Buying beads online can be a bit more challenging than in person. You cannot see the beads, feel the beads, the quality, weight, etc. It all depends on how much knowledge you have of what it is you're buying as well. You don't get that personal experience, however, the vast online bead base that is out there is unreal. The options for what kind of bead is unlimited and it can be super fun, just go in caution, some bead stores are not like others.
When you decide that buying beads online is a good option for you, here are some things you should think of and keep in mind.
1. Quality -- When buying 2 hole beads online you don't have the option to touch and feel the beads. In a bead show or store, you can examine the beads to determine the quality and feel confident about what you've chosen. Not so much when you buy beads online. Here you will have to look carefully at the photos of the beads, even ask questions, many sites have this option, don't be shy, you are the customer.
2. Price -- Some beads are easy to price compare, they are all the same. For example, you want to buy Seed Beads they are uniform in color and size so it's easy to find the online bead store with the best price (don't forget to factor in shipping cost). For other types of beads, it's not as easy to be sure you're getting the right price, like Slider Beads, these are unique and hard to come by. Only a few suppliers offer them and even between the suppliers they are very different.
3. Selection -- Some sites specialize in only one type of beads, like slider beads or 2 hole beads, gemstones, while others have so many choices you may get confused. Does the website you're considering buying from have a large selection of the type of bead you are looking for? Can you get your clasps right there as well, to ensure your metal tones match up and such.
4. Size -- the sizing of beads is tricky for those of us in the U.S because beads are sized according to the metric system and we learned to size things in inches. You need to know that 25.4 mm is an inch. This will then make things easier, use the change system, so 1 is a quarter, 1/2 of a quarter is approx. $0.12.5, this may make things easier. These are sized this way, due to the measuring devices used in the industry, mm is easier to understand for most than decimal system. And it's not just beads sized this way. Many of the findings you use when beading are sized in millimeters like wire and jump rings. Do a search for a size chart if need be, it really isn't as hard as people make it out to be.
5. Shipping -- what are the shipping costs? When can you expect your beads? Be sure to look into the shipping portion of each site, as they all vary, just so there are no surprises. Is there free shipping after reaching a certain purchase amount? Be aware that some sites also charge a handling fee -- that plus paying to ship has just increased your cost per bead, which matters when you go to resell.
6. Coupon -- Can you find any coupons, many times you need to be on their Facebook pages or newsletter if you plan to purchase often, being a member of their newsletter and Facebook pages would probably be a good idea. A Google search for the name of the website and the words "coupon code" will help you find these. Not all, but a good number of sites selling quality beading supplies at good prices will send you coupon codes by email.
Some don't take these factors into consideration and then left unhappy by no fault of the online bead store, as most do have their policies clearly posted.
Educate yourself, as the online e-commerce industry has to post things like shipping times, costs and such. I hope these 6 small lessons will help you with your online bead supplies purchases.