No matter what color, font, fabric or metal you use on your latest masterpiece, there will always be a customer that wants to change just one thing…you have a choice….walk away shaking your head or turn that interest into a CUSTOM ORDER!
Before diving in, though, please take a few seconds to consider a couple of things which will help your order go through smoothly and leave both you and your customers with a good feeling at the end of the day; and of course the chance that word of mouth about a wonderful experience could lead to many more custom orders!
Start with the question “Do I even want to do custom work?”
Custom work has many possibilities and also drawbacks, so before you even take one on make sure that this is the direction you want to go.
- Custom work may be One Of A Kind, so if you are the type of person that likes to streamline and assembly line your work, doing a single piece start to finish may not be for you.
- Is it worth the extra time? If you are getting all your supplies out to make ten widgets, it takes the same amount of time to get the supplies out to make one widget…is it worth it?
- Are you willing to do work that may not be your “favorite” color or style to please the customer? Remember that you may hate a certain color or pattern but someone else loves it and is willing to pay for it!
Once you have decided to take on custom work there are another few questions to consider before jumping in.
- Are you going to price your custom pieces the same as all the rest of your work or do you think you should charge a bit more for that personal touch you are offering?
- Do you have time and how long are you going to allow? Is this something you can jump into or do you have other obligations and orders to take care of first? Don’t allow your self to get into “crunch” mode you will have more resentment than joy in your work.
- How are you going to handle payment?
Ok, you are ready to take that order….but remember that this is a business not a charity.
Always get either a deposit to cover cost or even the full price in advance!
Please, please, please do not rush out to buy all the hot pink tulle you will never use again for that darling tutu before you have cash in your account! You are asking for trouble if you do! Your customer should pay an agreed upon amount to cover all your materials and maybe even a part of your time before you lay down a cent for supplies; at least that way, if the order goes south, you are not out much needed cash.
Agree on a timeline!
Be honest with your customer! If you can bust out your thingamajig in a few hours and know that you can have it in the mail in two days….GREAT! If you know that the dog has a vet appointment, you and your hubby have a date, the kid has a science project due and you have 10 other orders then plan accordingly and communicate with your customer! Most people have ordered custom work before and understand that one of a kind work takes time and are pretty understanding so don’t lock yourself in a corner by giving a timeline that you know you can’t stick to.
I can’t stress this enough! COMMUNICATE both before, during and after the order!
- What EXACTLY does your customer want? Color, size, metal, fabric all have to be agreed upon in advance. This may take many emails or phone calls, but better to both be on the same page than finish up and find out you and your customer has different ideas on what is “cute and pink.”
- How much will it cost and how will payment to handled. Deposit, full payment up front, shipping. There should be NO surprises unless you want an upset customer on your hands.
- If you have to alter the timeline; faster and you can jump for joy and your customer will be thrilled; slower and while they may not be overjoyed they are at least not standing by the mailbox waiting for a package that never arrives.
- After the order is complete, give them the shipping info with tracking. I don’t know about you, but when I order something I will literally check once a day just to see where it is and watch it travel closer and closer to me! What can I say, the mailman is my Santa Clause! Let you customer have this fun if they choose.
- After deliver, follow up and find out what they think and if you have a good report, you could even ask that they give you feedback on your website or facebook page! Free publicity from a satisfied customer is worth its weight in gold to a small business.
What if it goes south?
If you do enough custom work, there will come a time when the customer is just not satisfied no matter how hard you have tried to do everything right. While this is going to have to be handled on a case by case basis….the one rule of thumb is to NOT let your emotions cause you to say something you will regret. Be professional and, in my experience, you can usually find a solutions that leaves everyone satisfied.