I've been selling on Handmade at Amazon since launch (October 2015) and what a whirlwind my life has become since then! I'm sure you have read all the horror story articles about why selling on Handmade at Amazon isn't a good idea as an artisan, but I'm here to give you the real deal.
It's true, Handmade at Amazon isn't for everyone. It isn't for every artist and it isn't for every small business but most importantly, it CAN be. So let's dive right into the details on why I say that:
My business began in 2007 on Etsy, after that I eventually opened up a website through Shopify or Squarespace or Wix or Weebly (honestly I think I've used them all at one time or another) and while I was making consistent sales it wasn't enough to quit my day job and pay all the bills. Fast forward to the summer of 2015, I had read about Handmade at Amazon opening and applied on a whim. I didn't really have any expectations and thought I had nothing to lose so why not give it a shot? I spent the next couple months setting up shop and adding listings for when it launched to the public. I was contacted by the Handmade at Amazon team prior to launch to have a couple of my items included in their holiday gift guides, which was exciting and peaked my hopes up a little bit.
Handmade at Amazon launched at 3am my time on October 8th 2015, and I amazingly woke up to over 50 sales that morning! I was completely blown away. I knew Amazon had the customers and the traffic, but I never in my wildest dreams expected this.
After a whirlwind of a holiday season, I quit my day job. I could not handle doing both at the same time anymore so I took a leap of faith and left my job to do what I love.
Amazon has been great for me, beyond the holiday gift guide features, I was also interviewed for their Amazon Transformation stories in February 2016 and had an Amazon team come to my home studio and select me as a Featured Artisan in July 2016! My sales have continued to not disappoint me and I'm now a 6-figure handmade business. I am living my dream and it's all thanks to Amazon! If I can do it, you can too! Amazon just takes a different mindset and figuring out how you can make it work for you, too.
This is one of the big reasons why I see other sellers shying away from giving Amazon a shot, but it shouldn't be. If you are pricing your work accordingly, Amazon fees are not that big of a deal, especially at the sales volume that can come from it.
Etsy fees usually equal out to about 8-10% when I account for listing fees, selling % fees and payment processing fees. Compare that to Amazon's 15% (plus $39.99 monthly fee that has been waived for ANOTHER year for Handmade sellers, until January 2018) and it's not bad at all.
Yes, if your business is more of a side hustle or hobby, Amazon likely isn't right for you. But if you want it to be more than that, then it definitely can!
Amazon payments are not available right away. New sellers will have a hold put on their account balance for a certain period of time to ensure there are no issues. Amazon covers themselves, as they should. As long as you are aware of this when starting it's not that bad. I am now paid out every 2 weeks and just need to budget bills and business expenses accordingly.
Fun Fact: When I woke up to those 50 orders the morning of launch, guess what? I had to pay shipping costs out of pocket for the first 2 weeks of orders. It wasn't easy because I wasn't prepared to do it and shipping from Canada to the US is VERY expensive, but thankfully, I had some capital funds put aside to invest in my business. I don't have access to shipping labels directly from Amazon (which would have helped, it would have came out of my shop fund balance) so it was tough.
Amazon has a rather generous return policy, which can sometimes hurt small handmade businesses but think of it this way - would you have as many sales as you have on Amazon if they didn't have such a generous return policy? It provides customers with some confidence when buying, which means more sales overall. It's actually a GOOD thing! Plus, Amazon does offer exemptions for customized or personalized items on handmade, too.
My return rate since starting on Amazon is right around 3% which overall for my type of product is not bad and absolutely acceptable.
Amazon has a lot of different policies in place which is why I always stress that Amazon needs to be for those who are really serious business owners. A few violations and you are out, Amazon isn't forgiving about policy violations so it's important to learn all you can prior to opening up shop and selling there. And this is not meant to scare you, it's meant to encourage you to take a serious look at your business, your business model and ensure that you research, research, research!
Applying to Handmade at Amazon is a juried process, which is one of the best things about it. I love that they limit categories (like jewelry is usually very over-saturated on most venues or markets), and their application process ensures that the items are handmade. While it's disheartening if you aren't accepted right away, it is generally a good thing, for both sellers and customers.
Amazon Is Going to Start Stealing My Ideas & Making My Items
I've heard this argument a lot, especially when handmade first launched. Amazon's wording in their terms of service are:
License: You grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner, any and all of Your Materials, and to sublicense the foregoing rights to our Affiliates and operators of Amazon Associated Properties.
If you share work on Facebook or list on Etsy, you've likely already agreed to these exact same terms. It just means that Amazon can use your photos in banners or advertising as they see fit, or that they can translate your item descriptions to other languages, etc. Amazon has a line called Amazon Basics, beyond that they don't actually sell or manufacture anything.
What are your thoughts? Are you currently selling on Handmade at Amazon? If you are, how are you liking the platform? And if you're not, why not?
Want more info and to apply? Click the links below: