The Many Times I Was Wrong

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I became a leader of the Etsy Strike movement on Monday, February 28 of 2022. At that point, we had about 140 people in a subreddit. It wasn’t much, but I was convinced we could use it to launch the Etsy Strike movement.

I was wrong.

You see, 140 people in a subreddit translates to about 5 randomly selected people seeing each post, thanks to how social media algorithms work.

No problem. We would adjust. We would work around the algorithm. I would let everyone know I would be sharing important updates at specific times. People would log on to check the subreddit at or soon after those specific times. It would cause the algorithm to see our posts as more important/more engaging, and show them to more people.

I was wrong.

People either didn’t understand what I was asking them to do, or we didn’t have enough people engaged enough to do what I asked. My posts continued to be seen by 5 randomly selected people.

No problem. We would adjust. Reddit wouldn’t work for organizing this movement after all. We needed a system in which we weren’t beholden to an algorithm. Discord would be the answer. I didn’t fully understand Discord. I had only been a user (and an occasional one at that) but I would figure out how to mod a server. I posted a call for help on Reddit — a Google form for people to fill out so I could add them to our Discord server, and once I figured out how, add “ranks” to them based on the skills they possessed that would allow me to ping people that could help with specific tasks. Discord would be the key to getting the ball rolling on this movement.

I was wrong.

The help form I had posted proceeded to get one (or less) signups each day. I sent each person the Discord server link, and waited for them to join. From March 1 until March 8, our Discord server contained exactly 4 people — myself, a non-Etsy-seller real-life friend of mine who had offered to help me figure out how to mod Discord, the original leader of r/EtsyStrike who had stepped back for health reasons, and one other person. This person helped a bit, by occasionally offering suggestions and comments when not “too busy”, and I was grateful for their presence. But Discord being Discord, I also could see exactly which video game they were playing at all times.

I’m not really a gamer myself. My kids are utterly obsessed with video games, however. Our favorite family-fun-time activity is a Minecraft realm that we play together. We call it “Minetopia.”

My youngest child is named JJ. He’s the JJ-est JJ of all the JJ’s. If you met him, you would understand his nickname right away. His primary purpose in life is to loudly declare his love and devotion for the whole entire world, all the people in it, all the animals in it, and especially all the video games in it. To say that he’s a happy-go-lucky child is an understatement.

He woke up sobbing one morning. It took a while to tease out of him what was wrong. He had had a nightmare. He was playing Minetopia and tried to use a game command to teleport to me, but when he teleported to me, I was gone.

“Mommy, will you ever play Minetopia with me again?”

I held my nine year old son, and I cried with him, and I tried to explain to him why this was so important.

“JJ,” I said, “You know how we want to own a house so badly? You know how we’ve been trying to save money for years and years, but the houses keep getting more and more expensive, and it’s so hard for us, and we don’t have enough money?”

“Yeah…”

“That happens because the world is controlled by huge corporations. And those huge corporations are controlled by people who have all the money in the world, but they don’t want to share. They would rather keep all that money for themselves, rather than letting people like Mommy and Daddy earn enough to be able to afford things like houses. It’s this horrible situation that’s so much bigger than Minetopia, so much bigger than you and me.

“I want to play Minetopia with you. I would so much rather be doing that than trying to run the Etsy strike! But Etsy is the corporation Mommy is dependent on — the money we’ve been using to save for that house we all want so much.

“I know it’s really hard to understand, and I’m so sorry Mommy isn’t there for you right now. I have to do this. In a way, I’m doing it for you. I want to spend time with you more than anything, but I also want to be the type of person you’ll look up to. It’s so rare for ordinary people like you and me to have a chance to fight back against the forces that control our lives.

“I want to teach you to fight back. Any chance you get. Do you understand?”

From that moment on, I had a nine-year-old cheerleader in my youngest child. He told his friends at school about the Etsy Strike, and he kept coming up with video-game-related ideas that he was convinced would help us promote it. It was adorable.

I shared that conversation with JJ because those things I told him were the exact reason I didn’t quit in the early days, when the whole thing seemed utterly hopeless.

I was in the right place at the right time, and I had the skills we needed to get the ball rolling on the movement. I knew I was facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try to forge some change in the world.

If I could only figure out how to attract a few more people to help.

Want To Know My Secret?

Photo by Thomas Kolnowski on Unsplash

I have two kids. Both boys. They’re adorably sweet little angels, for the most part, with phases of rambunctiousness when appropriate. Both have been diagnosed autistic.

