Big Cartel vs. Etsy (+ dealbreakers) – decide in 7 minutes

By Susanna read
08 May, 2024
Big Cartel vs. Etsy (+ dealbreakers) – decide in 7 minutes

Are you an artist looking for an easy way to sell artwork online? But, you’re having trouble deciding between Big Cartel and Etsy? Well, no worries. I’ve got you—this blog post was put together to help you out!

It’s not easy to decide when both platforms have their pros and cons.

And, that’s exactly why I’m not going to waste your time by comparing almost every identical feature. Instead, we’ll briefly summarize what both platforms offer and then focus on the main dealbreakers to help you come to a final decision.

So, let’s dive in!

Quick breakdown: Big Cartel vs. Etsy

sellfy vs big cartel vs etsy

While Big Cartel and Etsy were both built for creators who want to sell digital downloads and physical products, there are some major differences between them.

The biggest difference is that Etsy isn’t an eCommerce platform like Big Cartel—it’s a creative marketplace that lets artists and crafters open an online shop to sell handmade and vintage items.

Of course, in addition to handmade and vintage stuff, it’s also possible to sell digital downloads. But, most of their customer base is there to shop for handcrafted products.

Big Cartel, on the other hand, tends to be more popular with small businesses that want to sell digital products. And, I can see why—Big Cartel’s user-friendly interface makes it easy for anyone to build a hosted storefront with minimal effort.

Still, Etsy has one key advantage over Big Cartel: an established customer base. With an Etsy store, you don’t need to have an existing social media following to make sales.

As long as you know how to optimize your listings with SEO keywords, you can probably attract enough customers.

Read on to learn more about the similarities and key differences between Big Cartel and Etsy: their dealbreakers, main features, etc.

To help you see how the two platforms compare to each other and other alternatives, we’re also going to cover a third eCommerce platform—Sellfy.

Big Cartel and Etsy are similar (in a way)

Both Big Cartel and Etsy offer an easy way for artists to create and sell artwork online, whether it’s on an eCommerce platform that lets you have your own online store with a custom domain (Big Cartel) or a digital marketplace with an established customer base (Etsy).

However, aside from the fact that both platforms serve the same purpose, there are some differences worth considering before you make a final choice.

Why would you choose Big Cartel over Etsy?

As much as we appreciate Etsy’s large customer base, there are some pretty good reasons for you to pick Big Cartel over the Etsy marketplace. Let’s check them out.

1. It’s easy to launch a free custom shop (sort of)

Big Cartel is best known as an easy-to-use eCommerce store for selling digital products.

It offers a user-friendly seller dashboard, easy drag-and-drop store customization, and a setup process that doesn’t come with a steep learning curve.

In other words, you won’t have to spend hours configuring your own store. So, if you’re looking for a simple way to sell artwork or other types of digital downloads, then a Big Cartel shop might meet your needs.

The downside is that it’s only free as long as you’re selling up to five products. To sell more, you will have to upgrade (but we’ll talk more about that later).

big cartel homepage

2. Built for artists looking to run a creative business

Big Cartel is an independent platform specifically built by and for artists to showcase and sell their artwork online. This is why the site, including many of its features, has a distinctly artistic feel to it.
So, if you’re an illustrator, graphic designer, or an all-around creative entrepreneur, then you might appreciate Big Cartel’s artsy vibe.

With Big Cartel’s free plan, creators can become a part of their artistic community, take control of their online presence, and run a creative business without breaking the bank.

Although it’s a platform primarily aimed at artists, it can be used to sell anything online.

big cartel for artists

3. More customization options than Etsy

Unlike the Etsy marketplace, a Big Cartel store offers some customization options like fully responsive store themes to suit the needs of any artist.

Their store themes were made with a creative user base in mind, which is why many of their themes look a little quirkier than your average store design.

However, if you’d rather have a more “serious” (or maybe neutral) design, then you can customize your shop with Big Cartel’s drag-and-drop builder to fit your brand.

big cartel customization

The main disadvantages of Big Cartel

However, aside from a Big Cartel shop’s artsy perks, there are also a couple of dealbreakers that you should be aware of.

sellfy vs big cartel

Let’s talk about some of them in more detail.

1. Only 5 products can be sold on the free plan

If you’re a creator who wants to sell more than just five products, then it’s probably best to forget about Big Cartel’s free plan and upgrade, or find an eCommerce platform (such as Sellfy) that lets you sell unlimited products.

