Custom work strategies

hi, we do alot of repair work and are starting to do more and more
custom work. My question is what kind of time management strategies
do you really busy craftsman employ to get all the meat and potato
work done and have enough time for your custom jobs. So for the best
i can come up with to try to spent at least a little time on them
each day or every couple of days, i would prefer to work on therm
for extended periods of time but we are very busy year round and i
sometimes find myself waiting until the last minute. (bad Habit I



The best time management strategy you can employ is to charge
properly for your work. If you’re getting enough money to make all
of your jobs worthwhile to work on, you’ll get them done. There’s
nothing like a little financial incentive to keep you moving along
on stuff. On the other hand if it’s just that you have a mental block
against do stuff in a timely fashion, you may have to work that one
out with a shrink.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

I always had the same problem, if someone brought in a repair on
monday we promised it out in a week, or the next monday. We followed
this pattern everyday, so had repairs due out everyday. This was
crazy as we tried to work on custom jobs and repairs. The system we
came up with was to promise all repair work on the next thursday of
the following week. This allowed us to work on custom jobs
un-interrupted by repairs. It also saved us on ordering time and
postage, we go through all the jobs on tuesday and order any parts
we need so they are there wednesday. Wednesday is the day we do all
the repairs, it sometimes is a long day and we have to finish up on
thursday morning. Using this system we always had repairs out when
they were due and caught up on custom work with the dedicated time
for them. Also this helped turn the custom work into the meat and
potato as you say instead of repair. It’s really crazy how most of
us jewelers put a chain repair (not even bought from us) ahead of a
$1000.00 custom job.

Bill Wismar


I think alot of forget about using an apprentice. You can pay them
less, teach them to work the way you do and than let them do the
mundane work so that you can concerntrate on the custom work.


Designate the night for no interruptions, and some nice music. I
would only do custom work that required complete concentration at
nights or weekends. Did I say no interruptions? Yes

Thanks Johneric

We had a board in the showroom, nicely done with this


Then shop foreman filled in dates every day. This way sales staff
could promise without feeling guilty or even pressured.

We used Jewelry Shopkeeper to track jobs but we also bought stickers
that had days of the week on them and color coded. So the jewelers
could see what day the envelope was to be ready, not delivery date.

One jeweler I met used a desk pad calendar. He wrote on the calendar
the job # as it came in and time to do the job, in quarter hours.
Once 5.5 hours was used up, that promise day ws crossed out. If a
lady viewed a wax, the next available date to promise was a day with
enough hours to finish it. Worked for them

David Geller

My question is what kind of time management strategies do you
really busy craftsman employ to get all the meat and potato work
done and have enough time for your custom jobs. 

Will, there’s a few answers now, most of them meaningful. Like all
things, it’s what works for you. I do special order (“custom”) work,
largely, though I’m very good at repairs, too. Repair work makes more
money, for me, but I really don’t enjoy it. From what you say, I’d
guess your priority is repair, and if you want to do special order
that probably won’t work. What I do is give repair work (if I have
any) an hour or two in the morning, and then put it aside, or devote
1/2 day or a day to it, if there’s a lot. As you seem to know, the
two fields are not really compatable with each other, time-management
wise. It’s a whole lot easier to put a 10 minute repair job off till
the last minute than a 3 day platinum ring, though. Bottom line is
that I treat them as separate businesses, and don’t let one encroach
on the other - repair time is repair time, custom is custom. How much
of each, for you, depends on the workload, and what you want to do at
the bench most of all. My special order lead time is usually 2-3
weeks, people want repairs the next day, if not in one hour. I
usually look at them and say, “You mean drop everything for 10 WHOLE
dollars?” Personally, I like making things, not repetitiously
soldering tips and ring sizings and even more complex tasks. The
exeption for me is antique restoration, which IS more like custom
work, often times.

The best motivator is money. When I took a job with another jeweler
they offered me a multi-tiered commission package. I more than
doubled their repair volume and created their custom department.
Heck, the last week of the month I was a torch slinging demon!

Chase the money is my advice. Devise a plan whereby you create
incentive to get the work done in a timely manner.

Personally, these days I’m not too bothered if a few small repairs
are late. If you are building a custom department you should put you
energies to that. Getting manic about $10 and $20 jobs is foolhardy
when you’ve got $1000 and $2000 jobs waiting. Doing everything super
fast will burn you out unless you have coworkers. (jewelers’ burnout,
a topic for another thread another day) In my experience most people
would rather things get done well than fast.(there are exceptions of
course) The odd people who complain are often the ones who don’t
bring you other business anyway. And its that other business that
you should really be focused on. While you might get a $ job because
you did a fast repair for a customer, you have a much better chance
of landing multiple jobs because you did them well.

But, be polite about it. “I’m sorry, the shop is very busy because
they take the time to do a perfect job and people seem to want