My oldest is on the more non-verbal end of the spectrum. At school, he is in a special education program, and has an aide assigned to him, to keep him on task throughout the day. My youngest is completely (unrelentingly) verbal, on the opposite end of the spectrum. He has 3 different specialists that work with him different times of the week, and is integrated with the rest of his grade at school most of the time.

I say this, because I want you to know that the Etsy Strike project isn’t the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to do. That honor goes to virtual school. Neither of my kids could do their work unattended. Every teacher and specialist wanted to use a different app to connect with them remotely, none of which I was familiar with. It was pandemonium.

I knew that if I completely ignored my business, it would die, and I would lose the thing that’s the deepest part of who I am as a person. I am an artist. I will never separate myself from that fact. 

But caring for my children had suddenly turned from nearly a full-day’s work of cooking meals and cleaning, to well over a full-day’s work of virtual teaching assistant, plus everything else.

If I failed at my new unplanned job of virtual teaching assistant, I’d be failing my children. If I failed to keep up momentum in my business during that time, I’d be failing the deepest part of myself.

I could not fail.

I spent a few days just going crazy. Trying to do everything, and taking hysterical-cry-session breaks when appropriate. Eventually, however, I had a realization. 

Every task I undertake in my business and in my life requires one of two things: my hands, or my brain. Rarely, however, do any of these tasks require engaging both at once.

From that point on, both my hands and my brain would be engaged at once, at all times. No more sitting in front of my computer thinking of what to type next, or what to do next. No cooking or cleaning or sewing while my brain is inactive due to carrying out repetitive tasks.

Right now, for instance, as I’m writing this blog post, I’ve baked two loaves of banana bread, and I’ve done a rack of dishes. It’s fun not having a dishwasher, when you cook all your meals from scratch. But I manage.

For more than a year, I leveraged every skill I possess to try to become two people. I didn’t figure out how to clone myself over the pandemic, but I came pretty damn close.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. I did it like a champ. My kids both went back to school having lost no ground grade-wise and IEP-wise over the pandemic. My oldest’s teacher told me that my son was the only kid in her class for whom that was true. In my business, I focused solely on social media, since Etsy has been not-that-great as of late. My sales dropped drastically, but I continued to gain followers on all platforms, which was my exact goal during the time, as I didn’t have time to ship and create so much anyway.

I’ve been asked a few times since starting this project, “How on earth do you keep up with everything you’ve been doing?”

That’s it. That’s my secret. They say it’s impossible for human beings to truly multitask. I beg to differ.

It’s my own special version of burning the candle at both ends. I can’t keep it up for too terribly long, but I can do it for a little while.

I would do it again now.

Because it isn’t fucking right for a giant unaccountable corporation to screw over a bunch of artists and small business owners in the name of bigger profits.

The Reddit Post That Started it All

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

Online communities dedicated to peer support for Etsy Sellers are not supportive spaces. At least, not if you’re having problems with Etsy. I hang out in the Reddit communities r/Etsy and r/EtsySellers from time to time. If I see something people need that no one has responded to, I comment. But I don’t post. At least, never to complain about Etsy. 

I know better.

I broke that rule early in the morning on February 25th, 2022. I had just finished reading the email that made most Etsy sellers lose it. I had lost it. And I really wondered if anyone else felt the same way.

Here is the post that started it all — at least, my involvement in the strike.

Originally the last line wasn’t there. I added that in response to a comment telling me about the Etsy Strike project, in its infancy at that point.

The mods of r/EtsySellers were shutting down all posts about the fee increase and redirecting them into a megathread. For some reason mine didn’t get shut down — possibly because I barely mentioned the fee increase.

I was talking about everything else Etsy had done to hurt our businesses over time. Really, the fee increase was just the final straw.

I honestly expected people to be rude or argumentative on my post, like they are with so many others. 

Instead, I mostly got resounding agreement. Other people, not just me, wanted to engage in some kind of collective action to stop Etsy from continuing to destroy our livelihoods.

That weekend, about 100 people gathered in r/EtsyStrike to try to figure out how to plan a strike. It was really slow going, because we had no idea what we were doing.

No plan, no petition, and no clue really, how to move forward.

We are artists and crafters, not activists.

The early part was the hardest part. I still don’t know how I managed. I was the only one who had both the skills and the time to put into the project. Running an Etsy shop is often a fulltime job with a bunch of unpaid overtime.

For the first time in my life, I was grateful to still be living in this shitty apartment that’s about 4 sizes too small for my family. I was grateful to have the time to be able to just donate to the project, with no need to worry about income loss, since my income is the money we’ve been saving for a house.

