(I didn't get my blog post up yesterday, oops! I was busy working on a custom order for Under the Tapestry... haha! That post was begun though, and so it will be finished up as an extra after the month is over :).)
Selling ready to ship items is nice in that when the order comes in, you just package it up and schedule a pick-up, and that's that. But I really enjoy making custom items, as well. It's really fun to make the perfect item for someone to give as a gift!
There are a few ways to make custom items through your shop. If custom items are something you want to offer, you might want to go to Shop Manager>Settings>Shop Options, and you can turn on the "Request Custom Order" button option. Then buyers can request a customization from your shop page.
There is also a button to ask the seller a question, and you can offer in your description that they can convo you with any requests they might have.
Once you've talked about options for customization with prospective buyers, they can either purchase the original item they contacted you about, if you are doing all changes free of charge, or you can create a new listing if a price change is needed.
If you need to create a new listing, you have two options. You can click "make this a custom order" in the conversation box you have been working out the details in, which will create a private listing for them to order, which Etsy will notify them has been set up. The other option, if for some reason you do not have a conversation to use as a custom order base (say, it's for a church member, you have been discussing the possibility of changes on one of your social media platforms, etc), you can create a regular listing for the customer, and just email them yourself when it is available. It's a good idea, using this option, to title your listing "Reserved for ----", or "Custom Order for ----", so that nobody else buys it first ;). Some people even put a generic shop icon picture instead of a picture of the product, that way no searchers see a neat looking picture and order it. It's up to you.
I offer canvases that are made with quotes of the buyer's choosing, with several color options for the background and the text color. This has been a best seller in my shop, and people enjoy being able to make that personalized gift. Several people have come to me with additional changes they wanted made, though, and it has been neat to see how this simple starting point gets people's minds turning! I've customized the font, made the canvas horizontal rather than vertical, and my favorite canvas orders were the ones that I later took and made into my other customizable canvas option, the Family canvas! I'm considering listing a few more custom canvas listings as more "springboard" points, based off of the frequent questions I have received :).
Another option is to not offer customizations, but to offer variations. If you sell multiple colors, sizes, or item counts of things that cannot actually be changed in their design, setting up variations when you create your listings gives you those options to allow set changes within pre-set boundaries. It's a simple operation; it's one of the optional boxes when you post your item. You can create variations that have a price change (works well for different counts and sizes), and a way to be turned disabled later down the road (so that if you run out of one color of yarn, you don't have to cancel an order for that color). Disabling removes the option from the drop down menu from buyers, but allows it to stay listed on your side, to be reactivated when you get a replacement of the option. Variations are nice to use as a seller, too, because you can list multiple items for one listing fee!
Do you offer custom orders? If you could make a change to the custom canvases I sell, what would it be?