Selling Handmade- tips for people who want to sell the stuff they make from someone who sells stuff they make.
Custom orders can be GREAT for business. A lot of the time, people are willing to pay a good price for something that’s created specially for them, whether it’s for themselves or (more often) as the perfect gift for someone they love. I love custom orders, because a lot of the time people will come to me with things that I might not have come up with otherwise, and it’s a great way to test myself and develop myself as an artist.
Always take money for custom orders up front, and don’t start the project until you’ve been paid. Always. Especially from people you actually know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “My friend/brother/uncle/BFF’s sister ordered something and it’s been sitting here for weeks and they won’t come get it or pay for it.” If you’re not going to take the full amount, at least charge a non-refundable amount to cover cost of materials.
Be prepared for some sticker shock (I’ll get to actual pricing in another post). Sometimes, someone will contact you with a, “Hey, can you make this for me?” and when you give them a quote for how much it would be, you’ll never hear from them again. This goes back to, wait for money to start the order.
Sometimes you’ll run into someone you’re not going to be able to work with. Only you can decide if you’re not going to be able to work with someone, but some examples might be- requests for something that will be copyright/trademark infringement, someone who tells you that they’re not going to pay the price you quoted them but keeps sending you requests for a lower price, something that’s not really what you do (they want bead-weaving and you’re a wire-wrapper), or time constraints. In that case, the best thing to do is be upfront with them and say something like, “Thank you for contacting me. I don’t think I’ll be able to meet your needs with this project (insert reason here).” Our culture is one where it’s a “bad” thing to say no, but as an artist/craftsperson, you will need to learn how and when to say no (more in a future post).
You will need to have a lot of communication with your potential customer to find out not only what they want, but how they want it. For example, they may want to be kept up-to-date on your progress. They may not want to hear from you until you’re done and ready to ship. They may want something very specific that you’re pretty sure isn’t going to look good when completed. They may want to micromanage to the point that it interferes with your ability to create. There’s no “right” way to handle this. You’ll need to decide what works for you. Keep in mind that customer service will make or break a company, no matter what the quality or demand for the products in question are.