I can’t claim to have tens of thousands of sales on Etsy – because I’m not selling a ready to buy, off the shelf, inexpensive product.
I sell wedding invitations and work with couples one-on-one throughout the process to design their stationery, print and assemble, address their envelopes – the whole shabang! In 2019, my average order was $1,143 and I consider it to be not only a boutique product, but also a luxury service.
Truth be told, not all of my invitation orders come from Etsy. However that is where my business started in 2013. I opened my Etsy shop (with zero clue what I was doing) selling notecards and graduation announcements. A year and a half later, I dove into the wedding side of things and began offering full service wedding invitations. Less than a year after that, I quit my job to pursue my business full time.
In the beginning, my order average wasn’t quite so high – that’s something that has evolved as I’ve grown my business. That being said, each wedding invitation order was at least a couple hundred dollars, often more. When you consider how “successful” someone is on Etsy, the number of sales isn’t always the best metric.
Let’s say I sold three orders each month while another shop sold an item every day (the dream, right?) Would you rather have thirty or three sales a month? What if the three orders averaged $350 each while the thirty sales averaged $12 each?
Of course we have to calculate things like the time spent producing the order, cost of goods, and profit. It’s hard to compare product to product or sale to sale because each business is set up so differently.
Selling Custom Orders on Etsy
This blog was created to help all sellers – whether you’re selling something ready to ship or made to order. The strategies that go into growing an Etsy shop remain the same whether you sell mugs, headbands, home decor, jewelry, or even wedding invitations. Make adjustments depending on your goals and your ideal buyers, but the basics keep true: optimizing your listings and tags for Etsy SEO, creating stand out product photos, offering great customer service, developing a brand, and being strategic in marketing.
The biggest difference with selling an off the shelf versus a one of a kind product is the process that happens once someone makes a purchase. If your item is ready to ship, like a coffee mug, you simply pack it up and off it goes! If you make your products as orders come in or add personalization, this can add some production time to the process – but overall the process remains the same.
Streamlining the Process
With my custom orders, there is quite a bit of back and forth with the customer as we discuss a design concept, review all the options (so many options), and work through their proofs. When a shopper inquires, I put together a quote for them and require a deposit and signed contract before I get started on any design work. I highly recommend taking a nonrefundable deposit – this ensures you will be paid at least for your time if the buyer changes their mind.
In almost six years of selling wedding invitations, I’ve only had one instance where a buyer ghosted me after I sent their design proofs. Luckily, I was able to keep the $100 deposit to cover the hours I spent working on their design. With all other orders, the deposit goes toward their final total – which I require to be paid in full before I send anything to the printer or order envelopes.
If your process has more back and forth than a couple quick convos, you can always move it to email. Consider what is best for you and your customer – since I’m sending proofs as attachments, email works better than Etsy convos.
Set Policies and Expectations
When a buyer is spending hundreds of dollars, making sure you have clear policies and expectations is super important. If they’re truly purchasing something custom, some type of sketch or proof should be given before you fully produce an item. You want to make sure both you and the buyer are on the same page with what is expected in the final product.
Again, make sure to get some type of deposit before you put in more than a few minutes of work! Depending on the product, a buyer might want a quick visual before moving forward with a deposit which is understandable. Assess each situation and make sure it is fair for everyone involved.
I don’t accept any type of returns on my custom orders, but no one has ever tried to send something back. Due to the nature of my business, refunds aren’t really a thing which I’m super thankful for. If you’re selling a custom product, that cannot be resold, make sure to state a policy on your returns both in the Etsy listing and within your shop policies.
Selling custom products on Etsy can be really fun. You form a relationship with your buyers and are offering an elevated service that they can’t get elsewhere.
I’d love to hear about your custom products (or dreams of selling a custom product) in the comments below! Also, if you’d like more posts on this subject, please let me know!
This was a great read! I’m currently researching for my little shop. It’s been a little rough. I am not sure if I should just close it?
Hi Lupe! I’m glad you liked it! There are so many different things you can do to grow and improve your shop – there are lots of resources here on my website and other blogs as well. If it’s something you enjoy doing, I say go for it : )
I love your blog and it inspired me to open my Etsy shop. I’m always coming back here to research and you have helped me immensely. Right now I’m not selling much but will continue to research and update my shop to hopefully become a thriving Etsy store. Right now I’m just selling face masks but hope to expand my product selection in the future. Dolina’s Creations.Etsy.com
Aw, I love hearing that – it makes me so happy! Thanks so much for commenting to let me know, you totally made my day. Your shop looks great and the masks are awesome. They look really high quality and I love the different themes. Keep up the good work, you will do great! : )
Steph I’m curious how you’ve managed the deposit payment then later the final payment through Etsy. I make (custom) T-shirt quilts. I require a deposit so that I can purchase initial supplies – which requires zero shipping fees and no shipping label. 4-5 weeks later I need final balance payment. And although I offer free return shipping at this point I need a shipping label which is cheaper through Etsy. Can’t find anything in Etsy help that gives advice on taking an advance deposit, and their custom order process is not user friendly.
Hi Kelly! Thanks for commenting! For my custom orders, I’ll do 2 listings – one for the deposit, the a second for the remaining payment. I currently require a $100 deposit so just have a single listing set up they can purchase, to keep it easy. Once I’ve sent their initial proofs, I mark the deposit as shipped and set up a custom listing that includes the shipping. Hopefully this makes sense, but definitely let me know if you have any other questions! : )