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Small Business

The Ultimate Guide to Secured Business Loans

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Opening or expanding a small business usually involves a significant financial investment, whether it’s paying for building renovations, computers or additional inventory. For new business owners with ambitious plans, this type of investment often requires more capital than they have on hand, and existing businesses may not have enough cash available to grow while continuing to pay regular operating expenses.

One common solution is a business loan, which can be secured from banks or other private lenders for more favorable terms and lower interest rates than unsecured loans.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

Part I: Understanding Secured Business Loans

USBL Table

Business loans typically are secured or unsecured, and the type of loan that you can qualify for will depend on market conditions, your credit score, your assets and your business’s profitability and outlook.

Secured business loans require collateral – as much as 80 percent or more of the loan’s value, which shows that the borrowers can repay the loan if the business fails or the loan goes into default. That means that business owners need to show the lender that they are willing to take on significant risk, including the possibility of losing their house or business assets, to secure financing for their business venture.

Unsecured loans do not require collateral and typically are easier to qualify for. For secured business loans, on the other hand, lenders look for applicants who are in a position to pay the loan back regardless of the business’s success and are willing to risk their own assets for the business. Applicants also need to have good credit and businesses that are feasible in the current market.

“That’s why [lenders] want people to have a proven track record of doing things responsibly,” says Roman Starns, a business consultant with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center. “[Borrowers are saying,] ‘look, I’m willing to put my home equity in, I’m willing to pledge some real estate, I’m willing to put 20 percent down in cash to make this business work.’

“That’s going to mean they are more likely to run that business well and do well at it. If someone puts nothing into it, they have nothing to lose but their credit.”

Lenders also will investigate whether the business is viable in the current market. An entrepreneur who wants to open, for example, a VHS repair shop could have a solid business plan and financial backing, but lenders likely will reject the application.

“They are going to look at the market conditions for this loan as well,” says Starns, who has 20 years’ experience as an entrepreneur and small business owner. “No one has VHS anymore. They want to see that this is a workable business and the financial projections on it show that, within reason, you’re going to be able to pay back everything and the business is going to make it. It’s not as easy as, ‘Oh, I have a great idea that’s going to work,’ and you go get a loan for the money.”

Part II: Types of Business Loans

Traditional lending institutions, such as banks, offer standard secure business loans through a simple application process. Borrowers can apply in person or online, and bank professionals will work with the borrower on the terms and amount of the loan. For applicants and businesses in good financial shape, this process can be quick and easy.

The type of business loan a borrower applies for will depend on their need for cash, financial situation and availability of collateral. Here are some options for business owners considering secured business loans.

Term loans

Term loans are best for business owners who have a specific, one-time need for cash, such as buying an expensive piece of equipment or financing a major building renovation. A term loan will provide the money up front in a lump sum, and the borrower pays it back over time. These loans typically are approved for established businesses that need extra cash to expand or enhance their services.

The length of the repayment period will depend on the purpose of the loan and the amount of collateral the borrower can offer. Until recently, term loans were offered between two and five years, but now they can be repaid in as little time as six months or as long as 25 years.

Deciding which type of term loan you need depends a lot on how soon are prepared to repay the loan.

Up to 2 years: Short-term loans

Short-term loans, which are best for paying for a pressing business need, must be paid back quickly. Terms might require daily or weekly payments, which allow the borrower to pay back the money quickly and minimize financing costs.

2 to 5 years: Medium-term loans

Medium-term loans are ideal for companies that are growing and are optimistic about their future. These loans, which usually are repaid in two to five years, allow business owners to put plans for expansion into action immediately rather than waiting to save enough money to buy equipment or other assets that will allow the business to grow. Medium-term loans can be unsecured or secured, and approval is based on the applicant’s credit score and collateral, if required.

10-25 years: Long-term loans

Long-term loans are designed for businesses that can project growth years. The amount of these loans, which have repayment terms ranging from 10 to 25 years, is dependent on the need, and they can range from several thousand dollars for a small equipment purchase up to $1 million for buying a building or property.

