Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Custom Dilema


A good deal of my business at Zelma Rose comes from custom orders. A lot of small business owners cringe at the thought of that, but I love custom work, which I did not realize was such a rare thing. It does take time, and there are lots of small details to contend with, but I love working with my customers to help them create something really special. I just finished a beautiful custom set of pocket square handkerchiefs for a customer's second wedding anniversary. I'm really happy with the way they came out and this order in particular called for something I had not done before. A hand embroidered date onto a pocket square. That's why I love custom work! New ideas and inspiration from my customers.



Custom work keeps things fresh, challenges me with new queries and ideas and this is why I love it!! That being said, I do have a very well established set of guidelines for myself when it comes to custom work. These guidelines prevent me from over extending myself, help keep each order organized, and assist me with clearly spelling out to customers what I will and will not do. I'm often asked by fellow creative business owners for some guidelines to create a happy and healthy custom based business. As always, it comes down to boundaries! Here are some tips for creating a happy custom order:
  • Spell it out. Write out your custom orders like you are telling someone who has never set foot in a kitchen how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Yes, you must start with taking the bread out of the bag!
  • Do not offer the world. Give a limited number of choices. People are overwhelmed by too much choice. This is a fact. For custom pocket squares, I give my customers a choice of three thread colors to compliment the fabric. This works great for both of us. I know the finished product will come out great because I have tested the color combinations, and customers get a choice based on their preference.
  • No returns. Custom work is for one person only, that specific customer. State in your store policies that custom work is not returnable. It only has value to one person.
  • Charge a custom fee. I know this is hard, pricing is difficult enough, but custom work takes more time and this time must be accounted for. Communication with customers, running out to get that last minute supply, all these things take time. Come up with a fee that at least covers you for a few trips to the store.
I could go on and on, but that seems to be a pretty good start. What do you think about custom work?

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