Ready to Ship verse Made to Order

  (some of Lindsey’s newest items from The Pleated Poppy)

There are two, well I guess three approaches to selling stuff. You can do ready to ship, made to order or some combination of the two. I find that many people when starting out only think of ready to ship or made to order. That is they wonder how on earth they are going to restock when things sell (ready to ship focused) or how they will ever keep up with orders while juggling the demands of their family (made to order).

Both approaches have their pros and cons. I primarily do made to order, it has worked well for me. I understand that it’s a very personal decision that depends on so many factors so I decided to recruit Lindsey of the lovely Pleated Poppy blog and shop who primarily sells ready to ship so that those of you who are thinking through this can get a bit more of a balanced perspective.

What draws us to one or the other
Lindsey (ready to ship) – I began my shop with a mix of ready to ship items and then people started asking for custom orders.  Because that meant more customers, I said yes and started on custom orders.  Then I was going crazy with completing my orders before anything else, like taking care of my kids.  I realized that for me, as a mom with kids at home, it is more important for me to prioritize my time with them and put business second.  So when I do have a spare minute to work on products, I will.  But its only when I can and want to and not when I have to.

Me (made to order) – I started off listing items that I had made for friends so I had photos and explained that I could make a variety of sizes. In the beginning I even showed pictures of fabric swatches saying I could make the same design in various fabrics. This worked well for me. I have tried to sell ready to ship items and they just sat around. I sold most eventually (but over a year or more for some). Now I don’t do the fabric swatch, if I have a new product or fabric I either make one up and list the sample as ready to ship or use it for a gift to friends and family. Still to this day my ready to ship items move painfully slow. Even though I think I know what sizes sell somehow I always pick the opposite sizes of what people want of those exact fabrics. So making things to order works better for me. Also I’m the kind of person that needs deadlines. It’s really hard for me to be motivated to make things with no goal or time frame. I don’t leave things to the last minute but I do work better when I’m a little busy.

(some goodies from my shop Rae Gun)

The benefits as we see it 
Lindsey (ready to ship)  much less stress!  I only sell what I’ve made, so if I want to take a vacation, I just make a bunch of items, list them and leave.  I also have much less emails than when I was taking custom orders.  I also get to make what I want.  I don’t have to wait for a customer to tell me what they want.

Me (made to order) less wasted time and product sitting around. I can appeal to more people with more sizes without having to put unnecessary work in first. I get paid before I invest the time so I know my time is covered. I give myself a very lenient turnaround time. I don’t have to worry as much about reading potential customers’ minds of what they will like and in what sizes.

The harder part
Lindsey (ready to ship)  not everything sells as quickly as I would like them to.  You definitely have more money invested ahead of time when you have an inventory of products.

Me (made to order)  You have to stay on top of how fast/how much you’re selling. Most of us will have limited resources both from the point of labor (how much time we can invest) and from the point of materials. You need to make sure you have enough supplies for what you sell. Please don’t sell items if you don’t have everything to make it on hand because stores stop carrying things, products that were staples at your local craft store go on back order and then you’ll be stuck explaining to an angry customer why you took the order in the first place. Also if there is a rush that I don’t notice it can easily become overwhelming. But having had that experience I know how much I can handle so if things start getting backed up I can just stop relisting the items that sell (this slows the movement of orders). If I really need things to slow down I can simply put the shop in vacation mode or edit the listings to increase the turnaround times. Not all customers want to wait for their items to be made but in my experience 80% of the people who want things faster are willing to pay a rush fee.

Some things you’ll want to think about either way: turnaround time, what happens if you get sick, what will you do about vacations, what if you get a ton of orders all at once,  if you want to do ready to ship will you be open to custom orders and if so under what circumstances (for example you might consider it if it’s a large order and you have plenty of time to fill it), will they be one of a kind or multiples of a kind, remember that if they are one of a kind you’ll need new pictures and descriptions for each which takes more time).

One last tip from me when deciding on your turnaround time set it at 1/3 more of what you most often can handle. For example. my turnaround time is 2-3 weeks before shipping because I can almost always get the orders done in 2 weeks, but people get sick, fun things come up that I want to be apart of and other life things can add delays. Pay attention to if you’re constantly pushing the max of your turnaround time you may need to increase it, consider raising your prices or lighten you load (either by taking less orders or getting help).

Hope that’s been helpful. As always I know many of you have get tips so please share them in the comments since I’m sure it will be useful for someone. A huge gigantic thanks to Lindsey for sharing her experiences check out her shop here.

Also I’m not sure what other stuff you might want to know if you’d comment about that too that will help me with future posts (what about pricing ideas, pictures, what else?)


  1. I am like Lindsey, I don’t like the stress of orders :) Luckily I make things that are one size (bibs and quilts, etc) so it’s just a matter of the fabrics I use. Either people like them or they don’t. But I do understand that having a ton of one thing just sitting in a closet is frustrating. Luckily for me I also do craft shows and can use the product there. For some reason, things that sit in the shop go really well at shows.

