Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Intermission - That Thing You Do That Others Do Cheaper

My gosh my gosh my gosh- thanks everyone for your superstar responses to the last post! Really amazing and thought-provoking stuff, I am so happy to see the effect this has had so far- believe me we haven't even started! I'm working through all of your comments in my brain- stewing them up like the tastiest mind soup ever. I'm trying to get the answers in here rather than replying to all of you in turn, since the answers are stuff everyone should know.  In fact there's so much I want to talk about in regard to what you have all said so far, I'll be working a lot of it into further posts (we have at least two more installments to go)!

Right now though, I'm making this post an 'intermission post' to deal with those extra excuses and fears you all so cleverly came up with in the comments. 


Something that came up a lot was the comparison thing. Beatnheart said it best so I'm just going to quote her: 'what bums me out is seeing people who do make stuff from elements and cheap stamped findings from China and a bit of "brass" chain...selling a whole lot more than me and getting the same prices I am asking...so what does that mean...people like cheap crap and are willing to pay for it....most young hipster types that buy from some hot style guru that is 18 and blogs about fashion and sells these brass feathers and airballon charm necklaces..."

Ha! I think we all recognize that situation and can align with it. Shops who charge as much as we do for a bit of chain and some findings; the reason they charge as much as us is because they're charging a retail price for their stuff which turns out is about the same as your wholesale price. It's also likely have a low income need and even more likely, they haven't consider the expanding of their business. In addition, if they're getting the same prices you're asking for just a bit of brass n chain, all that shows is people who only want to spend that much are only looking for a bit of fluff. People who want more will pay more.

But we're not going to waste any more time thinking about them. Fact is, people who buy a feather charm necklace for $18 are probably not our customer. It's depressing to see shops run by college kids, selling high waisted shorts or neon rocks by the hundreds; but remember feather earrings? They belong to the past. Trends peak and fall in a very short space of time. You are timeless.

amen sister.

I noted a few of you who are selling supplies said you were nervous about raising your prices because people might not pay it. It's tricky in a way because your item goes on to be part of the material cost of someone else's finished piece. On the other hand, supplies have an upper hand over finished jewelry in that they're usually made in batches. I know when I make my bangle hoops, I can knock out quite a few pairs in an hour. This enables me to charge fairly low for them because they don't then go on to have the further cost of making them into finished pieces. Supplies also have a keen market; something I've observed as a seller and a buyer- supplies sell. Even when no one is buying our finished stuff, we artisans buy supplies- because we have the urge to make!This is something Etsy knows and is probably the top reason why they have supplies on their site at all. If you go to craft count and look at the top ten Etsy sellers, you'll see they're ALL supplies.

Handmade supplies are unique, and even the most simple piece can add another layer of detail and quality to our work. Just using Rey as an example, though there are many more of you - her stuff is so full of substance it really doesn't need much to become a complete piece.


Look at that - tiny little artworks you can wear. Rey charges respectfully for her work and we all buy it, because we know it's worth it.

Getting people to understand the cost of handmade supplies ought to be easy,  but many artists don't understand their own worth, let alone the worth of their supplies. So in actual fact when artists don't charge enough for their work, they're undervaluing the handmade supplies they used in it as well. It's our job as artisans to support the people who make our supplies and we can only do that by supporting our own work in turn.

Rashabellydance had some sage words from her field about 'hobby' or casual earners pricing themselves low because they don't need to make a living from their work. She says 'if you don't charge what you're worth for your time, you will eventually feel undervalued and resentful, and if you charge below what a full-time artist would need to charge to survive, then you are making it even harder for anyone to make a living from their art, which can only damage the overall quality of work that's out there."

I think there are many of you out there now who already feel resentful that you are 'forced' to mark your goods to compete with the cheaper people on etsy. It's difficult; because etsy is an open playing field with all levels of shops, competing is so much more raw. But keep in mind that not all shops are courting the same shopper. A Target can be in the same mall as a Tiffany&Co and neither will suffer at the hand of the other- they both have completely different customers. 