SBA-guaranteed loans

It is a common misconception that the Small Business Administration, a government agency that provides assistance to small businesses, loans money to businesses. Instead of making loans directly, the SBA creates guidelines for loans and then guarantees to its lending partners that their loans will be repaid.

The SBA works with several different kinds of institutions, including traditional lenders, microlending institutions and community development organizations. When a business applies for an SBA loan through one of these partners, the partner provides a loan that is structured according to SBA rules and is guaranteed by the SBA.

Because the SBA is a government organization, its rules and practices can change as government fiscal policies adapt to the current economy. It’s important to always check with the SBA for its most current policies and loan programs.

The SBA typically will not offer loans to businesses that can secure financing on their own, and it does not offer grants to new or expanding businesses. It does provide several programs to help borrowers finance different aspects of a business.

  • General small business loans: These loans, called 7(a), are the SBA’s most common loan program and can be approved for up to $5 million, although the SBA states that the average 7(a) loan for fiscal year 2015 was about $371,000. These loans are assigned low interest rates, and the SBA will guarantee as much as 85 percent of the loan up to $150,000. Seventy-five percent of loans over $150,000 are guaranteed. The loans are generally available to small businesses that do business in the United States and have already used alternative funding sources, such as personal savings.
  • Microloans: Available for startups and business expansions, SBA microloans are provided through intermediary nonprofit community organizations for up to $50,000. The average microloan is $13,000, according to the SBA, and interest rates are between 8% and 13%. Business owners usually are required to pledge collateral and a personal guarantee.
  • Real estate and equipment loans: The CDC/504 program offers loans for buying land, improving property, constructing and improving buildings, and purchasing equipment and machinery. Successful applicants will have a feasible business plan, no available funding from other sources, good character, and business projections that show an ability to pay back the loan. Loan amounts are based on how the business will use the money and how closely the business’s plan meets the program’s goals.
  • Disaster loans: When businesses suffer losses due to a declared disaster and are in a declared disaster area, SBA low-interest disaster loans are available to replace or repair real estate, personal property, inventory, business assets, and equipment and machinery damaged in the disaster. Owners of businesses of all sizes can apply online, at designated disaster recovery centers, or by mail, and the loan can be repaid in monthly payments or a lump sum. Loans can be approved for up to $2 million.

Business line of credit

A business line of credit works much like a business credit card, allowing the business to access funds as needed and make minimum monthly payments to repay the borrowed money. Through this type of lending, business owners can set their own borrowing and repayment schedules, depending on their cash flow.

Lines of credit are appealing to businesses because they are easier to obtain than standard secured loans, and the business owner does not pay interest until they withdraw money from the credit line. This type of borrowing is best for established businesses with optimistic outlooks, as struggling businesses in danger of failing may leave the owner personally responsible for unpaid debt.

Chris Kline, co-owner of a pillow manufacturing business in Bucks County, Pa., says his business recently took out a $50,000 line of credit to buy more manufacturing equipment to meet increasing demand for their products. Kline and artist Eric Fausnacht opened the business manufacturing pillows printed with Fausnacht’s artwork five years ago, and Kline helped move the business from arts and crafts shows into the wholesale market.

The application process for a line of credit included a meeting with a bank official, who visited the company on-site and talked at length with the business owners about their company and business projections.

Kline, 45, says that he prefers to borrow conservatively, and he and Fausnacht pledged business assets rather than personal assets to secure the line of credit. While unsecured lines of credit are available for maximums under $100,000, secured lines of credit typically have lower interest rates and higher credit lines.

“I’m not looking to borrow more than 10 or 15 percent of annual sales,” Kline says. “And I’m confident we will be able to pay that back if something unforeseen happens.”

The new equipment purchased with the line of credit already increased production and revenues enough that Eric & Christopher now has eight or nine full-time employees and additional part-time staff.