The housing market is awful where my family lives. Houses that went for 200 and something thousand just a couple to three years ago are being sold for 400 and something thousand today. If we tried to buy a house right now, I feel like we would lose our shirts.

I could put my life on hold. I could throw myself into this project. I could see where it went.

So that is what I decided to do.

The Email That Made Us Lose It

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Etsy sellers don’t trust Etsy anymore. We don’t believe the platform cares about us. We don’t believe they want what’s in our best interest. We’re there, not because we like to be, but because we’re stuck.

When people want something handmade, they go to Etsy. We know that. Etsy is the game we have to play, because they’re the only game in town.

On February 24, 2022, Etsy sent their sellers this email. We didn’t take it very well. 

In fact, here is a translation. The words of the email. Followed by what I heard in my head when I read it.

Dear Seller Community,

 At Etsy, we’re focused on building a marketplace that allows sellers like you to turn your creativity and passions into real, money-making businesses. 

Hi.

We love the money we take from you each month so much. We want that to grow, as we find more, and more, and more, and more, and more of you!

Last year, active sellers increased their sales by 23% on average compared to 2019, and in 2021 alone, we showed more than 90 million active buyers worldwide that there’s an alternative to big-box, automated shopping.

By the way — active sellers did well in 2021. If your business did poorly, it’s probably your fault.

Together, we’ve made Etsy the global marketplace for unique and creative goods.

But we’re a team! A team! And it’s just so great to have you with us.

We plan to make significant investments in marketing, seller tools, and creating a world-class customer experience so we can continue this tremendous growth. To support this goal, on April 11 we will increase our current 5% transaction fee to 6.5%.

Wow. What a great pandemic it’s been for us! We grew so much, and it was so nice, and we want it to continue! We’re already squeezing a lot out of you, but we’re pretty sure there’s an extra drop in there somewhere, and we plan to find it! Isn’t that wonderful?

This change will allow us to make improvements in three key areas: 

Bringing more buyers to Etsy: Last year, we spent nearly $600 million on marketing. This year we’ll be investing even more, including on TV commercials, influencers and tastemakers, billboards, podcast advertising, and email marketing that bring new buyers to Etsy.

We’re bringing you buyers! Buyers! Aren’t you excited? Wait, you aren’t? Oh, you think those buyers will be more interested in the mass-produced junk we’ve been allowing onto the platform? We have no idea what you’re talking about!

The support you need: We’ll grow our support team by more than 20% this year so you can get help more quickly and easily, including faster email responses, expanded access to live chat, and prioritization of your most urgent requests.

What’s that? Oh, you’re saying you have no support at all — and 20% of zero isn’t that great of a number? Sorry, but we’re putting our fingers in our ears now! We won’t hear anything else you say. Yes, 20% more support, just for you. Aren’t we awesome?

Keeping Etsy unique: We’ll build on last year’s roughly $40 million investment in the teams and technology that help make our marketplace a safe and secure destination for handmade, vintage, and special items. This year we’ll expand our efforts to remove listings that don’t meet our policies and help you resolve issues with buyers.

We can’t admit that our platform is flooded with sweatshop-produced products in the first place. But you can totally trust us to crack down on them. Because we say so.

These are some of the great things we’ll invest in to keep Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace. We don’t take fee changes lightly, and we believe that these investments will enable Etsy, and our seller community, to continue to grow.

Yes, there are other mysterious things we plan to do with your money. They have to do with growth. We won’t actually mention them in the email. Please, focus on the earlier parts. It’ll all be good. You can trust us!

Thank you for making Etsy a one-of-a-kind marketplace.

It was followed up by a smiling photo of Josh Silverman, Etsy’s CEO. 

Josh Silverman. The guy who got on the board back in 2016. In 2017 he ousted the CEO who actually gave a shit about us, laid off a ton of Etsy employees, dropped Etsy’s Public Benefit Corp certification like a hot potato, and then, proceeded to make all the changes that I have been describing in this series.

That smug, self-satisfied, completely tone-deaf email was the final straw for me.

Etsy’s Star Seller Dumpster Fire

Remember that time in mid 2021 when we kept seeing photos like this out of California?

Photo by Ross Stone on Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but it felt like the harbinger of the apocalypse to me.

It was right in the height of the worst of the fires that I got an email from Etsy letting me know about yet another change to the platform.

I was excited — for a little bit. At first glance, it seemed like they might finally be answering our prayers.

You see, Etsy has this reseller problem. We don’t mean vintage sellers, or people outsourcing production of things they’ve at least designed themselves. We mean people that buy things made in sweatshops, and pass them off as handmade to unsuspecting buyers.

