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Marketplace Focus: ArtFire

Smaller venue attracts sellers with flat-fee pricing, sophisticated tools.

With so many sites where you can sell online, it can be hard to know which marketplaces are worth the effort. eBay, Amazon and Etsy often make the most noise, but some of you recently told us that ArtFire, a smaller venue for selling online, should get some attention—and a little ink, too.

In our research, we found that it’s not just our readers who like ArtFire, many other sellers like it, too. In fact, in 2011, ArtFire was voted the best marketplace for selling online. Here we take a closer look at the marketplace for vintage products, homemade items, digital art and craft supplies.

A selling site created by a seller

According to EcommerceBytes, its readers voted ArtFire the best marketplace on which to sell in January 2011. On a scale from 1 to 10, merchants gave the online selling venue an overall score of 8.2, and even higher marks for communication, customer service and ease of use.

The site is considered so seller friendly, it’s as if ArtFire was started by a seller. Actually, that’s just what happened. Founder John Jacobs and his wife were triple platinum PowerSellers on eBay, offering jewelry supplies.

“As a seller, myself, I never found a venue that understood its role was to serve its members”

Jacobs says the couple’s years of selling online taught them a lot, and made him wonder about eBay’s commitment to its sellers. He thought the marketplace should treat merchants like partners.

“I thought there should be a better option,” Jacobs notes on the ArtFire’s Press page. “I founded ArtFire because, as a seller, myself, I never found a venue that understood its role was to serve its members.”

Despite its seller-friendly reputation, ArtFire this year dropped in its ranking among sellers, coming in at No. 16 with an overall rating of 5.2, EcommerceBytes reports. It notes that low traffic was one reason why some sellers gave it lower marks.

According to Site Analytics, ArtFire, which opened in 2008, gets about 315,000 unique visitors a month. In comparison, eBay gets about 80 million, Amazon about 95 million and Etsy about 8.2 million. Still, the smaller marketplace is the right choice for three sellers we spoke to.

‘Sophisticated’ tools

Margaret Crow, a jewelry maker and seller on ArtFire, began offering her earrings, necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry in her ArtFire studio, Boho Wire Wrapped, in 2009. She had sold on eBay for years, then switched to Etsy, but neither site made her completely happy.

“I was looking for the right venue,” she tells us.

Crow learned about ArtFire on an Esty forum. She calls ArtFire’s seller tools “sophisticated.” They allow her to customize her studio’s look. She can even add widgets for videos and live chat.

Crow adds that sellers can post ArtFire’s shopping cart, Rapid Cart, on their blogs or website, so they can make sales when buyers are on those sites, without them needing to leave the page. The carts are synched with sellers’ stores, so merchants don’t inadvertently sell a product twice.

“I’m using it that way now and the peace of mind, in knowing that I can’t accidentally sell something [that is] one of a kind to two different buyers, is worth its weight in gold,” she continues.

ArtFire merchants can also use Facebook Kiosk, a Facebook app, to sell their products right on the social site, and they can create coupons and gift certificates for their studios.

“ArtFire has given me the knowledge, tools and confidence to try marketing my jewelry instead of just selling jewelry-making supplies

It’s all about education

Crow tells us that ArtFire has taught her how to market her business.

“ArtFire has given me the knowledge, the tools and the confidence to try marketing my jewelry instead of just selling jewelry-making supplies,” she continues. “That’s huge for me.”

Peggi Hacker, the owner of PinkCloudAndAngels, PinksPleasures and PinkCloudsAndBabyBlue, is also a big fan of the education and help available on the site. Hacker is a Maven on the marketplace, meaning she tests upcoming site upgrades, so she knows ArtFire well.

She adds that being able to add up to 10 photos per listing and social icons to promote her store are two big draws for her. So is gaining access to Google Analytics with her account.

“I love the stats,” she says.

Hacker also likes being able to accept a variety of payment methods, including PayPal, Amazon Payments and major credit cards through ArtFire’s integration with ProPay.

One monthly fee

The fees—a flat subscription of $12.95—attracted Crow to the site from the beginning. ArtFire retired its free plan last year.

The fee is very reasonable, according to the sellers we spoke to.

“The truth is, if you are selling online as a hobby and not listing much, you might prefer a site that charges fees based on the number of listings, and a final value fee,” Crow adds. “But if you want to run [your sales] as a business and list a lot of items, and hopefully sell enough to make it worth the time and effort, a single monthly payment will be better for your bottom line.”

“If you want to list a lot of items, a single monthly payment will be better for your bottom line”

It’s been the right move for her. Crow has about 500 item listed in her studio. Having that many items on eBay or Etsy would cost too much. But on ArtFire, she just has one flat rate to worry about.

Sharon Gilnack, the owner of Holly Knitter Creations, agrees. She says the subscription is a deal. Gilnack even calls it “one of the best bargains in online selling.”

Hacker also previously sold on eBay, but she says the fees “killed” her every month, plus she couldn’t compete with the 99-cent listings. Now she pays one monthly fee. “No listing fees, no final value fees, 10 pictures per listing… items don’t expire, unlimited listings, what more can I say?” she continues.

A helpful staff, community

Gilnack says the site’s staff and Forums are another benefit. In last year’s EcommerceBytes survey, the site got an 8.57 out of 10 in customer service.

Gilnack says the staff has gone above and beyond to help her. ArtFire has a “wonderful” staff and customer support, Hacker adds. “They want us to succeed and give us all the tools we need.”

All three sellers say they would recommend ArtFire to another merchant.

“Having my own store has been a dream and since I do not drive, selling online was the most logical choice after I retired,” Gilnack says.

Hacker, a mentor on the site, belongs to a seller group that helps each other promote their studios even though many of them haven’t met. “I love the camaraderie,” she says.

“If you want it, you can do it!” she adds. “Everything you need is there and so many people are willing to help you.”

Have you tried ArtFire? What do you think of it? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Peggi Hacker

    Thank you so much for such a positive article on Artfire. Very nicely done, Olga. I am so glad that the word is getting out.

  • Hi Olga, what a fabulous article! I’m so happy at ArtFire that I’m honored to be included as a source.

  • Olga, as a fellow Artfire seller and Maven I feel that your Artfire article is terrific because it is fair and honest.

    I began selling on Artfire when Artfire had Basic (free) accounts. I never really paid too much attention to Artfire while I had a Basic account because I also was a seller on Etsy. When I heard that Artfire was offering a fixed rate for life, limited time, Group Deal at only $5.95 per month, back in October 2010, I immediately left Etsy and started selling on Artfire. No listing, relisting or final value fee and a super low, locked in monthly membership fee, was something that I could not pass up.

    Since Artfire does not have a final value fee, Artfire is not concerned with fee avoidance. You can sell your products off of Artfire, even though a buyer contacted you on Artfire, and not violate any Artfire Terms of Use policies.

    The customer support from Tony, the COO, and the Artfire staff, in the forums is excellent. Sometimes Tony or one of the staff members will answer a question a seller has in under ten minutes.

    While I am on the subject of forums, the Artfire forums are not monitored by the Artfire staff. Having a thread shut down by Artfire is very rare. The forums are self monitored by fellow forum members through the use of a reputation bar. Sellers can vote another sellers reputation either positive or negative. If a sellers reputation bar goes into the red zone (negative), that makes that particular forum member posts invisible to other forum members for a period of time, and prevents that seller from starting any new forum threads.

    Forum threads can also be moved from one area of the forums to another area provided enough sellers vote to move the thread to that particular section. If there are not enough votes the thread will not be moved.

    One thing that is a problem on most handmade selling venues are the resellers. Artfire solved the reseller problem about one year ago. Artfire felt that it was more economical for them to welcome resellers rather than keep removing them from the venue.

    Artfire created a special section for resellers called Commercial. Now, when Artfire discovers a reseller in the handmade area, the Artfire staff will simply move the reseller over to the Commercial area.

  • Anita Brandon

    Olga, Thank you for this excellent and positive article on ArtFire. I have an AF shop and I think it’s a wonderful selling venue with a management team that is THE BEST!

  • I’m also a seller on Artfire, and I agree with the other Sellers mentioned in your article. Something else that a Seller should look at when choosing an online selling venue is the help tools; do they have concise instructions, are there forum environments that reach out to help when needed? AF has that and more. Wonderful article!

  • A great article about the benefits of ArtFire. I sell there under the name Bags of a Feather, and absolutely love the seller tools, flat rate for listings and transactions, and helpful seller community. The site owners go out of their way to offer support to the sellers, and are always offering new ways to improve things and help drive traffic to the site.

