Etsy feels like an addiction

And I should know because I am an addict.

Four and half years ago when I was being treated for GHB addiction my doctor asked me what I planned to do for money. At the time I was just discovering the beauty of blogging and all the possibilities that it held: a way to share my ideas, artwork, meet and converse with like-minded people and perhaps earn an income. I had already made the decision to never venture back into the applied arts world of graphic design and was looking for a more holistic way to live that in turn complimented my ideals and would allow for personal growth but more importantly, live as an artist.

The doctor asked how much time do you spend online? I replied saying about eight hours a day as I was deep into the depths of learning and researching and testing CMS‘s which in my eyes was no different than attending school, college or university. The Doc agreed. And to this day I still spend about eight hours online each and every day. She offered me a piece of advice… when the work or learning ceased and the obsession, compulsion, or excessive psychological dependence of being online outweighed those two then perhaps it was time to question what you are doing.

This leads me to Etsy. I’m addicted and not in a good way. This isn’t passion. It is addiction and it’s ugly.

Can you spot the difference?

Being on Etsy did make me feel happy. I was contributing to a community of artisans and learning about the inner workings of Etsy; namely setting up shop, taking photographs, scanning art, printing it out, advancing and honing my skills and above all collaborating and connecting with people who loved my art enough that they would buy it! It was and still to this day is exhilarating.

Today, I find myself spending so much more time on Etsy. I feel like I’m always hungry and beating a dead horse and competing just to be seen amidst all the other wonderful sellers. It’s become a ruthless nightmare attempting to understand the ever changing SEO updates, renewing and relevant search. The flagging system, desperation, spamming, resellers, abuse of tagging and admin favoritism are well beyond what an insane person can ignore. And the lack of adequate seller tools such as batch editing, non-existent coupon codes, the inability to not add live links to our listings and shop announcements and no streamlined listing process and enforcement of the TOU is something Etsy should be ashamed of in 2010.

I myself feel ashamed that I am no longer doing to do what I do best… creating, sharing, helping and connecting with other sellers, buyers and fans of my artwork. Without you guys I’d be lost. And therein lies the proof of the addiction. I’m not connecting well with you on Etsy.

I’ve stopped listing new artwork on Etsy, stopped madly renewing into the abyss and stopped frequenting treasuries, stopped reading the insane forums, stopped communicating and all in that order. The less I did on Etsy, the happier and healthier I felt and the more I connected with you on Twitter, Facebook and here on this blog and the more I realized the goodness there and here. I’ve begun researching into e-commerce and feel the need to write and keep a journal again.

I’m no more scared and broken financially than I was four and half years ago.

When something affects your life so much that the negatives are far outweighing the positives then you must go deep inside and reconcile it before it spins maddeningly out of control. I shut my Etsy art shop down today for at least one or maybe two weeks: perhaps indefinitely.

At first I thought it was Twitter or Facebook causing me to feel this way and yes, it was a part of it because of the incessant onslaught of auto-fed tweets from other Etsy sellers, all of whom I’ve unfollowed, but by no means was this the root cause of the addiction. Etsy, sadly, is.

And what is artwork if it can’t be received? Nothing.

Give me some time OK. Keep reading. I’ll be updating. Plans are in the works and I’m excited.

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28 thoughts on “Etsy feels like an addiction”

  1. Jessica. ALL the above, and I mean ALL ALL ALL ALL ALL and EVERYTHING you have written is why I shut my Etsy shop down. I am a MUCH happier person for it and am getting a lot more done, painting, drawing, reading, playing my flute..etc.

    So, well done you…
    Btw, Zen Cart works for me. A LOT of work, as there is a LOT more to just installing the fucker believe me, but at least you have total control. I installed it, and it took me a month of working on it every evening and working out how it worked to get it looking good and working right. So, think about it. Zen Cart is probably the most user friendly.

    And that is all..

  2. I’m proud of you for realizing what works for you, what doesn’t, and having the courage to disentangle yourself. Looking forward to seeing what directions you’ll be growing in! :)

  3. I’m lucky and unlucky that I don’t rely on my art to make a living. For a while I too was frantically renewing, reading forums, etc.; all to no avail. Etsy was driving me nuts with the same things. But I’ve recently decided that if it sells it sells. And since I rarely sell anything, I’m not going to lose any more sleep over it.

    Unfortunately the utopia dream of Etsy, is becoming a mass failure for a lot of us. I don’t want to be a supplier, I want to be an artist.

    Good luck, you are very talented and I’m sure you’ll find your way.


