Thursday, January 16, 2014

I've been thinking lately about how I wanted to share my new experiences with Etsy. I just recently posted some things for sale, and made my first sale; giving me a chance to figure out how it all worked and really understand the benefits and drawbacks of using this form of online retail. YES, I am just now figuring all this out and NO, I didn't educate myself before I dove in. 

For one thing, it is incredibly easy to do. The accessibility is phenomenal without having to commit to a monthly membership fee (as in Big Cartel). 20¢ to post an item for a few months - chump change - very easy to hand over. What I didn't realize is that when you actually sell something, there's a transaction fee (88¢) and then another 20¢ to repost the item (if there are multiples available for sale). Ok, so now we're up to $1.28 -- a little bit more than that 20¢. 

Then it turns out PayPal takes a percentage of your transaction as well (if this is the form of payment you are using) and since they handle the money, they automatically take out their fee (2.9% + 30¢ per transaction). Once again, something I didn't educate myself on before-hand.

SO, I'll use my first actual sale as an example to where the profit margin is and how much a seller can actually earn.

I charge $25 for a print, and then you have to predict shipping costs, so I chose $4

My buyer pays $29 to PayPal. They take $1.14 so now there's $27.86 in the pot.

Etsy charges 20¢ + 88¢ for this item, so now we're at $26.78.

The actual item cost $8.08 to have printed, now it's $18.70.

Finally, shipping. I screwed myself here because of a couple reasons. I didn't have any shipping tubes so I paid a premium price for one at the post office ($2.49) and then, since it was right before Christmas, and I wasn't sure if this was a Christmas gift, I decided to ship it priority to make sure it got there in time. (ALSO, I feel like shipping Priority is the only way to ensure that the USPS won't fuck it up.) That cost $6.10. Chomp, chomp, eating right on through my profit.

My net profit was $10.11.

Yikes! Now, I'm not saying that I don't appreciate that $10 (and covering the $8.08 print cost), I guess that's a decent profit. It by no means pays me for the hours I spent creating the original art, or figuring out how to photograph it, editing it on the computer, sourcing a printing company, or committing to a large order out of my own pocket. And once I got over being mad about it, I understood that these companies are providing a service and they are justified in getting paid for it. I guess I was more shocked that this money that someone thinks is going to an independent artist is getting reduced to less than half their total payment. 

As I've gotten older, I've made a strong priority to support other artists, crafters, musicians, etc. as much as possible, and support the big companies as little as possible. Through this experience, I've come to the conclusion that to live up to this commitment, it means shopping in person with cash. Even Square takes a little to process a credit card. Convenient, yes, but a small reduction to the artist's profit over 50 transactions can really add up.

Shopping anyway you can where you are in direct contact with the seller is the greatest opportunity to support the talented people you admire, like buying CDs at a merch table instead of going to iTunes. Or going to craft fairs in your area. You could even contact local Etsy sellers, and ask to meet in person to make a sale. If they are committed to making a living with their skills, I promise they will show up.

SO, in conclusion, I've decided to step up my commitment in supporting other artists, by not only purchasing their goods, but considering how I choose to pay for these things. I applaud people to choose to shop at Etsy over other forms of retail but globalization can have its drawbacks. I say, 


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