May 10, 2011

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Custom Orders

Requests for customization or personalization are very common on Etsy. My Etsy business didn't really begin to take off until I focused on personalized and custom items. Before you begin any custom orders, here are some tips and ideas that may help the process run more smoothly.
  • When you name a price, be sure to include a fair wage for your labor. If something is going to take you 30 hours to embroider, do you really want to sell it for $100? Set a wage that you are willing to accept for different types of work, and stick to it. And don't forget to factor in the time and expertise it takes to design something!
  • Provide examples of the type of work you've done in the past. Utilize Flickr, Facebook, or create listings that customers can personalize with their own colors or text.
  • Get very specific information from your buyer. What SIZE do they want? If they say blue, show them a color chart and ask them to tell you WHICH blue. If they say bike, ask them if they like an old-fashioned bike, a kid's bike, a mountain bike, or even a motorcycle!
  • You can't specialize in everything, so don't be afraid to turn an order down that isn't appropriate for your shop. Sometimes I'm asked to do orders that are more appropriate for machine embroidery or screen-printing (things like company golf shirts or hundreds of the same exact item), so I have suggested alternate methods.
  • On the same note, be honest about your skills and turnaround time. If the buyer wants a smocked dress in a week, it's okay to tell them you don't know how to smock or that you can't finish it in a week.
  • Use Etsy's conversations system for all communication instead of your email. Here's why: Once the buyer purchases the item, you can click on their user name and hit "Message History" to see all the messages you've sent. It's an easy way to check on the information for the order without having to search through lists of messages.
  • Once you've worked out all the details with the buyer, set up a listing that is marked as "Reserved" or "Custom" just for them. I recommend creating (or buying) an image that says "Custom Order" so you can use it for all your listings.
  • Get payment up front. Always. If it's a very large order, taking a deposit may make sense, but most Etsy sellers require full payment up front.
  • Be ready to make changes or corrections. It's easier to say, "Of course I'll make that "B" a slightly more pink orange!" than to argue with a buyer. Set boundaries, but remember that an unhappy customer is bad business. If someone hates their item enough to email you to tell you that, fix it for them.
For more information and Etsy's rules, check out the Etsy Help post about custom orders here.

Other blog posts about Etsy custom orders:


  1. I would love to do custom work...but I just don't knwo how I would fit it into my shop. These are some great tips! Thanks!

  2. Excellent tips!!
    Amanda, I do custom personalized orders, too, like Katie. But sometimes my custom orders are simply for someone who wants me to recreate something that has already sold. And sometimes I get requests for some sort of design that I may not have done in my shop, but either I happen to have a design on hand, can find one for them, or even draw it up myself (which I rarely do...drawing is NOT my strong point!).

  3. I would welcome a chance to do a custom piece for someone, looking forward to it


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