Tips for Selling Custom Items on Etsy
One of the most rewarding things about selling handmade is working with a customer to design something special. If you do a lot of custom work, you may choose to create listings for custom items in your Etsy shop. Here are some tips to help the custom order process work great for both you and your customers.
Streamline your options. Overwhelming your buyer with too many options may not be the best approach. I’ve found that narrowing things like color choices to those that are most popular gives the buyer easy, fast choices that don’t lead to them delaying their purchase. If a person feels they need to come back and spend more time with options, they might talk themselves out of buying the item or find something else in the meantime. When you describe your options in the item listing, use very clear and simple language. Now is not the time to wax poetic about the lovely materials you have available.
Since we don’t have a drop down menu to select sizing and colors on Etsy, your customers will need to leave this information in “message to seller” at checkout. Make this very clear so buyers understand how to select the options you give them. Keep your listings short, and leave spaces between important information so it will draw attention to each option and information about the checkout process.
If possible, provide photos for the each option they should select for the item (color, materials, sizing diagram, etc.). The order you display the photos in the item listing should correspond with the order you mention the options in the listing. Some people are more visual or just won’t read the listing – photos will help bring the options to their attention. Here you can see my original dog hat sizing diagram. I drew it with a sharpie and scanned it into the computer. The second is a newer hat sizing guide I created in Adobe Illustrator.
Mention the turnaround time for the item in the listing description. Some people are impatient for orders to come right away, others are amazed it doesn’t take months to receive a custom item. Clarity about your timeframe up front will often help you make the sale and will save worry on both sides about the status of an order.
If there is an important part of your shop policies that pertains to custom orders you may want to include a link in the listing. You may also choose to include information about returns on custom items in your item listing.
After a customer purchases a custom item, repeat the information they provide back to them in a confirmation email. For example, “thanks very much for purchasing x, in blue with a silver buckle. I will create the custom item as you described and it will ship in 5-7 days”.
Be patient when people get things wrong. Over 60% of my orders are custom items, and about 35% of the time people miss a step and leave out information. If you receive an order and there is no message to seller, contact the buyer as quickly as possible and lay out all the options in an email or Conversation. I attach photos to the email instead of directing them back to the listing to make things easier and faster for them. If a buyer never responds, cancel the sale after 72 hours (or whatever time period you state in your shop policies). For a number of reasons, it’s not a great idea to just send them a similar item.
No matter how many options you provide, there will always be customers who can dream up something you don’t yet offer. For customers who request unique items, create a listing for them to purchase that includes a detailed description about the item you will make and how long it will take for you to fill the order. This way you have a sort of contract in place you can both refer to and agree upon. I also keep track of price quotes I give customers in a notebook next to my computer, so if someone asks me for, say, a custom Great Dane sweater, I have the information on hand and am consistent with quotes I give for similar items.
Custom items often take more time, so to increase your price for these items accordingly. When dealing with customers one on one to design an item, outline where the additional cost is coming from. If you need to research and purchase new materials or develop a pattern for an item, explain that this contributes to the additional cost of the item. If a custom item is considerably more expensive than what you have in your shop, you may choose to offer the potential buyer more than one option to make it affordable for them.
This photo of the adorable Bailey was provided by our customer Kristin in North Carolina. I created a custom floral collar for Bailey to wear in her lovely outdoor wedding. Customer photos are my favorite part of what I do, and are a great way of showing potential buyers what custom items might look like. You can see more of our custom item photos here on Bean’s Blog.
Aside from trial and error, shopping handmade yourself is a great way to understand what you want as a buyer. Pay attention to how you shop and when you lose patience with too much information. I keep a notebook next to the computer that I use when I shop to keep track of my experiences as a buyer.
For those of you who have been selling through custom listings on Etsy for awhile, I’d love to hear about the challenges that selling different types of (human) items present!