"Not all those who wander are lost."

J R R Tolkien

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18 October 2011

Pricing your work

I always seem to find it hard to ask for what I consider a fair price for my work, and I am sure a lot a artists and craft people have the same problem. Cheap imported stuff has sort of conditioned people to expect cheap prices.  I have even been told once (obviously by someone who'd never made a thing in their lives because they would know not to ask such idiotic questions) that because it's handmade it should be cheaper to make????

I found this article some time back and copied it, to remind myself to be fair to myself. After all the stuff I make is entirely handmade, with good quality material, and it took a lot of time to acquire the skills I now have. So why should I buckle and devalue what I do? I have to pay the bills too!

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I found this article, or who wrote it.

I don't really work at selling my stuff either... and, like Rebecca, I remake things I know will sell. (can you say... "pens"?) But.... I always price for my time and my materials. I never devalue my time by marking an item down. I trial market a piece and if it doesn't sell I just don't make that item for sale anymore... or I might just keep one or two in stock and replace them only as they sell. I have marked things that sell really well up a bit.... it offsets losses. 

Pricing is a real sore spot with me. I don't know anybody who works for less than minimum wage... even at a job they love! And they'd be offended & angry if it were suggested. I feel like that about my craftwork. Golly, it's a skill!!! I don't know any skilled worker that would work for less than $10 hr, do you? Another thing about under pricing your work is that, unintentionally, you hurt every crafter out there who's trying to make a living from theirs. Because the market gets used to crafters undervaluing their work and begin to expect it. It takes our work to a flea market level when a customer thinks they should be able to bargain you down. I always chuckle and say... "I price for the time I worked on that piece... would you take a dollar an hour less if your boss asked you to?" It puts it in perspective. 

I know a lot of crafters will swear that the area they live in just won't pay crafters for their time. But, again, I suggest it's the crafters in the area that have generated that mindset. You have to gently re-educate the public and other crafters every chance you get in order to effect change. It has to start somewhere and why not with you? I really believe that people will pay a fair price for a really well made item, if they love it, no matter where they live. Of course fair price is the key. Examine your skill level and price accordingly. Are you just starting and feel unsure of your skill level? Give yourself at least minimum wage. As you get better... give yourself a raise. Be steadfast and I know you'll find this works for you. In fact, I've found as I've given myself raises, I'm at $10 hr now, I sell more!! Go figure. 

If your things just aren't selling.... analyze why. Can you display them better? I truly believe display can make all the difference. You'd pay way more for the same item if you found it in a gallery as opposed to a garage sale or flea market. I also find that if I cluster 3 or 4 of one item together, it catches attention better and sells faster than when there's only one sitting by itself. Unless, of course, it's a fabulous and expensive one of a kind piece. Display those in a really stand out way. Can you improve the item in some way? Sometimes the smallest little additional detail can really make an item move! Are you using a good color scheme? Can you refine your technique somehow? Take the extra time to make sure all the *rough edges* are worked on. 

And do one or two fabulous and expensive one-of-a-kind pieces. They don't need to sell!! They will draw people to your booth like nobody's business. And if they come... they look at what else is there. How many times have I been drawn to an exquisite piece, I could never afford, and walked away with some little doodad item... that I wouldn't ordinarily buy... just to have a piece by someone who could make that fabulous piece? Oh let me count the times. When I look at the little doodad, though... I remember the *wonder*. 

This happens to me all the time.... my kaleidoscopes draw them in droves!! But... they're really expensive and don't sell that often. But nearly everybody who stops to look through them... every single one of them ... buys a pen or figure or pin. It adds up. And when one of those scopes do sell... it really jumps up my income for that show. I consider it a bonus. Is it the type of show you're choosing to do? Different shows bring in a different arrays of shoppers. Find a venue where your type of creation does sell... then choose your shows accordingly. Sometimes you'll make way more traveling to one good show... than you would in all the shows that might be offered in your area throughout the year. Sometimes it just has nothing to do with what you have to offer. If you just can't figure it out... move on to new creations. Some things just won't sell... or will sell slowly. It's just the way it is. 

And sometimes an item that doesn't sell at one show will fairly fly off the table at the next! Of course, if you gave it away at a last minute markdown in the last show, you'll never know that. Personally, I just will not mark an item down. I think it shows a lack of confidence in my own work. I won't do that. If an item isn't selling I use it as a personal gift to someone that I know will appreciate the effort that went into it. That's right... I'd rather giveit away than mark it down for some bargain hunter. I want my work to be valued by the buyer. When one of your pieces really shoots to the heart of someone... you know it... you can see it in their eyes. And they don't try to bargain you down, they already value it at way more than you're asking already. Try to make things you really enjoy working on... Make things that sing to you.... Make things for yourself. That way if they don't sell it won't really bother you. (too much. heheh) If you work on things you enjoy... it shows... you find yourself lingering over the details... and, funnily enough, it sells! 
 And, in time, you will discover reliable sellers. You'll build a whole line of them that you can count on... so don't be too discouraged at the beginning!!


  1. Thanks for posting this! As a friend and I started a little Dawanda online shop (only 3 items 'til now *g*) just this morning, this article comes just in the right time ;)
    If people come directly to me, it depends on the client's conditions and circumstances what he will have to give me for what he wants. But with a shop it's a bit more difficult for me. I tend to sell things too cheap...have to think about that again ;)
    I once found another interestins article concerning this matter:



  2. I know exactly what you mean. While I don't make things, I have family that does, specifically native handcrafted beaded moose hide mitts, gloves, moccasins etc. The amount of labour that goes into the finished product is incredible.
    People are put off by the price, yet the reality is that quite often the maker would earn far more if they were working at a low paying job.
    Handcrafted is special & if someone truly wants such a product, they will pay the price.
    The trick is finding the right balance, I suppose.

    That said, since I currently am having a knife made by you maybe I should have remained quiet! ha ha!

  3. Even after 18 years of selling, I can still underprice. This year has been hard at the shows, people really have been cutting back on spending. After year on year growth this comes as a wake up call. This means re-evaluating everything I do at the shows, so it was good to read your blog.

  4. Obviously hit a nerve here...:-)

    Triona. My pleasure, I hope it helps. I carve wooden signs and when people come to me, I tends to do what you do, generally I charge less for some people. It is hard to work out a fair price, particularly if you sell what you make to increase your income, or even this is your only source of income, you can't afford to undersell yourself.

    Oldbushcrat. Good to see you here! I am working on your knife, still having little luck with the tan Micarta though.


    I am still to attend some shows myself. I find it hard to decide to have a go as I am uncertain whether the cost of the shows is outweighted by the benefits of attending them! And yes people have had to cut down. And that is unfortunate because it affect every craft person out there. But I still think we need to be careful not too undersell ourselves too much.

    Do I make it sound like I know what I am talking about? But I can't in truth say I am totally confident that I do!

  5. I have had the same problem Joel,some people just don't understand the time,skill and love that goes into real hand crafted items such as knives,leather work let alone the cost of materials and over heads such as electricity.