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Are Custom Orders On Location A Good Idea?


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#1 DMCosta

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:58 PM

I found that my last craft fair, I got asked a lot more of the"Can you make this in white," "Can you make me a set of these bowls" etc. So I had a good amount of interest in custom orders. Now I know granted some of those people are not serious buyers, but a few may have been. I spoke to them about the potential custom order, gave them a business card and they went on their way. Now, weeks later none of them have reached out. So my question is this...

 

Does anyone have any experience in taking custom orders on the spot? If a customer shows interest in a custom order, I'd like to have the customer fill out a form (that states all the specifics), take a deposit, and give them a receipt. Then arrange to get them to custom piece when it's completed either in person, or my mail.  

 

I live in NY, people here are quick paced, and seem to try and get things done right then and there. If not, next time they're at the dreaded home goods they'll pick up whatever I could have custom made them. So I thought of doing this custom order concept as almost a "strike while the irons hot" kind of thing, but didn't want the concept to seem pushy to a customer. 

 

I'm open to advice!

 

~Dianna



#2 Chris Campbell

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 01:24 PM

There are a number of opinions on this ...

One is that is it just a way to escape your booth.
Two is that they are just gassing around and have no intention of buying even if you pulled out a white one ... It would be too big, too small, too tall ....etc.
Three is that you will waste even more time designing a form ... though that is an excellent way to get rid of them since they would not want to take the time to fill out anything but a free prize entry form.
Four is that they are the folks who ask for the chef to change everything in the dish just for them and your finished custom dish would never be quite right.
Five ... Hmmm ... There must be customers out there who truly mean it when they ask for a custom piece ....
Anyone? Tips on how to tell they really, really mean it?

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#3 Mark369

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 02:20 PM

I hate custom orders.  I do not do them.  Too many variables to go wrong, and if they do go right , it may not be what they imagined!


Everything tastes better with cat hair in it !

 

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it died knowing something! :wacko:


#4 BeckyH

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 02:21 PM

I've found that asking for a deposit separates the lookers from the serious. Having the form available is nice, and once you've made it you can use it over and over, so it's not that big a time investment over all. Otherwise, folks will take a card and a (very) few will get back in touch.
If they ask, get out the book with the forms, and pull out a pen. Explain the deposit policy, give an estimated time to completion-and be reasonable! Promising stuff in too little time for you to do a good job just leads to trouble. If you have a portfolio of pictures of stuff you've done, show it then. Make sure what they want is something you can deliver. And you can have a policy of two changes, then it's over. They either buy the piece or you keep the deposit and sell it elsewhere.
Then you actually have to make the stuff on time. For some, this is where it all falls apart, as they really don't have the time available.

#5 TJR

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 02:52 PM

This is a smoke bomb question. Instead of the person asking;"Do you have this in white?", picture them throwing down a smoke bomb and escaping your studio.They are not interested in white, green or blue pots, they just want to get out of your booth without hurting your feelings.

If the booth was crowded, they get away without saying anything or making contact.

It's a bit devious, but I have never had any further contact from people ordering on spec.

I even once made a whole bunch of pots in green as requested.Picture crickets chirping in an empty booth filled with green pots. I don't even like green that much.

TJR.



#6 Mark C.

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 03:16 PM

I found that my last craft fair, I got asked a lot more of the"Can you make this in white," "Can you make me a set of these bowls" etc. So I had a good amount of interest in custom orders. Now I know granted some of those people are not serious buyers, but a few may have been. I spoke to them about the potential custom order, gave them a business card and they went on their way. Now, weeks later none of them have reached out. So my question is this...

 

Does anyone have any experience in taking custom orders on the spot? If a customer shows interest in a custom order, I'd like to have the customer fill out a form (that states all the specifics), take a deposit, and give them a receipt. Then arrange to get them to custom piece when it's completed either in person, or my mail.  

 

I live in NY, people here are quick paced, and seem to try and get things done right then and there. If not, next time they're at the dreaded home goods they'll pick up whatever I could have custom made them. So I thought of doing this custom order concept as almost a "strike while the irons hot" kind of thing, but didn't want the concept to seem pushy to a customer. 

 

I'm open to advice!

 

~Dianna

I have had over 35 years of doing custom orders-which I do not do anymore.

That said I shipped a custom cannister out to AZ yesterday and a honey pot lid to LA. today

These where special exceptions for customers I already have sold pottery to.

