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.