  4. Jessica,

    I so enjoy your candor on this blog! I too have an obsession with Etsy and I too find myself spending less time on the actual site. I’d get so down when things weren’t selling – I was letting it rule my life. I’m still going to use Etsy. I think its a good venue for me as a “part time” artist, but I agree, there has to be a better way.

  5. I will be very interested in what solution you are able to come up with. I have been procrastinating about putting my work up on etsy as it doesn’t seem like the best option.
    It seems, to me, as if etsy sellers tend to undervalue their own work and I wonder if the need to compete, causes this?
    Some people who have their own website use etsy as their shopping cart, and rely on their website to display and sell their work to narrower market.
    I think that you should use the research that you have done, the solutions you find and publish your own little how-to (for sale of course) on the alternatives, and pros and cons of different seller markets that are available. How to choose one that is best for different needs. You’ve already done the research and you know from the inside out what is good and not good about etsy, all you need do is write it up.

  6. Hi Jessica-

    I too am addicted to Etsy sometimes staying up late trying to research why other artist seem to have better online succsess on there than I do. For me getting out and actually doing venues where people meet face to face with me has been alot more successful for me. I actually found out about you through a blogger Decor8 Daily and love your work! I have been keeping up with you through your blog and twitter. I can so relate to your frustration and I have decided to put more attention to my art itself and art venues. However I did open up an Artfire account much much simpler to use and its FREE but the best benifits do come from being a verified member which is a monthly $12 subscription but absolutely no other fees. I wish you peace balance and happiness. Happy creating!!!!

  7. Wow Jessica! What a great post, hearing you speaking your truth.

    I totally identify, I too have an addictive personality and have felt in the past, Etsy to be the monkey on my back. What you are saying about turning back and reconnecting with your own voice is a very healthy decision! It’s what really matters in all this, your well-being.

    The dramas of Etsy come and go and the it’s definitely not the great environment for artists it was. I’m phasing out my presence on Etsy, as luckily I have been approached by galleries. I’m looking into a future where I’m not struggling in the rough and tumble of an unregulated market but in a place where my customers can appreciate my work to the full.

    You are super talented, keep your chin up. It will work out! :)

  8. Hi Jess!

    It’s kind of strange that we are both thinking about e-commerce at almost the same time. I’m also going to open a shop pretty soon, though it’s a bike shop.

    Good luck with your endeavor. I know you’ll find a way through it. This is one of the reasons why I don’t really use Facebook much.

  9. Wow, Jessica, what a wonderful post. I know that a lot of us feel the same way for a lot of the same reasons. One of my goals for 2010 is to set up my own website so people can purchase my work, I’d love for Etsy to be more of a part time focus for me too.

    I wish you luck in everything you do, I know it will be wonderful!

  10. Yes–congrats! I closed my shop indefinitely on Jan 1 for many of the reasons you cited (but esp trying to get noticed on a site where it seems like the decks are stacked) and have found I actually have time to do things like read books and cook. And instead of constantly pumping out new “product” in the vain hope of getting attention, I feel like I have time now to think about the things I want to make and the direction I want to pursue with my art/craft going forward.

    So I hope this decision has similar benefits for you!

  11. I understand what you are saying. I have kind of gone through the same thing. Only it was because I ended up suddenly have to stop producing and conversing because of an injury….I thought it would be horrible not being connected through etsy cuz I could not type, so I didnt try.. But it has sparked a lot of creativity. I am seeking ways to try to do work around my injury instead of just aimlessly sitting in chats. I am torn as well. Those interested in my work started buying up my stuff before I could even get it posted on etsy, when I would put photos on facebook I would end up with orders, so I am in flux as well….just waiting to heal, but with a million ideas!

  12. Thanks for postings this and to all who have commented, I have been ‘dancing around’ etsy for over 2 years, sometimes having an empty shop and finally selling a few pieces this last winter. It made me happy to sell those, but it was short lived and a bit empty! I am thinking to have just a few pieces on etsy, and not stress over it.
    So, no I am trying to blog and see what other options I have to get my work out there.
    I am looking forward to hearing how your adventure goes!

  13. Jessica,

    Incredible post. I appreciate your candidness – it’s incredibly interesting to see how Etsy and similar sites affect people, and how it’s not always puppies and rainbows and unicorns. Your art is beautiful and deserves to be shared with the world, but I’m happy that you’re taking this time to focus on yourself. It’s amazing how connected you can feel to people without actually knowing them.

