When I first started my Etsy shop, I labored over my response to every inquiry about my custom quilts. Only one in every eight inquiries resulted in a sale. Curious, I started researching stats in the Etsy forums and other message boards online. My conversion rate was in line with those of other sellers. 10-15% of your inquiries will result in a sale.
My advice to those about to start offering custom services on Etsy: DON’T SPEND A LOT OF TIME LABORING OVER INITIAL INQUIRIES. You never know if it’s another seller doing some competitive research, someone in the thinking phase or a customer ready to buy. Of course, be sure to respond to each and every legitimate inquiry in a timely fashion. I’d suggest taking the time to develop two or three *scripted* responses in advance so you don’t have to spend valuable time coming up with a response.
It’s also important not to take it personally when a project that you’ve spent much time and energy designing, sourcing fabrics and scheduling production time fails to launch. Aggravating, certainly – but that’s business. Back in January, I had an inquiry from someone about whether or not I could make a version of a discontinued Pottery Barn baby quilt in a very specific colorway. It sounded as if she was ready move forward with the project, so I spent a lot of time doing math with only a picture from the internet and the finished size dimensions as my guide to come up with my pattern. Unfortunately, the project did not move forward.
Six months later, I had the opportunity to turn that design into a baby quilt for a local customer. It turned out great!
The customer was happy and I’m hoping to hear from the mommy-to-be. Meanwhile, I tweaked the design a little and am now making another version based on those changes. It maintains the design, but cuts production time and materials costs so I can sell them in my Etsy shop.