Equipment loans

Many businesses require expensive equipment, such as an X-ray machine or a tractor, to get started. Without revenues from the business, a business owner may not have the capital to pay for the equipment. An equipment loan, which several types of lenders offer, can help a business buy the equipment it needs to begin or expand operations.

Unlike many other types of business loans, the equipment can serve as collateral for the loan and makes the loan easier to obtain. If the borrower can’t make the payments, the lender will repossess the equipment and sell it to recoup some of its losses. Applicants for equipment loans should have good credit and cash available for as much as a 20 percent down payment.

Equipment loans typically come with low interest rates and manageable payments, making them good tools to help businesses afford expensive purchases. Business owners must pay off the entire loan, even if the loan repayment term is longer than the life of the equipment.

Invoice financing (factoring)

Invoice financing, also called invoice factoring, is an easier way for an established business owner to raise capital than with a standard secured loan. This process allows business owners to sell their outstanding invoices at a discount to a third party, which then collects on them to repay a single-payment loan issued to the business owner.

These types of loans are beneficial for business owners who need cash faster than the repayment deadline on the invoices. Invoice financing can cover cash flow gaps and payroll, for example, and it is low risk because the money comes from completed sales rather than sales projections. The downside is that invoice financing requires substantial fees.

Inventory financing

Businesses that depend on a steady flow of inventory can use inventory financing to keep their shelves stocked or to buy more inventory for seasonal sales increases. Inventory financing also can help small businesses with cash flow during periods of slow sales.

Inventory financing provides a revolving line of credit that business owners can draw on as needed. The business owner pledges existing inventory as collateral for the loan.

Part III: How to Secure Your Business Loan

There are several ways to secure a business loan. You can use hard assets for collateral, like a house or a boat; paper assets, like investments and savings accounts; or your own inventory and invoices. We’ll dig into types of ways to secure your business loan here.

Securing your business loan with collateral

If you or your business has significant assets, you likely are a good candidate for a secured business loan. Lenders will consider the amount of collateral you have when deciding on your loan application, as they want to reduce their risk in case you can’t repay your loan. If you default, lenders will take possession of collateral and sell it to regain at least some of the money they lent you.

This is where risk can come in. While your business may be secure when you apply for the loan, downturns in the market or other unexpected events may push a business into hard times. For example, if an unsavory business moves in next door, your customer traffic may slow significantly. If a machine breaks down or needs to be replaced, production could be slowed and orders unfulfilled. Theft and natural disasters that destroy your business’s property also can severely reduce revenues and lead to unexpected expenses.

If unforeseen circumstances result in a business owner being unable to make loan payments, the lender can seize collateral. As a result, a business owner can lose their house, their car or their savings. If the collateral is property belonging to the business, seizure can be just as devastating, and losing significant business assets can cause the business to close.

The payoff for a secured loan, though, will be more flexible loan terms and significant financial savings over time. Borrowers with secured loans will pay lower interest rates and fewer fees, and they may not be penalized for paying off the loan early.

Hard vs. paper assets

Lenders typically will accept personal and business assets, which a business owner can pledge as collateral if they want to protect their personal property. Either way, borrowers must promise the lender something valuable that can easily convert to cash in the case of default to recoup losses.

Borrowers can pledge two types of collateral: hard assets and paper assets. Hard assets include houses, vehicles, boats and land, while paper assets include stocks, savings, investments, insurance policies and bonds. Lenders also will happily accept cash accounts as collateral, but they will not consider retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans.

Business assets that qualify as collateral include inventory, insurance policies, accounts receivable, machinery and equipment, and unpaid invoices.

Some lenders may attach a blanket lien to a loan as collateral, and borrowers should be aware of the sweeping consequences this can have if the loan goes into default. Blanket liens give lenders a legal claim to all of your assets, business or personal, if you stop making loan payments.

