Etsy Town Hall
Watch an archived webcast announcing changes and updates to Seller policies.
What's on your mind?
We're posting answers to questions you've asked. Check back for updates.
What’s happening at Etsy?
We’ve introduced new guidelines that allow Etsy sellers to get help with making and shipping their items, and that increase transparency around how items are made and who has a hand in that process.
Why is Etsy making changes to its policies now?
Etsy’s old policies were putting some long-time sellers in a bind, where they couldn’t run their businesses reasonably without violating our rules. We wanted to remove those limits while preserving what makes Etsy special. Because Etsy sellers and shoppers value knowing exactly how an item is made and who it is made by, we are asking sellers, particularly of handmade items, to meet new standards of transparency.
The timing of this announcement was also tied to a pretty practical concern: the holidays are the busiest time of year for Etsy sellers. This year, we wanted to make it clear that they have the option to hire help or use shipping services if that will help their businesses in the hectic months ahead.
I thought Etsy was about buying directly from an artisan. Isn’t this a departure from that original mission?
Etsy is and always will be about direct connections between makers and shoppers. Our new policies make plain that every seller of handmade items must demonstrate authorship, responsibility and transparency — that they’ve designed their item, are knowledgeable and involved in how their items are made, and are willing to be open and honest about that process. Asking sellers for greater clarity around how their items are made and who is involved lets us give sellers more options to run their businesses while preserving the one-to-one connections at the heart of shopping on Etsy.
I thought Etsy was about handmade. How does manufacturing fit in?
Some people think manufacturing means using expensive, highly-mechanized technology. Others think it refers to what happens in large factories. On Etsy, an outside manufacturer is any separate business or establishment that helps a seller create their designs. Etsy sellers have been doing this a long time — like the jeweler who has their designs cast by a casting house or the artist who partners with a silkscreen shop to get their designs on a t-shirt. We’re increasing the transparency in our marketplace by asking sellers to acknowledge these relationships. When shoppers buy handmade, they prize the story behind an item’s creation, and for many Etsy sellers, those stories are what make their businesses unique. These changes emphasize and protect those values.
What does the word “handmade” really stand for on Etsy?
In the Etsy marketplace, there are three categories of goods: handmade, vintage and craft supplies. Handmade refers to new, finished items that were designed by shop owners. It doesn’t mean a single making method; instead, it’s about three principles — authorship, responsibility and transparency. Etsy sellers use a dazzling array of methods and processes to create their items. They have a wide spectrum of skill levels and a diverse set of aesthetics. That’s one of the most valuable things about the Etsy marketplace, and we feel lucky to support such a breadth of talent and ideas — that’s why we choose to define handmade as a set of values, and not a particular method or process.
Is Etsy selling out?
No way — if anything, we are going back to Etsy’s roots, before we made things muddy with our policies. We want to give Etsy’s community of artisans autonomy to work and create in ways that support the lives they want to build. At the same time, we want to foster a transparent marketplace, where shoppers can know the stories behind the items they want to buy.
Isn’t this just giving up on your “reseller” problem?
Reselling is buying an item and selling it unchanged as your handmade creation. On Etsy, that’s still not allowed. By making transparency a core value of the marketplace, we are holding every seller to the same standard. You must have a clear relationship to the origin of an item, because all handmade items begin with you. If you can’t tell the story of how your item was created, or aren’t willing to share that information, you can’t sell it as handmade on Etsy. By asking sellers who use manufacturing to apply for review, and requiring that some information about that relationship be made public, we are doubling-down on our commitment to creating a trustworthy marketplace where information on how things are made is front and center.
How does this impact existing sellers?
All sellers are now allowed to use shipping and fulfillment services. We’ve also made it clear that sellers are allowed to hire help for their shop (something that was previously allowed but not widely understood). Shop owners who use help or employees to make their items should add information about those folks to their shop’s About page.
Sellers of handmade items can now partner with outside businesses to make their items, but they need to apply for review before selling them on Etsy. In the past, our policies allowed sellers to use partial production assistance without approval. We are asking those sellers to apply for review when they can — we understand that the months ahead are particularly busy, so we aren’t setting an application deadline. We completely understand that our former policies were confusing for Etsy makers, and we will not be penalizing anyone who may have violated our policies in the past. We’ll expect shops to be in full compliance with the new policies beginning in 2014.
How do I know if the help I use in my shop must be approved?
Most Etsy sellers are solo makers who occasionally get help from friends and family. Anyone who lends a hand in making items for your shop, whether they are a formal employee or an occasional helper, should be noted on your shop’s About page but staffing decisions for your shop are up to you — they don’t require any sort of approval from Etsy. If you partner with an outside business to make your items, even if it is a very small business, you should apply for review and approval.
