The Value of Custom Orders to a Handmade Seller

 As a handmade seller, I tend to be reluctant when I get a request for a custom order. Custom work tends to take more time than anyone likes, and it takes away time I could be using towards increasing my inventory of best selling items. My most popular mobile size and style is a Large Paper Crane Mobile which can take up to 3 1/2 hours to make from start to finish, 1 hour and 15 minutes of that is taken up by folding the paper cranes. Another popular mobile I sell, the Under the Sea Mobile in the same size, can take up to 3 1/2 hours just to fold all the models because of their complexity. When it comes to custom work even more time has to be invested in the mobile. I often have to search for instructional folding diagrams for the requested models. Learning to fold something new takes time, and sometimes a model doesn’t turn out right the first time, and I have to fold it all over again.

Basically, what it comes down to is that custom work takes time – a lot of time, and the reality is I usually don’t get paid for all the extra time I put into a custom order. Despite all this, I am not here to talk about why custom orders are bad, or that they should be avoided. Rather, I am here to talk about the benefits of doing custom work as a handmade seller.

Opportunities to Finally Create Something You’ve Had In Mind

Over the years I have learned that custom work can be beneficial in several ways. Just like many creative handmade sellers, I have tons of ideas for things I would like to make. There are so many themed mobiles that I would love to create, but I don’t have the time to make them, and I am not sure what kind of market there is for that specific mobile.

Custom work gives me the opportunity to create things that I might not have taken the time to make otherwise. An example of this is the Giant Dinosaur Mobile that I made these last two weeks. In 2008 I purchased a book about origami dinosaurs, but I never used it. In the end, I didn’t fold a single model from that book, but this shows that even back in 2008 I was thinking of making a dinosaur mobile. No one had ever requested a dinosaur mobile before, so I had never gotten around to making one. Despite this giant mobile taking an exorbitant amount of time to make (most of it spent searching for diagrams and folding new models), I don’t regret taking on this new project. It gave me the opportunity to create something amazingly beautiful and unique, something that I might never had gotten around to doing.

Reaching New Customers

This dinosaur mobile, as well as many other custom mobiles I’ve made, also allow me to reach new customers. Now I can reach people who like dinosaurs – people who might not have come across my work before. The Rainbow Froebel Star Mobile might appeal to someone looking for a bright mobile for their nursery, whereas an all-white paper crane mobile might appeal to someone looking for an elegant piece of art for their summer home. As I step out of my comfort zone of making paper crane mobiles, I also grow as an artist. Inspiration for New Designs Sometimes I need a little push in order to try something new that I’ve been afraid to take on – that push can be from a customer.

My Giant Golden Spiral Mobile was one of those projects I was reluctant to take on. A repeat customer wanted something special for a good friend, and having always wanted to make a large scale spiral mobile, I accepted the challenge and got to work. I had to fold 129 paper cranes for that mobile – which on it’s own took between 6 and 8 hours. Even while working on that mobile, I knew I wasn’t getting paid enough for the work I was doing, but I knew it was going to be something special. It turned out absolutely amazing, and the recipient was speechless and in awe. My customers are always pushing me to make bigger, better, and more amazing mobiles.

Getting Paid to Experiment

Custom orders also are a way of getting paid to experiment. After making the sale, I just have to figure out what to do to get to the final product. Sometimes I want to try something new, like a dinosaur mobile, or making a mobile larger than any I have made before. Custom orders allow me to be creative and try new things while having been paid in advance to do it. I have the assurance that someone wants what I am making, so I can be artistic with peace of mind because I don’t have to go out and look for a customer when I am finished experimenting. After so many years of making custom mobiles I have learned the value of custom orders. I might not like getting out of my comfort zone, but I know that it will be worth it in the end because I will have made something amazing and truly unique. I will have grown as a person and an artist, and I will have been paid to do it. Perhaps not with enough money, but rather, with experience, growth, knowledge, and an expanded portfolio.

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