A blog post about pricing handcrafted goods sparked more debate than I would ever have imagined. So, I thought, why not jump into the fray? It hadn’t seemed that complicated to me. Whatever job I do, I expect compensation for my time and my talent. I demand compensation that includes health benefits, paid vacation, paid sick leave and a salary that allows me to pay my living expenses and generate savings. Why not expect the same compensation when I design and create jewelry?
To be fair, I know that I cannot expect the same hourly pay or benefits from my new jewelry craft business that I command from my career. But how much will I lower my expectations? My question to fellow crafters is “would you take a job that offered less than minimum wage? Would you resent competing for a job with someone who will accept less than a living wage because the job is not his or her sole income source?”
My challenge to myself and others is to approach our businesses as careers. That means, when pricing a piece of jewelry, I take into account the cost of my materials, my overhead – including health insurance, tools, expenses for my website and shop, advertising and promotion. And, I include $30 an hour for my time. I only count the hours I spend creating things. At some point, I would like to pay myself for equal number of hours I spend on all the other aspects of my business. Enjoying what I do does not negate the value of my time. I must value my work and my design if I am to expect a customer to value them. I don’t compare my prices to those in Walmart or Target or a similar store. My one of a kind products are not comparable to mass produced merchandise and, presumably, my customer is not deciding between purchasing one of my pieces and buying something mass produced in China.
It all comes down to determining who the target customer is and how to make that customer my customer. I know that my customer appreciates the creativity, time and passion that goes into a handmade object. My customer values uniqueness and wants one of a kind items. When pricing my jewelry, I look at prices in fashion magazines, craft galleries, boutiques and design or craft museum shops. I know that I cannot command the prices charged for top designer costume jewelry featured in the pages of Vogue or Bazaar. But those prices (which are often ten times my prices) remind me that there are people with disposable income who are spending freely when they attach value to items. That is the crafter’s biggest challenge, promoting our creations in a way that will help people to attach value to our merchandise, to perceive our products as exclusive, desirable, luxury items. We need to show customers what is unique and special about our work, to teach them the difference between handcrafted and homemade. We have to help customers to attach as much value to what we make as they do to items in boutiques and upscale stores and catalogs.
I don’t claim to know how to do that yet. But, I think it starts with valuing our work, pricing it accordingly, and not under-cutting our fellow crafters. We are craft professionals, not hobbyists.