Etsy Versus Independent eCommerce

A contact of mine through Catholic Creatives was asking about the pros and cons of using a service like Etsy versus using a independent eCommerce platform. What follows is a slightly-edited version of the email that I sent her.

Here is how I see things. I am going to break it down a bit more than just eCommerce v. Etsy because I can!

These are the options I see:

  1. Self-hosted eCommerce platform (powered by WordPress, etc)
  2. Platform with eCommerce features (Squarespace, Shopify, etc)
  3. Etsy (and similar “sell whatever” websites)

Self-hosted eCommerce


  • No rules about what/how you sell
  • Complete customization
  • No fees, other than payment platform costs


  • Relatively high overhead costs (website hosting, maintenance)
  • More work (or costs) to set up
  • Sometimes can be tricky (and/or expensive) to deal with things like taxes and shipping calculations
  • Difficult discovery process (how people find your website/store and products)

Platform with eCommerce features


  • Less overhead than something like WordPress, for both setup and maintenance
  • Many systems have built-in shipping and tax calculators
  • Reasonably customizable
  • Little-to-no rules about what can or cannot be sold


  • Difficult discovery process (how people find your website/store and products)
  • Fees can be higher than something like WordPress, as they might charge more per month or per sale



  • Very easy setup process for both the initial setup and for each product
  • Because of how searching for products works, people just browsing Etsy have a chance of discovering you themselves without you doing any work
  • Sales taxes (in the US and Canada at least) are handled automatically


  • More costly when it comes to per-sale costs. They have a $0.20 fee per new listing (which lasts three months) and take a percentage of the sales+shipping price as well.
  • Very little customization of how your shop looks
  • Different sites have different rules about what can be sold

There is one more option that I also explored, and that was sites that are like Etsy (in how you can discover products) but not only list things for sale, but also handle the production process, so you don't have to keep an inventory or produce products when they're ordered. I would group that in with the Etsy category above.

There are ways that you can do with with Etsy, combined with a third party service that does the production, as well. That is what I do!

For my own shop, which has a few shirts and apparel items with graphics I designed, I settled on Etsy. I picked Etsy because I didn’t want to do much marketing of my store (since it is really just a side project and I am not trying to get rich by it) and I knew that if I just added a store to my current website, the only people who would ever find it would be the existing visitors to my site. Etsy allowed me to keep things simple for my workload, without adding more work for myself when it comes to managing and maintaining the store. And the discovery features have been handy. 

I did not really get much business through the shop until a product I designed (a “neck gaiter” style mask) started getting random sales thanks to people searching for things. I've been pricing my products with a goal of 10% profit after all fees and production costs, and my current estimate is that I have made enough to fairly compensate myself for the time it took to design things but not the time to set up and run the shop... yet.