Does Etsy even care about the little guy any more?
Yes! Our motivation was seeing how Etsy’s old policies were actually hurting the little guy. Running a business on your own is hard work. Solo sellers tell us that they prize having absolute creative control over their businesses, but that there aren’t always enough hours in the day to get it all done. We wanted to give these sellers more options for staffing, shipping and making so that they have choices for running their business in a way that works for them.
Are you trying to get rid of your smaller sellers to bring on larger operations?
No, not at all. The vast majority of Etsy shops are run by one person and we want them to be able to stay on Etsy for a long time. In the long-term, they’re not well-served by overly intrusive, punishing rules about how they run their shop. We don’t believe that sellers have to grow their businesses, we just want to make it possible if that’s their goal. Letting sellers hire help when they need it or partner with a manufacturer also gives them options that aren’t necessarily tied to growth — these tools can also be used to explore new ways of making things or creative collaborations. Etsy sellers wear many hats, and we hope these changes give them the flexibility to focus on the most soul-satisfying parts of their business.
What if sellers work with sweatshops? What if a seller runs a sweatshop?
Etsy expects sellers who work with manufacturers to abide by our Ethical Expectations which explicitly task sellers with finding partners who obey all applicable laws. We also require sellers who partner with outside manufacturers to apply for review and approval before they list their items on Etsy, and they will be asked to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of their manufacturer’s production process and business practices.
Will Etsy allow designers who outsource to factories to open up shop?
Designers will be held to the same standards as every other maker of handmade items who partners with a manufacturer — they must be able to document their design process, demonstrate that their items are created through a highly engaged and responsible manufacturing relationship, and be willing to share information about that process on their shop’s About page. Etsy values great design and sees it as an art, and is excited to open the marketplace to these types of businesses.
How big is too big for a business on Etsy?
The tools Etsy offers are designed to work best for creative small businesses. People on Etsy sell everything from food to furniture, and there is no set number of staff that can hold up across all the categories. The rules on Etsy need to be clear, fair, and enforceable. So we decided to leave business decisions on staffing and stocking up to shop owners. We just ask that every person or outside manufacturer who helps make handmade items be listed clearly in the shop.
What’s to stop a big brand from opening a shop on Etsy now?
Big brands build their own e-commerce solutions. We don’t think it’s very likely that a big brand will want to run a shop on Etsy, but we do know they want to work with Etsy sellers. Through our wholesale program, we connect Etsy sellers with retail buyers. We also partner with like-minded brands to promote Etsy and bring new buyers to the site.
Your rules say sellers have to be “transparent.” What does that even mean?
Etsy is requiring sellers to be open and honest about how their handmade items are made. That means all sellers must share information about the people who help create their goods on their shop’s About Page. Sellers who partner with manufacturers to make handmade items must apply for review and approval before they can sell those items on Etsy. After Etsy’s Trust and Safety Team approves the application, the manufacturing relationship is noted publicly on the shop’s About page, where sellers can share more information about that partnership if they choose. Manufacturers can also be credited on individual item listings.
How can you enforce transparency?
We think the incentives are more powerful than the threat of enforcement. Shoppers come to Etsy because they want to know the stories behind one-of-a-kind shops and unique items. We actively promote shops with fascinating backstories and clear, compelling photographs of their making process. That’s something many successful Etsy sellers already understand. Etsy also has a team dedicated to ensuring that shops comply with all our marketplace guidelines.
How does Etsy decide to approve manufacturers?
Etsy is not vetting or approving manufacturers; we are reviewing the seller’s design and making process, and specifically how knowledgeable a seller is about their manufacturer’s business practices and production methods. Sellers who apply to use manufacturing are expected to review our Ethical Expectations.
Is Etsy trying to make more money by opening the marketplace to high-volume sellers?
We are a for-profit business, but this move wasn’t profit-driven. We are dedicated to preserving what’s special about the Etsy marketplace, even if that means rejecting applications from sellers who could generate a lot of revenue for Etsy. We hold every seller to the same standards of authorship, responsibility and transparency, because that baseline of trust lets us extend these new opportunities to existing sellers who want more options for running their businesses.
Are investors driving these changes? I’ve heard Etsy might go public.
These changes were guided by insights and feedback from the Etsy community, and our board supports Etsy’s vision for the future. There are no near-term plans for an IPO.
You’re surrendering what makes Etsy special with these new rules.
The people and incredible personal interactions that happen on Etsy have always been at the core of the marketplace, along with the ability to find unique items made with attention and care. These policy changes emphasize those values, and create a path into the future that will support the incredible richness and diversity of the Etsy community.
We care deeply about what you think of these changes. In the coming days, we’ll be reviewing and responding to emails, forums posts and comments. We may not all be able to agree, but we are here to listen.