If you’re reading this, you probably already agree with millions of consumers around the world that mass-produced products are, well, massively boring. Handmade items, on the other hand, offer a lot more in terms of value and uniqueness—in short, they’re loads more fun.
In fact, when you order something handmade, you know that the item you get was made with painstaking care, attention to detail, and of course, with love.
As evidence to civilization’s boredom with mass production, marketplaces for handmade goods have been popping up everywhere. Sure, these places have always existed on smaller, local scales, but today, the internet has made artists’ and artisans’ creations available to a worldwide audience.
This means that you can order a handcrafted rug from Copenhagen while sitting in your apartment in New York; you can order handmade soaps from Lisbon while sitting in your London flat. You get the idea. The ability to order handmade items (especially gifts) from across the world makes them that much more special, knowing it is both handmade and international.
What Can You Find at Marketplaces for Handmade Goods?
Everything and anything! Most marketplaces offer a few main categories that differ perhaps only in semantics. These general categories are:
At the same time, some of the top sites offer more obscure items, such as vintage rattan furniture straight from the designer from Supermarket HQ and personalized dog leashes from Etsy. So if you’re looking for something general, like jewelry, the site you choose won’t make much of a difference—they all offer jewelry! But if you want something more rare, you’ll be able to narrow down your options more easily.
Do All Marketplaces Offer the Same Variety?
Variety is the name of the game at marketplaces for handmade items. Because each marketplace offers thousands and thousands of sellers, there is no shortage of the type or amount of goods you can find. Clothes, stationery, jewelry, home decor, furniture—you name it, there is an artist selling it. The only thing we can caution here is to beware of too much variety—you can end up spending hours looking at these beautiful, unique creations without even feeling the time pass!
In this vein, the main difference between most sites is not in the actual variety, but in the quantity of sellers. For example, Etsy is the largest online marketplace, and boasts nearly 2 million active sellers and over 30 million active buyers. Dawanda, on the other hand, hosts 320,000 designers. This isn’t to say Etsy is better, because there is no objective “better.” There is only what YOU prefer.
For some, there can be such a thing as too much variety. eBay, for example, hosts millions of listings—not only of handmade products but of everything. If you have the time and inclination to wade through these listings, you may find some spectacular products. If you don’t have the time or inclination, you may be better off with a website that doesn’t offer quite as many sellers, like Artfire and Zibbet. Remember, a “smaller” website means thousands of sellers, as opposed to millions.
Supermarket HQ and Big Cartel are a bit different when it comes to variety. Supermarket HQ is a curated marketplace that mainly features furniture, while Big Cartel is a site that sells to designers, creators, and artists, and allows them to open up their own online stores for a monthly fee. In short, if you are looking for handmade jewelry or any other typical handmade item, these are not the marketplaces for you!
What’s the Quality of the Products Like?
As with any type of product, there are those that are higher quality and those that are lower quality. Some handmade items will be more beautiful than others, some will be better-constructed, and still some you wouldn’t buy if someone paid you. That’s life! And that’s why it’s up to you to read the reviews of the sellers’ products in order to determine whether they live up to your standards of quality.
One thing to note here is that most sellers are not people who went into the crafts business in order to make money; they are people who make crafts and create art because they have a passion for it. While this doesn’t guarantee that they will produce high-quality goods, it definitely raises the chances. A crafter who designs his product from a deep-seated passion is likely to create something stunning, as opposed to machines, which turn out whichever pattern they’re programmed to.
Is Shipping and Handling Included in Product Price?
No! Across all sites, the price listed for the product does not including shipping and handling. Rather, it is tacked on at the end when you go to checkout.
That being said, some websites, like iCraftGifts, do have a specific category of items that are tagged “Free Worldwide Shipping.” This is great if you actually want the item(s) that appear in this category—but don’t order an item you don’t want just to get free shipping (even though it’s tempting!).
As for most items on the sites, the shipping cost will depend on 4 factors:
The seller’s location
How fast you want it
Weight and size of the item
If you want to keep shipping costs to a minimum, you can search for sellers who are based close to you. This means that if you are ordering items to the United States, you may want to avoid Dawana and Folksy, sites based in Europe. Or, if you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can get free shipping when you order from Handmade at Amazon.
While you don’t need to keep shipping costs low, the important thing is to just be aware! It would be a shame to find an item you truly love and then get suckerpunched by a painful shipping fee.
Where to Shop?
Now that you have all this glorious information at your fingertips, it’s up to you to decide at which marketplace you’d like to shop! And remember—there are no exclusivity clauses here. You can buy bedroom curtains from one and personalized pens from another. The only possible problem you might have? Narrowing down your options from all the great choices you have available.