If you've been on this blog any length of time, or waited an insane amount of time for me to reply to your e-mail, then you know that I've been struggling to keep up with correspondence for quite some time.
I got a lot of inquiries. Right now I have two assistants, but there is a level of fine detail that only I can do and I just can't keep up with the ongoing demand, much less respond to everything. This leaves me stressed because I feel bad about leaving everyone waiting for an answer, and it leaves all of you stressed because you don't know if I'll be able to do your piece!
I've found that scheduling costumes more than three months out is very tricky. I don't know what my life is going to hold, how my health is going to hold up, and whether I can count on the customer to actually respond when their costume comes up in the queue.
One method that seems to work well for other artisans is to take commissions in blocks. They will open for orders, have a set number that they will admit, and then close it when that number is reached.
My guess is that I would open for commissions every 6 to 10 weeks. I would probably take 4-6 at a time, depending on the complexity of the pieces. From the point at which they were commissioned to when they were finished would likely be three months at most. This would mean that I would deal with all the initial correspondence and order taking in a short time period and everyone would get swift answers. Once the block was closed, I would note this on the website so that everyone would know to wait.
You would still be able to e-mail me and ask for a price quote, you would just not be able to order until I opened a new block. If my quote met your budget, you would add your name to a mailing list I would create and get updated when a new block opened. (You could choose to remove your name when your piece was completed). As soon as you got that e-mail, you would follow the instructions within it to place your order (I'll explain more about those details if I decide to go with this method).
I haven't made a final decision yet on this, I still need to process and gather more information on how this would all work... but I'm feeling optimistic about it.
(My schedule is already essentially full through at least February 2014, so the first "block" would likely not open until January.)