  2. the items looks lovely! I don’t anything in buying/selling so I guess I’m not the proper one to comment on that!

    Inside and Outside Blog
    P.S. love your blog and following you now

  3. Amber that’s a really good point about sizes and ready to ship!

    Lyosha, it’s great to have you.

  4. Good tips and I love all of your cute items!thanks for visiting and your nice comments!

  5. Such a helpful post! A lot to think about when opening a shop.

  6. Good points. I started a little shop before Christmas but no one bought anything so I haven’t really added anything else to it.

  7. Hey there! Thanks so much for the tips. I’m thinking about opening an etsy shop but I’m an uber-planner that doesn’t just jump in. Thanks for letting us see both sides.


  8. Great post – I love the pros & cons from both sides. Thanks for the tips, ladies, and thanks for linking up.

  9. I re-opened my shop after the first of the year and never expected to have such a big sales boom…not that I’m complaining…but I was not prepared for it. I have had to take time away from my family to finish orders (I do all custom work). Luckily they are understanding and the hubby even pitched in a bit. It’s definitely a learn as you go process but it’s been fun keeping up with it.
    Keep up the great tips! I enjoy reading others perspectives.

  10. would love it if you could share this on my link party at

    Natasha xx

  11. Awesome Tips! I don’t know that I’ll ever be opening a shop of my own but this is great way to help others who are just starting out. Thanks for sharing this at Tutorial Tuesday

    Newlyweds on a Budget

  12. Thanks for the tips! Learning all I can before setting up an etsy shop. Following on Linky.

  13. great tips, I think sizes play a big factor into custom orders. I’ve done a bit on etsy and looking for tips like this to expand in the next few months.

  14. Great tips! I’m still loving this series. I’ll be pinning this. Thanks for linking up to the Take it on Tuesday blog hop!

  15. Great blog! Thanks so much for sharing!

    – Lauren D.

  16. These are some good things for me to think about as I’m thinking about taking my etsy shop in a new direction. Thank you for the tips from both perspectives!

  17. LOVE the info. I have not sold on etsy yet but I am thinking about doing so. I have bookmarked this post for future reference! Thanks!

  18. Thanks for the info on your Etsy shops, it is very helpful, I am doing a little of both. But I certainly like the deadline to keep me motivated!

  19. Love your esty posts! This is so interesting to me. I am like you, made to order. But it’s interesting to see the other side too. Thanks for linking up to Cowgirl Up!
    :) Samantha @ Crafty Texas Girls

  20. So glad I saw your post at Katie’s Nesting Spot for the Crafty Soiree! I am considering opening an Etsy shop, and this is so very helpful! I’m actually running a Blogiversary headband giveaway. Thanks for posting this great information!


  21. I found you at Katies Nesting Spot and so glad I did! Your tips and insight were great. I guess I fall into the middle. Both custom and ready made. Sometimes I think I’m stretching myself thin. (And what girl wouldn’t want that!?!) But in the end, it works for me!

  22. Thank you both for sharing this info! I am currently running my shop from Facebook (very slow) because I just wasn’t sure how to run a made to order Etsy shop and wasn’t sure I wanted to have ready to ship items because of the up-front cost. Now, I know how to do it, so now it’s just a matter of getting up up! Thanks again! and

  23. I do a combination of both. I would love to do all ready to ship as it does take the stress out of getting a rush of orders and you never know when something is going to come up and make it hard to meet your deadlines. But realistically I don’t have time to invest in having a lot of premade things sitting on a shelf for months or years. And I have had a few goof ups on the ready to ship items too, sold them at a craft show or on another site or gave them away as gifts and forgot they were still listed. Then someone pays for it and I go searching, suddenly remember I don’t have it anymore. Luckily I was able to make another and ship it off with apologies for the delay. A few times I did run out of fabrics for certain items and discovered they were discontinued too. Gah! I managed to pull those off too with a suitable substitute. But it is a stressful situation. It is just so hard to guess what is going to sell, when, how much to stock etc. And I have been selling for 6 years so I thought I should have it figured out by now. LOL

  24. I love hearing everyone else’s experiences. thanks so much for sharing!

  25. I really love this post! I have wondered about the pros and cons of custom made and ready to ship. One day I would love to open a shop. Your series on Etsy tips is so helpful. Thanks for sharing with us at Link It Up Thursday.

  26. I’ve never ordered anything custom made on Etsy so this really intrigues me. How do you decide on fabric choices? Does the customer give you a general outline (trendy, color scheme, pattern preference), and then you go and find it, or do you tell them what you have and have them pick from that?

    I have contemplated opening a shop before, but the entire idea was a little overwhelming before this post. Thanks for all the good info!

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