How To Buy A Custom Listing On Etsy

Etsy advertises the site as being a place where you can get things that are made especially for you, including customization. What’s involved in that, though?

Is everything on Etsy customizable? And if not, how do you place an order for a custom listing?

The short answer is that not everything on Etsy is customizable, but for items that are, the basic information to provide the personalization information will be included in the listing itself. If there is not personalization box on the listing, it might not be possible to buy that item in a customized design.

Let’s look at the difference between custom, customizable, and personalized, to begin with, because those are three different things too.


How To Buy A Custom Listing On Etsy

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Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that will pay a small commission at no cost to you if they’re used to purchase something.


Custom, Customizable, and Personalized…What’s the difference?

There’s some overlap between the three types of listings, and people use the terms interchangeably, but they represent different levels of “uniqueness.”

Personalized items on Etsy.

The basic level of making things individual to you is to get it personalized. That involves choosing between options that the shop owner has provided, like colors, fonts, patterns, etc.

These options will take the basic item and make them individual through adding on the options that you choose, but it doesn’t involve a design change.

Personalization is basically adding some personal details that you choose from a list that the seller has provided, but you wouldn’t be adding things that aren’t on the list.

Customizable listings on Etsy.

Listings that are for a customizable product might be considered to be the same as personalizable, but I think of customization as a step beyond personalized.

Customized listings (in my opinion) would be things that start out with a basic design but change some details a little beyond the basics.

For example, If I see a hat that I like, but I wanted it to be in a different color, I could contact the seller to ask if it could be made in a different fabric, or with a different detail.

This wouldn’t involve changing the design, just the material. This would be a customizable listing since there wouldn’t be any additional design work on the seller’s part, but they would have to get the fabric, which might or might not be something they can do.

Not every seller is interested in making things specifically for one person, so not every listing is going to be customizable.

If you ask a seller about whether something is customizable, don’t be surprised if they say no. Customization might not be something that they offer.



Custom listings on Etsy.

When I think of a truly “custom” listing, I think of something that I have to design and create from scratch. These usually involve design work or changing something substantially from a pattern that exists already.

This is something that you commission a maker to create especially for you, and it takes more effort and skill than just filling an order with basic personalization or customization.

A good example of this was an order that someone contacted me about recently, where she wanted a custom order that involved a logo.

I can do printed logos on edible paper, that would just involve putting an existing logo into Photoshop and printing them.

This was a request to actually DESIGN the logos, though, which is something that I don’t do.

That would involve full-on custom design work, and I’m not a graphic designer. I would also have to charge the customer for the time that it took to design the logo itself, and for the finished product, too.

Most people don’t take the idea of paying for the design work into account when they shop on Etsy because they think that everything is totally changeable. That’s not always the case, though.



How to know if an Etsy shop accepts custom or personalized orders.

If an order can be personalized, it will have a personalization box on the listing where you should enter the information that the shop owner needs to fill the order.

If the owner accepts requests for custom products, which would be anything that isn’t the basic personalized product that’s available in the listing variations, there will be a “request custom order” button on the shop homepage.

Request custom order button on Etsy.
Request custom order button on Etsy.

If the request custom order links are greyed-out and nothing happens when you try to click on it, it means that the shop owner has turned the custom order option off, and they probably don’t do anything custom.

The request custom order button greyed out.
The request custom order button greyed out.

You can still contact them to ask if they can customize things, but don’t be surprised if they say no. Even though Etsy makes it sound like everything you see on Etsy can be customized, it’s not true.




The personalization box on an Etsy listing.
The personalization box on an Etsy listing.


How to order a personalized listing on Etsy?

To order something that’s personalized, you need to fill out the Personalization box on the listing page with the necessary information that the seller asks for.

Until they get all of that relevant information, they probably won’t be able to get started making the order, so make sure that you give them everything that they need.

Don’t skip this or leave details out, or the business owner won’t be able to get started on your order!

I know that a lot of shop owners will get stuck trying to get information from customers who haven’t filled out what they need, so it can be a problem.

If the seller needs more extensive information, there may be digital downloads that you need to download to find out what details they need.

If that’s what happens, please contact the seller with the information as soon as possible because they won’t be able to start your unique product until they get that information from you.

If you’re checking out as a guest it can be more complicated because without an Etsy account, there won’t be a way to make sure that you get any messages that the seller sends you about your personalized design.

Since guests can’t use the Etsy messaging system, Etsy will have to send you emails if we need to send a message, and it’s possible those emails will end up in the spam folder.

If you make sure that you fill out all the information it makes it a lot easier to get your order in process without having to extend the production time!


To see the full Artisan Shopping Directory sections, including signups for discounts, click here.


How to order a custom listing on Etsy.

