I Don’t Think This Will Work: How do I tell my customer?

by Ramya.

question-mark-teal-on-parchmentI started on my wire journey a year ago at this very blog! I have been fortunate to get a few orders this year.

After seeing a herringbone bead bracelet I made, a customer asked for it to be made into a watchband, to which I agreed without seeing the watch face.

After seeing the face which is heart shaped I feel it wouldn’t go with the watch band she asked for.

How do I tell her this?

Or should I go ahead and make it anyway and suffer a guilty conscience?


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  • Hi Ramya,

    It’s best to be up front with customers, and they usually appreciate it when we suggest alternatives that would work better than what they originally asked for.

    As jewelry artists, we usually have more experience than our customers do when it comes to jewelry components and creating well-made pieces. So our advice is a valuable part of the custom jewelry process.

    After you mention your concerns about this watch to your customer, she may agree with you and decide to go with your alternative idea.

    Or she may still choose to go ahead with the design she originally requested.

    But either way, you’ll feel better knowing that you mentioned your concerns to her and gave her some other options.

    You could also suggest doing the herringbone design on a separate piece of jewelry for her.

    Good luck – and please let us know what happens! 🙂

  • Ramya says:

    Hello Rena,
    Thank you so muchfor your valuable input. It means a lot. I will get in touch with t he lady in question ,discuss options with her and get back to you .
    Thanks again
    Have a good weekend.


  • Sue Beck says:

    Unless I am really certain that it will not work, I tell a customer that I need to take a photo or 2…then need some “thinking time”. Many times I come up with a design that will work, and I then have a very long term repeat customer who refers others. In my previous life (33 years in a dental office and consulting), I tried very hard to never say “no” to a request or question, but rather find a way to suggest an alternative, therefore not leaving a patient or customer feeling dismissed.

  • Ann Nolen says:

    Oh, I feel your pain Ramya. I was lucky when I first started my creative journey, and learned a hard lesson that applies here. I hand painted scarves then, and did one I thought was too ugly to be seen. My husband felt the same but encouraged me to take it to my first public show anyway. He said you never know, someone may love it.
    I had my doubts, but decided to take his advice. I had invited a few people, including a local photographer that I had bought several pieces from and was making quite a name for herself. I was so excited that she came to see my work, but was absolutely stunned when she rushed over to the “ugly” scarf and had to buy it!
    That was quite a lesson, and it has reminded me not to judge, but to offer choices. What may have made me cringe, obviously made another artist I greatly respected very happy.

  • “won’t work” as a design problem and “won’t look good” as an artistic opinion are two very different things. I try very hard to make the design problems work out and try even harder not to judge the artistic styles that others are attracted to. I too have had the piece I hated sell as soon as it went public. Thank goodness we don’t all like the same things.

  • I learned the hard way to never EVER commit to a repair or using a customer’s item without seeing it first. As Natasha says, “won’t work” and “won’t look good” are two entirely separate and different things. The customer doesn’t know the difference, and it’s our job to explain to them their options — in particular, what it’s going to end up costing if I do go ahead.

    My fallback regarding repairs, because I don’t solder and I don’t do time-consuming jobs like knotting, is to have a list of stores or other jewellery-makers I can refer the customer to who specialise in that particular type of work. They have the skills — and more importantly the tools.

  • Barbara, I so agree that’s it a good idea to have other reliable sources to refer tasks I don’t do. It benefits everyone.

  • Barbara MacDougall says:

    Yes. I keep an eye out for people who have skills other than what I do at bead shows, ask them if they do repairs and take their cards.

    Even if I have no intention of doing something, say, like lampworking or hand-knotting, I’ve found it’s well worth taking a beginner course in other skills so I get a sense of exactly what is involved in doing them. It also enables me to appreciate on a technical and artistic level the skills, time, etc., involved.

    Doing so can also lead to very productive and lucrative collaboration projects. Being adaptable with your own techniques and how they might fit with others is invaluable on so many levels.

  • Trish Lochnicht says:

    I tend to go to the opposite direction and never get anyone’s hopes ups about what can be done. I say I’ll have to see it and can’t make any promises. Then if it’s doable it’s good and if not it’s not as disappointing.

  • Yve says:

    Ann..wonderful feedback..so true. One can never know what appeals to someone else..😳

  • I would try to avoid telling your customer that something they want doesn’t work visually. It comes across as a judgement on their taste, a statement that your eye is better than theirs. (If there is a technical reason that you can’t join a herringbone bracelet to a heart-shaped cuff, that’s another matter.) I would mock up a design in PhotoShop or similar, and get your customer involved in the project. If they love it, don’t judge. If they look at it and say “Oh, it doesn’t look quite like I imagined,” you can salvage the order by offering a mockup of something you think works better. I just went through this with a customer who wanted a design off one of my bracelet links made up as a pendant. It didn’t work straight off the bracelet oval, but eventually we worked out a way to make it into a pendant that she’s satisfied with. Yes, I’ve probably sent her 20 mockups. But her input has been very insightful, and in the end, she’s thrilled, and I have a new pendant design that I wouldn’t have thought of, that I’ll be free to market.

  • Barbara Sims says:

    I have been making and selling jewelry since the mid 80’s and yes I’m getting pretty old now, but still love it.
    I had reps back in those days and she told me I needed to make something with a color I didn’t like. Well I found out you have to make pieces you think are down right ugly and people buy them, sometime become one of my best seller.
    A lesson learned.
    Good Luck,
    Barbara Sims

  • Hi Barbara, I agree. I used to make jewelry in only the prettiest colors (to me, LOL) – but discovered I could sell a lot more jewelry if I also created jewelry in colors that were not my particular favorites. 🙂

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