A Guide to Taking Creative Commissions + Custom Orders

 

 

 

image

 

If you run a creative business it is highly likely that you have been asked to complete a custom item for someone.

It is an exhilarating feeling when you are asked and it is easy to jump straight in with all of your enthusiasm. It is a wonderful thing to find a customer willing to put the time, money, and trust into what you love.

However, there are a lot of potential pitfalls for the new maker. In order to make the experience smooth, professional, and enjoyable for both you and your customer, there are a number of important steps to the process that you need to consider.

 

The Vision

Often a customer will be inspired by what you make. It may be the materials, colours, design, or respect for your craft. Being commissioned to create for someone is an honour.

A possible hurdle is, of course, the vision. What the customer sees in their mind and explains to you will never be exactly the same as what you see and how you hear their explanation. If it is a colour change for example it is much easier to discuss. A whole new design can be very difficult.

It’s important to get the vision locked down into reality as much as you can before you start making. This might mean sketches, dimensions, exact raw materials, etc.

 

The Commitment

Always be realistic with your ability. Don’t make any promises you may not be able to keep. The final plans must be achievable.

How much time will it take? (It is very easy to underestimate this!) Can you source the materials? There is lots to think about so ensure you are honest with your customer about these aspects.

 

The Deposit

Once the details are decided it is very important to ask for a deposit prior to starting work.

Depending on your craft this can be any amount up to 50% of the agreed sale price. The purpose of this deposit is to cover the cost of materials and the bulk of your time.

It should be agreed that this deposit is non refundable.

You need to cover your costs regardless of the outcome. You may lose contact, they may change their minds, they may be unhappy or they may never make the final payment. This deposit covers you and your business from any loss.

I know this may sound harsh but it is a smart business decision and the right customer will understand that. The payment of the deposit also lets you know they are serious about the purchase which is wonderful news, and allows you to go ahead with the commission.

image

 

The Contract

This does not need to be a largely detailed or legal document.

The purpose of this is to outline the basic details that both you and the customer agree on.

Price, timeline, design details, quantity, size, deposit details are all great examples of basic policies to be included in an agreement. Having all these details in black and white prevents any possible confusion during the process.

 

The Communication

Communication is very important. The customer will be anticipating the completion and so keeping them updated through the process is vital to keeping them happy, cared for, and engaged.

It’s also exciting to be able to share the progress. Email some photos and really share the experience. Importantly if you need to change anything, or you need a little more time always let your customer know in advance.

 

The Delivery

One of the most exciting moments of your creative biz is when you finish a commission.

Usually it comes with mixed emotions of excitement and nerves as you doubt yourself (as most creatives do in this part of the process!) while also feeling proud.

Make sure you collect remaining payment as written in your agreement prior to delivery, deliver with love and care, and of course celebrate your achievement!

Custom orders can result in a time-consuming and challenging process, but if done right it is a very rewarding aspect to your creative business.

How to Create an Efficient Workspace

 

 

 

image

 

Running your creative biz from home sounds like it comes with plenty of ease, joy, and freedom.

In truth, it takes even more determination, self motivation, and organisational skill to work from home than from a traditional workplace. Working from a spare room, shed, workshop, or even the dining room table can create a tug-of-war struggle between work and the rest of your life.

One of the biggest motivation and inspiration killers is a messy, cluttered, busy, or disorganised workspace.

So to welcome in the new year a reorganisation of your workspace can be a great beginning!

Here are 5 elements of the process that will help you get your workspace ready for a new year of business.

 

1. Purge

First and foremost, a purge us necessary in order to make way for the new planned projects, de-clutter what you no longer use, clean up your email inbox, finish off any book work, and tie up any loose ends. This is a good time to reach for the too-hard basket also (I’m sure we all have one of these!).

Once this is done you will have the physical space and mental clarity for doing what you love, and you’ll be running your creative business with more efficiency.

 

2. Allocate

It can be beneficial when creating an efficient workspace to allocate space to different aspects of your work. Have a space dedicated to your book work or your new project can create an efficiency when moving between tasks.

