Suit up: Customize your creative hustling

If you know me personally, you probably know I’m not one to wear suits. Actually, I don’t even own one.

But I do know a little something about them, and I want to make sure you know it too.

Why?

Because if you’re smart enough to understand suits, you’re smart enough to make more money with your creative hustling.

Let’s put you to the test, shall we?

Types of Suits

suit

When you set out to buy a suit, you’ll have the following options available:

  • Ready-to-wear – Also known as “off-the-rack” suits, these are mass-produced in factories using the manufacturer’s definition of their average customer. You can find these suits in retail stores all over the world, and they all look about the same. Most people who own suits wear this type since they’re the most economical to purchase.
  • Made-to-measure – Also known as “tailored” suits, these are sewn from standard-sized base patterns (just like ready-to-wear suits), but are then adjusted according to an individual’s measurements. This type of suit will cost more than a ready-to-wear suit since there’s extra labor involved in the tailoring, but still less than a bespoke suit.
  • Bespoke – This type of suit is custom-made from scratch. Many more measurements are taken, the process takes much longer, and the options are limitless. This also happens to be the most expensive suit option, due to the extreme nature of the customization. However, this type of suit will fit perfectly no matter what a person’s measurements are. It’s also worth noting that there are few true bespoke tailors in the world today; this is a very rare talent.

Do you feel like you have a decent grasp on suit basics now?

I hope you do, because it turns out suits are a lot like projects.

Tailoring projects to fit your clients

Just like with suits, the price you charge for your work should vary according to the level of customization you provide your clients.

Ready-to-wear projects will always be cheaper than made-to-measure ones. If you provide a “ready-to-wear” service, you’re giving every client the same thing, which means you’re able to charge less and serve more clients.

In the same way, bespoke-type projects will always be the most expensive. In this case, your deliverables will be custom-made for each client. Since this takes more of your time and effort, it demands a higher rate.

Bespoke Head Cutter Peter O’Neill marks out and cuts a suit pattern. A bespoke two-piece suit takes up to 8 weeks to make and starts at around $5,000 USD. Source: Dan Kitwood - Getty Images.

Bespoke Head Cutter Peter O’Neill marks out and cuts a suit pattern. A bespoke two-piece suit takes up to 8 weeks to make and starts at around $5,000 USD. Source: Dan Kitwood – Getty Images.

What type of projects are you selling?

Most creative hustlers sell some variation of made-to-measure projects that may be lightly tailored. Creative hustlers who truly sell bespoke projects are rare.

Wait, you’re thinking. I give each of my clients exactly what they need – doesn’t this make me a bespoke service provider?

What I’m here to tell you is, though you might think you’re selling bespoke projects to your clients, in reality you’re probably not. In my opinion, too few creative hustlers have given this topic enough thought.

Don’t believe me? Let’s break down what customization means for creative hustlers, and you’ll see why you’re probably not at the bespoke level just yet.

True customization for creative hustlers

Most creative hustlers think they know what customization means in their line of work, but the truth is there may be a lot more to it. To truly understand, you have to look past the obvious.

Full customization will actually go beyond your design, coding, photos, social media strategy, or whatever skills you’re selling.

Here is a list of areas in which customization can take place:

#1 Custom work

This is like taking measurements and creating a tailored suit from the base pattern. The service you provide doesn’t change, but you may adapt to fit each client a little differently.

The more skillful you become, the better you’ll get at creating custom solutions for each of your clients. Keep refining your craft, and you’ll soon find clients asking you for even more customization in your work.

Customizing this area is pretty obvious to most freelancers, and is a good place to start.

#2 Advice

Giving advice is like recommending someone buy their suit in a certain color or style, depending on the occasion or their physical attributes.

For creative hustlers, learning how to give specific advice for client issues is extremely valuable (don’t forget that this is what separates consultants from freelancers). People and companies will gladly pay you more for guidance tailored exactly to what they need.

Only time and experience will help you develop this skill. But once you do find it, prospects will begin finding you.

#3 Personalization

Creating a tailored suit with the purchaser’s initials stitched on the inside is a nice touch. It makes the person feel like they own their suit more than if the special stitching didn’t exist. To your clients, that’s what personalization feels like.

Don’t confuse personalization with custom work: personalization refers to the nice-to-haves, while custom work is a must-have if you’re serving clients correctly.

If you can incorporate the nice-to-have-type of work into your masterpiece, your clients will rave about you. They’ll start to really enjoy your services and the experience of working with you.

#4 Experience

Beyond just being enjoyable, a client’s experience of working with you also should be fully customized.

Working with a top-notch bespoke tailor is a pleasant experience from start to finish. Every measuring session is enjoyable, and the communication that happens from the second you start working together is exciting. Not only are you excited about the product you’ll receive, but you’re enjoying the experience of getting there.

The lesson here is to find ways to make working with you more enjoyable for your clients. Make typical things seem easy, breezy, and interesting whenever possible. Add your own flavor into every meeting, invoice, document, etc.

Providing a pleasant experience will be the reason clients want to keep working with you, and become likely to share your name with their networks.

Why customize?

If you want to make more money, figure out ways you can further customize your services. This follows from our suiting metaphor: a higher level of tailoring commands higher rates.

Lots of profit hides within customization. I’m convinced many creative hustlers are missing out on more profit due to a lack of customization in their business model.

Realize where you’re at in the customization game. Then, figure out where you want to be and move toward that place intentionally.

Everyone shouldn’t be selling bespoke projects, but they should be aware of them.

If you’re aching for top-dollar money, start selling high-end, made-to-measure, bespoke projects to your clients. Create an unforgettable impression by tailoring your custom work, advice, personalization, and experience to fit your client’s wants and needs.

Do this in your own style, in which only you can rock. Go forth and customize to serve your clients better, earn their repeat business, get more referrals, and of course – increase your profits!

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