Have you ever received a convo asking if you would create a variation on something you offer in your shop? Do you make your items to order and have the ability to create work in specific sizes, colors, or with personalized content? Are you looking for ways to boost your sales? If so, custom order listings can be a great way to increase your bottom line!
In my shop, the majority of my sales come from custom orders. I love working directly with the customer to work out the special sentiment they want to have written in their Secret Promise Rings. It’s incredibly fulfilling to know that I helped them with a truly sentimental piece of jewelry that they will cherish always.
If custom orders are something you’ve considered offering, you’ll want to be prepared for the additional effort it will take to work directly with your customers. To better your chances for custom order success, I’ve put together my top 10 tips for managing custom order listings in your Etsy shop.
1. Decide what you are going to offer as a custom order. If you’ve already had custom requests from customers, that’s a great place to start. Take photos of any made-to-order items you’ve created and ask the customer if you can use one of those photos as an example in a custom order listing in your shop. With the exception of some extremely personal orders, most satisfied customers are more than happy to help you make more sales.
2. Figure out how long it will take you to make and ship a custom order. You need to know how long it takes you to make a standard (non-custom) item first. For most sellers, creating custom orders takes quite a bit more time than the standard order due to the additional care it takes to complete the custom order process. This extra time needs to be added to your overall turnaround time (the time between accepting and shipping the order).
3. Decide how much you are going to charge for custom orders. Between creating a custom order listing, communicating with customers to confirm their requests (possibly multiple times), and making and fulfilling the order, managing a custom order takes much more time than regular orders. This time is taken away from your daily shop maintenance routines and can cut into your profits if you are not careful. Be sure to charge for your additional time in the listing price.
4. Be proactive and create listings that your customers want to buy. Instead of waiting for or requiring a customer to convo you with a specific request to begin the process, be proactive. Create a “custom order” category and add the words “custom order” to the first photo of popular variations of the items you already make.
You can help your customer understand how to place an order quickly by including a step-by-step list in each listing explaining the exact information you need to take to make an order happen.
5. Limit the quantity of personalization requests allowed. Your goal should be to present your customers with the shortest path from viewing the listing to clicking “Add to Cart.” You can make this happen by limiting the number of options offered in one listing. For example:
- Create a listing for one color way but offer specific variations in size and personalization
- Create a listing for one size and offer a short list of color variations
- Create a listing for one style with size and color options
6. Be very clear about what happens once your customer places an order. In the “Info and Appearance” section of your shop, update your “Message to Buyers” to include specific information about the turnaround time for custom orders and how you plan to confirm their order once their payment is verified.
7. Create a system to confirm requests quickly.
- As soon as you receive a custom order, respond right away with a convo confirming their requests and quoting a turnaround time from final order confirmation.
- Be specific and outline each detail on a separate line to avoid confusion.
- Ask the customer to reply back to confirm the information to ensure there are no typos or miscommunications.
- Work through any changes or adjustments before beginning any work.
- Have them sign off on one final confirmation; you can then begin making the order within the time frame you quoted in your listing and communications.
8. Make firm decisions on your custom order return and exchange policies. Returns are expressly up to the seller to decide. If you create personalized custom orders that cannot be resold in the event of a return, you can create a “no returns on custom orders” policy in your Shop Policies section. You can then place a link to your shop policies in each listing so potential customers have a chance to read them before they place an order.
9. Decide ahead of time what exceptions you will allow for returns and refunds. What if your customer is truly unhappy with their purchase?
This is where things get tricky with custom orders. The way to avoid this is to be extra clear in your item listings so there are absolutely no surprises. Still, there will be the rare few who are really dissatisfied.
Whatever your return policy, when you receive a message from a customer that states they are not happy with their purchase, it’s a good idea to take some time to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would you feel if you ordered a custom-made item and it turned out to be a mistake? How would you want to be treated as a customer? What do you expect when asking for exceptional customer service? Your answers to these kinds of questions can guide you toward your best customer service solution.
10. Remember you can always decline a custom order. Occasionally you may receive a custom order request that you are unable or unwilling to fill. In that case, contact the customer to immediately to explain why you will be canceling their order and that you will be refunding their purchase price the same day. This may open some doors toward a revised order or it may be the end of the discussion.
Bonus Tip: There may come a time when you realize that fulfilling custom orders is more work than it’s worth for your business. Custom order work is not for everyone and it’s really okay to reply to any future custom order requests with a simple, “I am not accepting custom orders at this time. Thank you for your inquiry!” No harm done!
There you have it. With these 10 tips for managing custom orders, you are well on your way toward creating meaningful custom items for your best customers. I hope you’ll give it a try!
What are your tips for selling custom work?