Securing your business with a personal guarantee

In many cases, borrowers will be asked to provide a personal guarantee for a secured business loan. This requires the signatures of all principal owners, ensuring that they have assets they can put up as collateral. While the signatures are on unsecured promises, a personal guarantee does allow the lender to take signers’ assets if the loan is not paid. If you don’t have enough assets to personally guarantee a loan, business consultant Starns recommends finding a business partner who does.

Personal guarantees are different from collateral in that they give lenders access to a wide range of assets, while collateral typically specifies assets the lender can seize in case of nonpayment.

It’s important to know what you’re signing when offering a personal guarantee. If you do default on the loan, the lender may release you from the personal guarantee if you ask, and you also could try to arrange with the lender to first sell business assets to satisfy the outstanding debt before they seize your personal assets.

Part IV: Shopping for a Secured Business Loan

Borrowers can apply for secured business loans at several types of financial institutions. Banks and credit unions offer standard application procedures that include filling out an application in person or over the phone, discussing terms and the loan amount with a loan officer, and working with a business specialist to access funds if the loan is approved.

Business owners can apply for SBA loan programs through partner lenders, which can include banks and community organizations that work within SBA guidelines. Borrowers will need to download and complete an SBA loan application and be prepared to submit documents such as personal background and financial statements, business financial statements, and income tax returns. A list of SBA lenders is available on the agency’s website.

Online lenders typically have faster application processes and can get money to borrowers quickly, but they often come with higher interest rates than traditional lenders. Some online lenders often charge origination and monthly maintenance fees as well.

To compare offers from multiple business loan lenders, check out MagnifyMoney parent company LendingTree.com.

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Do your research

Before business owners begin shopping for a secured business loan, financial advisers recommend realistically assessing their business’s economic situation. Secured business loans come with great personal risk, as a failed business and inability to pay off a secured loan can cost a business owner significant personal or business assets. Online calculators can help borrowers estimate potential monthly payments and make good decisions about what amount of loan they can afford.

Bob Burton, a retired businessman who now volunteers as a mentor for the Charlotte, N.C., office of SCORE, a national organization that provides mentoring and education to small business owners, says he makes sure that clients understand the economics of their idea for a business.

“They have to make the call whether they want to put their money in it,” Burton says. “A lot of people don’t understand what’s involved in starting a business. It sometimes can look very simple, but it can be quite complex.”

Starns advises borrowers to think through how realistic their plan is, including whether they are truly committed to the endeavor and have enough experience to execute it, before taking on a secured loan.

“You’re risking a lot of things,” he says. “Owning your own business is rewarding, but it’s also risky and takes a special mentality to be able to do it.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

Marty Minchin is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marty here

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Small Business

How Tariffs Affect Small Businesses

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Tariffs are duties charged on imports, and U.S. buyers pay the costs. Small businesses that bring in imported products can either absorb the expense or pass it along to their customers. When tariffs increase, as they have on certain goods imported from China, as well as the import of steel and aluminum products, countries often retaliate by increasing their own tariffs on American goods arriving on international shores.

Small businesses bear the brunt of tariff hikes and the resulting trade wars. “Small businesses are especially hard-pressed because they don’t have the reserves to tap into to wait for more stable circumstances,” said Davidson College economics professor Shyam Gouri Suresh.

We’ll help you understand how tariffs affect small businesses and what you can do to protect your firm when unexpected costs threaten growth.

What is a tariff?

A tariff is a tax that a country levies on imported goods and services. Tariffs increase the price of imports, potentially making them less competitive or desirable compared to domestic goods and services. 

A tariff is typically charged as a percentage of the value of the product that a buyer must pay a foreign exporter. In the U.S., importers must pay tariffs at 328 ports of entry, which the U.S. Customs and Border Protection controls. Companies that pay the tariffs to bring goods into the country likely pass that cost on to customers. The paid tariff goes to the Department of Treasury and makes up a portion of the federal government’s revenue.

