Thursday, August 20, 2009

eBay vs Etsy - Which better serves the Artist?

So you've finally got enough artwork to want to try and sell some to others, you've finally braved that dangerous copyright void that is the net, and you've finally decided it's time to try out the e-market. It's almost a given that in trying to find a place to sell your work online, you've run into the names eBay and Etsy.

For those who haven't heard of them, here's a quick rundown of what they are:

eBay, The World Marketplace - eBay is the most popular auction style marketplace on the web. It offers you the ability to put up just about any kind of item you can think of for auction for a small listing fee. eBay serves international audiences as well, with several sister sites dedicated to specific countries.

Etsy - The Homemade Marketplace - Etsy is newer than eBay, but has grown in popularity recently due to the latest reports of success of its members. Unlike eBay, however, this online marketplace is dedicated to all things handmade (or suppliers of things to aid in the process of crafting things) and is not auction driven, but utilizes fixed price listings. As long as you have a credit card, you can sell on Etsy, no matter your country of origin. By handcrafted, I mean jewelry, artwork, sculpture, etc which are made by hand.

The Pros & Cons of Ebay

Personally, I only occasionally use eBay to auction off random original art, ACEO's (which are something of a fad on eBay right now), and ladder style commission auctions. I do not recommend the eBay Shop feature unless you are sure you can offload a high volume of art (see my eBay Shop review).

eBay has changed a lot since its inception. Nowadays, it's far easier to sell artwork than it used to be thanks to their new policies. Here are some things to think about if you're considering selling your art on eBay.


  • Cheap Listings & Image Features - The latest selling policies at eBay allow a seller to post five free listings a month. You only pay the final value fee IF your item sells. Also, you can add free gallery images to your listings in the art categories as well.

  • High Volume of Visitors - Being the world's largest online marketplace means you are naturally bound to get views on your auctions. You never know who's looking when. However, this is a double-edged sword (see Cons)

  • Cons

  • Payment Scams - Within the first few weeks of using eBay recently, I had an issue with people trying to scam others on eBay using my name and email (via the eBay messaging system) (these problems were solved, but still annoying). There's also a high amount of payment fraud going around involving checks and money orders, which eBay no longer allows as a payment method for the Art categories. You must have Paypal, Propay, or other payment methods set up in order to accept payment on Ebay.

  • Getting Lost in the Crowd - It's easy to get lost in the crowd unless you have exceptionally stand out work. Again, you never know who's looking, despite the high amount of competition. Someone might see your work and connect with it regardless of others which are up for sale.

  • The Pros & Cons of Etsy

    I have become a more avid user of Etsy, of late, due to its cheap listing fees and heartfelt community. When you buy something on Etsy, there's a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that each item was lovingly hand-crafted by an artist such as yourself. There's a great artist-to-artist atmosphere with an administration that really seems to care about what we think as users.

    Etsy has filled the void that I had when I closed my eBay Shop. I can post here without worrying about the next subscription fee that may or may not be covered by my sales. They're a relatively new site with a bright future ahead of them.


  • Cheap Listings & Advertisement - You don't get free listings like you do with eBay, but at 20 cents for a 3 month listing, the investment risk is minimal. I can maintain my entire shop's worth of necklaces and art for $10 or less every 3 months. Also, if I want added publicity, I only need to pay $7 for a Showcase that features my art at the front page browsing for the specific category I choose to showcase.

  • Fun Widgets - Etsy allows you to link from your websites and blogs with widgets that display thumbnails of your items in a nifty little bar. This doesn't seem like much to some, but the ability to cross-link is powerful! Especially when it's done in such an attractive way.

  • Cons

  • Low Capacity on Advertisement Slots - Nearly every time I've tried to buy a jewelry Showcase, the slots have been filled. It seems near impossible to buy a slot in some categories due to the low capacity of slots available.

  • Relatively Low Traffic - Compared to eBay, you're pandering to a much smaller niche audience of lower numbers. Most of the customers I've had on Etsy so far bought items because they already knew me from DeviantART, or randomly found me whilst searching Etsy for a gift or Halloween accessory. The amount of visitors here is lower, but again, you never know who is out there looking on the net! I am still building my presence on Etsy, as well.

  • Which One is Better?

    It all depends on what you want to sell. eBay has more viewers, but art (fantasy art in particular) does not sell well there currently unless you are selling it for less than $100. In some cases, art can sell for more, particularly for those who have already built up a following outside of eBay and believe their art is investment-grade (generally of the fine art genre).

    Etsy is a better solution for the artists who sell in smaller volumes and who want an audience who understands that their items are handcrafted and therefore aren't meant to be given away for a cheap price. Etsy is also more cost-effective for a storefront type of setting.

    In the end, why not use both? I plan to start utilizing my 5 free auctions a month to auction off original art just for the free publicity while still maintaining my Etsy and personal web shop as my main outlets.

    The key to art marketing and e-commerce is to combine your efforts to create the most effective results. I highly recommend trying both sites to see how they can work together for your art!

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