For several months now, I've been running high monthly bills at my Etsy shop. Why, do you ask, do I continue to sell there? Especially when there is a perception among some that Etsy is so contaminated by amateurs that everyone who sells there is tainted?
Right now, it is about economics. Does a move away from Etsy to a standalone site pencil out? No, it doesn't for me, and here's why.
It is darned expensive to set up a standalone site, if you want a good design and a reliable cart. The firms I've been checking out are $4000 - $6000 to set up a site. (Some also retain copyright and require you to pay a licensing fee to use their design work, which as a former communications consultant, I find absurd--this is a work-for-hire situation, and I should not be required to license work that I am already paying them to do.) I admit it, I'm a design snob, and I want a beautiful site, not something slapped together because I couldn't afford what I actually wanted.
Finding a cart whose software won't crash under a heavy load is no simple matter, either, if one's business is popular enough to need a server that can function under a crushing stampede of shoppers. I've noticed some well-known dyers use Shopify as their cart. Note their pricing: their cheapest option is $30/month plus a 2.0% transaction fee. At last month's sales level, which was my personal best to date, yes, I would have saved money. Other months, not so much.
Despite its problems (hello, resellers who undercut those who are truly making items by hand), Etsy really works well for my current situation. Their financial success is tied directly to their sellers' success (because they make money off of seller fees), so they have a powerful incentive to keep their site up and running. When there is downtime, they jump on it immediately and get it fixed, so top-notch technical support is included in my fees, and I don't have to nag them about it. The back end of the store is great--uploading listings is simple, the order history is well-organized and logical, and they even offer first-class international shipping at no charge other than postage.
Most importantly, the shoppers are there. If I took my shop off of Etsy, I would spend at least as much money on advertising to drive shoppers to my site. To say nothing of the design time that I would need to devote towards developing fresh ads. I am fortunate in that I have Adobe Creative Suite (the industry standard for graphic design) and know how to use it, and that I have experience with creative, copywriting, and ad buying. Even so, it takes me time to come up with a good ad and to design it--a minimum of two to three hours. Yes, I could outsource it, but even at an underpriced $50 design fee per ad, right there I am spending a substantial portion of my monthly Etsy bill.
I recently met someone whose mother sells on Etsy. In her biggest month this year, she spent $700 on Etsy fees. Steep? Oh, yes. But during that same time period, she had 10 sales on her standalone site.
When I hit 1000 sales on Etsy, I'll start looking at selling on my own more seriously. I think at that point, I'll be comfortable that I have a customer base that will follow me. For now, I'm happy to leave the admin side and much of the marketing to them, and focus on what I like to do best: dyeing.