Every year I shilly-shally around with numbers, re-evaluate my pricing schemes and decide if I’m in the right ballpark. Taking the thorough approach, I calculate materials, wastage, product development time and materials amortised over my expected number of product for the duration of the product’s run, labour, overhead, and all the other good things that go into figuring out pricing. This article on pricing crafts gives a fairly good run-through of how it looks.
When I develop a craft piece, I generally clock myself on making a batch at a reasonable pace after becoming proficient. I use this as a gauge of how much labour to charge (and no, I don’t work for minimum wage. Would you?). After I add all the materials, labour and extras that go into making a piece, I add a profit margin. If ever I have to farm out some of the labour, I’ll still make money. Then I tweak the price, if it’s a product that will sell through shops or galleries. The cost of consignment and sales is added to the final price.
This is not a popular thing to do amongst craftspeople, but it is what all other manufacturers do the world over. Craft has a strange sort of niche. To quote a paragraph from the article to which I linked above,
The making of handcrafted objects has the status of a leisure-time activity in our society. One segment of the buying public believes that making the item gives you great pleasure, and uses time that would otherwise be wasted. You may contribute to this notion by not placing value on your time and talent. (Mary Saylor, Related Arts Specialist, The Pennsylvania State University Cooperative)
A large proportion of society is guilty of this assumption. People think that anyone could do it. They assume that, given a needle and thread, they could just as skillfully turn out a beautiful quilt as did that artisan charging $1200 over there. They might be right. If they took the years to learn and dedicated the time, patience, attention and had talent to start with. What some folks fail to notice, though, is that even if they can reduce a crafted piece to something achievable by mere mortals in their own eyes, they still could not make that exact piece. Each craftsperson has their own vision, their own style and often develops their own techniques. Sure you could make something as beautiful as that quilt, but you couldn’t make that quilt because that combination of materials and labour is someone else’s vision and creation.
By the time I actually get to pricing items, I usually know what I should be charging. The things I wrestle with at this stage are:
- Should I do that $19 instead of $20 thing? Does it actually make a difference? I’m thinking of putting up a sign saying “no sales tax” instead, because I frankly can’t see how people could quibble over a dollar.
- What kind of packaging can I use to make products look more visually appealing and seem more luxurious than they look on their own?
- How much time I am wiling to put into giving pieces sexy names, writing additional information on labels and otherwise providing additional colouring/packaging/signage and how much good will it do? Too many details and the eye gets overwhelmed. Too few and people assume that things are machine stamped in China.
But it’s the first one that always gets me. $1 is not a huge cut to my profits, but it seems to me to be such a transparent gimmick. Not to mention that I don’t really have any direct competition at the fair anyway – all the fibre artists are sufficiently different so as to have their own markets.
I’ll work through pricing the art pieces at a later date, as that’s more ethereal.