Custom work is not a bunch of products on a store shelf. Unlike one-size-fits-all items put through an assembly line, custom service is a specialty item designed for one buyer, and tailored to that buyer—you.
What’s so special about custom work?
The benefit to you is what “custom” implies: targeted and designed for you and no one else, to serve your specific needs, which are usually identified by initial and ongoing communication and relationship-building between the service provider you hire and you, the client.
Some people make their living delivering custom service, often in the form of one-on-one sessions to fill a need over time. Thus, custom work does not come free. It requires the service provider’s time to get to know you and your needs, along with knowledge to analyze what’s needed and, in response, create—yes, like an artist or composer—an original product that has been designed for you only, much as a tailored suit. This is why a tailored suit fits so well and why you pay so much more for it versus the one you pull off a hanger. You pay for the tailor’s time, knowledge, and commitment to the job. The more unique your body shape and size, the greater your requirement for a tailored suit may be, and the greater the difference in the final result. It is the same idea with writing instructors, editors, life coaches, one-on-one educators, and tutors, except their services may be in a less tangible form, or the benefits and results not immediately visible.
By the very nature of custom service, the person or company who provides it sets aside and commits to a certain amount of time that, especially in cases where continuity is required over multiple sessions, is difficult to fill by substituting in someone else, and even more so if a cancellation comes at the last minute and/or only affects one scheduled session at a time. The consequence is that the service provider loses the revenue, even though his or her own bills and overhead remain constant. When this happens too often, it becomes impossible for the custom service provider to earn his or her living.
Travel: the benefit to you and the added cost to the custom service provider
In some cases, the custom service provider travels to you, which may be a benefit and convenience for you and, indeed, the reason you chose this service provider. Travelling to you increases not only the service provider’s time devoted to you, but he or she incurs additional expenses such as gasoline and wear and tear on a vehicle. This, of course, is reflected–or should be–in the price of the service. You as the client need to realize that this is the case.
Do we understand and value “custom”?
The concept of “custom”—what it truly means—is not well understood in our disposable, immediate possession, pick-and-choose-from-a-shelf of ready-made, mass-produced products society of today. (This includes free or cheap stuff on the Internet.) The value of what custom implies is under-appreciated. Perhaps some folks feel that mediocre is good enough as long as it is cheap, and some just don’t comprehend fully what they are getting for their dollar with custom-designed service. In some cases, the custom service provider actually undervalues him- or herself just to get business precisely because the value of what they’re giving is not fully understood or appreciated. Interestingly, although some people cite cost as the primary factor for not buying into the service, these same people often have no shortage of money to spend on material and entertainment items.
What do we really care about?
What it really comes down to, then, is what is considered to be important and valuable in our society at any given time. What are the demographics, but also the trends? Do we want excellence or mediocrity? Are we informed enough to know the difference? I fear in some cases we are not. Would we rather pay a fancy company thousands of dollars for a “form” solution rather than a less shiny individual who provides a superior one-on-one service that, in the long run, is more effective?
The writing, education, and literacy sectors have been hit particularly hard in some areas. Cutting corners and bandage solutions have become acceptable in some industries, such as writing and self-publishing, where a human editor is often the first service to be cut when there is a low budget. Workable options are often ignored because they are not recognized as viable solutions; this happens in education and also affects private service providers who support the education system, especially those working in a one-on-one capacity. Individual custom service providers charge reasonable fees in these sectors, often lower than most other service industries, and yet they are viewed as expensive and at the same time dispensable.
Our society’s values point to somewhere else. We dismiss that which is not immediately evident and tangible. We are not unlike crows filling our nests with shiny objects we can see and touch rather than the substance of knowledge for which our over-developed brains are designed.
This is where cultural values enter, and determine the direction in which we go.
© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.