The Business of Jewelry: Choosing an Online Marketplace for Selling Your Handmade Beaded Jewelry

Jan 24, 2012

It's important to find the right online marketplace for your jewelry business.
If you're ready to expand your jewelry business and start selling your handmade beaded jewelry online, you're in luck: there are more options for selling your jewelry online now than there were just a few years ago.

When I first ventured into the world of online sales, there were only a few options for selling handmade jewelry online. Now it seems that everywhere you turn, there is a new marketplace popping up where you can list handmade items (including jewelry) for sale. Doing a little research before you choose an online marketplace for selling jewelry can make all the difference in having a successful jewelry business.

If you don't want to go through the hassle and expense of setting up your own website for selling your handmade beaded jewelry, you can find lots of options for setting up an online presence for your jewelry business. Before you jump in with both feet, however, look at these five key questions for choosing an online marketplace:

1. What kinds of fees are charged? Remember that these online markets are in business, too, and most of them charge fees for listing items. Listing fees are charged when you put a new item into your online shop for a certain period of time. A renewal fee is charged when you relist an item after the initial listing has expired. Some online markets also charge a fee in the form of a percentage of each sale you make. There are some online markets, however, that only charge a monthly flat fee for unlimited listings and don't take a percentage of each sale.  

2.What do I get for my fees? Some online marketplaces like eBay allow a limited number of pictures for your initial fee, and then charge additional fees for additional pictures. You should also find out what their search function is like, and how items are found by buyers when they are browsing listings. If you're going to pay premium prices for your listings, you want to make sure that your items aren't immediately pushed to the end of the line when customers are searching!

3. Do they accept my preferred methods of payment? If you like to use one particular payment service for your online payments, you may be limited as to where you can list your handmade beaded jewelry for sale. Make sure you carefully research your payment options before you sign up and stock your shop, or you may find yourself looking for a new online marketplace.

4. Do they allow items other than handmade? Remember, if you are in the market to sell your handmade beaded jewelry, you don't want your jewelry business to have to compete with a business that is importing inexpensive and poorly made jewelry from overseas. Check the terms of use for any online marketplace and find out how well they enforce their own rules.

5. How easy is it to contact them in case I have a problem? For several years, there was one major online marketplace that had no way to contact a customer service representative by phone. That left hundreds of sellers with no way to get assistance when they needed it most. Take a close look at the customer service page of each online marketplace that you consider. If there are no phone numbers, you might want to think twice before using that marketplace as an online presence for your jewelry business.

The bottom line when choosing any online marketplace for your handmade jewelry business is that you have to be happy with your bottom line. Don't sign up for any long-term commitments until you are satisfied with your experience selling in an online marketplace.

Don't feel overwhelmed at the many facets of creating and running a successful online jewelry business! You can find expert advice from successful jewelry artists in each issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. The Net Profits column in each issue covers topics like blogging about your jewelry, how to use social media like Facebook and Twitter and how to use publicity to increase sales. Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine and see how you can expand your jewelry business in 2012!

Do you sell your finished beaded jewelry? Do you use an online marketplace or your own website? What advice would you offer to someone who is thinking about developing an online presence for their jewelry business? Leave a comment on the blog and share your thoughts, advice and experience with us!

Bead Happy,


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Bobbi helms wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 6:46 AM

God advice. I'll add one more - limit yourself to one or two sites. To be successful on any of these sites, you need to devote time and effort. You dont just simply list items and then sit back. Dont spread yourself too thin.  And dont get discouraged. It takes time to establish yourself.

Bobbi helms

revlondoll wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 9:34 AM

Well this article was a "big no-help"!  Most of the suggestions are pretty common sense, especially for those who have been selling on-line.  How about some real help, like some suggestions as to the best selling sites?  Is Etsy better than Ebay?  How about the track record for the more obscure sites?  This kind of info would be more helpful.

on Jan 25, 2012 10:34 AM

I have tried eBay and Etsy and have been very unhappy with both. eBay has excessive charges and keeps changing the rules plus buyers are look for the cheapest stuff they can buy. You pay to list, pay for extra pictures and pay always increasing final value fees.   Etsy has a listing fee, a relisting fee and takes a percentage of your sale.  You need to list every day because they do not have a revolving listing and if you do not list every day your items just get further and further down the lists and no one finds you.  You can expect to spend a lot of time and money listing on Etsy.  I have settled on Bonanza and so far am mostly happy with it. No listing fee, unlimited number of items can be listed, no auctions.  You can sign up for membership at different levels which gives you a few more perks. You have to work at selling on Bonanza - tweet, facebook etc.  Most of my sales have come from first time buyers thru searches.  Ebay and Etsy are so well known that people hit there first and if they can't find what they want then they turn to searches.  Bonanza is a continually evolving site and Yes it does have issues but they are willing to work on it and listen to suggestions and make changes.  Online sales are very, very hard work and take pretty much daily effort.  You have to figure out what you have that people want and then work, work, work. Learn how to use keywords, search optimization etc.  Jewelry is a grossly over saturated market so your work has to be top notch and creative but the best jewelry in the world won't sell online is no one can find it.

on Jan 25, 2012 11:19 AM

Thanks Phyllis for a great comment. I learned a lot from it.

