Etsy’s New Custom Orders: A Detailed Look

on Jun 25th, 2013 | in Etsy Tips | 9 Comments

Last week, Etsy announced new and improved tools for custom order requests. Since the custom orders feature a private listing for the purchaser, Etsy is now two for three on my list of Missing Etsy Features from 2011. The announcement covers the basics – here we’ll take an in-depth look into this new feature.

Etsy custom orders are opt-in; the setting is under Shop Settings > Options > Request Custom Order. Set this to Enabled and you’ll get a big fat button on your shop urging customers to contact you for custom orders; see it in action on my shop page.

Custom order highlights

  • The listing is private – only the intended buyer will see it.
  • The Etsy listing fee is not charged until the item is purchased.
  • The private listing is currently limited to one photo.
  • The buyer is automatically notified when their custom order is ready for purchase.

The nitty-gritty

Custom order requests piggyback on Etsy’s conversations system. When a buyer requests a custom order, it’ll show up as a convo and be placed in both your inbox and a “Custom Requests” folder.

The first contact is a simple convo with the request from the buyer and a “Needed by” date if they entered one. Since it’s a convo, you can go back and forth with the buyer to nail down the specifics – attaching images as needed. The special custom order convos always have a section on top to start building the custom listing.

The custom order listing is a trimmed-down version of a full Etsy listing. It’s sensible to cut out a lot of the listing details – many of the listing fields are unnecessary if you’ve already arranged a buyer and don’t need to catch someone’s eye in search. It does carry the limitation that only one photo can be attached to the listing.

Once you publish the custom order listing, the buyer will be notified automatically via convo and email that the custom order is listed and ready for purchase. The buyer can add the listing to their cart and proceed with Etsy checkout as normal.

Notable is the fact that the listing fee is not charged until the buyer makes the purchase; no longer will sellers be burned by listing fees for custom orders that were never purchased.

A listing generated from a custom order request shows up in your shop Listings section marked as “Private.” The Edit link from the Listings screen takes you back to the custom request convo with the mini-editor open so you can make changes.

The custom order convo includes a timeline showing the steps in the process – request, listing, order placement and shipping. The timeline only shows once you enter the convo – hopefully Etsy will add an indicator in the “Custom Request” folder view so you can see the status of multiple custom orders at once.

Custom orders have long been a pain point for Etsy sellers; it’s a relief to have an improved process. It doesn’t solve all the world’s problems – there’s no support for split payment, and some sellers find buyers mashing the custom order button rather than using their listing variations – but it’s a great step towards a full-featured custom order process.

Cover image by Vicki on Flickr.
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9 Responses

  1. Nesa says:

    Custom orders on Etsy is a great feature. One thing I struggle with is that at the time of creating the custom order you are required to add a photo. All the criteria and needs of the buyer is in the written conversation.
    if I am customizing an item and I don’t have a picture of the finished product I would be forced to just add an image just so that I can finalize and create the order and send to Buyer.
    Once the Buyer purchases the order, there is no way of updating the image of the order even before it is shipped. So if the Buyer is going to leave a review for that order, the image/thumbnail image is not what the Buyer is actually leaving the review for. 🙁

    I think Seller should be able to update the image at least before shipment.

  2. Mary says:

    Is there any way to edit a custom listing before publishing? I realized after I saved my custom listing (but before I published it) that I made a small mistake in the description and would like to edit it, but every time I change it and hit “save” again, it says there was an error in saving. I can’t seem to get it to save the new description and am now wondering if I’m going to need the customer to send me a new custom request so that I can fix this problem, which I would like to avoid obviously. This seems

  3. Debra says:

    I have had several Etsy shops over that last several years but they were mostly digital until now. I have which is a design shop which specializes in vinyl decals, banners and such. The problem I’m having with custom orders is this:

    The customer sends me a custom order request which could have easily been ordered from the listing with only the info being sent via “note to seller”. I’ve tried several approaches to get them to place the order but it seems as soon as I say “please go back to the listing and select your options and I will get this underway” the communication stops. I’ve asked them to give me the colors, size, etc and I will set up a custom order for them to place their order and communication stops.

    I would guesstimate that I have lost close to 10 orders because of this and I’m at a loss a for what to do. I’m thinking I will go and remove the custom order request on all except custom order postings.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


  4. Andrew says:

    Doing a custom order is a really a painless process through Etsy, however the main issue I have & I think is a huge one is calculating shipping cost. Currently I just estimate what I think it will be based on weight & let customers know I’ll refund the difference if they overpaid. This is such a painful process, because its never exact. What is a better solution?

    • Brittany says:

      Andrew, I’m lucky to have very similar products so the weight and size rarely changes much. When setting up a custom listing, I always ask for the customer’s zip code and use my shipping calculator to set the cost of shipping. I’d be interested in hearing how others go about it.

  5. Derek says:

    Thanks for this article. It’s a great overview of how custom orders work on Etsy.

  6. Mary Wilson says:

    I opened my Etsy shop on July 22, 2014. I have had only 2 sales, one being a custom request. Under the section, items sold, it shows that I sold two item, however, the area that shows the items I have sold, does not have a picture of the item to show potential customers. Did I not do the custom order correctly, or is this a new way Etsy is handling our custom request and/or do I need to make a photo (on my listing area) that specifically reads “custom listing”. I know I have more to do to update my shop, ( I need to write my policies area) but I am getting very discouraged, I have had several listing favorites, but they never purchase them.
    Thanks Mary

    • Brittany says:

      Mary, many shop owners are having this same problem. You can report your missing sold items to Etsy by posting in the bugs forum.
      This seems to only be an issue with the new test layouts. Viewing your sold items in the normal shop view, I can see both items with pictures. In the test layout, I only see one. Please do not be discouraged, it takes time to establish a presence on Etsy. Keep learning and working – I think you are well on your way to a very successful shop.

  7. […] Brittany’s Best  has a post that includes information about Etsy’s custom order request feature, initiated earlier this year. If you sell on Etsy, it’s a good idea to be familiar with this system before your customer clicks that button. […]

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