Tariff increases

A country may introduce a new tariff or increase existing ones in order to restrict trade from particular countries or reduce imports of specific types of products, which is what the U.S. Trade Representative decided to do to combat unfair trade practices with China. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce implemented tariffs of its own on certain imports of aluminum and steel for national security reasons. Trade talks continue between the United States and China as of press time, but at least $300 billion worth of Chinese imports face tariffs, some as high as 25%.

The effects tariffs have on small business

These increased tariffs and resulting trade wars have cost American businesses big and small $38 billion, according to Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of businesses and trade groups that oppose the tariffs. Automakers, tech companies and agricultural producers have been especially hard hit, but the National Retail Federation has also compiled profiles of affected small business owners from music teachers to gift shop owners.

“They have to either swallow this increase in price, or they have to pass that price increase on to the end consumer,” Gouri Suresh said.

Passing on the costs of tariffs: A closer look

Big businesses are in a better position to absorb higher costs than small businesses. Large companies can operate on smaller margins, while small businesses don’t have as much of a cushion and eventually must raise prices.

“As they increase prices, they may start losing their customer base,” Gouri Suresh said. “It’s a really difficult bind to be in. It favors bigger businesses that have deeper pockets who can ride out this trade war.”

Some firms may not be able to pass costs onto customers if they compete with businesses unaffected by high tariffs, said Katheryn Russ, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis. Small businesses likely have to take a blow to their profit margins if competitors don’t have to make similar price increases because of tariffs.

“If all businesses are having to raise their prices in a particular product space, then that’s different,” Russ said. “And this does seem to be a broad-based cost increase for U.S. firms.”

U.S. producers facing Chinese tariffs conversely have had to drop prices to remain competitive in China. For instance, soy farmers in the U.S. significantly reduced prices to avoid passing on cost increases to Chinese consumers.

Businesses that stand to benefit from tariffs

Tariffs on foreign goods should benefit domestic producers making similar products, as their products would be less expensive than those taxed at a high rate. Those producers may be able to raise their prices knowing the demand is higher, Gouri Suresh said.

For instance, American steelmakers are reportedly seeing bigger profits from higher demand, increased prices and a boost in production. But the rush to production may backfire as it meets a global economic slowdown.

How to prepare your business for economic changes

The U.S. government’s actions have been unpredictable, which makes it challenging to plan and prepare for increased tariffs, Gouri Suresh said. Tariffs have historically been implemented slowly, but the recent increases have not reflected the gradual nature of past rate hikes.

“The problem with what’s happening with the most recent trade war is the numbers are flying every day,” he said.

Tariffs have also affected industries differently, making it difficult to compare the impact across companies, Russ said. “It’s hard to offer specific advice. We just don’t know right now what’s going to happen,” she said. “I guess…just be ready for anything.”

Despite the unpredictability of the trade war, there are steps you could take to better position your business for economic changes.

Cut back where you can.

To minimize the price increases that you’d have to pass on to customers, consider cutting back your operating costs as much as possible. This could allow you to run the business on a tight budget when needed.

Consider an industry change.

If you can easily alter your business concept, you may find that an adjacent industry is less affected by tariffs than the one in which you currently operate.

“Being nimble is going to be a really big boon for businesses if they can turn on a dime and reconsider what they’re buying and what they’re selling,” Gouri Suresh said.

Apply for a tariff exemption

Several categories of goods are exempt from tariffs, such as items that are necessary for health and safety. Goods are exempt on an industry-wide basis, and large groups of lobbyists and business owners must typically work together to seek exemptions.

Companies affected by recent tariffs may request to be excluded from Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods and Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. Thousands of companies have filed exemption requests with the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, claiming they are unable to find comparable goods outside of China or that it would be extremely costly to do so. Approvals for these requests, so far, have been low.

The bottom line on how tariffs affect small businesses

U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are hurting some American firms more than the intended target, Gouri Suresh said. The widespread impact on U.S. businesses and consumers may not be sustainable and tariffs could soon decrease. But if not, high prices on imported goods may become the new normal.