It’s horrible for us. Imagine handcrafting all of your items, and having to compete in prices with a bunch of liars pretending factory-produced products are handmade.

It’s horrible for the platform. The subreddit r/Etsy is full of reports from buyers who feel like fools after being tricked by one of these sellers.

Those people don’t come back to Etsy again. That hurts all of us.

We’ve been trying to get Etsy to enforce their own terms for years now, but the problem just keeps getting worse and worse. It was featured in a BBC Watchdog special recently. BBC did addend that Etsy removed those resellers after the show came out.

But I’d like to addend, if it takes a BBC Watchdog special to get 4 resellers removed from the platform, we are in trouble!

At first glance, the Star Seller Program looked like a way to help legit handmade shops and unique vintage shops shine. It said it would highlight great customer service, and my customer service is utterly stellar.

Then I looked into how it actually works.

The Star Seller Program is a dumpster fire.

You’re judged on three metrics to qualify. First, star ratings. You need 95% 5 star ratings in your shop. Eighteen out of nineteen 5 star ratings, and you’ll qualify. 

But. 

If you receive a glowing 4 star review, it counts the same against your total as a one star review.

The second metric you’re judged on is message response rate. You must respond to 95% of all messages within 24 hours. There is no way to set off-hours on the weekend, and have that 24 hour counter start when you return on Monday. If you want a weekend off, you have to set an automated reply. I hate to do that. Autoreplies are so impersonal and robotic.

The way the program is designed, you could just set an auto reply, keep renewing it, never respond to any messages, and still qualify.

The third metric you’re judged on is on-time shipping and tracking. You must ship 95% of your orders on time, and with tracking. For many sellers, that means no more shipping stickers and tiny letter-class items cheaply. And can you see how that requirement would be a distinct advantage to anyone who doesn’t offer made-to-order items, and a distinct disadvantage to those who do?

The Star Seller program was announced on July 28, 2021, and would go live on September 1st. We had a little over a month to prepare for a program in which we would be judged for our last three months of activity.

I couldn’t qualify for it until November 1st. My shop, with thousands of customers regularly telling me things like I’m their “fairy hatmother” and that they felt the most beautiful they ever felt in their life while wearing my designs, could not qualify.

This happened because of aspects of my shop that are unique to handmade sellers who make items to order.

The star ratings I qualified for, no problem. Over a thousand ratings in the life of my shop. I’ve never received lower than a 4 star, and I can count 4 stars on one hand, and have fingers left over.

My message response rate was abysmal. Around 60% I believe. Part of this is because my customers often find me on the weekend and I respond on Monday. Another part of this is because of the way the Etsy platform is designed. I make a lot of things that match each other.

For instance, just in the photos above: fascinator, hat, red overskirt, black lace underskirt, bustle petticoat, garter shorts (holding up the stockings at left), stockings (I make those by upcycling tights so that they come in plus sizes), shrug, and gloves.

On every listing on Etsy, there is a nice big “message” button to contact the seller. Anytime someone pushes this button, a new message thread will open. It’s common for someone to get so excited about discovering my items, that they open up to 6 message threads asking me questions about different things.

Before the Star Seller Program, I would just respond to all 6 questions in a single message thread. After the Star Seller Program, I guess I’m supposed to respond to all of them individually?

“Hi! I’ve responded to your message elsewhere. Thanks!”

“Hi! I’ve responded elsewhere, sorry to spam you. Thanks!”

“Hi! I’ve responded elsewhere, I’m really sorry, Etsy forces me to do this.”

“Hi! I’ve responded elsewhere, and I promise I’m not a robot. Could someone please send that memo to Etsy?”

“Hi, I’m so sorry. I should just give up on being a Star Seller on the Etsy platform, since it forces me to do things like this…”

No, I haven’t done anything like that. I’ve been silent about all these changes, except to friends and family. I don’t know why, but I thought my customers wouldn’t support me if I spoke out. I’m so grateful to have been so wrong about that.

The first time it happened after the Star Seller announcement, I clicked the button to sort all those additional messages into spam. I needed a way to mark messages as “not needing a response” and from my research, it seemed like the spam folder would work that way.

Then I felt horribly guilty, because it wasn’t spam, it was beautiful excited messages from a beautiful excited person who was happy to have found me.

And I’m still not sure if that customer was notified when I did that. I thought they weren’t, but I also haven’t been able to find definitive info on the subject. That haunts me a bit.