Over the years I learned that custom orders really are not worth it-heres why

1st the custom order is the 1st pot to crack or not turn out-trust me on how I know this

2nd-the custom order which you now need to remake has taken twice the time you thought as it did not work the 1st time thru

3rd-they never pick the damm thing up anymore as you noted they are just to busy these days

4th ok its done now you need to stop with your life and pack and ship it -its getting more costly for you every minute

 

I will make exceptions but I stoppped doing custom work years ago when society shifted to the burger king thought process -I want it my way today right now for the highway.

I suggest you take this advice to heart as the other road is heartbreak

your very post mentions thier busy lifes and quick paced wonderings

Take it from me and let them wonder-spend your time with making and selling to interested buyers who like what you have made not what you do not have.

The only iron you need is the one to wack them with and quit wasting your time on does this come in blue questions.

This might be my most true advice I have given in 2,000 posts-

time to set the bar high-doing custom work for existing customers is another topic.

Mark


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#7 TJR

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 04:07 PM

 

I found that my last craft fair, I got asked a lot more of the"Can you make this in white," "Can you make me a set of these bowls" etc. So I had a good amount of interest in custom orders. Now I know granted some of those people are not serious buyers, but a few may have been. I spoke to them about the potential custom order, gave them a business card and they went on their way. Now, weeks later none of them have reached out. So my question is this...

 

Does anyone have any experience in taking custom orders on the spot? If a customer shows interest in a custom order, I'd like to have the customer fill out a form (that states all the specifics), take a deposit, and give them a receipt. Then arrange to get them to custom piece when it's completed either in person, or my mail.  

 

I live in NY, people here are quick paced, and seem to try and get things done right then and there. If not, next time they're at the dreaded home goods they'll pick up whatever I could have custom made them. So I thought of doing this custom order concept as almost a "strike while the irons hot" kind of thing, but didn't want the concept to seem pushy to a customer. 

 

I'm open to advice!

 

~Dianna

I have had over 35 years of doing custom orders-which I do not do anymore.

That said I shipped a custom cannister out to AZ yesterday and a honey pot lid to LA. today

These where special exceptions for customers I already have sold pottery to.

Over the years I learned that custom orders really are not worth it-heres why

1st the custom order is the 1st pot to crack or not turn out-trust me on how I know this

2nd-the custom order which you now need to remake has taked twice the time you thought as it did not work the 1st time thru

3rd-they never pick the damm thing up anymore as you noted they are just to busy these days

4th ok its done now you need to stop with your life and pack and ship it -its getting more costly for you every minute

 

I will make exceptions but I stoppped doing custom work years ago when society shifted to the burger king thought process -I want it my way today right now for the highway.

I suggest you take this advice to heart as the other road is heartbreak

your very post mentions thier busy lifes and quick paced wonderings

Take it from me and let them wonder-spend your time with making and selling to interested buyers who like what you have made not what you do not have.

The only iron you need is the one to wack them with and quit wasting your time on does this come in blue questions.

This might be my most true advice I have given in 2,000 posts-

time to set the bar high-doing custom work for existing customers is another topic.

Mark

 

Well said Mark. Been there.

Tom.



#8 Tarheeler

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 05:27 PM

We give them a business card, tell them we require a 50% deposit on custom work, and ask them to e-mail us with specifics so we can work everything out.

 

We rarely hear anything back.



#9 Stellaria

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:34 PM

Vendors at Renaissance Festivals almost ALL take custom orders on the spot, and many of them bring in most of their revenue that way. So that tactic obviously works for some craftspeople.

#10 Chris Campbell

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 08:40 AM

I guess that works at those themed venues because the crowd is used to having to search for someone who makes the wares they want so once they find that person, they place an order on the spot.

Chris Campbell
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http://www.ccpottery.com/

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#11 High Bridge Pottery

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 12:02 PM

Keep one eye open but never expect anything :ph34r:  



#12 TJR

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 04:18 PM

Hey! This just happened to me after reading this post.

A woman called me wanting to order a casserole. We set up an appointment. I was thinking here we go again with the custom order.

They brought two broken casseroles. I said I would not be able to match the glaze or form.

They picked out one of my glazes they liked. I said give me two months, as I am planting my garden .

I also asked and received a 50% deposit. I also increased the price for the pain in the you-know- what factor.

After reading Tarhealer's post- I thought 50% deposit.

If you don't ask, you don't receive.

TJR.



