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First Real Commission.

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Hello again,

I have accepted "in principle" my first real commission.

Being the first ever and considering my obviously limited experience, I agreed with the customer the following safeguard conditions:

1) We agree on the specs, tentative delivery timeframe and final price.

2) I build the guitar 100% at my own cost.

3) when finished the customer has first rights (and moral duty) to buy it at the agreed price.

4) if the guitar is not to his entire satisfaction, I'll take it back and reimburse the money.

As general terms I believe it's reasonable and along the lines of some suggestions I read here in the past. The price is also quite reasonable (considering the amount of hours, even on the cheap side).

My question now is how to handle the payment. I am thinking something based on mutual trust like:

Customer transfers 100% of the money,

I ship the guitar,

customer has a trial period of say 1 or 2 weeks,

If not satisfied customer ships the guitar back,

I receive the guitar, check that everything is in good order,

I reimburse 100% of the money.

Not sure how to handle shipping fees.

What can you suggest ??

Many, many thanks for the help.

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After you agree to specs, here's a better way to proceed:

50% down non-refundable at time of order (filters out the guys who only want to kick the tires, and covers your inital costs in wood & hardware if customer decides to back out)

50% upon completion, due in 30 days or you retain ownership of the instrument (puts a deadline on the final payment so you don't get strung along, and if he stiffs you then you still have something to sell)

Make shipping part of the final cost

X-year warranty against workmanship, during which you fix for free (you split the shipping)

All of the above + build specs are put down in writing and customer signs it - this becomes the work order and a binding contract (avoids the "that's not what I told you" arguments down the road, and customer feels like you're bound in writing to build his instrument)

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What Erik suggests is more or less standard. That is also the terms I use, except that I offer a unlimited lifetime warranty against workmanship for the original owner and free setups during the first year. I do the later as we live in a quite shifting climate (cold dry winters and wet medium hot summers) that make the wood move a bit too much in the initial year, so I have that part as I want 100% satisfied customers. I depend on the mouth to ear marketing and satisfied customers is extremely important for me.

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I am just getting some paperwork setup and figuring out a few others details but by the end of the summer hope to start trying to bring in some customers. And I have pretty much setup the same terms.

50% non-refundable up front to cover my costs, and keep away the people that just want to brag how they are getting a custom gutiar but will never actually have the money for it. If the client has an issue with the 50% I will work with the down payment fee, I am not unreasonable, but I won't go any lower than the full cost of wood, parts, paint, and a little extra for my time and overhead.

Remainder due within 30 days of completion. After that I have the option to seek a new buyer. Like said before, that will keep them from dragging out the last payment. Again I am a reasonable person and unless they are a complete arse, I will work with them on that. But it is a frivolous expense on their part, so they should have the money set aside from the start.

I offer them a limited lifetime warranty. If I did my job right, is should never have a problem, so I feel it is my job to fix anything that goes wrong resulting from my workmanship. Wiring defects I'll cover, but component failure I place on the component manufacturer. Any modifications will void the warranty, and any issue due to misuse is on them.

I do like the idea of free setups for the first year. That will help devolp a strong customer relationship, and be a good chance to also show off any other new work and hopefully get them thinking about another new guitar.

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I do 20% up front, and then they have to wait a year or more before I can start. Non refundable. I reckon Ive had six guys cancel their orders to date. Some of them I refunded their money if the guitar was something I was comfortable continuing to build (eg: easy to sell, nothing over the top) but mostly its not returned.

You/He has no idea what is going to happen in 3-12 months time. Work accident, loss of interest, loss of income, marriage breakup, etc etc etc. All unfortunate, but why should you be made to suffer?

The deposit covers scheduling, planning, and inlay work.

Then, once work starts I run a payment plan. Its easier to afford, and I get more regular (smaller) payments. It's all worked out beforehand, so everything is clear. I dont let people pay extra payments in advance usually, but I often keep working without asking them for their 'stage 3 payment' etc. We run a deal where if you are short on cash, you simply pay when you can afford to. We put the guitar to the side and work on something else until they pay. Obviously it helps to have a bunch of guitars 'in progress'.


Full lifetime warranty - Including free fret levelling when frets are worn

Manufacturers warranty on the hardware (but we usually have spares anyway...)

Lifetime warranty on passive electronics (how do you charge for a $3 pot, when the guy has spent $3000?)

If the guitar has to be posted back, we usually pay for the return postage.

Lifetime free setups (one full "Platinum" setup per year, plus unlimited truss rod adjustments)

Free upgrades/swaps to different pickups if they are our own handwounds

Free accident damage (we refinished an entire guitar once, and changed the colour on request, because of a chip in the lacquer when the client dropped it)

Free t-shirts and discounted merchandise inc jumpers, owners jackets, etc

Discount on servicing and repairs/mods to non Ormsby branded guitars

Free entry to our events/shows

Free use of our collection of amps/pedals/guitars when recording

Priority scheduling when ordering a second/third guitar (existing clients can jump the queue a little bit)

We encourage our clients to interact with each other, which forms a kind of "family", and encourage owners to come down to each other's gigs to show support. Its really great for a guy to get his new guitar, he is buzzing, and there are three guys walking around with Ormsby jackets, and another few with one of our shirts. Family :D Actually, it's usually me who is the only one NOT wearing my own merch :D

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So far, I've just been charging for hardware and wood for the down payment. I'll tell them a percentage, but that's how I get that number. When I'm a little more established, I'll probably have a set percentage.

I've done some before with no down payment, but they were instrument that I liked and I was okay with trying to sell later if they backed out. The first ones that I required a down payment for were ugly painted guitars that I didn't want to get stuck with. I made them pay for the cost of all the parts.

I collect the rest of the money when it's finished and give them a period of time to return it if they choose (that's really just to ensure them of the quality. They'd have to be a real tool to return a custom instrument).

Those are some serious perks you're offering Ormsby...

My clients provide me the lifestyle i lead, and give me the opportunity to have a career i'd gladly paid someone to let me do.

That's a great point.

Edited by NotYou
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Perry the extended payment schedule is a great idea - it is less painful to pay for an instrument over the course of a year or so.

Free accident damage?! OK I could see that with a headstock splice or something, but man - if any of that is refinishing, there's some hours there...

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Thank you guys !!!

These have all been quite interesting replies. I appreciate the inputs very much. I see a lot of common ground, I never thought about the after sales support, great info.

I agreed in principle to take just this one commission, and given my very limited experience I want both of us (customer and me) to take it as a shared adventure.

I decided to do this one at my cost because I also welcome the flexibility of failing to fulfill without any consequences. I took good care to steer the specs a little to a guitar I would be perfectly comfortable to keep for myself. And it would also be easy to sell to someone else if it comes to that.

But this shared experiment ends with this build. If I decide to take more commissions after this one I'll definitely use something like what you have explained here. Many thanks again.

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Perry the extended payment schedule is a great idea - it is less painful to pay for an instrument over the course of a year or so.

Free accident damage?! OK I could see that with a headstock splice or something, but man - if any of that is refinishing, there's some hours there...

The guy flew from Sweden to Australia to have it done. The least I could do was refinish it :D

Actually, i might have charged him $100




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