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Alternatives to Gumroad

Edit 2 (3/24/22): Removed Namecheap from the list since they openly support NFTs now.

Edit: Apparently itch.io allows physical merch, but not directly.

Due to the recent events involving Gumroad planning on supporting NFTs and leaking people’s private info to own them on twitter, a lot of artists, writers and creators are turning towards building their own website to sell their wares but have no idea where or how to start. I’ve compiled as many resources as possible from what I’ve seen being thrown around on twitter, and ones that I know myself.

Please note that this article is written by an (American) artist, and will be geared towards artists, writers and other like-minded creators who need a storefront, so there will be no coding advice or non-store places like Carrd and Neocities listed.

I will also list if a place allows adult content, since I’ve seen that topic come up a few times as well.

Obligatory I am not sponsored by any of the websites provided in this article.

Free Options

If you’re broke and don’t really need a lot of customization, then there are free options available for putting your merch out there. However, there are some that have listing caps, physical-only goods options, or don’t allow adult content, but I’ve been able to find ones that do.

itch.io

itch.io is known for its indie games and software, but did you know you can also sell comics, books, PDFs, documents, assets and other content there? It sort of allows physical merch through the Rewards option, and you have to ask the devs to use CSS customization, but at least you get to customize your (unlimited) product pages enough and decide what itch.io takes from your revenue (under Account Settings > Revenue Sharing).

Pros:

  • pay-what-you-want options (including free)
  • can publish unlimited amount of products
  • allows comics, books, PDFs, documents, assets, etc.
  • customizable revenue sharing
  • allows adult content

Cons:

  • physical merch requires a little more leg work
  • no easily accessible site customization (must request this via email)
  • payout takes a while (up to 7 days)

Ko-Fi

ko-fi is another option I’ve seen show up in the conversation, and it’s good for small storefront owners for the free plan. There is, however, a 5% listing fee and you only get 2GB of storage, not to mention their very strict no-tolerance policy on NSFW content.

Pros:

  • digital and physical merch
  • can publish as many products as you want
  • pay-what-you-want options (including free)
  • allows comics, books, PDFs, documents, assets, etc.

Cons:

  • 5% listing fee
  • 2GB storage limit
  • limited site customization
  • strictly no adult content allowed, and you can’t link to it through your NSFW website either

Weebly

Weebly actually has the option to sell goods on your website, even for the free plan! However, it seems to be only for physical merch for the free plan, but the upside is it has an easy-to-use website builder.

Pros:

  • easy-to-use website builder
  • can publish unlimited amount of products

Cons:

  • physical merch only (for the free plan)
  • no adult content allowed, including non-sexual nudity

Bigcartel

If you are a REALLY small shop owner, then Bigcartel allows free shops for up to 5 products. However, you can only provide set price items for physical merch (no free downloads), but there’s several themes that you can use and build off of, and they allow adult content.

Pros:

  • easy setup
  • lets you use your own custom domain*
  • ready-made themes and customization
  • allows adult content

Cons:

  • only allows 5 products
  • 1 image per product
  • physical products only
  • set price items only

*Using your own custom domain costs money. See the “Dreamhost, Nixihost” section for more details.

Paid Options

To run your own storefront on your own website using a custom URL, you need to purchase a domain, web hosting, and an SSL certificate (why?). Places like Shopify and Squarespace have all of this readily available, but you can also use a setup like WordPress + WooCommerce or Prestashop on a self-hosted website through Dreamhost or Nixihost where you can build more than just a store.

Weebly Personal ($9 USD/mo)

I guess since they got bought out by Square they offer eCommerce options for the Personal and Professional plans. The cheapest one is the Personal plan, which allows digital goods but storage is very limited. They also don’t allow nudity or adult content.

Pros:

  • can connect your own domain from another provider
  • unlimited item listings (digital and physical)
  • free SSL security

Cons:

  • 500MB storage
  • has ads
  • 2.9% + 30¢ transaction fees
  • does not allow Paypal payments for the Personal plan

Bigcartel Platinum ($9.99 USD/mo + $12 USD/yr for custom domain)

Bigcartel is listed here again because it’s another popular storefront service among others and works well for those who need less than 50 listings + digital/free downloads. They don’t directly provide domains, but they’ll give you the option to use Google Domains for $12 USD/yr or your own provider. They also seem to be one of the cheapest options out there. As it’s been said before, they allow adult content, but it’s unclear which laws they must abide by.

