How to offer custom items in your handmade shop, the right way
Are you tired of being scr*wed around by customers who ask for a custom order and never end up buying it? Or even more frustrating, people who ask for so many changes to the original item that you end up creating a product you don’t even like? It’s time we talk about the right way to offer custom orders in your handmade shop, the kind of way that doesn’t give you a headache and doesn’t make you lose time or money.
You can watch the video, or read the post below.
The good thing about this problem is that there’s an easy fix because there’s only two ways to look at custom orders:
– You can either offer customizable products;
– Or have a full custom order service.
The goal is to avoid grey areas requests like, “Can I please have this ring but in wood and without the crystal? Oh, can it maybe be adjustable as well? Maybe we could engrave something onto it, too.”
Or… “I love this bikini. Could you make it blue with pink flowers instead of a plain black? Oh, and maybe a one piece swimsuit instead of a bikini? “
And no more: “I like that scarf. Can you turn it into a cardigan?”
We have to set boundaries here because, if not, you’re going to lose time, money and your sanity. Let’s look at each of these options.
Option 1 – Full Custom Order Service
The key here is that this is a service and not a product. The difference is important because you have to introduce yourself as an artist or a designer.
A custom order service means that you have to put in place a process that starts with an inquiry form and then a questionnaire so you can get to know in detail what your customer would like made in terms of the colors, the vibe, what they’re actually looking for. You would then design a draft, get the green light from your customer and get a deposit. You need to get 50% of that product price upfront as a contract between you and your customers indicating that they agree to the design proof and that you can start working on it. The balance would be paid once you deliver the product.
This is important because custom orders are really time-consuming, and you need to design an entirely new product. You might even need to source some new materials, you therefore need to charge for your time.
Usually when customers see your products and the pricing on your website, they try to tweak a few things; like a couple of materials, the colors and the shapes.
They expect to pay the exact same price that they saw initially on the website but they’re getting a completely different product and that doesn’t make sense for you and your business.
With this approach, you actually have a business model where people come to you asking for your help as a designer because they like what you do. They trust your sense of style and aesthetics, and they want to have a product made custom by you.
This is different from taking an item from your Etsy store or your online store and trying to change it so much that it’s a completely different product at the end…while trying to pay the same price!
You have to be comfortable with charging more, charging for your time and having a process in place that really takes your customers from inquiry up until the full payment is made. This could be your entire business model, and you could be making only custom orders or this could be a service that you offer on top of your regular collections. In this case, you could have a listing just for it, asking customers to contact you or you could have a page on your website saying, “Work with me,” that has an inquiry form embedded onto it.
Option 2 – Customizable products
The other end of the spectrum is offering custom options for your products.
It’s not actually a full custom order service, but it gives the impression to your customers that they have the choice and that they can get a custom product made just for them.
You would offer custom options such as colors, sizes, etc. and it would be limited to a few choices.
So you would say: “This comes in blue, red or green” knowing that you are never going to do “yellow” which means that you have a stock and pricing ready for each “option” you are offering and you know exactly how much your products are going to cost you.
Even if your customers feel like it’s a custom order, to you it’s actually just a variation of the same product.
It’s also a great way to refer custom order requests that you might be getting to a page on your website where you’d say, “I offer customization which you can see on this page.” Then you have a list of options.
You can’t let people decide on the product entirely or you fall back into the full custom order service. It’s really black and white here, no more grey areas.
This approach also simplifies things in terms of payment because the price is SET. You know exactly what colors, materials and sizes you offer, and you have a price set for each of these options.
The customer can pay upfront before you even start making the product. This guarantees you get paid so you won’t spend time on something that a customer is actually never going to end up paying for.
Let me know in the comments: How do you deal with custom orders? I’d love to know!
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