I received an email via my folksy shop from someone asking if I could make them some funky gothic earrings to replace one she had lost. She was clear in her design requirements, which I made sure I included. I designed and made three different earrings, photographed them and emailed them to the lady in question. This was nearly two weeks ago now and I haven’t heard anything from her, do I chase her up or leave it and assume she didn’t like my designs?
You need to establish if a clear contract was made for the earrings, which can be in writing via email, (or even verbally), but written contracts provides more robust evidence of the contract. It is one thing making an enquiry via email, but you should have responded setting out that if you commenced work on the designs, there would be charges and costs which the customer would be liable for.
The charges should be listed, which could be a daily rate plus materials and profit / overheads, or similar.
You may even request a deposit, or if something that you couldn’t easily sell on, the full amount in advance. If they don’t agree, and you still go ahead, it is at your risk of non-payment.
Otherwise, you are leaving yourself wide open to anyone just expecting you to make free designs which they can back away from, and you carry the costs.
Anyone making custom designs should send out simple terms and conditions which need to be agreed by the customer before they commence. That covers, time, payment, insurances, ownership transfer of the goods, copyright, etc. Should fit on a page of A4.
Check the original email and the wording and see if it was a clear instruction to you to proceed. If you didn’t agree rates in advance, but had clear instructions to proceed, the law implies you may be entitled to a reasonable cost only based on the time taken, materials, etc. Lots of case law on this topic.
You should send a letter recorded delivery (signed for) to the customer setting out what you have done and referring to her email, setting out the hours taken and materials.
Chasing up through the Small Claims Court may not be worthwhile if the paperwork is not robust. Hope this helps.
It depends whether it was a general enquiry (e.g. would you be able to make…?) or a specific request/agreement that implied she definitely wanted you to make them. If you went ahead and made some designs without establishing that she definitely wanted to order them, I’m afraid it probably means she was just asking and wasn’t actually placing an order - this happens a lot and it’s always best to establish how serious the buyer is before doing any work.
If she led you to believe it was a firm order, I would certainly get in touch again and let her know that you’ve spent time designing them and expect to be paid or have the order confirmed - in which case get payment up front before you do any more work!
I don’t usually bother with formal contracts etc, but I always get an email with confirmation that they want me to proceed, that they agree the price/timescale, and that they are happy to pay before I start work or buy materials.
I always respond to an enquiry with a brief, but detailed description of what I can make and a quote (or quotes if there are options offered). I say something like, " If you would like me to make this for you, please let me know and I will raise a Custom Listing in my shop." If it is a large book, that will take time and more expensive materials, I will usually ask for a deposit up-front "to cover the cost of materials (or you could say, to secure your slot in my schedule, or similar, whatever seems appropriate to your business & working methods).
I don’t start work until I have a proper agreement with a customer and either their deposit (for a more expensive & time-consuming item, that is in my order book and scheduled for the future), or the full amount (for a smaller, quick item that I will start immediately). Sadly, not everyone regards an agreement by e-mail to be an actual contract; once they have paid a deposit, or in full, they are sure they have made a commitment (and so am I).
Hope that helps!
Same here. If someone asks me to design something I give them a date when I will have something ready for them and how I will present it to them -
eg I will list it on here Reserved for them and email them the link
. I don’t do any actual making until I have had confirmation that that is ok.
On the other hand I often then say that they are not under any obligation if they don’t like it, as whatever I made will simply go into my shop if they don’t. Never happened but keeps customers happy which is a pretty important thing.
I wouldn’t make heavy weather of it because your relationship with a potential customer is more important that one pair of earrings. Also the courts are a great source of hassle which you may feel is time better spent making something (I used to work on the legal side of insurance, so I know what I would rather be doing!). I would e-mail her and cordially ask her if she still wants to go ahead because it might be that she just doesn’t have the money right now and will still want your earrings when she has. Even if she doesn’t want them anymore it is quite likely that you will sell them to somebody else with a similar sense of style or you could just recycle them for a different project. I custom make things for people through my FB page, but I never worry about whether or not they will change their minds because I always feel I have advanced my skills in some way by working to their brief.
Hope this helps,
Kimmichelle, I am sorry that this has occurred. There is little worse as a shop owner than to do an enormous amount of work for a client only to discover that they were only window shopping.
I do a fair bit of custom work and to make sure that there is no misunderstanding and that I receive my just compensation, I follow this procedure.
- receive request for commission
- agree parameters with client
- List item in shop displaying it as a commission sale and only for the client with whom you are working. The purchase price reflects what was agreed.
Due to the complexities and time it takes to complete a mosaic, the client pays the full purchase price up front. As what the client wants is hashed out prior to the listing being posted, I have no issues with charging full price. (I will only refund on a sale if the item is damaged in transit or if I make an error or change without the client’s consent.)
I have found that most clients understand why I charge up front. Sometimes I will commence work with only a partial payment made if I think I can sell it in the shop if the client doesn’t follow through. I list it at the price that was agreed LESS the deposit I received and someone gets a bargain.
I would hazard a guess that the customer in your case did not contact only you. Most people will compare their considered purchase with others and tend to go with the best price for comparable quality items.
Put the three pairs of earrings for sale in your shop. I am sure they will sell and you will be back in profit.
Remember the rules. Good luck,
Thanks for all the advice, lesson learned I think. I’ll list the earrings in my shop and put this down to experience!