Custom Orders – (6) UBC Oct 2012

Hand-made crafters have the unique opportunity to offer customized products.  Since every product is hand-made and unique, it just makes since to also offer a customize option.  However, it could also be really simple to get totally bogged down and overwhelmed with the idea of letting customers choose exactly what they want.  When it comes to a personalized order, there are several things that the seller needs to consider.

  • How many options are available?  For each product you need to consider how many options are available.  Does the customer get to choose the size, the colors, the material?
  • Do you have examples of every option?  For physical stores, do you have “try-on products” where the customer can try-on a sample to get an idea of sizing?  Certain color combos are going to appeal to certain people, if you can’t offer an actual product in that color, at least have a photo of those color combinations.
  • It may take some extra time and effort.  Some customers are going to be a bit picky in what they are getting: they want a VERY specific color combo, or they have something very specific in mind, it may take a few days to communicate the same thought between you and your customer.
  • What about your return policy on custom orders?  Especially if it is a personalized order (with a name or initial), have your policy written up before hand and make sure that the customer *knows*.
  • Simple is always best. I read an article on the Etsy blog (and have since lost the link, silly me) suggestion that you offer one listing per option.  So, there would be one listing for different sizes, another listing for different colors.  I think that might be going a bit to the extreme.  However, just saying “Can come in any color combination or any size that you prefer” is going to leave your customers wondering: is there a limit to the number of colors I may choose?  What about an extra large size? Instead of trying to figure it out, they will probably just move on to another seller.
  • Make the options very clear.  I recently ordered something that could come in any fabric pattern that can be found in a Jo-ann‘s fabric store.  Talk about options!  Instead of the seller saying “Go to the website, pick out a fabric”, she had 12 options, each numbered very clearly, and told me to pick one.  I got a fabric that I liked, and there wasn’t any confusion involved.
  • Accept payment in advance.  There are some sellers who charge a consolation fee that covers the time and effort to figure out what the desired product is.  Once the seller and the buyer are on the same page, they charge an additional cost for the actual product.  My very first custom order actually ended up in a huge flop because I was unable to create the product as the customer had in mind.  I didn’t accept payment upfront, and ended up spending a lot of time on something that didn’t profit.

While it can be a bit extensive and involved to even offer the possibility of options to your products, it can also bring in more sales.  Weigh the pros and cons, decide if the extra time and effort is worth it to you, and then jump in to figure it out.  It is ok to embark in a trial period.  Start with one product that has different options: tweak when necessary, see if you like it and if it is going to work with you and your products.  Customized products are not for every seller and they are not for every product.

Have your own adventures with custom orders left you feeling like a pro in the matter?  Go ahead and leave a comment with any additions to the above bullets.  Feel free to include a link back to your website so that we can see excellence in the works!

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4 thoughts on “Custom Orders – (6) UBC Oct 2012

  1. This is really informative. I’m currently at the stage where I am “discovering” my own options. It’s hard when you are first starting out to just offer a set list of colors because (in my case) I don’t have them! lol How do I know what’s popular? How do I know what I should buy? I feel it takes some experience before you can truly get to this point, but it’s good to keep in mind as you grow.

    1. Trial and error, patience, and planning ahead. First starting off, I actually went to the store and took pictures of the available yarn colors that I could buy. Then, as customers would request those colors I was able to build up my stash. I ALWAYS take a picture of a custom order after it is completed and often list that as a new product to sell. Figure out what you are able and willing to do, and its perfectly fine to decide at a later time that custom orders aren’t your forte.

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