“In the long run, either the tariffs end and the trade war ends…or everybody learns to live in this new world,” he said.

In the meantime, small businesses will likely continue to feel the effects of tariff increases. It may be best for entrepreneurs to hunker down and operate as efficiently as possible until stable conditions return, Gouri Suresh said.

“When things go bad, they’re the ones who are going to suffer first,” he said. “But they are also the ones who will benefit the most when things turn for the better.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Melissa Wylie
Melissa Wylie |

Melissa Wylie is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melissa at [email protected]

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Small Business

Etsy Alternatives: 5 Options for Creative Businesses

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Etsy is an online marketplace for independent sellers of handmade, vintage and craft products. For a fee, creative entrepreneurs can open their own ecommerce shop on the Etsy platform to sell goods and services. But it’s not the only platform artists and craft makers can use to sell their wares. Amazon Handmade, Depop and Zibbett offer similar marketplaces, while eBay is for sellers of all types of goods, not just handmade ones, and has size on its side. Or, you could rely on your own ecommerce site through a provider like Shopify.

We’ll break down the Etsy alternatives so you can determine the best way to share your handmade products.

Selling on Etsy: When to stay and when to go

Stay: Business owners who don’t yet have a customer base.

Etsy has more than 2,300 active sellers on the platform and more than 42,000 buyers; according to Jesse Tyler, marketing director of Classy Llama, an ecommerce agency based in Springfield, Missouri, entrepreneurs just starting out can benefit from that built-in audience that Etsy provides.

Sellers have the opportunity to be featured on the site, as Etsy handpicks shops to highlight throughout the marketplace. If selected, you could benefit from being exposed to hundreds of potential customers. Sellers could also promote their listings through paid ads on the site.

However, Etsy’s sellers are also bound to its policies and must keep up with changing rules to rank high in search results on the site. For instance, Etsy announced in July that it would encourage sellers to offer free shipping for orders totaling at least $35. Shops that don’t make the change to offer free shipping won’t receive priority placement in Etsy search results.

Stay: Those with limited time for site setup.

For creative entrepreneurs looking to sell goods online, Etsy could be an attractive starting point. Etsy provides tools to set up an online store, taking the burden off the business owner to build a site from scratch, Tyler said.

“If you’re using Etsy, it’s about leveraging what already exists,” he said. “There’s a lot less responsibility and a lot less work to get set up.”

If you’re not tech savvy or don’t want the hassle of constructing an ecommerce site, Etsy provides tools to quickly set up a shop. You’d need to provide information about your business and products, as well as how you want to accept payments, and Etsy would populate a website for you to manage. From there, you could rearrange items on your page to customize your store.

Etsy charges fees for listing and selling items — a $0.20 listing fee, 5% transaction fee and 3% plus $0.25 for payment processing — but in exchange Etsy takes on the technical aspects of running an ecommerce site.

Sellers must also adhere to Etsy’s policies, including restrictions on the type of products you can sell and shipping requirements, as mentioned earlier.

Stay: Entrepreneurs with limited marketing budgets.

Generating an audience for a new ecommerce site can be challenging, Tyler noted, especially if you don’t invest in advertising. Selling on Etsy would give you access to the high volume of people who visit the marketplace.

“If you’re a small seller and you’re not spending money on ads, you’re going to be better off sending them to Etsy and letting Etsy do the work,” he said.

Associating the business with Etsy could also increase the credibility of your brand, Tyler said. People may be more willing to interact with a business that appears on a trusted platform, like Etsy. Kickstarter would be a similar example, he said, and these platforms are often an effective “marketing engine” for new businesses.

The longer you sell on Etsy, the more reviews you would collect from customers. Positive reviews can boost your ranking within the Etsy marketplace, increasing the exposure of your shop, said Tyler. A positive reputation on Etsy can be immensely valuable to sellers.