The other thing that I could not qualify for is the on time shipping and tracking metric. It’s common for people to purchase things in-stock in my shop, and ask me to make a different size. I run a backlog of sewing orders, so this takes 4–6 weeks to do, and the customer is perfectly happy with this timeframe for a made-to-order treasure.

Etsy, however, only lets me change the shipping date 21 days out in the future on an order, and I can only change the date once.

Perfectly happy customers with delayed shipping dates on orders, due to those orders being made just for them, caused me to not qualify as an Etsy “Star Seller”.

I am a Star Seller. I don’t care what Etsy says. I was so angry at that point, that that is when I made the decision to fight back. To start some kind of collective action against Etsy.

I didn’t for two reasons. One, the orange-sky photos coming out of California insisted to me that the world was ending. I was tired.

Two, I knew that Star Seller was a bad thing to fight over. It’s hard to explain how it’s so damaging to those of us with really unique businesses. There’s a reason why this article is so much longer than others in this series!

But I also knew Etsy wasn’t finished. I knew there would be another change.

I knew it wouldn’t be long until they made yet another decision that hurts us, but helps their bottom line.

Next time, Etsy. The next time you hurt me, I will fight back.

This post is part of a series telling the story behind the 2022 Etsy Strike. To support us, please sign and share our petition.

The next part of the story is coming tomorrow.

Etsy Killed my Online Business

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Remember that time in early 2020, when we were watching the news coming out of China with increasing feelings of “Oh, shit…”?

The day after the CDC let us know we were really in for it, Etsy let me know my business was really in for it too.

Offsite Ads, announced on February 26th, 2020, is a program I can’t opt out of. Here’s how it works:

A shopper clicks an ad, which I don’t want, but Etsy purchases unilaterally on my behalf. Afterwards, if that shopper decides to purchase something — anything — from my shop within the next 30 days, instead of the 8–10% fees I have figured into my prices, I pay 20–22% fees. With Etsy’s old fee structure, that is. Raise those numbers by another 1.5% with the fee increase we’re currently protesting.

But. Most of my business is made-to-order wedding dresses. So for me, let’s talk about how that would really work.

Someone contacts me wanting a made-to-order wedding dress. I quote them a price of, let’s say $900, because custom wedding dresses are time consuming to make. They check out. I receive their payment. But… Surprise! Etsy has attributed the order to an Offsite Ad.

I receive $800, and I still have to pay all other Etsy fees on the entire $900.

Oh, and this Offsite Ad fee is charged on shipping too. I feel like I should mention that. Express shipping, International shipping. If you choose upgraded shipping from a seller on Etsy and it seems outrageously expensive, that’s why. When possible, we try not to get completely screwed by Etsy fees.

The hardest part about running an Etsy shop, or any online business, is how much your income can vary from week to week, or month to month.

Congratulations, now it’s even more variable, with a 12% fee that could apply to none, or technically all of your listings for a time.

It’s a crock. If Offsite Ads were really a benefit to sellers, as Etsy claims, why are we unable to opt out?

They started charging us for Offsite Ads while the first death wave of the pandemic was still raging. I stopped doing custom orders. I had to anyway, with two kids in virtual school. 

But I also never started taking custom orders again after my kids went back to school.

It’s been a huge income loss for me (about 2/3, to be exact). I don’t know what to do. If someone contacts me on Etsy for a made-to-order gown, I don’t know how much to charge them, because I don’t know how much I’ll receive. If I try to complete the sale offsite, I could be banned from Etsy for “fee avoidance.”

That’s it. That’s the issue in our petition that personally means the most to me. If they refuse to let me opt out of Offsite Ads, I have to leave the platform. I have no other choice.

And it’s not fucking fair. I built Etsy, along with all the other sellers who joined when the platform was still this tiny place that had no shoppers.

Etsy had the idea — an amazing idea — but we are the ones who built the platform. We are the ones who created the products that made Etsy unique. We are the ones who kept buyers coming back, by being friendly and fun to do business with.

When Etsy introduced Offsite Ads, they posted a Seller Response Survey. Based on the buzz in the Etsy forums and in Etsy subreddits, they received countless enraged responses.

They ignored us.

But today, we are turning into a force that will be difficult for them to ignore.

This post is part of a series telling the story behind the 2022 Etsy Strike. To support us, please sign and share our petition.

The next part of the story is coming tomorrow.

A Picture of a Fool

In the beginning of 2019, I drew this picture.

Dream Big... And believe in yourself

In my imagination, I was that girl sitting on the moon.

I had all these ideas, and I was so excited to start sharing them with the world. There was even a very practical reason why I felt so hopeful about the future. My youngest child was finally in school and out of my hair every weekday! I was convinced that 2019 would be my best year ever.

