The Price for Custom Made

07Feb13

Quite a while ago I was having lunch at a favourite spot when the waitress saw me working on some design drawings. I’d eaten at this place many times while working downtown so I was familiar with this individual and we had become friendly.  We got to talking about my business and she became interested in having some work done.

Through the course of the conversation she asked me if the cost of custom was really that much cheaper than store bought. It’s not the first time I’ve faced this question and yet it surprises me every time. Today I’m going to set the record straight.

Generally speaking, anything custom made is more expensive than non-custom made.  Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why that’s so.

The Cost of Running a Business

Let’s deal with the practical stuff first. Businesses have hundreds of expenses that need to be taken into consideration. There is rent, utilities, insurance, equipment, office supplies, stock, salaries, and many other things. We often have professionals such as lawyers and accountants on retainer, and many of us don’t have benefits, vacation pay, sick days, etc. I charge the cost of materials plus an hourly fee. That hourly fee has to cover all the costs it takes just to run the business. When those expenses are taken out, there is not much left by way of a salary.

Expertise and Skill

Most people who offer custom made services have years of training, experience, and knowledge. All of that comes into play when they work for you. Since you’re paying for a custom product, the person delivering that product must have the know-how to deliver. That knowledge take years of training, study, and practical experience.

One of a Kind

Custom made items are made to fit you, your vision and your needs. It’s not something that is thrown together on an assembly line. In the case of small businesses like myself, it’s often one or two people spending hours on one piece, until it’s exactly what you want. This means one or two individuals working with you on the initial design, shopping for the supplies, multiple fittings, alterations, cleaning, pressing, steaming, and delivery. That doesn’t even include the hours it takes to actually sew the item. In the end, the product is what YOU want, not what a store says you should want.

Quality

Custom items are of a much higher quality than mass produced products. One example you can see in the case of sewing is that the seams are more generous. This allows for alterations of the garment should someone’s size change. It also leaves room for give as the garment ages. Generally better stitches and seams are used based on what the garment is, what type of material is being used, etc.. There is a greater attention to detail and the work itself is of higher quality.

So which is better?

I’m the first to admit that custom made is not the right choice for every situation. I don’t make all my own clothes, draperies, bedding, etc. I do spend time and money making quality pieces I know will last for years. I made a winter coat for myself fifteen years ago. It still looks as good as new, is clean and has no rips or torn seams. There is nothing wrong with it and I’m sure it will be good for another fifteen years, but my style has changed so it’s time for a new coat.

While custom made does cost more, there are definite advantages to going that route. Only you can decide which is the best route for you depending on your situation and what you’re having made.

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2 Responses to “The Price for Custom Made”

  1. I totally agree! As a knitter, I am often asked to produce items for the same price as the assembly line sweat shop crap made in China. I’ve had three friends ask about a Dr. Who scarf (minimum 1 foot by 12 feet with really tiny stitches). When I quote $200-$250, I am scoffed at. I did the math, and if I made minimum wage making the scarf, it would cost $5000-6000.

    • Thanks for the input Caroline!
      I admit I do get annoyed when people don’t understand just how much work goes into custom made items. Just like in your example, often folks have no idea how much time we put into our creations and that we don’t usually charge what it would actually cost. They are so used to their dollar stores and Wal-Marts that they’ve forgotten the real cost of things!


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