It’s really easy to criticize Etsy. Although I acknowledge that the platform is far from perfect, I remain loyal and I’ve recently been reminded why.
In December of 2014 those of us who sell digital products were in a state of crisis over the European Union’s new tax regulations. Although Etsy was unresponsive to our pleas at that moment, a month later they did issue a response saying that they were working on a system that would collect VAT from EU customers and remit it on our behalf. Six months later, it’s in place! (Read Etsy’s official announcement here.) I made my first sale that included VAT on Etsy yesterday. Complying with VAT regulations is really complex. For my own shop here on my site I have a Woocommerce plugin through Taxamo that stores the multiple additional pieces of information about my EU customers that are required and figures and collects the VAT for me. I then have to remit quarterly to a bank in the UK via wire transfer which I have to do in person at my local bank at the cost of $40 each time. It’s complicated and time consuming and expensive for me to do. On Etsy? It’s now covered.
And that’s not all. Etsy is lobbying in Washington this week, working to represent the needs of small creative businesses when it comes to internet sales tax and net neutrality, among other issues. “Government and regulatory agencies should enact policies that support sellers’ efforts to start and grow their creative businesses, enabling the broader maker economy to thrive,” they say. And they’re right. Lobbying is expensive and complicated, just like VAT. Etsy is out there on the forefront advocating for people like me while I sew in my studio.
I admire Etsy’s efforts to help people living in underserved communities start creative businesses through their Craft Entrepreneurship program. In cooperation with organizations that are already serving these populations, Etsy is providing a curriculum and special training to local Etsy sellers who then teach in-person classes on setting up and running an Etsy shop. The goal here is for people in low income populations to be able to earn supplemental income through their craft. I spent eight years working in inner city schools in Baltimore, Mississippi, and Boston and I know how much work there is to do. This sort of social outreach isn’t easy or cheap. Like lobbying, it isn’t something that Etsy has to do. But they are.
Etsy has other new initiatives, but these few stand out to me as real efforts to support sellers, to make institutional change, and to be an inclusive community. I’m proud to be affiliated with them as a business.
I’ve always felt that Etsy leads the way. Even its flaws – the resellers, the hugeness, the changing definition of handmade – are representative of issues that we as an online community of makers face as a whole. I’ve been an Etsy seller for 10 years this month. I’ve earned $7,343 on Etsy this year with very little effort on my part and for that I’m very thankful. I’m so glad Etsy is still here, innovating and thinking broadly about what our community is and what it could be.