And Etsy would help me get there, with the buyers they were bringing to me with the extra 1.5% they had been taking out of my sales. I didn’t realize they had switched to using my money to bring sellers, not buyers, to make themselves more money.

But there were things on the Etsy platform that made me start having doubts. In July of 2019, they started trying to force everyone to offer free shipping on all orders over $35.

Etsy had been recommending that sellers offer free shipping for a long time. They told us it would increase our conversion rate – or the percentage of the people that find our shops that decide to make a sale. I had listened to Etsy’s advice early in January 2018 – despite the fact that back then, it caused me to pay them a bit extra in fees.

My conversion rate dropped in 2018, but I hadn’t done the math on that yet. It hadn’t occurred to me to start checking the math on the things Etsy recommended to me.

The push for free shipping didn’t affect me since I was already offering free shipping, but it really bothered me. For a handmade item, $35 isn’t much. In fact, this is a $35 handmade item:

Yes, you’ll find a ton of sellers selling handmade for cheaper on Etsy, but in most cases, that’s because that seller hasn’t had a busy enough month yet to calculate how much they actually earn per hour in their shop. We base our prices on the hourly wage we would like to earn, but how much we actually earn depends on how much time it takes us to do all the tasks that we can’t get paid for.

On a busy month, that’s about half the time you spend running a handmade business. On a slow month, it can be 75% of your time. The point is – you have to figure all that other time into your pricing or you’ll make more per hour at your local fast food place. For a handmade item, $35 should correspond to only about 20-25 minutes crafting time. And it’s hard to come up with a great sellable design that takes that little time to make.

By putting the free shipping price that laughably low, Etsy gave me serious doubts that they had a clue what it’s like to run an artisan business.

And I noticed some other things. I would proofread one of my listings after publishing, and there would be this section on it titled “You may also like…” that featured a bunch of items from other sellers.

I may have been part of a test group and not seeing what everyone else was seeing, but at one point, this “You may also like” section was so prominently featured on one of my listings that it felt like the purpose of that listing was to convince buyers to buy something else.

And I saw the same thing on listings from my sister, except worse. She makes jewelry, so the “you may also like” section was full of pieces I recognized as made-in-China.

It occurred to me that if a corporation like Etsy wanted to make a lot of money, that would be a very good strategy. Use the people that make the truly unique items…

…to bring buyers to the platform, and then do your best to sell those buyers cheap items imported from sweatshops that other sellers are passing off as handmade.

Was Etsy doing this to myself and my sister? Possibly. Through 2019, each hour that we spent trying to grow our Etsy shops had diminishing returns.

And we did try. In both our shops, social media referrals are up. In both our shops, views from Etsy search and “Other Etsy pages” are down.

Initially I planned to hang that picture of the girl on the moon on the wall of the studio I hope to have some day. I’ll probably give it away instead. It’s hard to look at that picture today. The girl doesn’t look like a creative, brilliant artist to me anymore.

She looks like a fool.

This post is part of a series telling the story behind the 2022 Etsy Strike. To support us, please sign and share our petition.

Next: Etsy Killed my Online Business

The Lie Etsy Told Me

In June of 2018, I took photos of this dress – my first fantasy design.

Fantasy Wedding Dress

It was also around then that I got an email from Etsy telling me they would be raising my fees. I was a bit nervous about my shop. I’d heard things about Etsy’s CEO (who had done a lot of for-the-greater-good projects) being fired and replaced with a new one. The new CEO was making a lot of changes very quickly.

From when I joined in 2007, Etsy was always a place where I knew I needed to drive my own traffic. Even as Etsy had gotten bigger over time, it was still a given that success on Etsy required doing your own marketing and promotion. Particularly if you sell something unique. Etsy would bring a few buyers that care about handmade in general to the platform, but if you want the buyers that care about the type of stuff that you make, you should work on bringing them yourself. In return for this, we paid low fees, and the number of buyers on Etsy’s platform kept growing thanks to the hard work of all the sellers in the ecosystem.

The fee increase seemed justified, because Etsy let me know that they would be changing that deal. They told me they would be using the extra money I would send them to bring more buyers to the platform. It was a large increase – from 3.5% to 5%. It would bring the yearly cost I paid to sell my designs on Etsy just in transaction fees (they charge us separate fees for hosting listings, and to process each payment) from about $1100 to nearly $1600.

But more buyers would make it worth it to me. I would continue with my marketing efforts, and with Etsy’s push to bring me new buyers as well, I would end up making more sales.

