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Earthwood

Policies On Custom Work

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Hello Fellow Potters!

 

Working for several small businesses in the past, I've learned that it can be a very good idea to establish business policies from the get-go before things get out of hand.

 

Ex: you break it, you buy it, etc...

 

I would like to set up some policies for custom works, as I am just getting started selling commissioned pieces.

 

I am wondering if anyone else has policies on custom commissioned works? For example, when to take the payment? How much to charge for a custom/personalized piece versus what you typically charge for the piece in inventory? Do a set dollar amount mark-up or a percentage? For example, a customer would be able to get any one of the pieces I typically make and have it personalized for them. Certainly, I would charge them more money to make it personalized (if only for the fact that I couldn't necessarily sell it if they walked away from it) rather than what I typically charge for the item, right?

 

Also, how does one handle a situation when the customer is not happy with the pieces that were made for them? I imagine it to be kind of difficult to find a balance somewhere between "Too bad, this is what you get" and "Let me try again and again and again until I get it just perfect especially for you!!" Maybe I think too much?

 

Anyway, any thoughts/recommendations would be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

- Sam

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Ahead of time disclaimer ... I have not had good experiences with custom work, don't even want to hear the word anymore.

 

Success in custom work is dialogue and sticking with what you already do.

Listen to your client to get a firm idea of what they want. Then sketch the design or show them a similar piece, show samples of the colors, show how big it will be, what it will look like ... emphasis on "NO TWO ARE 100% ALIKE".

Then you both sign an agreement that acknowledges they agree to pay for the item described and you will make it as described.

Then you get a non-refundable deposit ... explain this covers the cost of materials and the labor to produce the piece. This should be about 30% of the price. The deposit insures that they are serious and not just wondering what a blue one would look like.

 

If you personalize the item, they own it ... no options. This will make them think twice before you make it rather than after the deed is done. Pricing here depends on how time consuming it is to do it ... your time is money so you need to decide the percentage.

 

Some artists take another % mid way through the job depending on how large $$ it is.

Others just take the balance on delivery.

 

Then get ready to regret you ever did it.:o

Unless you did the listening and feedback part extremely well, it will be too big, too small, not the same color, not the right size. It is highly unlikely a second or third piece will solve this.

If you went outside of your regular line of work, you spent more time on it than you could ever charge for it.

 

Once again ... the key here lies is great dialogue and presentation BEFORE and not going outside the work you normally do.

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I don't think the words "custom" and "pottery" go together. My advice is to keep the customization as limited as possible! Don't allow the customer to make any real decisions, because they simply aren't qualified to do it (if they were, they could make their own pots).

 

The only customization I will allow is when someone orders a large platter as a wedding gift, with the couple's names and wedding date underglazed onto the back of the platter. This means there is never any "oh that's not what I was expecting" because everything else about the platter was not up for discussion.

 

I make it clear that it will take 6 weeks to deliver. I charge the same price as an uncustomized platter, because the customization part takes very little effort, and I don't do it very often.

 

And if the customer tries to stray beyond those tight boundaries, like "can you carve a turtle design instead of a fish?" "can you make it larger?" the answer is a friendly but firm no.

 

I don't think I've ever heard of a potter who tried to customize more extensively, and found it to be worthwhile or successful. But I've heard plenty of stories where the potter said "what an excruciating headache!"

 

Mea

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I only make commemorative work along the lines of something with dates involved. Trying to match the sofa or the carpeting is a lose-lose situation. All of the above comments are incredibly valid. On pricing, I go a step further and ask for 50% -- unrefundable -- up front. There are some useful Agreement Forms for Artists out there for you to draw up and sign off with your customer. Some are on a cd which you can download. Google for details. You sign off when you deliver work to a gallery, why not for custom work which will tie up your resources for a while.

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This discussion has made me very glad that I finally never heard back from someone who wanted "this pot but a little taller and with a hole for a planter." She didn't realize that the larger pot would take more work (an entirely hand-carved exterior texture, so I would have to spend that much more time carving the larger pot...) and would cost more. :rolleyes:

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Hi All,

 

Thanks so much for the comments. I gave the woman some options, and gave some pricing (a bit higher than what my other work is because I starting thinking, "what does it have to cost to make it worth my time?") and have not heard back from her. Perhaps I should be glad, according to everyone's comments! I would just say that I don't do much custom work so the costs are higher right now, which is true.

 

I will think twice before I agree to do a custom piece unless it is very clearly defined and, as suggested, something I already do.

 

- Sam

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I don't do much custom work, mostly because it tends to cost more than people want to pay. When I do take custom orders, I take a 50% deposit. I created a form I where I take down all their information. The form also has a place to describe the piece in words and a place to draw it out. The customer and I go over both of these areas in deetail. I have some disclaimers on the form as well (i.e. this is a custom handmade work of art...). and I make them sign it. Also on the form, I give them an approximate date of completion.

 

Christen

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Hello Fellow Potters!

 

Working for several small businesses in the past, I've learned that it can be a very good idea to establish business policies from the get-go before things get out of hand.

 

Ex: you break it, you buy it, etc...

 

I would like to set up some policies for custom works, as I am just getting started selling commissioned pieces.

 

I am wondering if anyone else has policies on custom commissioned works? For example, when to take the payment? How much to charge for a custom/personalized piece versus what you typically charge for the piece in inventory? Do a set dollar amount mark-up or a percentage? For example, a customer would be able to get any one of the pieces I typically make and have it personalized for them. Certainly, I would charge them more money to make it personalized (if only for the fact that I couldn't necessarily sell it if they walked away from it) rather than what I typically charge for the item, right?

 

Also, how does one handle a situation when the customer is not happy with the pieces that were made for them? I imagine it to be kind of difficult to find a balance somewhere between "Too bad, this is what you get" and "Let me try again and again and again until I get it just perfect especially for you!!" Maybe I think too much?

 

Anyway, any thoughts/recommendations would be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

- Sam

 

 

Sometimes there can be an ulterior motive for custom work. I had a job a few years back that required 2000 vessels. I was politely asked if I would do it. These were to be small mug size with no handles. I had been having problems with throwing off of the hump-especially mugs. I took the job knowing full well that they would not be fun, but the idea was that through the effort I would improve my process skills. It did work, it was grueling, but I have not had problems with mugs from the hump since-or other forms. They did not want to pay me what I thought they were worth, but as it was a religious non profit, I charged them half and wrote the rest to taxes.

 

I have taken other commissions with the same idea-to learn how to do, or design a form. I do have to admit though that this is the only reason for taking this sort of low paying, labor intensive effort.

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