I’ll start this blog by saying that Etsy is an amazing platform, it can put you in front of millions of people across the world. You can list items pretty quickly and easily compared to some sites and you don’t have to wait to be approved to sell.
Etsy offers you some great guides on SEO and how their search function works. They have a great community forum of experienced sellers who can help you as well as numerous Facebook Groups.
But Etsy isn’t what it once was
In 2015, the same year I joined the platform, Etsy went public. This coincided with the launch of Handmade on Amazon and it found itself competing with eBay more and more. Etsy’s growth wasn’t as big as expected over the next couple of years and in 2017 they ousted their CEO and 8% of their staff.
This bought some major changes to Etsy and the appointment of a new CEO, Josh Silverman, a former eBay executive. The fee to sell was increased and more recently Etsy introduced automatic enrollment into its Offsite Ads. Over the last 3 years, there have been some major changes at Etsy and it has seen a lot of long term sellers leave. It’s been a major adjustment for sellers, many of whom were working at very tight margins trying to compete in this ever-growing world of handmade.
I liked Etsy though, and I still do, a little bit. It is still one of my biggest selling platforms but I am hoping that by the end of 2020, early 2021 this won’t be the case anymore.
I don’t trust Etsy anymore
On the 11th September 2020 at around 9 pm I logged onto Etsy to print off my orders to make that weekend. Just 3 weeks before I had handed in my resignation to my ‘day job’ ready to run my little business full time as of the 18th September, this was largely based on my Etsy sales. I was faced with the following message
I am very rarely left speechless, believe me, but I was in a state of shock. Reduced to tears in fact, which is even rarer.
I racked my brain trying to think about what I may have done wrong. I had received an infringement notice back in January 2020 and it was a silly cheeky mistake that I quickly rectified. I had double-checked my 200 or so other listings to make sure they were all OK. I was unable to see my listing as my store was suspended and when I typed my Etsy shop address into Google there was nothing. It was as if I never existed on Etsy.
I checked my emails, nothing there, despite the suspension notice telling me “all the details are in the email we’ve sent you”. I quickly jumped onto the Etsy help pages and searched the forums for info. It seemed, unfortunately, that this wasn’t uncommon. I quickly sent a support request via Etsy Help to ask what was happening. Due to Coronavirus Etsy had suspended its phone lines and live chat so all I could do was sit and wait for a reply.
To say it was the longest week of my life was an understatement. But I have some awesome online friends who kept me going and supported me massively. I was one of the luckier ones in this situation because
I had a website
With the help of Vicki Jakes of Hey Vicki Jakes I’ve spent the last year or so building my website, working on SEO, and dipping my toe into the world of Facebook Ads.
My website was starting to build momentum and it had generated more income than Etsy a few times although nothing consistent. I knew I needed to up my game if I wanted to replace the Etsy income. We worked on a strategy of getting more products onto the website ASAP and put all my savings into running a Christmas Pre-Order sale to generate some income. I employed someone to do my product descriptions to help even further with SEO.
I was relieved I had another place that I could drive traffic to. I had some messages through my Facebook page from Etsy customers looking for me and I was able to direct them to the website.
Finally a reply
A week later, almost to the minute, I received an email from Etsy legal. My Etsy shop had been closed due to “multiple notices of infringement about your shop, or a shop associated with you”. I was gobsmacked, I’d not received any emails about any infringements since that one back in January. I just didn’t know what to do. I immediately penned an appeal and fired it off to Etsy.
A week later when I checked to see if there was a reply to my appeal I found it had been closed without a response. It was so frustrating, especially as Etsy wrote an article about not shutting shops down without a right to appeal here only back in February. I resent the email asking for someone to look at my appeal and at least tell me what I had done wrong. I was more than happy to hold my hands up and walk away if I had done something wrong but the not knowing was so frustrating.
Another week passed… I was spotting a theme. The email I got back was much shorter than the first. Your shop is shut, nothing more you can do, don’t contact us again.
Seriously Etsy? A seller who has been with you for over 5 years, just passed 2500 sales, 300+ 5 star reviews, and no cases against them – ever. You just shut their shop without warning, ignore their appeal, and basically tell them go fuck themselves.
Excuse my language but now I was angry! Who do they think they are? I pay them a lot of money (nearly £2k in 2019) to sell with them. I accepted all the major changes they’d made, jumped through their new hoops, and was happily enrolled in Offsite Ads. And in return, they shut my shop without warning.
I didn’t know what to do next, I just needed to know why! I was pissed! A friend recommended I put in a Subject Access Request (SAR), asking for all details about any infringements received by Etsy about my shop since Jan 2020. Thankfully the ICO website has lots of info and a template you can use that helps with this. I dutifully sent it off to Etsy legal with a timescale of 30 days and focused on getting traffic through my website.
I also reactivated my Handmade on Amazon account and started adding listings, I was determined to get my products all over the internet! I was confident that I could replace the Etsy income. It is also going to cost me a bit more, I do factor marketing into my costs but Etsy is a relatively cheap platform for the number of people you can reach.
On the 9th October, a full 4 weeks since my shop was shut (and weirdly almost to the minute again) my shop was reinstated. I received an apology from Etsy. A computer glitch apparently. Nothing wrong with my store and if it happened again (OMG it could happen AGAIN???) to get in touch with them. It’s funny, now I’m actually writing this down, my shop wasn’t shut that long. But it felt like an age!
But it wasn’t over…
What about my Money?
When my shop was suspended my funds were frozen in case any customers opened a case, Etsy would (I assume) just refund them. You’d think that by reinstating my shop I’d be able to draw down the money in my account?
How wrong I was.
It was another 2 weeks before they finally allowed me to get my money. During that time I sent several emails to Etsy Legal and even managed to get hold of them on the phone (of course they couldn’t help me – “it’s with the legal team”). I made mention of compensation in my emails, perhaps some advertising credit for all the money I’d lost? Not only was I out of pocket from my usual revenue from Etsy but they had held my money, earning interest on it, for over 7 weeks.
But of course, they don’t offer compensation whilst a shop is suspended, despite it not being my fault and entirely theirs.
To say this was the final nail in the coffin for Etsy would be an understatement.
My Message to You
I’m guessing you’re here because you have an Etsy shop or are thinking of opening one. If you take anything away from this please let it be
Get yourself a website!
Your website you control, no one can just take it away from you (unless you don’t pay your bill of course). You can put whatever products you want on there, use any wording, and any images. You don’t have to conform to anyone else.
There are so many different platforms that you can build on and I go into more detail about places where you can sell your items in my blog here.
I would hate for this to happen to you.
But it appears to be quite common, many people I’ve spoken to haven’t been able to get their shops back. I consider myself lucky but I am also aware that this could easily happen again. And not just on Etsy, any sales platform that you use could shut your shop down without warning. As of 2019, there are more than 2.5 million sellers, so what difference does it make to Etsy if your shop goes?
Thank you for reading my story
I’d love to know what you think about this blog post. What are your thoughts on Etsy? Do you have your own website? If I can help at all then please do not hesitate to reach out.