The True Cost of Handmade

I have just picked up an article that was re-tweeted today on Twitter and felt that I wanted to comment on it.  It is a brilliant article from a company based in Melbourne, Australia, called Ink and Spindle and it is all about how to price the goods you handmake and sell.  This has always been a tricky one for me for several reasons, firstly I have no true idea of how much my goods are worth and secondly I worry (probably like a lot of crafters out there) about how much I think people will pay for my goods.

The first point is one of confidence in what you are making.  Now I know how long it takes me to make most of the things I sew and even if I have never made it before I can pretty much guestimate how much time it will take.  I never base the price on the first or even the second attempt because I know that the more I make the quicker I will become but you have to start somewhere.  My problems start when I think about whether my product is nice or not!  Now I know that this is purely subjective but it always bothers me that people will not like my items and therefore not buy them!

I should ignore this point because I am a competent seamstress, have been sewing for over 20 years and make my living (away from my crafting) sewing for a local soft furnisher here in North Norfolk, UK, making beautiful bespoke soft furnishings for a wide range of clients and I can only assume that I would not be doing this job if I couldn’t sew!  If a person doesn’t like my items it isn’t because they are poorly made, merely that they are not to the customer’s taste.  However I do believe that the second point (above) is more valid – how much will someone pay?

I am sure you have been there – off to a prestigious craft fair, all set up and waiting for the customers to begin coming in.  You just have time to pop around to see old friends and, let’s face it, check out what other people are doing.  That’s when you see another stand with similar products at HALF the price of yours!  Then you start to panic – should you reduce your prices in order to make some sales.

The answer to this USED to be yes – chances are I would re-look at my pricing and make alterations but for the last couple of years I have been really resolute and refused to change my price.  Call it being bloody-minded but my attitude is that if people don’t want it then they don’t want it at any price.

The article to which I refer earlier talks about a “formula” used to price up your goods which roughly is time + materials = cost price x 2 = wholesale price x 2 = retail price.  Now I am not sure that I stick to this rigidly but I do take account of the time and materials (whereas before I didn’t) and then I make sure I have covered my studio costs i.e. heat, light etc.  I would judge that my retail price is somewhere between the formula’s wholesale and retail price (if that makes sense) but I would love to know what fellow crafters think.

So to all of my crafty friends out there – or anyone else who would like to offer and opinion as a customer,   wholesaler or retailer, what do you do?  What would you pay?  What is the real value of handmade?  Read the article (link above) as it is very thought provoking and touches on imported items (and the amount the person who made it gets paid), ethical products and fair trade and feel free to comment if you wish, below.

I have illustrated this article though out with items from my Folksy shop (sorry about the shameless promotion) but feel free to pop over and take a look!

Take care,
Jane xx

2 thoughts on “The True Cost of Handmade

  1. You have put it really interestingly and is an age old concern for all us designer/makers (I like to think myself as that rather than a crafter!) I tend to work out my prices in pretty much the same way and then I work backwards and see if selling wholesale would make the time + materials = cost price x 2 worthwhile. If it doesn't I either scrap the item altogether or just offer it for retail. As for lowering prices to keep in line with other, ahem, less well-made pieces, that is such a no-no, and we definitely have to stick to our guns to give value to what we are making.

    Thanks for writing all this up…really useful resource


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