You’ve been working your ass off, day in and day out. Putting in long hours to make your products, write product descriptions, take product photos and list your items on Etsy. Then learning about copywriting, SEO and photography so you can spend even more hours rewriting descriptions and taking more photos. I’m exhausted just thinking about all the work you’ve done. And don’t even get me started on the money you’ve spent—printers, shipping materials, equipment, training courses, the works. Add it all up and that is a lot of time and money you’ve invested in your Etsy shop. What if one day . . . it all disappeared? All that time and money gone out the window. That’s the risk you take when your business is completely dependent on Etsy. Making your business dependent on another company, like Etsy, eBay or Amazon, is called digital sharecropping. And it is bad news, friends.
Remember learning about sharecropping in school? Yeah, it’s been a while for me too. Here’s a quick refresher. Sharecropping was all the rage in the southern United States after the Civil War. Landowners allowed farmers to live and work on their land in exchange for profits from the crops. Sharecroppers were at the mercy of the landowner. If the landowner raised the rent, they had no choice but to pay the higher fees. If the landowner kicked them out, they had no other means to survive. The sharecropper does all the work, and the landowner gets most of the profits. And to make it worse, the landowner has all the control, so the sharecropper is stuck with whatever the landowner dishes out. When you rely solely on Etsy for your business, you are digital sharecropping. Etsy is the landowner. They give you an online shop, a piece of digital land. You are the sharecropper. You pay rent in the form of listing fees and commission. Etsy has control over your land, and you are stuck with whatever they dish out.
How Digital Sharecropping Can Hurt Your Business
My friend Suzie recently got an email from Etsy asking her to answer a lengthy questionnaire, and to submit an in-depth tutorial (with photos) explaining how she makes her jewelry. She was given five days to respond. Suzie’s mom was admitted to the hospital the day before she got Etsy’s email. She wasn’t able to compile the info in such a short timeframe. So she responded to Etsy, providing links to several existing tutorials on her blog, and explained she would provide the rest of the info in a few days when her mom got out of the hospital. Etsy closed her shop immediately. Suzie no longer had a way to make money from her jewelry business. She couldn’t even access the product descriptions and photos she had spent so many hours on. Sadly, Suzie isn’t the only person this has happened to. You’ve probably seen lots of stories about shops being closed by Etsy. There are other worries as well. What happens when Etsy raises their fees? What happens if Etsy is bought by another company? What if Etsy shuts down? These scenarios are totally possible. Just one decision made by Etsy, a decision you have no control over, can make or break your business.
Protect Yourself From Digital Sharecropping
It’s scary stuff! But there’s one thing you can do today to protect yourself from digital sharecropping—get a self-hosted website. Having a self-hosted website is the equivalent of buying your land instead of renting it. It gives you total control over your online home. It gives you a backup plan to ensure your business can survive, with or without Etsy. Ack, tech-speak! What does self-hosted mean? Every website needs web hosting. Web hosting stores all the articles and images for a website, and makes the website accessible online. Self-hosted means you have access to your website’s server, which is where the articles and images are stored. You control what programs are installed for your site, as well as your website content, design, back ups, email, etc. Free services like Blogger, Weebly and Wix are not self-hosted. They only give you limited control of your website. And, just like with Etsy, they can shut your site down at any time.
How To Get a Self-Hosted Website
Thanks to WordPress, you can make your own self-hosted website on the cheap. If you can use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, you can make a website with WordPress. For reals. Need help getting started with WordPress? That’s what I’m here for! What overwhelms and confuses you? What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments so I can help you out. Then head on over to Pixel Frau where you can learn how to register a domain name and get a free WordPress beginner’s guide.
Julia Sydnor – Pixel Frau
Julia Sydnor is the geeky gal behind Pixel Frau. She teaches Etsy sellers how to make kick-ass websites with WordPress. Want a website for your creative business? A website you can be proud of? A website that gets you more sales? Head on over to Pixel Frau to get started.