Long before I was selling my jewelry on Etsy, I was a huge fan of the site. It is the online marketplace for buying handmade products. Anything you could possibly dream of can be found here. (Warning: It can also be highly addicting!)
That said, Etsy can also be an incredibly overwhelming site, especially for first-time visitors. Just doing a search for “jewelry” brings up over six million items! Wading through those first few pages can be enough to make you want to throw in the towel before you have even began. And how are you to know if you are buying from an actual artist?
Today, I am going to give you just a few tips to help make the site a bit more manageable when doing a search, to know what to look for before you hit “purchase,” and to make it an overall successful and positive buying experience.
1. Be as specific as possible in your search terms.
Typing in a broad term, such as "jewelry" I gave you before, will yield a ridiculous number of results. (Honestly, who has time to search through six million results?) Try to hone in exactly what you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for a computer bag, think about what type of material you would like it to be. Do you want a backpack, or a shoulder bag? Do you want it in a particular color? Type in specific keywords to help narrow down your search. Etsy will also give you a list of commonly-searched phrases as you are typing, along with some related search terms, to help you find what you are looking for.
After you have done a search on Etsy, the site will give you a list of related search terms at the bottom of the page
As you are typing in your search, Etsy will give you other commonly typed phrases.
Alternately, if you are not entire sure what you want, you can try the "Browse" categories on the left side of the Etsy homepage. If you click on one, it will further narrow down the "Browse" categories for you.
2. Carefully read the description and seller’s policies.
Once you have found something you think you like, read through the description and look at all of the photos. Note what materials it is made from, the color, the turnaround time, and if it's ready to ship. Important: Make sure you are clear what size the item is, whether it is wearable or an item for the home. Sometimes, photos alone will not be very indicative of the size. One time, I bought Sam a teapot and coordinating mugs for a holiday present. Just looking at the photos, I thought it was a normal-sized teapot. When I received it in the mail I could not help but laugh at myself -- because it looked more like a tea set for a young child to play with. Totally my fault, because I missed the part about the mugs holding three ounces of tea.
Luckily for me, I was able to return the item, even though the mistake was completely on my end. It is up to each seller on Etsy to determine her return policy. Some sellers will offer a full refund, some shop credit, and others -- due to the one-of-a-kind nature of their work -- will not refund at all. As a potential buyer, you want to make sure you are aware of what the sellers’ policies are before you purchase anything. Fortunately this is really easy to find now. If you are looking at the item description, there is a tab near the item’s description that says Shipping & Policies.
And if you ever have any questions about an item, you can ask the seller directly by clicking on “Ask a question” underneath the item description.
3. Check where the item is shipping from and the shipping costs.
Etsy is a worldwide marketplace, so it is entirely possible that the item you have just fallen in love with is shipping from another country. There’s nothing more disappointing than realizing shipping is going to suddenly cost more than the item itself. If you want to be sure that you avoid any international shipping costs, you can do a search for things just in your country. When you do a search, look on the left side of the screen -- you'll see ways to further refine by how much you are looking to spend, the seller's location, and which countries the seller will ship to.
Even if the seller is in your country, shipping costs can greatly increase the cost of your coveted item. Heavier and more fragile items will likely (and understandably) drive up the price of the item, or shipping costs might include the cost of insurance (always good for more expensive items!). You can see how much the shipping will cost by clicking on the “Shipping & Policies” tab when you are looking at the product description.
If you are buying internationally, be aware of your country’s import taxes. This is something I recently encountered as a seller. Depending on what country the item is being shipped to and from, you might suddenly find yourself having to pay hefty taxes before your country’s mailing system will release your package to you. As frustrating as that might be, typically it will be your responsibility as a buyer for paying those fees.
4. Read about the seller.
Sadly, there are many items on Etsy that might not fit your definition of handmade (I know they don’t fit mine!). You can see a classic example if you do a search for “bubble necklace.” You can get a better sense of whether or not the item is actually handcrafted if you check out the seller’s "About" page, where you can learn more about the person, his/her process, and even get a glimpse at their studio space. You can find this by clicking on the shop’s name at the top of the page of the item description, then clicking on “About” under “Shop Info” on the left side of the shop’s main page.
A blank "About" page is often (but not always) a good indication that the item might not be handmade. Plus, it’s pretty cool to know a little more about the artist.
Once you have received your item in the mail, don’t forget to leave the seller feedback! If you feel that your goods were not up to par or not what you were expecting, I encourage you to message the seller first before leaving a harsh review. Many of us are one-person shops, juggling it all. We want to make sure our customers are happy, but we are human and do make mistakes!
Have you ever purchased something on Etsy? What has your experience been? What additional tips would you add?