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Handmade Artists' Blog

Pricing Handmade

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.

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Posted in Creative Breakroom, Handmade Harbor, Selling Tips

10 Responses to “Pricing Handmade”

  • Excellent post Lisa. Why shouldn’t we expect to get compensated for our time to. We artisan work hard creating our pieces, and even harder promoting.

  • This is always tough, I always tell my wife to not sell herself short. We usually assume a $10.00 an hour wage, but are usually liberal with undercutting the hours to keep the price down. Denial is a fun thing LOL
    Honestly we have done better lately with keeping our prices up where we feel they belong, and sales have been decent.

  • What makes it harder is that some time is of different value than other time. For example, when I get an idea for an art quilt, one with a picture in/on it, I spend lots of time considering the idea, the format, the presentation of that quilt. I sketch, and sketch again, until I (the artist) am happy with not only the overall picture, but the design and balance, the color scheme, the ultimate feel that the finished piece will present or exude. That time is very expensive – it’s not something that you learn in a class or from a book… it’s the artist making use of a God-given gift. How do you price that time? Once I start sewing and quilting, I’m using skills that can be taught and successfully used by anyone…. skills that require little or no artistic ability. Sewing and quilting may be worth no more than minimum wage.

    I’ve gotten to a point where a multiplier of my materials cost is my starting point. The refinement comes in looking at a finished piece and letting the artist in me decide what I would expect to pay for it. It’s not a terribly scientific formula, but it does bring in the perspective of a buyer looking to buy something more than a blanket at Wal-Mart. Thanks for this great article, Lisa!

  • The first thing to be keep in mind while deciding the price of jewellery item is the quality of a jewellery piece and the competition in the market……The tips for pricing a jewellery is very useful…Thanks for the post……..

  • Teresa says:

    Terrific article Lisa! You made some very valid points that anyone who creates should take to heart!

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you all for the comments. I agree that competition is always an issue and one must compare one’s work with that of other crafters. Comparing prices with other people’s is where I think it becomes complicated. It goes to my point about people under-cutting each other. There are talented hobbyists who do not even consider the issue of making money from their work, they are happy to recoup their material costs. I think that hurts the rest of us who are trying to at least eek out a living from what we make.

    I don’t agree about the difference in hourly wages depending upon where you live if we are talking about selling online. To actually make a living doing what we do, we need to target national and international customers willing to pay the premium for handcrafted items. I particularly like the term used in Britain to refer to what we do. I think Desinger/Maker is more apt if one sells things that are not simply from someone patterns designed by someone else.

  • lisianblue says:

    Excellent post Lisa, and some great replies. I know for my hats and scarves, I do try to find a happy medium price of what is already out there. However, my hand painted ornaments are a different story – because they are very unique. My son’s jaw dropped when I told him one in particular was 50.00 – but really if you think about it as simply a Christmas ornament, then yeah that is a lot of money – but it’s a unique piece of art that happens to be painted on an ornament. I spent a lot of time and effort developing the technique I use for painting them, and the entire ornament is painted, not just a little bit of it – after taking all of the original paint off – When I do those, I do consider myself as an artist. My hats, most of my crochet work, I do think of it as a craft – but that should not negate the hours and skill that it takes to do a good job. I was somewhat surprised to talk to a few women this past summer who told me they had a hard time keeping the stitches even……. I guess I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just 2nd nature to me at this point. I would like to venture out with it more tho and do more “artistic” freeform kind of things in the near future. How does one go about pricing something that is sort of an experiment? I have had many people come by and say ” wow you do such nice work” and even if they don’t buy a hat or scarf, I do appreciate the compliment.
    I think that if we can remember that we have our own little boutique or gallery and maybe even call it such…………………….maybe our “buyers” will too.

  • Coutney says:

    If I was to price my own work, I would probably base it on the materials I used, plus the equipments and the time I have spent to make the product. But I wont quote it like other crafters because I enjoy making making it and I want my crafts to spread. A fair price will be fine.

  • Momwithahook says:

    pricing is definitely a difficult subject to tackle in the handmade market. There are various ways to figure the price but it truly is up to the artist. You do need to consider skill and expertise in the price.

    You definitely want to recoup the price of the supplies and the cost of shipping supplies.

    When making things like hats and scarves most industry pays by the piece which is far less than an hourly wage.

    Always do quality work and use quality materials even your shipping materials and marketing materials need to be high quality.

    Basically think of what you expect a handmade piece to be that is what you need to deliver to your customer.

  • Excellent article, Lisa. Pricing for artisans has always been difficult. I really try hard not to do too much comparison shopping with other artists. I can sell an ACEO for $7 and another artist can sell it for $15. I usually try to put a fair price on my items that I’m happy with and let it go at that.

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