Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Some thoughts on the concept of a waiting list

I am terrible at managing my waiting list, and here are some of the reasons why:

1 - My unrelated, full-time job doesn't leave me much time to dedicate towards working on items in the queue. I think of my leather work as a second job, but I really only have the time to spare that one would use for a hobby.

2 - When I do have spare time, it doesn't always go towards working on the projects that are waiting. Sometimes I need to make new designs, or refine existing patterns, or just try new things to keep this line of work from feeling stale. Sometimes I create wallets for my Etsy store. Sometimes I work on a legitimate hobby (lock picking, learning to make and crack whips). And then there are the requests for small projects that I know won't take very long, so I squeeze them in right then.

3 - I believe it was Bruce Sterling that said "the more you can do, the more you will do." There's a lot I can do, so there are things other than leather working that occupy my time. If my car breaks, I fix it. If my bike needs maintenance/modification, I do it. If there's something I need for the house, I'll probably try to build it.

Recently, I took a long hard look at how I've been spending my time this year, and it was kind of a shock to see just how little time I've spent working on items from the waiting list. Then I spent way too much time trying to think of new and exciting ways to approach the queue, as the traditional, take-them-in-the-order-in-which-they-came approach didn't seem to be working for me. I gave some serious thought to declaring "waiting list bankruptcy," and just erasing my waiting list. This was to be paired with a very simple approach to requests - I'm either available to work on one project, or I'm not. A waiting list would not be maintained, and I'd either work on a request right then or interested parties would have to check back later. There would be a notice somewhere, probably on this site, when I was available, and it would be removed when I took on a project. The other option was to just stop doing custom work altogether, but this option seems less likely as I really do like new challenges. 

After lots of thought in this vein, I decided that declaring waiting list bankruptcy was the cowardly approach to avoiding a lot of awkward email and/or phone conversations. "Hey, um, I know it's been years since we talked about this and you probably forgot who I am, but do you still want that guitar strap?" So, I'm going to keep working through the waiting list at my customary glacial pace, but I am going to make a change or two. Without a regular supply of free time, giving someone an estimate as to how long it will be till I can get to their order is both optimistic and foolish. From now on, I'm going to be much more honest and just tell interested parties "I don't know how long it will take, but it's going to take a long time."

One other thing - when I do contact people to tell them that it's their turn in the queue, there is a good chance that I'll never get a response from them. Maybe their contact info changed, maybe they don't remember who I am, or maybe they (justifiably!) got sick of waiting for me to get in touch. So maybe this waiting list isn't nearly as daunting as I think.

As always, feel free to get in touch if you think your project has been forgotten.