Of course, the smaller the space the harder it can be, but just a little bit of allocation and organisation in this area can go a long way.

 

3. Comfort

Don’t forget to look after yourself! What do you love that can be included in your workspace? A teapot and selection of teas, a bowl of fresh fruit, a bottle of Pinot Noir close by for when you work late, a radio, or a space for your furry friend.

These are just little examples that you can use to incorporate comfort into your workspace. Make it a happy place that you want to be in as often as possible. Bring a little home into the “office”.

 

image

 

4. Decorate

This is something you should always think about. Take pride in your space no matter how big or small.

Pick fresh flowers, grow some indoor plants, put up some of your favourite photos/prints/art, burn a candle, and create an inspirational pin board. Make your creative space inspirational and a joy to inhabit – and you’ll not only enjoy your time there more, you’ll also be inspired by the beautiful things around you.

 

5. Tidy

Having a de-cluttered, organised, comfortable, and beautiful space is a wonderful thing (though for creative people it is much easier said than done!). Our busy schedules, late nights, family commitments, and unstoppable minds mean a workspace rarely stays tidy for long.

To battle this, try as often as possible to finish a work day on a high note by doing a quick desk clean up and materials put-away.

Just 5 minutes as you finish up for the day will make a huge impact and will help stop the space become unmanageable.

Planning for Perseverance


Perseverance and Navigating Obstacles

 

Planning for perseverance is as easy as taking a few moments to think about what you would do if you hit a brick wall in your biz.

Imagine scenarios in your creative business that could occur at some point and know how to react so you don’t hit panic when something doesn’t go to plan.

Because, to be honest, it rarely ever does!

Below are five things to consider as ways of helping yourself persevere when all seems lost.

I can confidently say that ALL people who start a creative business will need perseverance at the top of their skills list.

 

How to Avoid a Brick Wall

 

1. Focusing on the end goal is the best way to persevere. It is so easy to get lost and lose sight of the reasons you started your creative journey.

Having a clear picture of your end goal while keeping in mind that there will always be obstacles and detours will help you from feeling dread when something doesn’t work as expected.

 

2. Recognising that there will be obstacles is important… but so is actually recognising one when it arises and facing it head-on. Sometimes a change off-course can feel like a huge burden or an end to your dream.

Take a moment to feel the emotions, recognise that what is in front of you is not the end of your creative career but instead, just an obstacle or a detour on your journey. The path to success is not straight and smooth.

 

3. There will always be another way! There are always alternatives to choose.

Family, finances, health, and weather will constantly affect your creative business. You have minimal control over these external influences so learn to swing with the punches. You will find a way if you really want to.

 

4. Sometimes these obstacles are easy to work with and a quick decision will solve it. Other times there will be obstacles that seem impossible. Ones that make you tired, restless and fearful for the future of your creative business.

Always take the time to think back to why you started on the creative journey and what you set out to achieve. If you need to take a break, it will still be there! Find your inner strength to make it through these times and come out the other side even more determined than before.

 

5. Really this is one of the most important factors. Staying healthy in mind and body through the good times will give you strength to make it through the harder times.

Take time for yourself, nurture your relationships, rest, drink tea, practice yoga, meditate or whatever it is that keeps you feeling your best and you will find the hard times don’t have to be as hard as they may seem.

 

 

5 Tips for Launching a New Handmade Product

5 Tips for Launching a New Product

If you are anything like me, the fast approach of the New Year has your creative brain buzzing with ideas for new products.

Ideas development, product planning, and market research are all very important – but there are a few more things to think about for a new product launch in order to give it it’s best chances of success.

 

1. Create suspense

This is a good time to get people to sign up to your email newsletter. Entice them by letting them know that subscribers will have exclusive pre-launch offers or event invitations.

A very important part of your creative business is creating customer engagement. You need to engage as many as possible in the launch of the new product weeks or even months in advance.