Pros:

  • no listing fees
  • free customizable themes
  • Google Analytics (if you care)

Cons:

  • must buy your custom domain separately*
  • only allows up to 50 listings
  • 5 images per product

*They give you the option to use Google Domains ($12 USD/yr) or use your own provider for domains (varies).

Wix Business Basic ($23 USD/mo)

Wix Business Basic is the basic option for businesses who want a custom URL, a website builder, and the option for digital downloads. Their most basic business plan allows for up to 20GB of storage. Wix does not, however, allow adult content.

Pros:

  • unlimited listings
  • customizable website, not just a storefront
  • comes with a custom URL
  • has the option for digital downloads

Cons:

  • a little pricey
  • only has 20GB of storage
  • does not allow adult content

Squarespace Business ($26 USD/mo)

In order to use their selling features, you’ll need to pay around a lot more than their basic plan by purchasing the Squarespace Business plan. It provides a custom domain for annual plans, a website builder with tons of templates to choose from, unlimited listings, digital downloads, and several other features. However, they charge 3% transaction fees for the Business plan, and it’s unclear whether how much storage you get for your products despite it saying “unlimited”. Squarespace also does not allow adult content.

Pros:

  • unlimited listings
  • unlimited storage
  • customizable website, not just a storefront
  • comes with a custom URL for annual plans
  • has the option for digital downloads

Cons:

  • a little pricey
  • 3% transaction fees
  • does not allow adult content

Shopify ($29 USD/mo + $11 USD/yr for custom domain)

Shopify is one of the most popular (and one of the most expensive) options for setting up your storefront, but they provide unlimited listings, unlimited storage, and digital and free downloads. Shopify allows adult content as long as it’s legal, however, which country the laws must abide by is not listed anywhere.

Pros:

  • unlimited listings and storage
  • allows digital/free downloads
  • allows adult content as long as it’s legal

Cons:

  • very pricey
  • custom domain sold separately ($11 USD/yr)
  • 2.9% + 30¢ USD transaction fees for online customers

WordPress or Prestashop (varies)

This gets a little tricky. While WordPress + WooCommerce and Prestashop are provided as free software, you still need a place to host them. I’ll first explain WordPress and Prestashop before I go into the web hosting providers.

WordPress + WooCommerce

WordPress alone can’t be a store, so you need a plugin to provide that. WooCommerce is a very popular plugin to turn your website into a store, and the cheapest way to do this is to do it yourself, but if you have the money, it costs $45 USD/mo to host it on WordPress’s site which includes a domain and SSL encryption. However, hosting on WordPress’s site itself means you can’t host adult content there. For those who want to host it on their own website, however, a lot of web hosting providers provide WordPress hosting and a WordPress installer through an app installer called Softaculous.

Pros:

  • easy setup
  • unlimited listings
  • tons of themes to choose from
  • tons of support

Cons:

  • must go into the backend to change the file upload limit
  • may be a little daunting and bloated for those who need a quick shop
  • you’ll need extra security plugins and your version of WordPress up-to-date to keep your site safe

PrestaShop

WordPress is first and foremost blogging software, and you need plugins to turn it into a storefront, however, for those who want a straightforward store, you can use PrestaShop. PrestaShop is free (and if you care about this, it’s also open-source) and has a comprehensive guide for installation. If the web hosting provider has it, you can also install it using Softaculous.

Pros:

  • easy setup with documentation available
  • very detailed and elaborate setup
  • unlimited listings
  • digital and physical goods options, including free downloads

Cons:

  • has a bit of a learning curve
  • interface is a little crowded
  • is less popular, therefore receives less support
  • auto-install through Softaculous sometimes fails
  • official themes are not free ($$$), but there are free ones out there

Dreamhost, Nixihost

When I originally wrote this article, Namecheap was listed as an option for web hosts, however, they recently released an article supporting NFTs. They have been removed from the examples.

Both of these hosts provide custom domains, web hosting, and SSL certificates and both allow adult content as long as it’s legal within the United States. As far as I know, these web hosting providers have no definitive say on NFTs. I’ll try to explain domains, web hosting and SSL certificates before going into the providers.

