Setting up a shop is hard. Let’s be real, between state taxes, payment processor fees, paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork, there is enough confusion to make an algebra course look easy in comparison.
With this series of small tutorials, I will try to take your hand and make it a bit easier, even if it’s just a bit. Keep in mind this is an on-going journey for Aly and me as well, so we’re still learning! But here is what we learned, and I hope it’ll be of some help to you.
First, there are many steps in launching a small business that come before picking a platform, but for punctual vending, this is a recurrent question we’ve been asked, so I wanted to address it from the get-go. For example, you would like to have a booth at KaelucCon, and you already have your merch figured out, but you don’t know which platform to use to sell your art? Then hear me out, this is the place for you!
Before we start
There are some fees you will likely always pay when using any of those platforms:
Click on those links to learn more about them.
You might also have to deal with currency conversion fees for Paypal specifically, so check those out if you need to because they’re different for each country.
Bigcartel, a solid tool for beginners and seasoned vendors alike
I can’t stress enough that this is THE best platform for beginning artists. It’s how I started before Aly came along, and before we switched to Shopify (which is arguably better for a long-term business, but pricier, and you don’t necessarily need all its features when you’re just starting out).
So, why is Bigcartel so good?
First, it’s free for up to five (5) products. And by free, I mean it – you’re not paying any fee to Bigcartel, and they will not have any commission on your sales. The only fees you will be paying are Paypal’s and Stripe’s, but that’s not of their resort.
If you have more than 5 products, you can purchase a subscription for 10€/month and unlock premium features, such as product variants, and multiple product pictures in the carousel. For this price, you can go up to fifty (50) products. And if you need more, the second paid plan is available for 20€/month, but I never used it. The further I went was the first paid plan and it was more than enough!
There is no obligation or minimum subscription time with Bigcartel, meaning you can unsubscribe at any time. You will, however, lose all your products except 5 if you downgrade to a free plan, but if your goal is only to sell for a short-time event, like KaelucCon, that’s not too bad.
- It’s super simple to use
- Free for up to 5 products, and the paid plans are affordable
- The interface is easy to navigate for a customer
- You will have all the basic features such as coupon codes and discounts
- No commissions beyond Stripe and Paypal fees
- Compared to Shopify, it has limited features
- The shipping profiles can be hard to figure out at first
- You can’t bulk-edit easily
Shopify, an all-rounded powerhouse
Monee Mellow uses shopify. You can look around our shop to see all the functionalities it offers, such as:
- A customer support chat to get in touch with us
- A loyalty/referral program
- Tons of possibilities to customize your website, even with the free theme
- Blogs :D
- Marketing campaigns like a Newsletter
And many, many more!
If your goal is to have a long-term business, you’re interested in building a brand, and you have the means to pay their subscription, I’d say, go for it. The basic plan is 36€/ month, and it’s the one we use, so as you can see, it’s more than enough.
You can find more info about their pricing here!
We also have a referral link if you would like to try it out and earn subscription credit.
- They’re the industry standard
- A TON of free apps to improve your website
- Super customizable, you can really make your website look like YOU
- Many tools to help with analytics
- Very easy ways to offer customer support
- It doesn’t take commissions, but Shopify Pay does take payment processing fees (instead of Stripe)
- It’s pricy and there is no free plan
- It can be overwhelming to use if it’s your first time handling a shop
- While the free theme is already very customizable, most of the paid ones are expensive
Kofi, for a cheaper solution
Kofi is known for its donation system, but they also do offer a possibility to put up products on your shop.
However, the free plan has a 5% commission on all your sales. Two solutions to that:
- Making your prices 5% higher
- Subscribing to Kofi Gold for 8€/month
Picking one of those solutions depends on your estimations. If you think you will make enough sales to cover the 8€/month, you might as well subscribe to Kofi gold – you’ll end up saving money, rather than giving 5% of all your sales. If not, the first solution is for you.
Check out this official article from Kofi about to set up your shop.
- It’s cheaper than the other platforms
- The paid plan is affordable
- You can set up “pay what you want” products
- Most people aren’t used to this type of interface
- The free plan has a high commission, compared to Bigcartel which has none
Etsy, if you really want to suffer…
… Or you live in the USA and want an easier way to handle taxes with sales from the EU and elsewhere.
That’s basically the only benefit I can think of. That, and it is a platform where people can type “kaeluc” and stumble upon your shop, which isn’t the case with the others as they are your actual shop.
- They can do your marketing if you sponsor your products
- People can find you thanks to keywords
- For US vendors, you will have an easier time with EU taxes
- It is free in theory
- EACH product listing costs 20 cents, and you will have to renew that fee every few months
- They take 6.5% on all your sales, plus other fees depending on the alignment of planets (check this article for a breakdown of their fees), and they can add up to a lot
- It’s expensive for customers as well, as you pay taxes but will still have to pay customs
- You will have to make your prices higher or else you might lose money
Redbubble, Society6, INPRNT, if you can’t handle manufacture on your own
Redbubble and Society6 are platforms that will produce the merch and ship it for you to your customers. You only have to upload your art and set it up for each merch type (prints, mugs, pillowcases…) that you want to offer.
HOWEVER: they will take a big cut from the price! You can set your margin higher to get more out of it but it will get expensive for the customer. Overall, I’d say this is a solution if you really can’t handle the manufacturing and shipping parts at all, and you don’t mind receiving crumbs. They also do have a search system, like Etsy, but Redbubble especially is rife with stolen art.
INPRNT works similarly but for prints. I did hear recently that they haven’t paid their artists since April though so I can’t recommend them. You can keep an eye out on the news from them if you really want to use them, but ask yourself if it’s worth it.
Pros of these platforms:
- They handle the manufacturing and shipping for you
- There is a search system, so people can find you with keywords
Cons of these platforms:
- They take a big cut since they handle most things for you
- Redbubble also takes a commission on your own margin (to verify if that’s still the case)
- INPRNT has had issues with payment delays toward their artists
- Stolen art…
What about the other platforms?
There other platforms to sell your art, that’s for sure. Squarespace, Gumroad, Storenvy, or even Google Forms if you want to take all matters into your own hands, don’t care about having a pretty shop, and your customers aren’t scared to commit (you won’t have any guaranteed sales though, as opposed to a shop where customers click “pay” and that’s it).
However, since I haven’t personally used most of those, I can’t speak for how they work.
- Gumroad takes 10% fees on your sales, not counting payment processor fees. You can check out the breakdown of their fees here.
- Storenvy takes 15% of your sales. Your can check their fees here.
- For Squarespace, you have paid plans starting from 11€/month to 36 and a 3% commission for some of these paid plans. Commerce plans have no commission on your sales (starting from 24€/month). You can look here if you're interested.
Thank you for reading till that point! I hope you don’t feel intimidated by all this information. Trust me, it can seem like a lot but in the end, just take the leap of faith and you’ll learn a lot along the way.
For more tips, make sure to subscribe and hit that bell button– ha, you heard that sentence, didn’t you?
Anyway, enough clowning. Let me know if you’d like me to cover something specific!
Coming soon after this (by “soon”, I mean whenever I remember):
- How to set up your prices for your products
- How to manufacture merch and our personal recommendations of suppliers
- What we learned from our mistakes
- Artist feature: Aserora, aka acerolagummies
Thank you again and have a nice day!
Monee, from Monee Mellow