Selling Handmade: Made-To-Order vs. Ready-Made

Selling Handmade- tips for people who want to sell the stuff they make from someone who sells stuff they make.

So you’ve decided to sell online. You need stuff to sell. Are you going to have stock, or are you going to operate more like a made-to-order catalogue? As I mostly crochet, this is going to apply mostly to fiber arts because, let’s face it, if I’m ordering edibles I want them to be fresh.

Well, there are pros and cons to both. I can say that a good chunk of the people who start out with made-to-order that I’ve talked to (myself included) switch to ready-made after a while.

Made-to-order (and I’m not including custom orders in this, that’ll be another post) is great if you don’t have much space to store stuff, especially if what you’re making doesn’t get compact very well. It also means that you don’t have a lot of stock sitting around and collecting dust while you figure out your business- who your market is, what will sell and what won’t, all that stuff.

On the other side of that, though, more people would prefer to buy something that’s already ready to ship than something they’ll have to wait to be made. Again, this excludes custom orders. But if they can buy a pear from Billy’s Pear Shop that’ll ship tomorrow instead of buying a pear from Annie’s Orchard, they’re probably going to buy from Billy’s Pear Shop. A lot of shopping is about instant gratification. And, if they have to wait for you to make it, they have more time to chance their mind and cancel the sale.

There’s also the tedium factor. If you have a pear listed and 15 people order the pear at the same time, are you really going to love making the 15th pear in a row

Ready-made gets rid of all of those cons, of course. Instant gratification, not making 15 pears in a row, that’s all there. And if people see that you have a yellow pear already made, they can still go, “Hey, I want a green pear.” But people are more likely to buy stuff that is already on the “shelf.”

The downside of ready-made is space and time. If you sell the only pear you have on hand, you need to find the time to make a new one to put it up for sale, as well as making all of the other stock that you want to have for sale. And if you sell 20 items at the same time, your “shelves” are going to be pretty bare until you get more stuff made.

And damage. A friend of mine recently had a paint-and-glitter disaster with her ready-made stock. If you have pets, if you have kids, you can think something is in the safest place it could possibly be, but stuff still sometimes happens. It’s way easier to replace just yarn than it is to replace yarn plus the time and effort you put into making finished items.

In the end, you’ll need to determine whatever works better for you and your business. If I was going to give any advice, it would be to do made-to-order, or a combination of the two, until you get a good idea of how your business actually works. It’s a good idea to say, “My target market is young moms, and they’ll totally like this at this price!” but until you actually try to sell your pears at those prices, you just won’t know. Then, once you know that you can actually make money on, you can concentrate on having some of those on hand while still coming up with new stuff to try.

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2 responses to “Selling Handmade: Made-To-Order vs. Ready-Made

  1. I often use “ready-to-ship” as a selling point on my items, and I think it does make a difference. Knowing that you’ll get someone within a week of ordering rather than 2-3 weeks can be a deal-maker/breaker.

    I do however, make jewelry and hair stuff that is smaller and easier to store. Plus I don’t have any pets or kids at the moment, so there is little to no risk of any damage occurring while they wait for new owners.

    Great post!

    • Thanks! 😀 I think it makes a huge difference. As a consumer, unless I’m ordering something out-of-the-ordinary (or edibles!!!) or a custom order, the faster I can get it to me, the better.

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