  • Most of the people I met on Artfire also have Etsy studios and the ones that stay seem to be the ones that got in when they offered the $5.95 deal. There are many nasty and degrading talks allowed on their forum plus lots of people don’t sell much there and have left, especially the newbies. Even some seasoned sellers only stay because of the cheap fee. There have been several new venues that started this year.

    • I made $1,000 in sales this month, with one flat fee. Yep, I’m sticking, you betcha.

    • karen

      four of my shops are at 5.95 but the last one I felt that I have so much faith in this site I opened it up at 12.95 does it bother me NO! this is the best seller site in the marketplace! everyone of my shops has paid for itself ten times over……….not additional charges no slap on the wrist when I sell offsite—–as for the fourms they are friendly and helpful……..when you attack someone expect the same back………and that is the same as on any venue!

  • This is a wonderful article. I too have a studio on ArtFire and have found it to be a great place to be. The help center set up by Artfire is topnotch. The mavens and other folks are the best you could ask for. Their generosity is always there when help is needed. I started there the end of April this year. I am learning so much from them and the forums about what it takes to make my studio viable in the online world of selling. The biggest thing one needs to realize is that just because you have a presence online you cannot expect to be rich overnight. It takes work.

  • CraftsofthePast.artfire.com

    I have been a seller of antique and personally handmade jewelry for almost 13 months now. I followed all the advice of the successful sellers and the extensive tutorials of the administrative staff. I began to sell within the first week, and have had a nice supplementary income for the first 13 months on Artfire. It is the low fixed price for the seller, and the generous help from all the other sellers and the paid staff on the Artfire venue that makes it so appreciated by all the sellers and by many satisfied buyers.
    Anna Garner at CraftsofthePast on Artfire

  • Bridget Refined Vintage

    I have been a vintage Seller on Artfire for almost three years, and agree with the views stated in this article. I too have learned so much from the helpful sellers on Artfire as well as the tools and help that Artfire provide us with. It has been invaluable. I just wish that more sellers would join so that we could grow and maybe someday outshine Etsy and all the other sites out there. It really is the best deal around, we just need more people to discover what a great venue it is.

  • I love Artfire……..I also have shops on other venues but for my supply shop AF is the best bet……both in terms of not getting lost in the crowd but also in value…by the time I get done listing the 6000 items I have in my B&M shop it would cost a fortune elsewhere!
    so the one fee is the best value for me.
    I have so much faith in AF that I have 5 shops there!

  • Violets New Vintage

    Great Article, thank you! Artfire has the best seller tools and the best on line community.

  • I’ve been a seller on ArtFire for almost 2 years now, and I love it more & more every day! I was absolutely overwhelmed at the outpouring of advice & support I received as a newbie there, and I firmly believe that it’s all ArtFire’s fault that my business has grown by leaps & bounds during that time 🙂

  • earthegy

    2011 was a great year for Artfire. But anyone considering selling on any online marketplace should base their decisions on more current info. The 2012 ratings on ecommercebytes have been out for awhile and their current traffic stats are available on compete.com

  • Bridget Refined Vintage

    I am so happy to see that you have chosen to share what you have learned about Artfire. I am a vintage seller on Artfire and have been there almost 3 years. I agree with your insight and comments of the sellers in the article say it all.

    Artfire is a great venue and the best deal around for what you get. I highly recommend it to anyone that want’s to seriously sell online. I have found the AF community to be very helpful and through AF staff and other sellers I learned everything I needed to know. I had no previous on line selling experience before choosing Artfire for my shop.I am so glad that I did. Thanks for helping to spread the word about Artfire.

  • I have the 12.95 deal and I feel that is a bargain compared to what I receive in return. No listing fee’s so I can list as much as I want, no re-listing fees, no final value fee and no fee avoidance if you happen to sell somewhere else. In fact Artfire will encourage you to advertise where else you sell, they provide a space to link all your other stores, blogs and photo-sharing sites.
    It doesn’t get much better than this, I’m extremely glad there is an alternative to the Big E’s.

  • Cards by Li Be!

    I still consider myself a newbie on Artfire (just 6 months old) but couldn’t be happier with my decision to choose to sell my product here. Thank you for a wonderful article, reaffirming that I made the right decision.

  • Jules

    ebay has no commitment to the seller – it’s all about the buyer. what they fail to realize is without the seller, there are no buyers.

  • I feel so fortunate to have my shop Amelia Orginals on Artfire. It is my first experience with online selling. I have been with them since Nov 2009 and have loved every minute. Thank you for such a remarkable article on the wonderful community of artisans.



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