Moreover, you can only upload one image per product, which is quite limiting for an eCommerce store with a free plan.

big cartel pricing plans

2. It can take up to 7 days to process payouts

Big Cartel’s slow payment processing is probably one of its biggest dealbreakers. So, if you prefer receiving instant payouts, then that’s not going to happen—you will have to wait for a while.

This might also slow down reinvesting in your business, and we all know how important it is for a creator to be able to reinvest in their business.

big cartel payouts

3. No free tools to promote your business

Big Cartel beats Etsy stores when it comes to marketing, but not by a significant mile.

For instance, unlike eCommerce platforms like Sellfy, Big Cartel doesn’t offer insight into customer data. You also won’t be able to send emails, create coupon codes, use upselling or cross-selling, or craft time-sensitive sales campaigns.

The only way for you to market your store is by promoting on social media platforms or integrating paid third-party apps and services.

big cartel marketing tools

4. Customer support is restricted to email

Instant payouts and built-in marketing tools aren’t the only things that you’ll miss out on if you pick a solution like Big Cartel.

With Big Cartel, you really don’t want to “break” anything because if you do, you’re on your own. And, the same thing goes for dealing with customer complaints.

The technical support that Big Cartel offers is mostly just restricted to email between 9 AM–6 PM (EST), Monday–Friday. So, you’ll have to wait till Monday for a solution.

big cartel customer support

Why would you choose Etsy over Big Cartel?

Etsy is far from being the only alternative to Big Cartel, but it’s definitely an option worth considering.

Let’s explore why.

1. Etsy has a huge customer base

One of the main reasons for Etsy’s popularity is the already established customer base—millions of people browse and shop on the marketplace every day, which is why a lot of sellers sign up in hopes of making sales.

So, if you have a small social media following, or you’ve yet to grow one, then you might be able to find your very first customers among Etsy’s audience.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that this doesn’t guarantee any sales—you’ll still need to figure out how to beat Etsy’s algorithm with SEO keywords.

etsy customer base

2. No limits on how many products you can sell

Another reason to consider launching an Etsy shop is that there are no limits on how many products can be sold. Plus, you can sell almost anything as long as it doesn’t break Etsy’s marketplace rules and policies.

Here’s what you can sell on an Etsy shop:

  • Vintage items (must be at least 20 years old)
  • Craft supplies
  • Non-handmade crafting supplies
  • Handmade creations
  • Digital downloads

etsy arts and crafts

3. Etsy is a popular marketplace for handmade or vintage items 

As mentioned earlier, Etsy isn’t a traditional eCommerce platform—it’s a creative marketplace, which means that you won’t have your own domain.

So, if you’re a collector, artist, or crafter looking for a way to sell online without having to build a social media following, then Etsy might fit the bill.

And, since Etsy is geared towards sellers that make handmade and vintage stuff, their audience also consists of people looking to buy arts and crafts online.


The main disadvantages of Etsy

Etsy may look like a slightly more advanced solution for artists, but it’s far from being the best solution available.

sellfy vs etsy

So, let’s get into the dealbreakers.

1. You’ll be charged heavy listing & transaction fees

Although you can open a shop on Etsy for free, the marketplace is still quite an expensive solution, especially for a beginner with a limited budget.

While there isn’t an additional monthly subscription fee, you’ll need to pay Etsy fees such as:

  • 6.5% transaction fee for every item sold
  • 4% + 0.30 EUR payment processing fee
  • 15% offsite ads fee (if you manage to make a sale through their ads)

In the end, all of these listing and transaction fees can add up and make it very expensive to maintain your Etsy shop.

etsy fees

2. You must know how to optimize your listings

Another downside is that you won’t be able to succeed unless you’ve optimized your listings. This could be a major dealbreaker for a beginner who has little to no SEO knowledge.

Yes, there’s an already established customer base, but it doesn’t change the fact that you won’t be able to reach them without SEO keywords.

So, if you really want to make a profit, you’ll have to learn Etsy’s SEO game and figure out the algorithm.

crochet patterns on etsy-2

3. Etsy is an oversaturated marketplace for independent artists

If you’re thinking about selling on Etsy as a niche seller—think again.

I know it seems like the easiest way to get started with a unique product, but hear me out:

Getting started (as in setting up your shop) is the only easy part. That’s it. The rest is just transaction fees that will eat your profits and a struggle to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace.

I don’t mean to discourage you, but there are probably thousands of shops that are already selling the exact same (or a similar) product that you’re planning to sell.

