Want to get more from your indie shopping experience? Here are 5 things you might not have tried.

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1- Take advantage of offers for custom made. I had such a fabulous experience ordering my custom mug from Phenix Pottery. I got exactly what I wanted, with love, and it cost less than buying the next-best mug from the large retailer. Many independent sellers will make custom orders; if you’d like a body product in a different scent, a piece of jewelry with a different stone or metal, a shirt in a different size, etc., I highly recommend asking for it. Most sellers will be happy to do it!

2- Attend craft shows and visit indie boutiques. This is obviously easier in some areas than others, but if you do make it out to San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and many other urban areas, attending fairs and visiting boutiques is a great way to see, touch and smell things in person before you buy. There are so many of these wonderful places, and I’d like to list them all. If there’s one you love, please email me, or leave it in a comment to this post!

3- Sign up for sellers’ newsletters, check out indie gift guides. Newsletters rarely come more than once a month, so they won’t clog your inbox, and they’re often ripe with discounts, deals and even samples that sellers offer only to newsletter readers. Gift guides often have similar deals–you just have to seek them out.

4- Participate in giveaways and swaps. Perhaps these two should be separate, as they really are distinct. Giveaways, like those on Happily Handmade and Modish require you only to sign up to be entered to win a large prize. Swaps can range from the Spring Genie going on right now at SBS (kind of like Secret Santa for tea–you must sign up on the forums to participate), to bartering on Etsy. I even have an offer from my Qigong teacher to trade a sound healing session for jewelry! People are often open to this, even if they don’t explicitly say so. All you have to do is ask.

5- Give gift certificates. Increasingly more indie sellers are offering gift certificates for sale, but many still do not explicitly do so. I received several gift cards for Christmas last year, all from larger retailers, and while I appreciated the gifts, I would have loved one from an indie seller so much more! A gift certificate from an indie seller has a much more personal, thoughtful feel than a plastic card you can buy at the Grocery store. It’s also a great way to promote the indie community. Give it a try! And I encourage you, if the seller doesn’t explicitly offer it, to ask anyway. They may love you for the idea.

What unusual things have you done to enhance your indie shopping experience?