Jiorji noted something very interesting- she said in Sweden people will pay more just because it's handmade. This is very important info! Because we all sell online, our market is the entire world. Therefore the culture we live in might be sending us in the wrong direction. Here in Australia things are expensive; if you want something you buy it- there is no hunting around for a better bargain, no coupons, no refunds just because you don't like it any more. You can take something back to the shop but a lot of people don't bother. This too is a culture that pays more for handmade, which is why I can't fathom going to Etsy and seeing handmade earrings for $15, or vintage dresses for $30. We pay $30 for the most basic dress in chain stores here, vintage ought to cost more than that, and so should hand made.
I wonder...
source - dunno!

Handmade's price is more than just the time and skills it took to build it. When you buy handmade you're supporting people working to make their own living instead of hooking into the big machine. You're supporting a local economy- an artist who can sell online doesn't need to move to the big city, they can stay in their tiny mountain town and keep that rural economy stabilized. You're putting your hand up for human made, honest, quality (hopefully) soul-ful things. A handmade item makes your world better and it makes the artisan's world better too. This is something you must take into account.

I have a big mug of earl grey with me right now, in my favourite pottery mug. If that mug suddenly fell off the desk and smashed into several pieces, I would probably cry. And I'd have no problem shelling out $50+ to find it's like. It's sandy texture, creamy colours, cuppable shape and the way the glaze looks like a stormy country landscape... all these things make my tea taste better, I'm sure of it. For the record that tea is also the highest price on the shelf, because it's fair trade, natural and delicious. Tea is an elixir of life, you don't skimp on your elixirs! This is the sort of emotional connection people are looking for when they search out handmade. Yes there are no shortage of buyers on Etsy who are looking for the $15 bargain, but there is also a good quantity of people who are looking for the well made, the soulful and the sublime. 

Lastly, I want to make this clear when I talk here about how much your should charge and why it might not be enough, what I'm trying to do is get you to recognize your worth. This may not be a default 'raise your prices' for everyone- some of you might be selling at a level that's fine. If the only thing you get from this is 'yep I'm doing good' then wonderful! You deserve a gold star!

But judging by the comments in the earlier post I don't know if there are that many of you who can say that. I've seen your shops- no hiding!

Okay next post will be nitty-gritty as promised. Formulas for pricing your work, what you should charge, how to figure that out and why all of it is important. I'll also be talking about how to optimise what your customer wants, how to find out who they are, and...there'll be a little bit of magic wisdom from a very respectable seller. Ah that's got you excited hasn't it!? I should think so.


artistic rejuvenations said...

very thoughtful posts penny. i am a mother 24/7 and a teacher for most of my waking hours and see my hobby as my mental health. i do not need to make my income off of my hobby, but do appreciate the person who will pay a decent price but i always struggle with that decent price. do i just price based on a whim or use the 3x's rule? either way, etsy does not move my work, i move my work at shows where i can tell the story of each component, and then i get the price i ask for even if it seems too much at times. people just love a story. anyway, so much to think about! can't wait for your next post! xoxo

Woodland Jewelries said...

when i made more vintage type jewelries, i charged a lot more of my jewelries. there was a lady who often purchased my jewelries. but then when i really begun to make my own designs, making clay acorns etc. i begun to charge much less. and i wonder why... at some point, i guess i lost my confidence and put prices more down. i do like that i have jewelries for all kind of purses, some jewelries do not take that long to make. but ideally i want to sell my jewelries in good prices, otherwise i know i do not believe in myself that much.

Maggie Zee said...

I'm so glad that you've started this forum and that other artists and makers are responding. Most, if not all, of us are women and we undervalue our worth no matter what the marketplace is. I've been down this road before when I made art quilts. At that time, I had my work in galleries, like many other fiber artists, and the only way to make a living at it was to write, lecture and teach workshops. My suspicion is that it's the same story with art jewelry. I'm using a rough formula that's totally arbitrary for my Etsy shop: I figure out roughly what the cost of my materials is and I triple it. Then if it doesn't feel right, I raise or lower it. With this method, I'm probably worth about $1.50/hour. Which is why I worked in accounting for as long as I did.

martinisfor2 said...