Because let’s be honest, an established customer base can only mean one thing—that there’s also a large competitor base.

In other words, you’ll have to be extraordinarily good at marketplace SEO to beat the competition and show up in Etsy’s top search results.

etsy oversaturated marketplace

The question isn’t Big Cartel vs. Etsy—it’s why not Sellfy?

By now, you should have a clear understanding of what both platforms offer.

If you’re looking for a hosted storefront with an artsy vibe, then a Big Cartel store may be worth a try. However, if you’re looking for a creative marketplace that has an audience interested in arts and crafts, then Etsy could be the better option.

In any case, both platforms come with some serious dealbreakers, which is why I’d like to introduce you to another eCommerce platform—Sellfy.

1. A simple & smooth setup process

Nothing beats Sellfy when it comes to signing up and building a store. Launching a store with Sellfy is literally a piece of cake thanks to the user-friendly interface.

To start selling digital and physical products, all you have to do is upload your products, set prices, and add your images and descriptions. That’s it!

Sellfy creator and award-winning underwater photographer Tobias Friedrich agrees:

It’s super easy to set up and it’s also very easy to upload digital products. I like how convenient the whole platform is—my customers will just get a download link after a purchase is made. I don’t have to do anything manually. Everything is automated, which is great for me because I travel a lot.


2. Powerful & completely free promotional tools

Both Big Cartel and Etsy offer the absolute bare minimum when it comes to built-in marketing features. In fact, most of their promotional tools are just external apps or services that you have to pay for.

Sellfy has everything you need to promote your online store: email marketing, discount codes, upselling, cart abandonment, pay-what-you-want pricing, store and Google analytics, multiple payment gateways, and other powerful features.

Sellfy's marketing tools-2

3. Affordable pricing & no hidden fees

Aren’t you sick of the fact that every other solution has hidden transaction fees? Because I certainly would be if I was in your shoes.

Well, here’s the good news:

Sellfy has flat and transparent pricing!

This means that you can focus on selling without worrying about losing your profits. Your only expense will be the cost of your monthly (or yearly) subscription plan.

With Sellfy, you can sell unlimited digital products, use built-in marketing features, enjoy store customization, and even use print-on-demand without hidden transaction fees on any of the plans.

Plus, you can have instant access to payouts!

sellfy plans

4. A support team available at your fingertips

Sellfy’s customer support team is available 24/7. And, not only is the team available at any time, but they’re also incredibly helpful.

Sellfy creator and photographer Megan Hein agrees:

I was also blown away at how quick your customer support was to respond. I thought it would take a week or two before I heard back from them, but that immediate response kept my business up and running.

So, if you ever run into a problem, you know that you can reach out to Sellfy’s support team!

5. Store themes & advanced customization features

Unlike Big Cartel and Etsy, Sellfy comes with advanced store customization.

It’s not just drag-and-drop store building, it’s more than that—you get an excellent selection of professional-looking store themes! And, every single one of those themes is customizable, so you’ll have complete control over your online store.

Plus, every theme has a mobile-first design, which means that your store will look great on both desktop and mobile. Win-win!


FAQ: Big Cartel vs. Etsy

Is a digital marketplace better for selling than an online store?

The choice between a digital marketplace and an online store depends on your goals and products. A digital marketplace like Etsy has an existing audience and brand recognition, making it seem like a better choice for artists. On the other hand, an online store like Big Cartel offers more control over branding and customization, ideal for creators looking to establish their unique identity and sell digital and physical products.

Does Etsy charge transaction fees?

Yes, Etsy charges a transaction fee for each sale that you make. In addition to the standard listing fee, sellers are charged a percentage of the sale price and payment processing fees. It’s essential to consider these fees when pricing your products and comparing the overall cost of selling on Etsy with other platforms.

Is there a better alternative to Big Cartel and Etsy?

Sellfy is a strong alternative to both Big Cartel and Etsy. It offers a comprehensive platform for selling digital and physical products with no transaction fees, customizable storefronts, and powerful marketing features. Sellfy’s ease of use and wide range of product options make it a top choice for creators looking to grow their online business and reach a global audience.

Susanna is Sellfy's Content Guru with a genuine passion for copywriting, storytelling, and eCommerce. With years of content marketing experience behind her, she helps to create the best possible landing pages, blog posts, emails, and other types of copy. She also keeps close tabs on social media trends and enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology.