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...


  1. I have had similar experiences with people yelling HOW MUCH?! at me! It is quite disheartening to think that perhaps, maybe, your items are not worth that much, but I think we often need to find a little voice that remembers that some people don't blink twice at paying said price for your hard work, and the time and effort you put in IS worth it!

    In terms of pricing, I am as meticulous as you are in costing every piece of ribbon and button, I time myself on the third go at making something, simply because the first one will take a lot longer as I perfect patterns/designs etc, and by the third one I have got to the speed at which I would be making more...however I do charge less than minimum wage for my time as if I charged that I don't think I would sell a bean! That said though, we don't charge for our time as accountant, admin, or sales rep, so perhaps I am selling myself short.

    While I don't have children tugging on my heartstrings for nurserys and such, I do work 'fulltime' as a crafter (I say 'fulltime' because I, like many others, experience the working from home guilts, where every minute I am not working, I feel like I ought to be and therefore end up working normally from the point after breakfast to about an hour before bed (with a fair bit of faffing about inbetween!)) I find it hard to get my work/life balance, and definitely agree that it is much harder than a regular job. Yes I can get up at 2pm if it so suits me, and I can have an extended break, nip to the shops, etc etc, but I can't leave my place of employment and not worry about all the things that need doing at the end of the day!

    But... we wouldn't do it if we didn't love it. And while bills do need to be paid, I think it is worth far more than money :)

  2. Ladies I couldn't agree more and congratulate you for doing so well I just wish I had the patience and guts to do the selling part but spend so much time making I never do the important stuff to get my crafts out there

    Good luck

    Gill xxx

  3. I think you are right to cost your lovely items as you do. When I look at handmade items I totally factor in how much time and skill has gone into a piece and would expect to pay accordingly.

    Don't get disheartened, you are doing what you love for who you love - keep up the good work and get yourself that glass of wine and bar of choc :)

    Hugs, Estelle xx

  4. I completely agree! I started Ms Bee's Boutique just over a month ago, hoping to turn my love of all things woolly into extra pennies. I find it ever so hard to price things as I feel like I'm testing-the-water, even though I've been shopping at craft ans vintage fairs for years, because I want to attract customers and build interest, but I also can't afford to not make anything out of it!
    As an avid shopper (some would say shopaholic!!!) I'll spend a small fortune on something that I'm unable to create myself as I understand how much time and effort goes into something, and I really struggle to understand people who don't appreciate this!!!
    Grrr!!! Rant over!!! xXx

  5. Hi Emma,

    Totally understand what you are saying but unfortunately as someone who runs a business from home myself I don't think you can really set yourself a "wage" as such. Of course you should BUT using the example you gave, it cost you 3.50 in supplies, you add minimum wage of £6.08 making it 9.58 that's quite a big margin in terms of percentage! Yes you definitely deserve to be paid a decent amount for your time but most people don't think that way, they often only think about cost of materials, they don't want to pay almost double for labour! I agree with you I don't think it's right but it's a tough market so sometimes we have to charge a little less. If I work my costs out I only get paid about £3 an hr for my work! But like someone else has said, if I charge minimum wage, I just wouldn't hardly sell! But do what you think is right and good luck with it all. Your items are lovely! You have a lot of talent! X

  6. This price/wage problem goes on & on......
    I will hold my hands up & say that I don't pay myself a wage. I also work full time & do my crafting in the evening & at weekends. It was only recently I actually started to tot up my costs - I used to guess or check out other crafters stuff & price accordingly..!!
    I once read about a crafter who worked out her items so:
    the total cost of everything including any postage etc, & then added 1.5 times again.
    So for example, if an item cost £5.00 to make, she would add £5 + £5 + £2.50 = £12.50.
    I have but don't use this technique often cos I feel I'd be pricing myself out of the market - I live in the welsh valleys & there are not that many people who are willing to part with any amount - handcrafted or not...!! I'll give you my own example of that..... I have in the past made cross stitched Xmas cards - I charge £2.50 each for them... BUT ... to make? Well, as an estimate -
    there's the card & envelope out of a pack of 8 at £1.99, call it 25p. There's the Aida fabric cut off a sheet which cost £9.99 - say £1.00. Threads in several colours - £1.00.
    Supplies to mount the stitching onto the card - 75p.
    So far my total estimate comes to £3.00. Using the formular, that's £3.00 + £3.00 + £1.50 = £7.50 & doesn't take into account my stitching & mounting time (probably 2 hours plus)...... who's going to pay £7.50 for a Chrismas card?
    It's a pain but only a small minority appreciate handmade & are willing to pay the price.
    Jo at Crafty Gifts & Cards. xx