Beading Daily:  a chart of some of the more popular hosting sites would be very useful for your readers i.e. fees charged, how easy are they to contact, what you get for your money, comments from beaders using these sites for their wares would help.

CortneyW wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 11:53 AM

If you make a chart of options for sites to sell your jewelry, make sure to include FREE Marketplace for Everything Handmade, Vintage and reSupplies. Really. No fees. Join now while it is free and you will keep your account free in the future, even if they decide to add fees later.

Marge@54 wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 12:16 PM

There must be some researched data on marketing sites somewhere out there. Can someone lead us in that direction? I would love to have Beading Daily report this to us but there is probably some reason they are not allowed to or I know they would be excited to be more helpful in this area.

Thanks BD for all the help you do provide.

mulberrygal wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 2:21 PM

I have tried artfire and etsy. Both are  not good. Etsy use to let you run ads to promote your items for as little as $2 a week. Now their minimumis $5 a week. Plus listing fees, selling fees etc. I was selling very reasonably priced yet even though 100's looked  they dont buy. Its all sellers on etsy. I just opened my own free site at No fees at all and tremendously more perks. Up to 5 pictures for each item and unlimited items. You can customize our shop and the url isnt as crazy as etsy. Mine is come look and see if you like the site and if so sign up for one. I am happy with it

MAA61 wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 5:06 PM

Really great information from the people who commented.   A comparison chart would be great for newbies in the online marketplace.  Thanks.

Kmarie0218 wrote
on Jan 25, 2012 7:59 PM

I may be able to help....I have a chart on my beader's resource guide website that lists a whole ton of online market places and what the fees are, etc.  The link is here - - There's one for "online marketplaces" and I also have another page with links to places to advertise/promote, etc. under the "Craft Directories" link. Good luck!

I tried Etsy once and sold nothing and was pretty frustrated.  But I may try it again.  I've been on Storenvy - which is free (and kinda cool) but I've sold nothing there either.


pmeyncke wrote
on Jan 26, 2012 12:21 PM

I started by opening an eBay shop, and even back then, several years ago, I was a small fish in an enormous ocean. And, you have to compete with cheap overseas produced products. Then, I opened a shop at Etsy, which did little. I won my Pro shop for life at ArtFire through a design contest, so I don't pay for it. The fee is less than $15/month and you can list as many items as you want, and don't get nickeled and dimed for listing fees, final fees, etc. It's all included.

My best strategy so far is a biz Facebook page. I run specials there for my fans, hold giveaways, and provide a direct link to my ArtFire studio. It seems to be my best decision so far!

alicia.m wrote
on Jan 27, 2012 8:53 AM

Well, I have to agree with some of the other comments - I expected a bit more from the article... That aside, here are my thoughts:

1. eBay is not an artist-orieted site... it's an auction site... if you don't sell your jewelry at an auction in real life, shouldn't even think of eBay in the virtual life

2. Besides fees and customer service - one should consider what audience a certain site has, and, even more important, what is their SEO policy  (Etsy and ArtFire have decent SEO policies, they do some of the work on you part)

3. Etsy has a huge audience, however it has a huge number of sellers too... Check what their search capabilities are - will make a difference if the buyers can reach you!

4. Beaware of the site with no fees - it is true that you get what you pay for. Most are start-ups (meaning no audience - hence no buyers for you!) and some are really poorly designed. I have tried - there are no categories, the process to upload an item is a bit cumbersome (and I do work with computers, so you can't say I'm not accustomed to applications). It's a nice site, don't take me wrong - however, I sent them a few questions (through email) and have yet to receive a reply!

5. While I wouldn't trust a 'research' done (it'll be most likely supported by one or another of these sites), there are lots of article comparing the existing artist sites. A google search will reveal them. Make sure you read with a level-head (some are written by irrked customers :) )

What I personally look for when choosing is:

* How many users they already have or can reach (Etsy will winn hands-down, not considering eBay... see my first point above)

* What is their search capability (will the users be able to reach me?! Don't know about Esty, but ArtFire has a Google search integrated - which is *great*!)

* What is their upload process (maybe they offer a bulk upload, or a short upload form to quickly get my stuff there, with a more detailed form for when I start filling in the extra)

* How do they process payment for end users (do they allow me to use credit card, eCheques, PayPal, money order etc.? or they are fixed on one payment type only?)

