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Clarifying Our Guidelines on Outside Manufacturing

Jan 27, 2014

by Sarah Abramson handmade and vintage goods

Sarah Abramson leads Etsy’s Marketplace Integrity team, working with sellers to make sure the items on Etsy comply with our guidelines.

In October, we announced some changes to our policies on selling handmade goods. Specifically, we clarified that sellers can hire help or work with individual collaborators to produce their goods, so long as they list everyone involved in their shop. We also gave the greenlight to shipping or fulfillment services, so long as sellers take responsibility for their customer’s experience personally. And we introduced an application process if you want to partner with manufacturers to produce your designs. A manufacturer is any outside business that helps make your items.

Since then, we’ve noticed that sellers were still unsure of exactly who needed to apply, and who did not. The exemptions that we initially created — digital prints and posters, music, books you authored, and 3D printed items — turned out to be more confusing than helpful. So we’re eliminating them. Anyone who works with a third party to produce items they’ve designed will need to apply to sell those items on Etsy. We realize this is creating more work for some sellers who’ve been successfully selling on Etsy for years, but it’s the best way to be fair and clear.

We also want to make it clear that you do not need to apply to tell us where you bought pre-made components. If you buy the supplies you use to make your items from a retailer, you do not need to apply. You only need to apply to work with an outside manufacturing partner if they contribute to making your designs.

Some Etsy members were concerned that the new allowance for manufacturing would change the character of our community. We’re right there with you — that’s why we decided to create an application process and we’ve been very selective about who we’ve approved. So far, we have approved less than 50% of applications reviewed. (Applications may be rejected if they did not demonstrate authorship or responsibility, but also pertinence, for example describing a hypothetical new product or disclosing information about where supplies were purchased.)

On average, the applicants have been selling on Etsy for about 2 years. Some are looking to broaden their product lines, like a fashion designer working with a cut-and-sew shop. And others are just complying with the new guidelines by sharing a more complete story about how their existing listings are made, like an illustrator using a print-on-demand service. Geographically, applications have come from a fairly representative sample of our sellers. We have received applications from 48 countries, and for about 80% of approved applications, the manufacturers are in the same country as the shops, highlighting the power of local manufacturing. We’ve also been proactively contacting sellers and asking them to fill out the application when we have reason to believe that they may partner with an outside manufacturer.

Looking into 2014, we’re focusing on two areas we can improve upon — making the application easier to fill out and getting back to you sooner with the results of our review.

We are committed to continuing to strive to make growing your business on Etsy as fluid as possible. We look forward to hearing from you, and learning about how you’ve developed your own small creative business! Join the conversation in this forum thread.