Wednesday, 25 July 2012

How Much???

This blog post is mainly aimed at those who make and sell their work.  Juggling jobs, money, children.  Bit of an overall rant really which has been brewing in my mind for a while now which I feel I need to extract before my brain explodes!!!

"Oooh that's lovely" says a potential customer at a recent event.
"Thank you" I reply.
"I really do like it, because it is so different to the usual gift, how much is it" says potential customer.
"It is £10" I tell her.

"HOW MUCH" she glares at me!!

Have you ever been in this situation?

I have many times.  It has occasionally been the other way around too when they say "oh, that's not what I expected, in that case I'll take two".

I have been trading for 8 months (today to be exact) and I am beginning to realise that for the most part those who do not do a craft of any sort do not always realise the amount of time, love, effort and skill that has gone into making something.

I am always faced with the challenge of how much to charge.  It is really difficult with handmade unique items.  Surely we should be charging even more than we do for their "one off" status?

The conversation above with potential customer was at a craft fair about two months ago where I had a sample of one of my Star Teacher gifts on display where orders could be taken for them.  This one here...

I explained to the lady that I charge £10 for these because they are fiddly to sew being a star shape, there is a lot of hand embroidery which takes a long time to sew and it is something that is completely unique as it is personalised to say whatever the customer wants it to say.  It can be in any colour, as many or as little buttons required etc.  You won't get that on the high street.

I feel like ranting to some people at times, if you don't want to give a gift that no-one else has, is a one off and is unique then go to a retail park and pick up some tat that will no doubt end up in a cupboard!!

SO, the big question, how do you price your items?

I start off by totting up how much it has cost me to make.  Include EVERYTHING, down to the last button, scrap of ribbon, even if it is pence.  THEN you need to factor in how much time it took you to make.  I jot my times down in segments every time I make something for the first time.  So, for example you would write down how long it takes to draw and cut the template on the fabric, how long it took to choose and sew buttons on, how long the embroidery bit took etc etc, you get the idea.  THEN I tally it all up.  I just find it easier to do it this way.  Mainly because I am so busy, easily and often distracted and ever forgetful!  I currently work my wages around the national minimum wage which if you think about it may sound a lot for making small items but actually it really isn't much.  So if the item has cost you £3.50 to make in supplies and it took you an hour to make at national minimum wage of £6.08 then the item should be sold at a minimum of £9.58.  Does that make sense???

Don't even get me started on postage.  I'll keep that for another post because I am constantly angry at Royal Mail!!!

You must remember that people are not only paying you for the fact you have nice things, it is your SKILL and TIME that they need to pay for too.  Surely if they could sew, paint, draw, design etc themselves they wouldn't need to pay out for someone else to do it???

Heart Decoration covered in beautiful new and vintage buttons

What does frustrate me also is people don't appreciate that I (amongst thousands of others) are actually doing this for a living.  I have bills to pay and mouths to feed too.  I am a great believer in if you want something then you work hard for your money to buy it yourself.  I am a business, ok, a small, new, going to make lots of mistakes along the way kind of business but still, I am independent, I work for myself and I make all the decisions myself.  

Does anyone juggle jobs?  As well as my business I also have a day job at a law firm part time to make ends meet and simply because I like the people I work with.  It is a complete contrast of work.  

I do wonder what people think when they see stalls at a craft fair.  Are they thinking, oh dear another room full of hobbyists or do they know we are all actually small businesses hoping to do well that weekend so we can go home and pay the gas bill?

My 4 year old (soon to be 5) often asks me - "are you sewing things again tonight mammy?"  When I reply "Yes" he says "that's good, because it means we can perhaps have nice things with the money you get for them and one day maybe I can have my playroom".  It's heartbreaking not being able to give your children everything they want but in another way I really do think its a good thing because they can see as they grow up that you have to work for your money and the more money you make the more things you can pay for.  I do personally love the comment about the playroom which he makes quite often because it is always in the back of my mind to spur me on and makes me think yes, I can do another late night, long day, all weekend on the sewing machine etc because it's one step closer to giving my children what they want and deserve.  I don't want to spoil them which is why I think it is important that they see me work to get the money and that if I don't work then we simply go without.

Do your children inspire you to do more?

It's hard doing everything and many people have often said to me "oh, you work for yourself, that's an easy life you have then being able to work from home".  Whilst it is a nice thought to be able to say you don't have a boss to answer to, in reality it is harder I think working for yourself.  You are the one responsible for all the mistakes.  Behind the scenes you have to do the accounting, tax returns, keep a filing system, network, get yourself heard, go and look for sales, talk to people, constant emails, phone calls, insurances to sort and much much more which doesn't even include making anything all around a busy family, a house to run and also in my case a mad cat!  All of these things I think are much easier to do as an employee when they have been dictated by a boss where you don't necessarily have to think what must be done yourself.  I know as I also have a boss at the day job! 

I'd love your thoughts on how you perceive small businesses, self employment - do you juggle many jobs and family life?  Are you a non-crafter but can appreciate what crafters and artists do to make a living?  I am just intrigued by the whole thing.  

Apologies for the mega rant and if you have read this through to the end then you deserve a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate!

I'm off to light the BBQ...