What is the Indie Sellers Guild?
The Indie Sellers Guild is a labor organization established to promote the interests of independent sellers of handmade, unique, vintage, and craft goods all over the world. We are a nonprofit that seeks to fill the role of a union in a traditional workplace.
A nonprofit that seeks to fill the role of a union — what do you mean by that?
Our mission is to provide both representation and community for our members. Together, we can make our voices heard. We can harness the power inherent in our vast numbers to advocate collectively for fair and transparent policies in online marketplaces. We can speak with one voice to corporations, legislators, the media, and the public. We also want to build a community for indie sellers and their supporters, a place to share resources and business tips and to connect with each other.
How did you get involved?
The Indie Sellers Guild was born out of the grassroots Etsy strike in April 2022. I had heard about the strike and wanted to support the sellers. I hadn’t been actively selling on Etsy for a couple of years myself, but I signed the petition. Then about a week later, I saw a news article that the movement was thinking about forming a union for Etsy sellers. That I found really exciting, so I found the contact information for Kristi, the head of the movement, and got involved.
What is your role now?
A little bit of everything. We are all volunteer run, so everybody does what they can. I focus mainly on the organization’s structure — bylaws and meeting minutes, etc. I am one of the Treasury-Secretaries. But I am also the committee chair of the organizing committee. Part of the reason I got so involved was the amazing group of people I found in the other volunteers. We are all over the U.S. and Canada, and everyone is working so hard and is so motivated to build an organization that can really help sellers.
What is your favorite part about being involved?
The people. And being a part of a grassroots organization, watching everyone come together with their own ideas and experiences, ready to jump in. I love seeing how much we can accomplish by working together. Online indie sellers can be really isolated and are often small, one-person businesses working from home. But there are so many amazing things we can do if we work together.
What kinds of things can you do?
One thing we can do if we work together is collective action, such as the strike. The strike was only one week long, but tens of thousands of sellers participated. And we saw changes from Etsy within two months. Though they refuse to acknowledge us, they already changed a controversial program based on our exact critiques.
And a strike is really an action of last resort. With a real union-like organization, we can negotiate directly with platforms. We’ve had several online marketplaces reach out to collaborate with us. We can build solidarity and leverage our numbers to advocate for ourselves.
We can pool resources and ideas, both on the craft side and the business side. We already have a blog where we share business tips, research, and best practices. We have a lecture on interstate and international shipping, taxes, and fees, and a digital media skills training is in the works. We can help build a community for sellers, both online and for in-person meetings, as well as coordinate events. We have an online directory for all our seller members and can create other cross-promotional opportunities. Most importantly, we can unite and make a positive difference.
How is the organization run?
Right now we are a mad group of volunteers. Since we are trying to build a labor organization to function like a union in an industry that has never had any kind of organized labor, we have had to make up a lot of things as we go. We have based a lot of our structure on independent contractor and gig worker unions. We are a democratic organization where each seller member has an equal vote and will have an elected Council of representatives as well as officers with specific roles, and committees to handle the day-to-day tasks. It has been really interesting to build an organization that is truly by the members, for the members.
What comes next?
On Monday, September 5, Labor Day, we are holding a press conference to announce the start of the Indie Sellers Guild. We will have guest speakers, make statements, and offer interviews.
How can I get involved?
Sign up as a member! Anyone can sign up as an ally member. Allies are people who used to have online shops or are just starting out, friends and supporters of sellers, and anyone who just values handmade, vintage and craft goods from indie sellers. Seller members are those with active shops, and they have voting rights. And tune in for the event on Labor Day!
Information about signing up and the event can be found on our website at indiesellersguild.org