Oh my dear Penny,

Bless your heart for these last two posts. The first thing I did was hop over to my shop to delete the sale section and over to Edit Express... what a Godsend!

I share your sentiments with mass produced in China. I always try to buy made in America or countries other than China. All of what was made in the USA is now crap produced over there. Support handmade and Fair Trade!

I'm looking forward to your next pricing post and who knows I may edit again.

Stand tall Ladies, we're worth more than we give ourselves credit for.

Stepping off my soapbox now...

Charade Honey said...

HI ouside world,
Pricing issues.....if we had a full time job,what would we get paid an hour?just a thought
To get hints,Look at other peoples prices who make simalar pieces?
how much for your materials?
Today a little magic would be good<misty winters day
coffeeeeeee.oh in my bloody handmade,woodfired coffee mug!So much nicer than 2 dollar shop.
Oh what do yall think of this.......I have been making stuff forever(thanks grannie)But also have an advanced diploma in ceramics.(Thanks student loan!).
So In my communitys of creative people,makers who have wonderful skills,which can take years to learn(never stop learning!,creating)evolving....
we have over the years requests from fine arts school graduates,who have the theory skills,that get grants,ask us makers to make stuff for them that they sell,and we get no aknowlegment for.
Thats the ye olde chestnut arts vs craft/handmade rant.sorry pricing!

I have come to realise that to be able to use your hands to make what ever it is you do is a gift,its dragged me out of some bad places in my head over the years.
I should tell myself that more!!!!We all have a gift.I guess Im a compulsive maker of stuff,and would love to find others out there that love it enough too,and to fiqure out how to SELL IT!!!!!!!!!!!

And this is on a good day!
I seem to be the computer challenged chick!I have a pretty neglected blog,but cant figure out how to get the link up in this box,and the express edit thingy I cant get to work!!!Blah

Blog ohinemurri
charadeh@gmail.com if anyone has any hints.......

sue said...

These are important issues for artists everywhere! I am constantly chided by my Gen Y kids for underpricing and in their eyes undervaluing my work. The most difficulty I feel I face is that when I supply to a gallery or shop the mark up is pretty high ... In one place they put 110% on top of my price - that means they earns what I do plus 10% for tax! It is hard to break the cycle of pricing your wares with the mindset of "what would I pay for that" isn't it? Sometimes too we take our gifts and skills for granted - making might be like breathing for us but that isn't so for the whole population. Thanks for this frank look at these issues Penny!

HenrietteWhiteJewelry said...

I totally get how you feel about your favourite pottery mug!! :)

crankypants said...

I think I just need to print this series, and hang it above my work area.

richelle said...

Very interesting posts, comments, and general ideas. It's all very abstract to me; I've been wanting to chime in, but have little intelligible thoughts to offer.

I went through the pangs of pricing/value when I started doing bodywork independently full time in 1999. I can't even begin to describe what a huge issue money/value is within that field. It's tied to big issues like healing, self, spirit, energy, etc., so it is very loaded, and very personal. On the industrial and practitioner side, there's a generally positive idea about charging 'more' and 'high value.' It comes with a backlash, though. Because the root of it is business and marketing, literally engineered by the massage schools drilling this love and light notion in. People align with it and extend it into the work because it makes sense and leads to more money--and because it is generally correct. But there is an attachment that comes along with it because it's largely unquestioned and deconstructed. It forms an equation based in good vs. bad and right vs. wrong. If you charge more, you are right. If you charge less, you are wrong. There's not a lot in between.

But in doing having a full time private practice for a decade, I learned for me, it was ALL inbetweenness. It got to the point that I simply could not have a conversation about my rates with other therapists or people who happened to be aligned with the 'high value' ideal. Because the conversation I wanted to have was automatically shut down with the brick wall of that equation I mentioned earlier. I was always 'wrong.' But I wasn't....

(The post is too long, got a notice. Will post the second part.....)

richelle said...


