Custom Work: Yes or no?



So, custom work.  I love it and I don’t love it.  I love when I make someone happy with a beautiful piece that is exactly what they wanted.  Seriously, that is one of my favorite things about this business.  But I want that happiness so much sometimes I stress myself out making sure it happens.  The best and worst thing a customer could say to me is “do it your way”.  Best, for the challenge, and worst, because that approach forces me to push aside insecurity and that judgy inner voice and create with minimal guidance.  When I am working for myself, I focus on a pre-imagined designed result, and I seldom hear that judgy voice.  But I hear it crabbing away in the back of my mind when working a custom design.  It’s annoying.  It makes all the sense in the world if someone wants to pay you for what you already do, right?  The key is learning to ask the right (and the least) questions you need to start right away, and a willingness to let go of the outcome – they love it, great, they don’t, you fix, simple.  (That eyeglass holder at the top was supposed to be a surprise gift for a friend who loved the football team who wears these colors, only I mixed up the teams, so I made her two more in the right colors, and that one is available in my Etsy shop – – because I liked how it came out, even though it was not “right”.)

Another thing that’s great about custom work is considering color combinations I’d never put together myself.  It made me appreciate beads I never thought I’d have a use for until that customer needed it in the design.  I have quite a few of those in my stash, so that’s the second best thing about custom work!

About that judgy voice…I suddenly realize that I’ve reached a midway-sort-of-place with my work.  I can’t remember the last time I took beads off the board because I was afraid no one would like them or the design, because my fearful Inner Editor thought it better to do nothing than to fail.  But I’ve learned to see the pieces that I ended up not liking or wanting to re-make not as failures but as lessons, and those are always welcome (a lot of lessons, too, whew).  At some point, I was done worrying if I was good enough.  See, that’s the kind of milestone no one thinks about reaching, but one worth marking.  Getting to Good Enough was not easy, but very much worth the time and effort.

Recently, I took a survey for a business, and it wanted to know how I would define success.  There are so many answers to that question.  When I first got started, I thought there was only one answer: how much money was earned?  And when I first got started, none was, but I kept on.  So was I a failure, or a success?  It felt like failure. But I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it, because I was busy Doing, which can feel very successful.  Then I made a little money.  A tiny spark, but still the light was hopeful.  Less like fail but not really too much like success, either.  I had a LOT to learn.  Now, even though I still could stand to sell more jewelry, ok, I do feel like a success.  And when someone loves the pieces I make, that is nothing but success, by any metric.

(That’s not how I answered the survey.  I said, “More sales a day and the time to replace the pieces, over and over, til I retire to a beach somewhere drinking margaritas til I die”, which I think can also be a true and valuable metric for success.)

To the craft-y ones, do you like doing custom work?  Does it challenge you?  Inspire you?
To the craft-lovers, do you have any custom work that you purchased that you loved?  Was it a good experience?  Or do you have a cautionary tale to share?

Wishing all a lovely spring day, I’m off to update the ol’ website ~



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