* What is the actual site design - is it simple and easy to navigate? will my clients be fed up tryong to find the Pay button and give up?

* What is their integration with social media - can I easily integrate my Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Digg etc. etc. accounts?

* Do they offer me a blogging capability? Even better - can they integrate with an existing blog application (I still have to find one that does that - the integration!)

* What are the prices of others on comparable items? If I am the lowest or highest - I might have an issue (especially if I am the highest)... it means I am in the wrong place / market.

* Do they offer advertising on the site?

* Can I set sales - per product, per category?

* Can I set different shipping fees?

* Can I set options / features for my items (ArtFire has a great feature - they will create product copies for each feature you choose: say you have a pair of earring in pink and you'd like to offer them in red, green, and blue. Instead of having to upload 4 products and type the same thing over and over, they'll simply do it for you! You upload the first one, set some info and - voila! you now have 4 items with the effort for one - this is a cool feature)

* Do they have analytics data? Can I see how many people visited my shop?? What they viewed? Where they return visitors? That type of data is important...

* Can I create cupons? Can I set from-to dates or I have to physically be there on the day to start / end them?

* Can I promote my shop outside the site (many offer a java script you can paste into your site - like a blog - to display a mini-shop).

* Can I set my shop on vacation?

* Do they allow me to try it for free for a while?

* What are the fees?

As you can see - the fees come very late in the game :) at least for me...

Although I understand Etsy is more established and has a better audience than others, after trying both and I have decided to pay the monthly fee on and bring customers from outside (through Facebook, Twitter, blog etc.) until I get established.

blueflute wrote
on Jan 27, 2012 11:51 AM

Another marketplace that I have found is Zibbet. It's a newer up and coming global selling site.

on Jan 28, 2012 7:28 AM

As someone who has tried many different online venues for selling my finished beadwork, I can't really say that there is one site that is better than the others. I've known some people to be outrageously successful on ArtFire but do terribly on Etsy. Others do very well Big Cartel but don't sell a thing on ArtFire or Etsy. Each site has its own features that sellers can take advantage of, depending on their individual needs. Writing effective descriptions and taking clear photographs are also important when setting up an online shop.

Perhaps a follow up blog about actually setting up and running your online shop would be beneficial to everyone?

dianectaylor wrote
on Jan 28, 2012 9:40 AM

How about a list of some or most of these sites? I know of etsy and eBay. What are other, reliable sites?

rhcl wrote
on Jan 28, 2012 10:51 AM

Would you name a few of the on line places to sell hand made jewelry other the Itsy, Ebay, or Craigs list.



Gen11 wrote
on Jan 28, 2012 10:58 AM

Really helpful from the comments, Thank you! It really does depend on what type of jewelry you're trying to sell for etsy. The competition is crazy so your stuff has to be extra-extraordinary!  It's like an America's Got Talent competition sort of--unless your stuff is pretty much off-the-charts, well, Hello corporate world =(

I've had a shop there since 2008, but have yet to master, if at all possible, a look that's coherently sleek. I just recently started to be focused on one type of item, jewelry, for my shop. Really important. Before, it looked like a patchwork from a scattered housewife, which was true. Unless it has a common thread to tie it all together neatly, do stay away from "a little of this and a little of that". Once more, there should be a look and feel that relates your items one to another--just gives off a polished, professional vibe.

And really, eBay would be an insulting place to try to sell your designs and handcrafted items, I would think. I remember trying to sell my stuff at a flea market once and thinking "Why won't my stuff sell?" Haha! Well, if it had "Made in Cheapsville" stamped all over it with a price tag to match, things would probably have "taken off".

All I can really add has already been said: "Take mind-blowing photos of your stuff"--somehow that translates to "I take my work seriously and if you buy this you'll be cool like my photos, too"...

Blessings to you all!

scarlet1957 wrote
on Jan 28, 2012 8:23 PM

Places I find easy to use,offer different features to sellers,many have some form of free listing or free account.I do well on Artfire but that is the place I put most effort into.Other places include-Etsy, Zibbet, Ecrater, Supadupa(very new),Addoway,Bonanza.For something different you might want to try out Tophatter auctions.

KcBeads wrote
on Feb 20, 2012 10:56 AM

I'm new to this and am perfecting my craft. Thanks to all for sharing. Here is a ? I'm sure on many minds. I have purchased a number of beading books to teach myself, even though I have started branching out on my own designing can I reproduce these pieces of jewelry in these instructional books for resale. I've looked to see in print any disclosure. I wouldn't reproduce someones piece that I saw for sale but from say even the stringing instructional magazines. Thanks


Ashley4 wrote
on Feb 26, 2012 9:38 PM

Would anyone be interested in a group facebook page? We could display our designs. Thoughts?

on Feb 27, 2013 5:54 AM

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