We’ve all been there, right. Someone asks for a special order and you are left feeling a combination of proud, scared to really say the number you think it will be, and stressed out because “How much time is this really going to take?”. Let me walk you through a list of things to check to ease the stress of taking custom orders. This can help you find new revenue and grow your business. All without stealing your peace of mind!
I am going to walk you through the processes that help kick those feelings and set you up for success when you are getting ready to say yes to making that dress (Get it. Yes to the dress. I entertain myself).
First of all. You should be proud! Look at that beautiful piece of fiber art goodness you made! Someone thinks it’s so amazing THEY want one! It IS that good. Believe it. Advertising doesn’t just happen on your shop or website. You can get customers just walking around out in the world with your amazing creation. So when someone says “I love that” Tell them “Me too! It took me a long time to make, but I love it SO much. It was worth it.”
A huge part of this is you acknowledging your own craftsmanship. Don’t downplay how hard it was to create it. Don’t hide how long it’s going to take you to make another. I respond with an immediate warning shot “Ooo, I will have to think about that for a minute. This takes a long time to make. I will have to see if I can even fit it in.” If they want to pay for it and they can, they will. If not you can either change something about it to make it more affordable (the size, intricacies, and supplies are where I start), or just stick to your guns and say it with all the intensity of feelings you have “I would have to charge $— to even think about it.”
Next thing to consider. Are they using a pattern or guide you already have in place, or are they asking you to create a new thing. This changes your initial time investment IMMENSELY. Creating a new design can take time. What is that going to look like? This is often a one time benefit as it’s not very often that a special order is going to turn into a regular item in your shop. So you must get paid for this time from this one custom order.
This is where the heavy lifting begins. You have to do research to be able to respond accurately and with confidence. Don’t just say “$40 or $50”. You need to know how much it’s going to costs. Because most people will just hand you the $40 and expect that to be enough. It’s often not the customer being willing to pay us, but our willingness to really SAY what we know it’s going to cost. SO be sure before you say it. Do the colors they want need to be sourced elsewhere? Will you need to order product in? Allow me to walk you through this cheat sheet of information you need to gather before you say “yes”:
1: What is it being made out of. If it’s yarn make sure you have access to the colors and quantities they are looking for. If it’s thread make sure of the fabric and thread used. Ask a series of questions “What color do you want it in?” “How big are you thinking?” etcetera. Stitching a 6 inch circle framed cross stitch is a lot different cost to you in time and product than an 8 x 10 framed with a mat and stretched onto sticky board. Don’t go in blind.
2: My next point is very important and is really a part of the first point. YOU be very specific. If the customer doesn’t have an idea then you tell them what you are thinking. If not at some point you are going to tell them “I decided to do this” and they might have a very different idea. Their ideas can cost a lot more time and effort, and those surprises can be infinitely more stressful for you. Don’t be scared to up the price if THEY change the parameters. But set YOUR parameters beforehand so none of that can come back on you.
3: Know you worth, and the actual time. We all hear about how we need to charge for our labor so I’m not going to lecture you on that. Those numbers vary widely depending on what we are doing and how deeply it cuts into our time. But an oversight can be forgetting just how much time it really takes to make that. Perhaps the stitching was accounted for. But are there extras? The finishing, weaving in ends, blocking, framing, assembling, and the cost to YOU for those items can take a lot more time and finances than we remember. Perhaps you made yours from some yarn you found on clearance 2 years ago. But this is going to have to be purchased at a store tomorrow. That is not even close to the same financial impact. So remember to add those things into your hourly wage.
4: The Shipping! Lets be real. That can be the biggest hit if you aren’t prepared for it. I do a couple of different things to make sure I have this in hand. The first is to check shipping from the USPS website. The second is to use an Etsy listing. If you go into a listing to edit it you can mess around with the shipping and set specific destinations. They will tell you how much it costs to ship from any carrier you choose. A very helpful tool if you need to come up with an answer on the fly! It can be off by a few dollars, but it’s generally pretty close and will give you an idea of the area of cost you are looking at.
5: The packaging. Specialized and curated packaging is a must in todays market. People are ordering from small companies and sole proprietors because they want it to show up pretty and feel special. So if you are mailing it you have to account for those costs too. Perhaps a little gift wrapping and a sticker is enough. But if you also have a box to ship, a ribbon, a card, etc. It all adds up and should be included in your cost, otherwise it will eat away at your bottom line.
6: Lastly before you say the number. Add in a little wiggle room. There will always be something that comes up, and an extra 6-12% of breathing room helps a TON in creating peace of mind.
Ok. Last point. And this one is huge. If you are strapped and you have to take this special order for less than you really want to and there is nothing you can do about it right now because you need that cash flow. Be kind to yourself. Know that having to make that choice does not devalue your work. It doesn’t make you any less of an artist if you have to get the power bill paid. It is true that more people will order when the cost is less. Do your best to protect your time and sanity in as many ways as you can. Only buy the yarn on sale. Offer things you know you can make inexpensively so you get the lions share of the profits. Do a minimum amount of work for the product offered. Do all you can to look out for yourself. And when you can up the price, DO. It will feel so good to start getting paid what you are worth.
Leave me a comment below about the hardest custom order you have taken? What went wrong? Let us commiserate with you!
I will start. Look at the caption under the photo below!
Here is a handy infographic you can Pin to reference back to!