Charging for Handmade Items

I’m writing this on the cusp of my own dilemmas on this very topic. I’ve been chatting lately with other friends who make and sell handmade things, about how we come to pick the price we are happy to make and sell for. You’d think it would be relatively straightforward, but I think for many creative people this is a real clincher – especially when you are not making and selling purely as a hobby, but the money you make actually helps to feed your family!

Last night I was sent a message on instagram asking for a custom order item I don’t make very often. I was caught between these two thoughts, one: feeling super excited that someone wanted to order something from me, so I had better not charge too much otherwise I might miss out on a sale, and two: gently reminding myself of the cost of materials, along with time to make the item. How would I decide what to quote? What if it was too much?

When I am pricing an item, there are a number of things to consider. While I know I’ll never get paid an award hourly rate, I do need to be paid enough for it to be worth my time and energy. As much as I absolutely love creating and making things, I don’t have the time or inclination to do it for free. If that were the case, I have plenty of children and family members I could make for to satisfy my urges. What I am paid needs to compensate for the time away from my family and the cost of the materials, in a way that I am comfortable with and don’t end up with a deficit.

I think sometimes the fear of missing a sale or the fear that our handmade items aren’t worth it, or won’t be valued, can easily fall into the trap of undercharging. The problem with this is it is rarely sustainable and sooner or later leads to burn out. I used to fall into this trap often by undercharging, finding myself up at all hours of the night, neglecting my other responsibilities stitching or crafting away at something begrudgingly. The joy was suddenly sapped out of what was usually an enjoyable process for me. There were even times when I ended up losing money in the beginning as much as I am embarrassed to admit it.

People who don’t know or care much about what it takes to make a handmade item, will never value the price of a handmade item. If they want something cheap and made in a hurry, they can go to any big chain store. In saying that, though, it often surprises me that people are willing to throw $40 at a stock standard, made overseas hat from a big name brand at a shopping centre, but will scoff at the idea of paying that for an individual, high quality, locally made hat. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Here are just a couple of links that can help you to  both understand the value of handmade items, along with some guides to charging for your handmade items.

:: The True Cost – a documentary about the exploitation of both people and the environment in the fashion industry. A must watch if you want to know where your clothes really come from, and what you are personally supporting with every dollar you spend.

:: Tips for pricing your handmade goods – an article by Ashely Martineau

:: A simple formula for pricing your work – by Danielle Maveal on the etsy website

There are so many other things you could research to find out more on this topic – the benefits of a local and capsule wardrobe, the benefits of wearing organic clothing, the benefits of supporting local businesses — all of these things will help you to either price your own items or understand why handmade and locally created items and crafts should be celebrated.

I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Helen Sammonds August 11, 2017

    Oh my goodness! I keep trying to reply to this but I keep deleting my text. I could talk forever on this issue and still not come to a conclusion!

    Pricing is a constant struggle for me, there are so many factors; how do I value my time, what is the value of time spent engaging with my children, should I charge minimal wage, but is it a job? I love it, I should pay them! But deadlines add pressure and children, chores, housekeeping, friends, husband are often neglected. I want to charge what it is ‘really’ worth, but I also really want it to sell! I don’t want to undersell but I don’t just want to sell to just rich people!

    I’ve come to a realisation that I have to sell to a price that I am happy with. I imagine handing over an item and I decide on how much money, in exchange, would make me happy (almost like its a swop!, I’ll swop you this alpaca blanket that I made for $xxx). It’s hardly methodical but trying to figure it out in a logistical manner just doesn’t work for me, the ‘cost’ of making an item can literally change by the minute.

    I also try not to burn myself out making things (stock for a market, for example) because then its not enjoyable and it’s disappointing if they don’t sell.

    I also think its ‘our’ duty as makers to try and educate people in the making process and the quality of our materials. There is a still a large ignorance as to the cost of ethically sourced, natural fibres and how products are made. Not only do ‘customers’ need to understand why handmade products cost ‘so much’, they also need to understand why their store-bought equivalents are so cheap!

    So yes, I think makers should charge what will make them happy, this way there is no resentment and no guilt.

    On a Totally different note, today I made the lemon bliss balls that you have linked to in previous posts. Absolutely divine!

    Helen x

    Reply
    • motherwho October 21, 2017

      I’m so sorry Helen, somehow I totally missed this comment! I can completely relate to these dilemmas, they are ongoing! I agree that one of the important things to do is to help educate people re ethical/handmade products, so people can make more informed choices. (Lemon bliss balls – so delicious!!! Glad you liked them) xx Lucy

      Reply

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