  7. Oh dear!

    I completely feel where you're coming from. On one hand, I think craft fairs in general are a part of the problem. Most of the people who go to look round them are just out for a Sunday afternoon jaunt with no intentions to spend any money. Then there are also the people who have stalls at craft fairs who completely UNDER charge for what they are selling, I've seen hand knitted kids cardigans priced around a fiver! These would take hours to make, obviously these sellers are just doing it as a hobby etc, but it doesn't help those like us who are trying to make a living.

    I think you've got it spot on in terms of your pricing. You simply HAVE to take every last penny and every single minute into consideration when setting a price.

    For the moment I'm stepping back from craft fairs as they've just left me so down hearted. Online selling seems to be my best bet. I would also like to look into selling via local gift shops etc, as then you're dealing with customers who've actually gone to a shop with a view to buying a gift/something special.

    At the end of the day, that particular customer just wasn't right for you. Nothing more to it. I'm sure there are plenty who are.

  8. I know exactly how you feel! I craft full time and I have three children who are 19 and at uni, 16 and about to begin A levels and the youngest has just turned 13 so I am lucky in that they can do things for themselves. In between crafting I have to clean the house, do washing and cook etc which is not easy when you are trying to make money to pay bills etc. I don't pay myself the minimum wage as others have commented as well because if I did I would never sell a thing and its hard enough to sell as it is. As a general rule of thumb I double what it cost to make and then there is postage which is always the exact cost of 1st class recorded. It is annoying now that it has gone up and something weighing 100g costs the same as 750g and it does put me off buying things when the postage is high and I feel ripped off when I pay over the odds on postage. That said, I do love what I do and am planning on doing another fair later in the year even though the last one almost put me off!

  9. Oh what an interesting post! I am a 'beginner' at sewing. It is a hobby for me at the moment so I have only made little things for myself or as gifts. I have to confess that I used to think some things at craft fayres were pricey but oh boy do I think differently now that i understand how much time and effort it takes to produce items! But how to get this across to people who do not sew or craft themselves is a difficult one. From the other comments it sounds like on-line selling is more successful? Mind you, then you have the postage cost challenge!! What about 'rent a shelf' where you rent some space at a local shop? Does this ever work well i wonder? You have such a wonderful talent and you deserve success so I hope you find a good way to sell your items successfully. Best wishes, Mandy :)

  10. Hi Emma, I have been reading your blog since just before you started your business and I enjoy reading and looking at your photos. I was interested when you said you were going to do a post about costing. I love to make things (similar to yours) and have done a couple of table sales, one was a Christmas Fair at a local pub and one was a church fete. I actually did quite well at both, well I was pleased that I sold lots of things. The cost of the table at each was very reasonable. I think you are always going to get people who are just out for the afternoon who don't really want to part with much money, who expect everything to cost under a fiver. They dont really appreciate the time and effort and love that has gone into each individually made item. I have tried to develop a thick skin and not be upset when they look aghast and walk away. Then the opposite happens and someone appears who enthuses over your stuff and buys several things and that really makes your day. I tend to price my things probably a bit on the low side because I would rather sell something at a small profit than bring it all home unsold, but still get that look that says "how much?" At the moment I work full time, have two grown up daughters still at home, all the usual household chores to do the same as everyone, so can't make things fast enough to do many fairs. The photos of your tables always look wonderful. Keep up the good work.

  11. I'd say your comments are well justified!!!...people can't expect to buy things you have lovingly crafted for next to nothing!!!!

    Your things are beautiful! :)


Your comments are always welcome and most appreciated x