How To Turn Down A Customer

Here’s the deal: Etsy continually promotes items that can be personalized or made to order and they foster an environment that favors custom and personalized work. Open any Etsy finds email, there is sure to be at least one section that highlights pieces that can be made to order in any capacity.

Regardless of this fact, it is common for people to ask for custom or personalized pieces on their own volition without influence from Etsy because that’s just human nature. We see things, and we imagine them suiting us better. So you will likely get a custom order request at some point… probably a few.

Custom work is an awesome way to expand your product line and make more money. It’s important that your work stays true to your unique vision and perspective though, and sometimes you just flat out can’t or don’t want to take on a specific request. Here are 3 easy ways to turn down custom work you aren’t interested in.

1. Refer a friend. This is my favorite thing to do recently. If I get a request for something I don’t really want to do, don’t have time to do, or that simply isn’t in my jurisdiction as far as technique goes, I will refer the client to a fellow embroiderer. This works well for a few reasons, firstly it’s a great karma booster! When you refer work to someone, you are basically instantly awesome as far at they are concerned. Neatly, it totally makes you look like a caring shop owner to the client. Just because you cant fill the order, doesn’t mean you can’t help. It is best to refer clients to people whose work is similar in style or aesthetic to yours so that the connection is clear. Remember, this isn’t about competition, you are choosing to refer a friend, and you are freeing up time in your own life to focus on work you really want to do.

2. Redirect. If you get a request for something that seems similar in design or purpose to another item you already carry or make, you might redirect the customer to that item. “This piece would work well in a baby nursery and can ship immediately!” might be enough to close the sale. Sometimes people don’t see everything in your shop, so it’s never a bad idea to try this tactic!

3. Decline with grace. If something really doesn’t suit your style or schedule, and you cannot refer the work to someone else, it’s usually best to just decline. No one will be happy with the end result if it’s too far outside your usual style and approach. One thing I like suggest is putting the customer’s needs and wants in the forefront of the response - let them know that you care about this project and you want them to be happy. Try “I don’t think I am the right person to make this vision come to life” or “I cannot dedicate the time that this project deserves right now."


Danielle Spurge is a crafter and craft business consultant to handmade shop owners who want to optimize and leverage their work, and build better brands and businesses. Danielle works and writes to inspire and support makers in business by sharing insights from her five+ years of experience selling handmade work online. Danielle's Etsy Training Course ( teaches Etsy sellers how to position their shops and listings for increased traffic, more sales and improved customer relationships. More info can be found at