“If you’re doing well on Etsy, it might not ever make sense to leave,” he said. “Your reviews and repeat customers, those are things that are kind of hard to replace if you go.”

Consider an Etsy alternative: Small businesses with greater ad budgets.

If you want to invest in advertisements, it would be best to direct customers to your own website rather than an Etsy domain, Tyler said. Instead of using Etsy’s paid ad campaigns, consider other, free ways to increase your Etsy ranking.

A new site would require you to make a significant marketing investment to gain traction. But if you were already planning to advertise your business, it could make sense.

Consider an Etsy alternative: Own your customer base.

When selling through your own ecommerce business, you could collect valuable information from your customers, such as email addresses. Etsy doesn’t allow sellers to collect email addresses from buyers to conduct further communication. But as a business owner, obtaining addresses allows you to directly connect with customers and generate new leads.

Operating outside of a marketplace like Etsy would allow you to control your communication with current and potential clients.

5 Etsy alternatives for crafty entrepreneurs

Etsy is considered a consumer to consumer (C2C) marketplace, meaning it serves as a neutral platform to sell goods. Etsy facilitates transactions and takes a percentage of sales, and other marketplace platforms do the same. On the other hand, software as a service (SaaS) providers give users their own URL and control of their domain in exchange for an ongoing fee.

Whether you’re looking for another marketplace in which to sell your products or a site to host your own store, here are a few Etsy alternatives to check out for your small business.

 EtsyShopifyAmazon HandmadeDepopZibbeteBay
Subscription feeNoYesNo, for 40 items or lessNoYesYes
Starting costListing fee: 20 cents/item

Transaction fee: 5%

Payment processing fee: 3% plus 25 cents
Subscription: $29 to $299/month

Credit card fee: Starting at: 2.7% plus 0 cents (in-person rate); 2.9% + 30 cents (online rate)
Referral fee: $1 or 15% of the total sale price, whichever is higherFlat fee: 10% on each item sold

Payment fee: 2.9% plus 20 cents
Subscription: $5 or $6 per month, per channel (2 minimum), plus channel feesSubscription: $4.95 to $349.95/month

Insertion fee: 5 cents to 30 cents/item

Final value fee: 2% to 10%
Free trialNoYesNoNoYesNo
Choice of payment optionYesYes, for a feeYesNo (PayPal only)YesYes

1. Shopify

Shopify is an ecommerce platform that allows business owners to create a cloud-based online store. Users can buy their own domain name or connect an existing URL to their store. Shopify’s store builder tool makes it easy to design a site if you don’t have web development experience.

New users can try Shopify for free for 14 days. Shopify requires users to purchase a monthly subscription, offered starting with its entry plan:

  • Basic Shopify subscriptions start at $29 per month and include an ecommerce website and blog, space for unlimited products and full-time customer support. Basic plans include account access for two people and a 64% shipping discount. Shopify charges a fee to accept online credit card payments — 2.9% plus $0.30 for the Basic plan.

As you advance to more expensive subscription tiers, available site features increase, and credit card processing fees decrease.

2. Amazon Handmade

The Amazon Handmade marketplace is designed for artisans and craft makers who sell products online. Sellers must submit an application before setting up a shop. Upon receiving approval, you would choose your business name, payment method and provide your credit card information. You can then list products in categories such as artwork, beauty and personal care, clothing, jewelry and watches, among others.

You would need to register for a Professional selling plan, which is free, though if you plan to list more than 40 items in your shop, you would be subject to a $39.99 monthly fee. All sellers would owe a fee on each item sold. Amazon charges either 15% of the total sale price or $1, whichever is higher.

3. Depop

Depop is an app-based marketplace for creatives with a social component. Users can see what products others are liking, buying and selling. As a seller, you would create a Depop profile that would be featured in the app. You would need to provide a description of what you’re selling and your policy on shipping and returns. Sellers need at least four items to list when launching an account. Depop uses PayPal to facilitate transactions and you would need to connect a PayPal account for Depop to verify before you can accept payments.