2018 was my best year. Towards the end of it, it did seem like they brought more buyers to me.

Sadly, that would be shortlived.

The graph shows Etsy’s active buyer counts each quarter for a year and a half before the 2018 fee increase and a year and a half after the 2018 fee increase. That information is public, because they release it to their investors each quarter.

What you see in the blue line on the left is a combination of people like me working hard to grow the platform, and the marketing Etsy was doing for a 3.5% fee. On the right you see two lines. The blue trendline, which is what you would expect to happen with no fee increase. And the red line – what actually happened.

Do you see that jump between the third and fourth quarter of 2018? And how the line goes nearly parallel afterwards?

I really believe Etsy ramped up marketing to buyers for a few months – for as long as they thought their sellers were paying attention. That red line going near-parallel is what would happen if they stopped all new marketing-to-buyer efforts after that point, but we sellers kept working hard to grow the platform. I certainly did.

And look at what happened with sellers in the same timeframe.

I had an amazing end of 2018, followed by a shrinking 2019. It’s exactly what I would expect to happen if Etsy only tried to bring me more buyers for a few months, and then used my money to bring themselves more sellers.

I really believe they took my money, and the instant I stopped paying attention, they used it to make themselves even more money.

They lied to me.

But I didn’t know that back then.

I wouldn’t find out until later.

This post is part of a series telling the story behind the 2022 Etsy Strike. To support us, please click here to sign our petition.

Next: A Picture of a Fool

The Death of my Etsy Shop

Image by icsilviu on Pixabay

Hi, I’m an Etsy seller.

I say that, and I feel the import of the words, and I realize something.  It might not mean the same thing to you as it does to me.  I should explain to you what I actually mean when I say that phrase…

Hi, I identify as an Etsy seller.

I guess it makes sense.  When you tell people “Hi, I’m an Etsy seller” for more than 15 years, it starts to become a part of your identity.

15 years ago, I would have told you those words, and then I would have said, “Have you heard of Etsy?”

Most likely, you would tell me no.  In return, I would say, “Oh my gosh!  You should check it out!”

I would explain to you how Etsy is this amazing online shopping site kind of like Ebay but for artists and craftspeople!  You can also get supplies on there, and they allow vintage too – which is totally cool, since vintage items are so fun and unique.

Really, it’s kind of an ecosystem for creative types!  In addition to the shopping, there are forums where you can connect with likeminded people. And oh!  The stuff you can find on there is so amazing!  It’s people – actual real people – making stuff, and sharing it with the world!

Would you smile?  Would you engage? If so, then I would babble on excitedly about Etsy for quite a while to you.  It’s hard to overstate just how enthusiastic I would have been.  If there were a choir devoted to singing Etsy’s praises, I would have been a lead soloist.

But that was then.

This is now.

Today, when I tell you, “Hi, I’m an Etsy seller,” I no longer feel any excitement.  Mostly, I feel tired.  And I feel frustrated.  Discouraged.  Betrayed.

Etsy is still a part of my identity, but it doesn’t feel like a healthy part.  I need to stop introducing myself that way.  Etsy is my master, and I am the abused dog that keeps coming back to them every time they call me.  I need to leave the platform.  I really could, if only I could stop believing in them.

And the phrase “Hi, I’m an Etsy seller” means so many other things to me too each time that I say it.

It means, “Hi, I’m so creative that I fail at life half the time, but holy crap, you should see the things I make!”

It means, “Hi, I’m an outside the box thinker who figured out how to build an online business from the ground up, with no training whatsoever!”

It means, “Hi, would you like to see my soul?  It’s on the internet.  Hang on, I’ll show you!”

This is the story of the death of my Etsy business.  I poured my heart and soul into my shop, and it is true that the first decade I spent with them was amazing.  

Since about 2018, however, they have done everything they possibly can to kill businesses like mine.

February 24th, 2022, was the final nail in the coffin of my belief in Etsy.  They reported a second year of record breaking profits to their investors, and at the same time, reached out to all of us, their sellers, to let us know they would be raising our fees… again.

At that moment, I realized I was done taking all of these horrible platform changes lying down.

I wouldn’t let Etsy kill my business.

I would fight back.

This post is part of a series telling the story behind the 2022 Etsy Strike. To support us, please sign and share our petition.

Next: The Lie Etsy Told Me

Let’s try to help some Ukranian Etsy Sellers

Isn’t that quote incredible? It went viral, because an old Ukrainian lady walked right up to Russian soldiers, and said that to them as she handed them the seeds.

That’s some serious crone energy right there.