This creates positive word of mouth and suspense or ‘buzz’ around your brand and your new product, which means when it comes to the launch you will have a higher chance of success.

 

2. Share the process

Let your customers have little sneak peeks into the process and planning of the new product. This shows your customers the time and effort that goes into what you do.

It also helps in creating that ‘buzz’ in the lead up to the launch. Don’t be afraid to show the human side of creativity either! Mistakes and accidents are all part of creativity, and sharing the good as well as the not so good are great for that customer engagement. Facebook and instagram are excellent tools that will help you do this.

 

process

 

3. Take pre-orders

Once you have a product completed or near completion it is a good idea to take some good quality photographs so that people can see the item.

Customers who are now engaged will want the product as soon as possible! If you have the resources, offering limited pre-orders can be a great way to gain confidence in your product, offer exclusivity and back to the most important step, it keeps that ‘buzz’ going!

 

 

camera

 

4. Set a date

Once you have an idea of time set a date and stick to it! This is a great way to stop procrastination and get those products finished.

It also tells your customers that they have something to look forward to and will assist with those initial sales. You can give all of your new mailing list subscribers exclusive access to the new product prior to the official launch also as their gift as well as invitations to your official launch.

 

5. Create an event

It is great to launch your new product online but having a physical presence can also be a great boost. Somewhere people can come to hold, feel, and engage with the new item and of course you!

See if you can make your launch date coincide with a local market, a retail outlet, gallery or even a private gathering to celebrate.

 

By taking the time to launch your product – rather than just popping it it your shop with little fanfare – you have an opportunity to not only boost sales, but build the story of your business in an authentic way that will win you new fans and potential long-term customers who feel connected to your brand.

5 Tips for Work-at-Home Creatives

IMG_20151104_093122

During the Holidays, it’s no doubt you get together with family that perhaps you don’t see much of the year. 

Inevitably, you will be asked ‘What have you been up to?’  When you start telling them about working for yourself from home, I am sure there has been at least one person who exclaims, ‘MUST BE NICE!’  Little do they know!

Working from home is not as easy as the stereotype would have you believe.  

In fact, it can end becoming MORE work than the ol’ 9-5 you ditched to become a full-time entrepreneur.  

Now that’s not to say it can’t be everything you ever hoped for. 

Treating your business seriously and learning to practice professionalism and are a must.  

Here are five tips in order to keep from losing your mind and throwing in the towel:

1. Always make sure to present your best self.  You may not be going in to an office where you are surrounded by coworkers, but this is not the time for ratty sweats and last night’s mascara.  Make it a pre-workday ritual, wash your face, comb your hair, get dressed!  You wouldn’t present a sloppy piece of work, so don’t present yourself that way (even if no one is around). 

2.  Create a dedicated working space.  Having a space you set aside just for your business, will mentally prepare you to get busy!  It also allows you to create that separation from your work when the day is over and you move to the next room (or the other side of your apartment).

3.  Always remember, YOU ARE NOT A RECLUSE.  Have a life outside of your home.  Just because you work at home and live at work you are not a shut-in! You need to make that physical break regularly. 

4. ORGANISE.  ORGANISE. ORGANISE.  Clearly, I think highly of this practice.  As a small-business owner, you are juggling many, many roles.  You will need to have a good handle on your different tasks and learn to manage.

5 practices organizaiton is a must

5.  Having a plan will help with this.  Do you have yearly goals?  Monthly goals?  Daily goals?  Well you should!

Know where you are going, and plan a clear path.  Write down your daily tasks that get you to those goals.  Set deadlines!  Meet those deadlines!!  You always need to know where you are going and how you are getting there, or what is it all for?

Lastly, be prepared to plan again if you get thrown off course.  

All that being said, working from home really can be wonderful!  

You need to develop discipline, though.  

Keep reminding yourself why you love what you do, and stay focused.  And maybe you can even initiate casual Friday and show up to work in your gym clothes and top knot.

Do you have your own practices that help you work from home?