#13 DMCosta

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:21 PM

Hi Everyone, 

 

   Thank you for the great and honest responses. In case I forgot to add this, I do make a portion of my business on custom orders primarily via ETSY, and a little from craft fairs. I've never had any returns from custom orders but have had some impossible to please custom order customers which I was loosing patience for. So I always meet my production deadlines, and I do agree that sometimes that custom made piece ends up being cursed with a glaze error or crack then you have to re-make it.

 

With all that said, I think everyone is right. 95% of those "do you have that in white" customers would still not buy the piece if I did in fact have it in white. I do know that when people say that, that they usually aren't serious buyers. I guess I was just looking for a way to make a little more money at these craft events seeing that my last two weren't that fabulous. 

 

~Dianna



#14 Diesel Clay

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 10:58 PM

I want to weigh in on this one, because my day job is working for a business that does *exclusively* custom glasswork. We kindly refer people elsewhere that want something ready made. It is a business model that does work, within the right framework.

We get the smoke bomb questions, too, but that doesn't mean some of them aren't the real deal. If you wish to do custom work, by all means, offer it as a service. Have your guidelines in mind beforehand, so that you can offer them in a matter-of-fact, professional manner, and the potential client has the option of taking it or leaving it, as information. Frame your boundaries in terms of what you WILL do, but make sure those boundaries are firm.
And above all, you MUST charge an appropriate design fee that is separate from the money you need to actually make the commission piece. Charge this fee without hesitation or fear. You posses a skill most people don't.

What we typically do, is have design consultations with the potential client; not something you can do on the spot at a show, but you could make appointment bookings. Follow up weeds out a lot of tire kickers. At the first meeting (1 hour max) the design is roughed out. A time frame and price range are established with things like labour, materials, design time and margin for error built in. As long as the client doesn't make drastic design alterations, we don't exceed the top end. If the client agrees to go ahead, 1/3 of the lower end of the price range is charged at this time. After the design is finalized, colours and materials chosen and exact dimensions determined, the final price is established. 1/3 of this price is charged upon the client signing off on the design. The remainder of the money is charged once the work is complete.
This is obviously rather elaborate for pottery, but it might be simplified to still work effectively. And you have to want to put in the time, walking people who don't always visualize end products well through the process. The good clients are a dream, and sing your praises to their friends. The less ideal ones.....let's say a certain tax is sometimes factored in to that final price to cover the extra time.
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#15 Chris Campbell

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 10:40 AM

Diesel Clay ...
Could you give some tips for translating what the customer says and what they see in their minds to what you think they want?
This is my biggest hurtle ... I don't think I am listening properly.
Does sketching the project for them help?

Chris Campbell
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http://www.ccpottery.com/

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#16 Diesel Clay

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Posted 09 June 2014 - 09:00 AM

Sketching is indeed an indispensable part of the whole design process, but samples of techniques and materials are equally necessary.


I can go over some of the questions if you'd like, but the thing I find most helpful to make sure you and the customer are speaking the same language is to mirror back to them what they have said in your own words. If their response to this anything other than definite agreement, try again. Be patient with both them, and yourself. Ask for clarification.

Usually you start by asking about their other likes, then what they'd specifically like to see in the piece. You can throw out a few quick sketches, and ask "what do you think of this?" The conversation goes back and forth from here.
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#17 TwinRocks

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Posted 23 July 2014 - 09:48 AM

Generally but not always, the buyer who wants one more different variation than what you have isn't a buyer at all, but a browser. I have had people pay a deposit on an order and then be unreachable when it comes time to settle the rest and ship the work. Custom orders are a worm hole I don't personally intend to ever re-enter.

Go to an office supply store, buy a contract table that has a carbon duplicate and fill in you info and policies on each set of pages ahead of time so you can quickly convey your information. Get a back up contact from your customers, a spouse or friend you can call if you can't find them. People are less likely to disappear if they know someone else will be asked about it.

Again, I've wasted a lot of time on browsers who don't buy and customers who put down a deposit and turn into ghosts. Not my cup of tea!

#18 neilestrick

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Posted 23 July 2014 - 02:32 PM

On average I take one order at every art fair. There is always someone who wants X form with Y glaze and I don't have it in stock. So they pay 100% up front plus shipping, and they wait 4-6 weeks to get it. I will only make forms that I already make, and only with glazes I already use. Nothing custom. I will not copy someone else's form, and certainly won't formulate a glaze for someone. For dinnerware orders I take a 50% non-refundable deposit.


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#19 clayfeetpottery

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Posted 23 July 2014 - 06:21 PM

Helpful info from all..thanks!


-with dirty feet and happy hands,

 

   Mel

 





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