Here are the first results of my experiment.
Custom order #1: A complicated collaborationJane* wrote me to say she'd fallen in love with a tablet case I'd sold in the past -- Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. By any chance, she asked, did I have another copy of the same book?
Nope. But I'd be happy to look around. I couldn't find the exact same one, but luckily, "Uncle Arthur" was prolific, publishing multiple volumes, each with a Norman Rockwell-esque illustration on the cover. I gave Jane several options, then ordered the one she liked from a fellow Etsy seller. This one:
Hooray! The custom order was inching closer to completion. Or so I thought. I received my order quickly, but it took me a few days to realize it was the wrong Uncle Arthur book. It was this one.
Oh, no! What would I say to Jane? But I was lucky -- the Etsy seller rushed me the correct book and graciously allowed me to keep the wrong one (phew -- no need to confess I'd already sliced it apart). And Jane was very understanding about the delay.
The next step -- choosing the lining. I pulled a few fabrics from my stash and sent Jane photos. She liked them but...she wanted to look around just in case there was a better option. And there was -- she found this fun, retro fabric online and sent it to me.
I love it! The red background matches the fire truck on the book cover perfectly. And best of all, Jane didn't want the extra fabric back (seriously?) How did she know I love cats?
Here's the finished case. It only took 4 people (me, Jane, and 2 other online sellers). I hope Jane likes it as much as I do!
Custom order #2: An easy-to-please 8-year-oldMy next custom order came from a mom who wanted a case for her young son. She choose this one from my Etsy shop.
So far so good. Next, fabric options. Luckily, some of the upholstery samples I'd gotten from Zero Landfill Seattle matched the colors and theme of the cover.
But I worried that an 8-year-old might have trouble choosing. Not at all -- his mother wrote back within hours. They chose Fabric #2:
Good choice! Did her son want a pocket on the inside panel? No, better not, answered his mom, who knows what he might decide to put in it? Thanks to mom's quick responses, I was able to finish this custom order in only a few days.
Ups and downs of custom ordersThese 2 custom orders reminded me of what's good and what's hard about custom orders. I'd learned this lesson making custom Scrabble bracelets.
Custom orders mean more interaction -- between me and the customer and, occasionally, between me and another seller. It takes more time. But it also opens up new possibilities. The tablet case that Jane ended up with could not have come from me alone.
When I'm making something for a specific customer, it changes the way I work. It feels more serious. This is already paid for, after all. If I slice the book spine or drip glue on the lining, I can't just push the book aside and forget about it. I have to confess to a customer and try to make reparations. Can you tell I stress a bit?
Do you take (or make) custom orders? What's your experience?
* Not her real name.