If you do want to send any custom order requests, send the seller a message or use the Request Custom Order button on the shop’s homepage. Remember that if the button is greyed-out, the shop might not accept custom orders, though.

If the seller is open to accepting unique requests, they’ll need to ask you questions to see if what you want is do-able.

Make sure that you’re as specific as you can be, because vague requests for handmade items usually don’t end well.

To start the custom order process the seller needs to know exactly what you’re imagining, because they might not be able to make what you’re thinking of.

You should also expect to pay more in additional costs for custom items that are built from scratch as far as the design goes.

If you’re just asking to change a detail that’s one thing, and there could be a small upcharge for that.

However, if you expect the seller to design something specifically for you, you’re going to have to expect to pay a lot more for that service.

Orders that are truly custom take more time and communication, so there’s going to be a premium charged for that service.

Some sellers might also expect you to sign a contract for large orders, and that’s normal since higher-priced items probably involve more planning.

Every business owner is going to have different policies that they use to protect themselves and their potential customers, and to make expectations clear.



How to pay for a custom or private listing.

To pay for a custom order, the shop owner will create a custom listing, or sometimes a regular listing, and will send the private listing link to you. From there you can pay normally using the regular Etsy checkout. (This article tells about how the Etsy shopping cart works.)

Whether the listing shows up in the seller’s shop or not will depend on whether Etsy let the seller create the listing from the messages you sent them or not.

Private listings can only be seen by the Etsy customers they were created for, but sometimes a seller will make public listings instead of making them private.

Either way, Etsy or the seller should send you the link once the listing is finished and ready to be purchased.

Custom orders placed through the Etsy messaging system.

If you can request a custom order you’ll have to be registered on Etsy with an account, since Guests can’t use the Etsy messaging system.

When the seller gets a message from a customer it will sometimes say “make this a custom order” at the top of the page, but if they have custom orders turned off that might not be there.

If the seller can create the custom order from within the message, the entire order will be tracked in the message, so you’ll be able to find the order there when the new listing has been created.

Custom orders that are set up through the Etsy messaging system won’t be visible to anyone but you, and it won’t show up in the seller’s shop. If you’re looking for it there, you won’t find it, you’ll have to check your messages!

If the seller said that they sent the listing but you didn’t get a message about it, you can check your personal profile to see the messages that you received. (Check out this article about sending a photo to a seller to see how to do that.)

If there’s no message there, you can ask the seller to send you the link again. It should show up in their shop messages, if not in their listings, and they should be able to send you the link.

Etsy will also send you a message saying that the listing is available if the order is created through messaging.

Custom orders placed through regular orders.

If the seller can’t create the order through the “make this a custom order’ button in a message, they might have to create a listing that shows up publicly in their shop that you’ll be able to buy.


Examples of custom listings in Etsy search.
Examples of custom listings in Etsy search.

If that’s the situation, they’ll probably create a listing that has a title like “Order reserved for Susan,” so that people know it’s for a specific buyer. They’ll send you the link, and you’ll be able to buy it then.

The risk with this, though, is that people will come along and buy the listing even though it says it’s not for them. Don’t ask me why, but it happens.

So basically, if the seller has to create a public listing, buy it as soon as you can so that no other Etsy customers buy it first!

In this situation, you won’t receive a message from Etsy about the listing, so the seller will be the one to send you a message.


Are custom orders refundable on Etsy?

In general custom or personalized items are NOT returnable on most platforms. This includes Etsy and most websites. Make sure that you know what you’re ordering and like the way the item looks when you choose your colors or fonts, because there aren’t many businesses that will accept returns on things that have your personal information on them!

If you’re ordering something that you’ll need by a deadline, you should know that if there’s a delay in the mail, you probably won’t be able to return it.

Try to give custom orders a little extra time, because sometimes they take longer to get finished and ready to ship.

Check the estimated delivery dates before ordering, and remember that those are only estimates, and they’re also based on you getting the information to the seller in time!

You should assume that you will NOT be able to return anything that you’ve ordered that has personalization or customization on it, though.

For fully customized items, you might have to pay a retainer to the shop owner to get work started, and there might be additional charges if you exceed the number of changes the designer has given you in their agreement.

Most artists won’t do work before being paid something, whether it’s the full amount or a deposit. And the design work is based on the time spent on the design, so if that’s billed separately you might not get that design fee back.

Make sure that you understand the terms of the payment before buying, and if you don’t want to pay what the artist is charging, it might be best to pass on a fully-custom order.

Custom orders on Etsy are a little more complicated than ready-to-ship items, and the details are a little more complicated to straighten out.

Make sure to communicate with the shop owner and get them all of the information that they need so that they can get started on your order promptly!

Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 51,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

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