...It was very lucrative for me. I always had a waiting list and I could choose how much money I wanted to make, by deciding how much I worked. My goal was to make it not about this compartmentalized what-I-make-or-charge-per-session but more of a holistic thing of creating more and more. It took me out of the details of adding this and that, and just became a force of 'abundance,' to use a word from that whole energetic-world.

But it wasn't all abstract--I had to deal with the details of pricing a lot at first in creating menus, specials, etc. until I was able to settle in a kind of routine of what my practice *was.*

I suppose I'm using the bodywork thing as an example here instead of my etsy shops, because I go my work now with all that I developed with my practice. Pricing is the easiest part for me. I can't imagine using a formula to determine how much something should be, because nothing is compartmentalized. I usually don't notice how much time I spend making an individual bracelet or set of beads, because I just spend whatever time I want making whatever I want to make and then have all this stuff to sell. And then I can tell what is more 'valuable' because I will get more requests for it, so I make more of it, and with experience, I use less time to do it because I know it better.

Obviously some things take more time to make, so of course I will charge more. But not because of the actual time it took, but because it turned out a more detailed, interesting bead or whatever. But the bead is interesting and detailed because of my time, of course. I have turned out a lot of plain things though, after spending a shitload of time on them, like macrame things I experimented with. But I'll be damned if I am going to charge $60 for a macrame cord. My time is worth it, yes, but the item simply is not, and there is nothing that can convince me that it would be a 'fair' price. It's just my belief though, I realize that. But it's ok to have beliefs because they are boundaries you can use to organize yourself, your shop, whatever. You just have to make sure you are *evaluating* your beliefs and questioning everything instead of mindlessly working through unfounded and/or limiting assumptions. And especially that you are not somehow putting your own value as a Person into the whole equation. Your value as a person has nothing to do with jewelry and nothing to do with anything you make, sell, price.

I'll get that macrame cord money back eventually because the time was an investment in learning how to incorporate buttons in macrame, and it was my choice to use that time instead of whipping out another set of beads I know will sell.

Wildthorne said...

So much to digest, and process. I am loving this series, and thank you so much friend for spending your valuable time, and energy putting these posts together. After Richelle's comments (who I admire greatly) there is nothing grandiose or epic for me to contribute, only that I am learning a lot, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

fanciful devices said...

I really loved your insights richelle. thanks for sharing all that! Im noticing that people with experience - even if in a vastly different field- are more confident in pricing. Me, i worked in severely underpaid non-profit type positions previously and maybe that's a reason... But it's mostly from my childhood being brought up with socialist anti-materialism blah blah cheapo immigrant parents that I equate expensive things with EVIL RICH PEOPLE!
(but also- i dont think factories are bad. they enable us to have soooooo much that you can't get in other countries (like uruguay). So you can't just up and grab a bandaid or soap or a new toothbrush or whatever because everything is an INVESTMENT and there's no competition leading to ever-better products thus you get door locks that lock you in your house so if there's a fire and you misplace your keys you're dead.... I mean ALL door locks in south america are like this! but that's just an aside...)

Anonymous said...

It really useful to read through your thoughts on this Penny and also all the great comments. I do have a sale section, for those piece that ain't budging and will be heading for my recycle box. My gripe is visibility, I feel like I've disappeared down a hole!

Star of the East said...

I agree with Richelle a 100%. That intuitive way of pricing is exactly the way I do it and it works. Comparing yourself with others or pricing formula's won't do it for me.
The worth of the result is not the sum of the elements and your time. Sometimes is more and sometimes less.

Gardanne said...

I have to reinforce how large the community of customers there are out there that are supporting handmade supplies. I do bead shows and the requests from customers to the show organizers has been more handmade artisan supplies. Customers know that they just have to add one component that is handmade and unique to their jewelry and then their work is already different from other work out there. So as a supplier it is always my goal to keep coming up with unique items for my customers.

Melanie said...

I reckon my time as an artisan is worth $50 per hour. Then there's the cost of my materials...these all contribute to my selling price. If someone comes to me asking if I have anything cheaper than my ooak antique assemblage designs, I tell them 'no but I think Kmart does a line in cheap jewelry'. They usually leave...which is fine with me.