It’s a horribly helpless feeling watching what’s happening to our sisters and brothers in Ukraine. I don’t normally talk about current events, but this is too important.

My favorite Ukrainian Etsy Seller is Dress Art Mystery. I went there yesterday to look, and it told me she was taking a “short break” – which means she put her shop in “Vacation Mode” on Etsy.

You probably don’t know this, but Etsy punishes you for going on vacation. When you put your shop on hold like that, they’ll completely reset your place in the search algorithm. Your items will all be on the very last page, and you’ll have to work so hard to get them back up again. It can take a few weeks, or even a few months to recover and start making regular sales again.

I assumed there would be lots of Ukrainian sellers on vacation mode, and I had the thought of some things we could do to help them get their search rankings back. I posted about it on my blog yesterday. And then I went and sent an email newsletter to everyone on my list without checking if Dress Art Mystery’s shop had come online again!

She’s back online on Etsy now though as of Thursday morning, so everything must be less bad than I thought. So I’m simply going to share her shop on social media today. And I remembered a second awesome Ukrainian shop that I can share tomorrow (who is also online). If you have a favorite shop from Ukraine, send it to me via email/comment/etc, and I will share it too!

When have shared all the shops you send me, I will also add a gallery with links to them here. 🙂

Silver Siren Victorian Witch Costume

It’s way past Halloween right now, but for me, I suppose every day is Halloween!

Every year the fall leaves turn these gorgeous colors, but it happens to coincide with Halloween season, which is the time when all good costume designers become permanently attached to their sewing machines! In 2020, I thought I had the best idea ever. Lol. I did a photoshoot quick-like-bunny right as the leaves turned.

The plan was to sit on the photos for nearly a whole year and then start on them in time to share them all before Halloween 2021. But… I sat on them a bit too long. So here I am, actually sharing them in January 2022!

This is a discontinued design, made to test a couple of new patterns that didn’t quite make it into my regular line. The final version of the shrug is very similar, but the skirt is no longer available. I could offer a similar dress custom made – but I’d probably pair it with a “Vintage Diva” skirt instead.

How about that cute hat? I love those 3/4 size Victorian tilt hats, and I had the idea to make a witch hat version one year! It’s completely one of a kind, and still available in my shop (as of the time of posting this).

My designs are really flattering – but you might be able to tell I’ve gained a size worth of weight over the pandemic! The good news is, my photoshoot samples are now size Medium instead of Small, and I’m pretty sure that means they will fit more people!

This one-of-a-kind dress is posted for sale here. If you like it, and it will fit you, please don’t miss out!

As always, I’m wearing this with some lovely jewelry made by my sister, Fantastical Treasures. This piece is called “Vampiress”.

I wanted to do a fall shoot in 2021 and save them for 2022 (with a better release schedule this time) but I failed to get out there again while the leaves were pretty! Ah well, I guess there’s another chance this year. Now I just have to decide what shall I wear?

Steam-Noir Black Steampunk Wedding Dress

2020 was not the year for photoshoots! Lol, it was not the year for a lot of things, for most of us… On this day, my sister and I met intending to take photos of 4 different looks, but we found that all of the beautiful spaces that are typically empty mid-week were full of people!

Luckily, however, those people seemed to prefer the more outdoorsy spaces at Roger Williams Park, and the huge wraparound porch at the historic casino building was empty. So it worked great to get these pictures of my “Steampunk Noir” Steam-goth wedding dress design.

There’s a joke we steampunks like to make – we say “Steampunk is what happened when Goths grew up and discovered the color sepia.” Lol I love steampunk, but I haven’t outgrown my Goth quite enough to design too many things in shades of brown!

With this design, I thought it would be fun to play on the connections between the worlds of Gothic and Steampunk. There is definitely a lot of crossover between the two!

My sister is modeling the gown in these photos. She makes jewelry, and she always picks a piece that coordinates quite nicely with my clothing designs.

I absolutely love dragons. How about you?

Every time we do a photoshoot, we intend to take a picture with a big smile, in case one of us wants it to go along with a super happy saying for one of our social media accounts. Typically we forget when we’re actually at the shoot. This time, we remembered, however!

I do focus on the front of my designs a bit more than the back, but it is important to me that they be very cute from the back too! “Steampunk Noir” is no exception to this rule.

One of the more fun things about wearing a hoopskirt, is how it’s possible to pose sitting on the ground, princess style. The front steps of the casino building worked perfect for this shot!

The dress pictured here is a one-of-a-kind sample made for the photoshoot. If it’s still available, it will be listed for sale here.