Although sellers don’t have to pay listing or subscription fees, Depop charges a 10% flat rate on each item sold. Because Depop partners with PayPal to conduct secure transactions, sellers are also subject to a fee of 2.9%, plus $0.20 for payments. You can ship through Depop and choose whether you or the buyer would be covering shipping costs. You can generate a shipping label through the app, then drop off the item at a post office or with another courier.

4. Zibbet

Zibbet allows creative entrepreneurs to sell in the Zibbet marketplace, as well as through other sales channels — for example, Zibbet can connect to other platforms, including Etsy, letting you manage your sales in one place. Zibbet gives users the ability to customize their shop, list unlimited products and run sales and promotions. If you’ve connected your Zibbet store to other sales channels, all order details would be imported to Zibbet for you to manage, and any changes made to your store through your Zibbet dashboard would be updated on all channels.

Zibbet offers a 14-day free trial for new users. After that, the platform costs $5 per month if you choose to receive a yearly bill, or $6 per month if you’re billed monthly. Each channel that’s connected to your Zibbet account — there’s a two-channel minimum — would cost an additional $5 or $6, depending on your billing schedule. Zibbet doesn’t charge listing or transaction fees, but you would be subject to fees from other channels. For example, if you connect your Zibbet store to Etsy, you would owe Etsy’s fees.

5. eBay

eBay offers a personal or business account, depending on what you plan to sell. A business account is best if you want to sell large amounts of items, handmade products or items that you bought with the intention to resell. Similar to other platforms, eBay allows you to create listings for items you want to sell, including shipping options and how customers will pay you. eBay’s Seller Hub provides tools like sales tracking to help business owners manage and grow their online store.

eBay charges a monthly subscription to run a store, which offers more listings and lower fees than selling without a store. There are a range of subscription tiers, including its entry plan:

  • Starter subscriptions costs $7.95 per month, or $4.95 per month if you sign up for a yearlong plan. The Starter plan also comes with 100 free listings, with each additional listing costing $0.30 per month. eBay also charges all sellers a percentage of each final sale. The final value fee ranges from 2-12% for Starter subscribers. Sellers also get a monthly allocation of “zero insertion fee listings,” which are items you could list for free.

Combining Etsy and alternatives

You can open both an Etsy shop and an ecommerce store on another platform, and it could be a smart strategy to do so, said Tyler. For instance, large enterprise companies typically sell through multiple channels, such as retail stores and their own store or website, he said.

You could take advantage of Etsy’s built-in audience while working on your own ecommerce site. You would likely have more freedom to design and customize your own domain, though you would need to make sure it appeals to customers. People can be hesitant to trust a new site, Tyler said, and it could help if you also have a presence on Etsy.

“If you set up a shop yourself and it doesn’t look great and there’s not a lot of reviews, people might be apprehensive about buying from it,” he said.

The bottom line

There are several places for business owners who want to sell handmade or craft products online to set up shop.

Creating your own ecommerce site on a hosting platform like Shopify would give you an independent domain for your business. You wouldn’t be associated with a larger marketplace and you wouldn’t need to compete with other sellers on the same platform.

But it takes time and commitment to bring people to a new website, and you may find that consumers can be wary of a startup ecommerce brand.

“A Shopify site might bring disappointment,” Tyler said. “You have to do a lot of work to bring traffic and build an audience.”

A marketplace with name recognition, like Etsy, could be a better starting point for new entrepreneurs. Etsy provides tools to simplify the process of setting up an online store. Though you would have to pay listing fees and face high competition, your brand could benefit from the exposure that Etsy provides, Tyler said: “If you haven’t built an audience, this is a great, safe place to do that.”

Still, keep in mind that you could sell products through Etsy and a secondary ecommerce site to see which is best for your small business. As Tyler put it, “it doesn’t hurt to have both.”

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Melissa Wylie
Melissa Wylie |

Melissa Wylie is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melissa at [email protected]