A little while back I invited the readers of my other blog to ask me a craft business related question for me to try and tackle. One question that got asked repeatedly went something like this:
“Do you only sell things that are already made and finished or do you also sell to order? I sell on ebay etsy and my website and sell what I have made but I wonder if people are looking for something that I haven’t had time to re-stock and if I have then lost a customer because the item wasn’t there? Hhmmm now there’s a long question!!” (as asked by Paper & String).
Good question! How do you decide what percentage of your craft items should be ready made, and what percentage should be commissions? In this post I’ll look at some factors that should help you to decide whether you should go down the commissions route or the ready made route, or both!
Advantages of Ready Made:
- Once you get into the swing of the production process for your craft item you can make your items in a shorter amount of time, and you can become expert in the various making processes. For example, in bag making you can cut all of the fabric pieces (bleuurghhh! not my favourite part) on one day, sew the bags the next day, and add any finishing touches the day after that. The faster you can make your craft items the faster you can make more, and the less you will need to charge for your time.
- It much easier to plan for ready mades. You know what materials you will need for your craft items so you can buy in bulk and save money, you will also have a better idea as to how long it will take to produce your craft items.
- You have total freedom to make your items out of whatever materials you choose. For instance, if you happen upon a bargain box of yummy vintage buttons (I’ll be a bit jealous) you can use them as lovely trims, or make cute jewelry etc. and you’ll have saved some money in the process. You are not restricted in the same way as a commission in that you can make what you want out of whatever you want.
- You’ll have inventory to sell at markets, or on your site. In my experience, most customers are not looking to spend much time or effort in making a decision on what to buy. If there is something that is available now, pretty, and reasonably priced there is a good chance that it will sell much faster than a commission.
Disadvantages of Ready Mades:
- You need to be pretty savvy when it comes to deciding what to make. You should do regular research to get a feel of what is hot in the craft world. I always, always say make what you love, with love, and in your own style, but be aware of what your competition is doing. This way you can offer something different, something cheaper, something more exclusive, you can make more/make fewer of an item, etc. etc etc. By doing this you’ll avoid making lots of inventory that will hang around glaring at from your store cupboards (yep, we’ve all been there!).
- We’re all creative souls (you and I) and more likely than not we don’t like having to make the same thing again and again….yawn (even if it sells like hot cakes!)
- Ready mades can be time consuming in their way own too. Even though it take less time to produce ready mades; you are making more of them and this eats time (time that could be spent on commission work).
Ready Mades : “Hey ho! Only another 50 of these bloody hearts to sew…”
Advantages of Commissions:
- You get to work closely with your customer and you will be able to tailor your craft item to their needs, this way you are making the VERY thing that your customer is looking for.
- You can arrange for a deposit to be paid in advance which can help toward the cost of materials.
- Because you get to work more closely with the customer you get a chance to form a nice relationship which will hopefully result in further commissions from word of mouth recommendation.
- Commission work can be more flamboyant and intricate, and hopefully more fun to make. These one-off designs will also be a better show-case for your skills. Therefore it’s a good idea to take a few good shots (with your customer’s permission) of these commission items to put on your website/portfolio to show other customers just what you can do!
- Depending on your customers needs, the craft item can be made from more exclusive materials, which again can be more fun to use and will result in a more exclusive craft item that would look great on your website/portfolio.
Disadvantages of Commissions:
- Because commissions are sometimes more complex designs, or they may use materials you are unfamiliar with, or techniques you haven’t used before they can be more time consuming to produce. This can be difficult if you are charging for time, (or time is in short supply…err…what the heck am I talking about? Time is always in short supply?!!??).
- Because commissions are often more time consuming, you may prefer not to charge for time (unless you are pretty well known). This means that you may make less from some commission items.
So which is better; Commissions or Ready Mades? Personally, I think that both of them are important to your craft business. Commissions are great for making super duper fancy craft pieces, these pieces should be recorded and put on your site or portfolio. Commissions are a great way to go to town, and show others the full extent of your talents. Despite the fact that commissions are time hungry (and you may make less from commissions) they are often a good source of further work. I have made the all of purses for bridesmaids for quite a few weddings (which is REALLY stressful, but great for business because if your yummy purse is seen at a wedding by another slightly jealous lady…yep, you guessed it, more work for you!).
Ready Mades can be more your bread and butter items. If you don’t have inventory to sell then you don’t have a craft business (unless you are fortunate enough to be able to rely solely on a steady stream of commissions…which lets face it most of us aren’t). Ready Mades are more economical to produce in terms of time and cost of materials. Therefore, you can sell them for less, which means they will attract more customers. That said, you have to be a bit smart about what to make by spending some time in researching the craft world, don’t just go off and produce loads of a craft item just because you love it…
I’d love to know what works for you. Share the link to your shop/site and tell us what is your split between Commissions and Ready Made 🙂