $30. At this point, my shop doesn't have over 100 products so it was ten dollars cheaper at this point to go with big cartel. I know another artist on Bigcartel that has a very effective custom illustration site so I went with that. It is definitely a toss-up because at the business level of Squarespace they offer two features that could be really amazing for my growing business: calculated shipping, and a built-in accounting platform that keeps track of your tax liabilities. As I stated, either platform is a step up from Etsy because when you sell something, you get to keep all of the money from that sale. Besides the monthly fee, they do not take a cut, which I love. Artists don't make a lot of money to begin with so to have to pay these platforms a huge cut from every sold item, it's a huge disappointment. This week, I was working on adding some products over from Etsy to Bigcartel and I love the way it looks on my new site. It's so clean and there is no big cartel branding anywhere on the site. I tweeted at them to let them know that I was loving it and let me just say, they are on top of their game. If there is one thing I've learned through social media, it is if a brand doesn't pay attention to you, why should you invest your time and money into that brand? Bigcartel cares about their customers from what I can tell so far. Let's just say, Etsy never responded to me via social media ever. I am planning on slowly converting my shop over and having an overlapping period of time where I have both shops until my customers have started shopping on my big cartel shop.
I hope this helps those of you that are thinking about starting an eCommerce site. Please pass this along to anyone who you think could use it and I would love to hear your experience if you've used any of these platforms!