    When anything that you love turns into more of a chore, or you find yourself falling into such a slump, it’s definitely time to reevaluate, and I’m beyond impressed that you were able to recognize that this is what was happening.

    Thank you for writing this.

  14. “When something affects your life so much that the negatives are far outweighing the positives then you must go deep inside and reconcile it before it spins maddeningly out of control.” So very true! This really hits home with me today. I’ve been procrastinating on something important and must take more aggressive action – now!

    A friend at work mentioned her same frustrations with Etsy. Seems to be a common theme, unfortunately. I’ve been reading about ecommerce and I agree you may have greater success with using your blog as the ‘heart’ of your business linked to a shopping cart tool or whatever else you need to support customer purchases.

    I recently finished reading “Will Work for Fun” (Alan Bechtold) and am currently reading “Moonlighting on the Internet” (Yanik Silver/Robert Olic). They’ve given me a better understanding of how to do business without depending one of the popular ecommerce/market sites. But no matter how you do it, you can’t ever get around the fact that marketing and all the SEO concerns come with the territory. That’s business! I guess the idea is not to sell your soul while you do it.

  15. Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear that Etsy is making you unhappy. It is hard to limit yourself, speaking from experience. But you know alot of things that you do online is actually not needed at all. Like you said creating is the most important thing, if you loose that because of beeing online/ on Etsy too much your break will do you good, maybe a complete internet break will be even better.
    Hope to see you in a happy and good way soon, on Etsy, you are one of my top best shops there you are so kind and creative. And an applause for your openess in your story.

  16. I love your work, Jessica. You were one of the first etsy sites that I favorited and I re-visit often. Etsy is perfect for me (and others too) that just need an easy place to post and offer a few pieces to see if there is any interest. I spent some time trying to figure out what sells, but thankfully I’ve always been too busy to get addicted. I think I have learned that if you price your work where you should, it is unlikely ever to sell well on etsy. Keep your prints on etsy, but your originals deserve their own site. Go for it! Congratulations on the book.
    I just know the day will come when Jessica Doyle will be a very well-recognized name.

  17. Way to go, Jessica. Personally, I think it takes guts just to say what you think after all the insane forum discussions I’ve been in as well, where it seems no matter what your opinion, someone attackes and abuses you over it “just for fun”, or just because they can get away with it.

    I really shy away from that environment these days – extremely unhealthy.

    Etsy has always driven me crazy too. Unfortunately it is a part of my bread and butter, and satisfies my need to have a POINT to my painting (ie; somewhere to put it out for the public) but the success and failure ratio between like sellers (like, why don’t I sell the way THEY do??), the fees, the trends and followers (that I can’t stand) and other things too numerous to count really do turn your brains into mush!

    I’ve been thru the hell of all that insanity myself BIG time, and I feel very gratified reading here that I am NOT alone.

    Hats off to you for telling it like it is, and inspiring the rest of us who feel similarly!

    BTW – Your art is awesome!


  18. Thank you for the honesty and truth in this.
    I wish you well and hope to admire your art in whatever manner makes you happy in the future.

  19. I found your blog via your art and then your story popped up. You are quite talented. I love it. Absolutely love it.

    I am the mother of a former alcoholic. Yes, former. Not recovering or recovered. She died June 10, 2009. She was only 34.

    I am devastated and every day is a struggle. I plan to talk about her battle with alcoholism pretty soon on my blog. She died of multiple orgain failure due to alcohol abuse. She too was a gifted artist.

    My daughter and I both were regular customers of Uncommon Goods. =)

  20. I agree Etsy can make you ill if you let it. I think its the total obsession with photographs. A lot of people who have website are raking it in. They’re professional, making money. Etsy can make you feel so downtrodden. The mindless twitters and forum post.

    What do they say? The road less travelled in the road to success – Etsy definitely isnt the road less travelled. Keep well away from it for your own sake, you will have a much richer and stress free life.

  21. Hi Jessica, thanks for your candidness about your frustrations(addiction) with Etsy – I have been trying for over a year and a half and its hard to not take the lack of sales personally – I do understand that it takes “alot” of work to be noticed on that site; more than I realized. Reading your post may just save me a lot of heartache – I will try to find exposure for my work closer to home. Thanks so much – wish you all the best on all your endeavours to break free from the Etsy habit and to find more stress free ways to share your work with the world.

  22. The relationship between Etsy and their customers, shop owners, is very similar to an abusive relationship. It’s a direct reflection of the vile personality of the main founder of Etsy.

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