  • Domains: these are the addresses you use to visit a website through your browser. In the case of wanting your own storefront to have a TLD (top-level domain) (e.g. yourcoolshop.com, not yourcoolshop.bigcartel.com), you need this so people can visit your website. There’s tons of TLDs to choose from nowadays (.com, .net, .art, .xxx), and the price ranges from $10-1,000 USD, and you only pay for it annually. For simplicity’s sake, I will only be listing the cost of the .COM domain for each web service since this is the most popular and “traditional” choice for a website.
  • Web hosting: Web hosts are on a server where your website is hosted. This is your playground, and it’s where your domain will point to once you have it set up. There’s different types of hosting, from having your site hosted on a server with other customers (shared hosting) to your own private web server (VPS), but the cheapest option that small business owners may simply need is shared hosting. Every site is different, but usually you get the option to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually for hosting and sometimes get it cheaper paying upfront annually.
  • SSL Certificates: I’m not an expert on describing this, but SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificates are used for securing personal, sensitive information (e.g. e-mails, forms, credit cards) on your web’s server which you absolutely need when you do business. You want a business-oriented SSL (not the free Let’s Encrypt! AutoSSL both web hosts provide) like ones from Comodo which can get… expensive but it it’s absolutely necessary for securing business transactions. More on SSL: https://digital.com/how-to-create-a-website/ssl-certificates/

Now that that’s over with, I’ll provide the full startup costs for these two web service provider’s cheapest plans for a .COM domain, shared hosting, and a Comodo SSL certificate (before taxes).

Web Hosting Provider.COM domainShared HostingSSL CertificateTotal Startup Cost*
Dreamhost$7.99 USD
(first year)
$4.99 USD/mo
(Shared Starter)
$15 USD/yr$27.98 USD
Nixihost$12.95 USD/yr$6 USD/mo
(Mini Shared)
$49.95 USD/yr$68.90 USD

*before taxes.

Dreamhost

Dreamhost provides domains, business-oriented SSL, and cheap shared hosting with 50GB of storage. They also provide quick-install WordPress hosting right off the get-go. Dreamhost also allows adult content as long as it’s legal within the United States.

Pros:

  • plenty of storage (50GB)
  • quick WordPress installer

Cons:

  • is geared towards WordPress users
  • does not have an app auto-installer like Softaculous

Pricing:

  • .com domain: $7.99 USD (first year)
  • Shared Starter plan: $4.99 USD/mo (with Dreamshield protection (recommended))
  • SSL: $15 USD/yr

Total startup cost: $12.98 USD

Nixihost

Nixihost is something I found through Reddit while looking for websites that host adult content for this post, and as it turns out they allow adult content as long as it’s legal within the United States. They’re pretty chill according to mine and other people’s experiences. They offer a way to install tons of apps with Softaculous, but some of the downsides is that they offer very low storage space for their most basic plan and their business-oriented SSL certificates are almost $50/yr.

Pros:

  • to-the-point on most things
  • easy-to-use app installer (Softaculous)
  • 1-click wordpress installer
  • allows adult content (must be legal within the United States)

Cons:

  • 15GB storage
  • their SSL certificate is expensive
  • answers aren’t that easy to find (have to dig through their knowledgebase for more info)

Pricing:

  • .com domain: $12.95 USD/yr
  • Mini Shared (15GB): $6 USD/mo
  • SSL: $49.95 USD/yr

Total startup cost: $68.90 USD

Both providers allow people to transfer or use a domain from a different registrar as well as use your SSL certificates from other places so you can mix things around to cut down on costs. There’s tons of other website hosts that provide all of this, it’s just a matter of searching it yourself.

Further Thoughts

Now, when it comes to self-hosting your own web shop, you are entrusted with other people’s data and it is absolutely imperative that you keep your website’s security up-to-date or you run the risk of getting that data leaked. This is to be said for anything you do on the web, but this is especially important for those starting a web shop. If you don’t fully trust yourself with this data, then your best bet would be to use sites like Shopify or Squarespace.

These are basically some of the options you can use to build your own shop without using Gumroad. For the free option, your best bet is to use itch.io; for those who have no website experience and have less than 50 products, I’d suggest Bigcartel Platinum, and for those who want to build your website from the ground-up with WordPress + WooCommerce, then I’d suggest Bluehost. These aren’t the only options out there, but I just wanted to provide some startup costs for those who need a quick reference.

Okay, I’ve gone on too long with this post, but hopefully it helps artists and other types of creators out! If you have any other alternatives or further advice to provide— whether it’s to correct me on any mistakes I made or to provide reviews on any of these services— please, by all means, feel free to leave a comment!