Local artist Elowyn Dickerson participated in the Etsy strike and recently made the decision to leave the platform after it denied her request to report someone for copyright infringement. She’s been selling her artwork since she was 14 and has operated her Etsy storefront for about five years. Photo contributed.

published on June 8, 2022 - 1:45 PM
Written by Associated Press

Makers — business owners who sell handmade products — are feeling pressure to produce more while paying increasing fees to the platforms they sell on. This “Amazon effect” is seeping into the business model for many small shops.

Consumers have grown used to Amazon’s speedy shipping times, quick checkout process and no-questions-asked returns. That mentality has trickled down to makers who eat these costs.

Etsy, an ecommerce platform for makers to sell handmade products, recently increased its fees to sellers from 3% to 5%, sparking outrage from makers who say their profit margins are slimmer because of it.

On April 11 a strike was called, and several Etsy virtual storefronts closed their shops in defiance of the changes.

Alana Little, owner of handmade jewelry company Make Pie Not War in Fresno, said Etsy encourages sellers to offer free shipping for orders over $35. While it’s not required, Little says that the search engine optimization will not show makers on the first page if they charge for shipping over $35.

“Basically, if you don’t do it, no one’s going to see you,” Little said.

The shipping fees come directly from makers’ pockets.

Little has operated her Etsy shop since 2007 and said the strike was a symptom of a bigger problem.

“Specifically, us makers — most of us are smaller. We have either no employees or we have just a couple. We’re being squeezed on every side,” Little said.

The shift in American consumerism has forced makers to compete with Amazon.

“People are wanting everything to be like Amazon  really fast turnaround. They want everything to be free,” she said.

The “customer is always right” mentality is also harmful to makers. Little said keeping up with social media algorithm changes is also the hard part of juggling a business. The algorithms decide when and where advertisements are seen, but the criteria can change on a whim.

Etsy’s raised rates were the cherry on top of increasing wages and hiring woes.

“I think it just sets people off who are already getting treated badly by customers and inflation is high. It’s just a lot for people,” Little said.

By the time she honors free shipping and pays for increased fees, profit margins shrink. Shipping prices are increasing, as well as her mailers and labels.

Elowyn Dickerson participated in the Etsy strike and recently made the decision to leave the platform after it denied Dickerson’s request to report someone for copyright infringement.

“Someone took my exact design and started selling it on their Etsy shop,” she said. “They charged a dollar less than I do, so they knew what I was doing and they tried to beat me at my own game.”

“I had to jump through a thousand hoops to report it and I got an email back from Etsy today saying that they rejected my report,” Dickerson added.

She said participating in the strike was worth it, even though selling her artwork adds up to almost half her income. She hopes there was a noticeable dip in Etsy’s revenue because of the strike.

She’s been selling her artwork since she was 14 years-old and has operated her Etsy storefront for about five years.

She remembers Etsy hosting many more handmade stores on its platform, but now some manufactured goods are marketed as handmade.

“As the years have gone by, I feel like Etsy’s turned into another Amazon type of platform,” Dickerson said.

After her copyright altercation, she’s considering moving her virtual storefront to Shopify, another ecommerce platform that can be plugged into the seller’s own website. It can also link directly from Instagram.

Makayla Godden uses Shopify for her hand-designed clothing. Her business, Mak Made It, was born during the summer of 2020 when she was hard-pressed to find a job. She started designing her own clothing line but never tried to sell via Etsy.

Although Amazon’s speedy shipping timelines have changed consumer expectations, she believes there’s a way to join in.

“I see it as an opportunity to kind of be like, ‘Okay, they’re literally taking over the world, so how do I get on this,’” Godden said.

She tries to ship as fast as possible, and customers can use Apple Pay on her Shopify, so completing purchases is simple.

Since 2020, her shop has grown exponentially, and an HBO costume designer reached out to get her clothing on its hit show, Mare of Easttown.

Lauren Lum, owner of FresLoCa, is an artist and jewelry designer. She started small and branched out to Etsy, but will also be moving her platform to her own website where customers can purchase her products via Shopify.

Shopify appealed to her because it takes a monthly fee versus getting her own profits taken on Etsy. She explained a time where her $80 Etsy order only made her $60 after fees were taken out.

“It really takes the joy out of the art,” Lum said.

She described feeling more like a machine on Etsy and looks forward to growing her craft on her own website.

“This new jump is going to be pretty exciting,” Lum said.


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