Why handmade is “so expensive”

“$70 for a t-shirt?!”

“I love your website, but everything on it is overpriced!”

“Your stuff is too expensive.”

“Are you rich or something?”

“I could make that for $5.”

“Sorry, but that’s a rip-off.”

“$80 for a hoodie? You’re not Gucci.”

I’ve heard it all. It’s not something I hear often, but any other seller will tell you- you remember every comment like this. They get under your skin. They fester. The next thing you know, you’re a walking rage zombie! At first it made me worry that my prices were too high. And even now that I have years of success under my belt and wonderful repeat customers that assure me my stuff is worth every penny, the rude comments still hurt my feelings sometimes.

This is my job. It may not be like your job. I don’t have a boss or regular hours, and I don’t have to drive to work or even get dressed for it (heh), but this is how I pay the bills.

I’m always tempted to asked these people, “How about I come down to where you work and tell your boss you’re overpaid?” Because that’s essentially what they’re saying to me. Why not be rude right back? But I’m too polite to do that (and afraid of karma).

Because I think a lot of these comments stem from a lack of awareness versus rudeness, I decided to write this article to shed some light on the work that all of us that run a handmade business are doing… including all the behind-the-scenes stuff you probably never even think about. (And that most of us don’t charge for.)

And sure, some people will still be rude doucheballoons. That’s life. Karma will be all over their asses.

But maybe I can just make a few people think, “Oh, I hadn’t realized how much work goes into that!”

[Note: If you are a handmade seller looking for guidelines on how to price your items, please don’t use this article as a model for your own pricing. THIS IS NOT A PRICING GUIDE. It’s not how I price my items, it’s merely a representation of the massive amount of time it takes to create and sell a handmade item. As you’ll see below, I am a hypocrite when it comes to underpricing. Please do as I say and not as I do. Read this guide for pricing instead, if that’s what you’re looking for.]


Step 1: The design phase

I sketch most of my ideas before I start cutting. Sometimes it’s completely spontaneous. I just start doodling and see where it takes me. Other times I have exactly what it will look like all planned out, and I want to get it down on paper so I don’t forget anything.

It’s usually just a quick scribble of pen or pencil on paper. Other times I take more time. I’ll add color with colored pencils or do the sketch 4 or 5 times before nailing down a particular design.

Since most of my sketches are quick, we’ll say the total time spent sketching one piece is 5 minutes.

As you can see, my sewing skills do not translate to pencil and paper skills.


Sketching: 5 minutes


Step 2: The drafting phase

I make a lot of one of a kind designs, which naturally requires some drafting. This can range from drafting an entirely new pattern to altering an existing pattern in my collection.
For most custom orders, I redraft my pattern to match the customer’s measurements, as most people don’t fit into “standard” sizing.

Random tip: I like using old Tyvek envelopes for patterns because it won’t rip!


This shirt is pretty simple, so it only took about 15 minutes

Read more…

Handmade Marketing on a Budget

Today’s Crafty Business Advice Question comes from Ti of NomBieCraftz.

What is the best way to advertise on a budget?

Social networking is one of the best ways to market your shop, period. And it’s free!

Can You Hear Me Now Necklace by TheSpangledMaker

Okay, so as the saying goes, “Time is money”. So it’s not free-free, but the time invested in getting new Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Tumblr follows is worth it because you’re building a long-term relationship with potential customers. Traditional advertising flashes on the screen for 30 seconds, and then it’s gone.  That’s why the big companies have to play the stupid things so often.

So how do you best use a social network to market your shop? Check out my 6 Secrets to Twitter Success for a Handmade Business here. The same basic principles apply to any social network.

It’s also important to continue to build your following. If you have 600 Twitter fans, every time you share a link to your item, you’re only reaching those same 600 people. It’s just a simple fact that the more people you reach, the more potential for sales you’ll have.

Another great way to advertise on a budget is by doing giveaways. Again, it’s kinda free. You don’t pay money (or at least you shouldn’t have to… any blog wanting you to PAY to do a giveaway is shady, if you ask me), but you are offering up a free product, which is costing you the materials and the time to make it.

Be selective when choosing a site to do a giveaway with. One of the things you’ll get used to is people demanding free stuff. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an AWESOME blog, PERFECT FOR YOUR ITEMS, and they’d just LOVE to giveaway one of your AMAZING items to their followers! It’ll be a BIG HIT! Or maybe they don’t have a blog but they’re doing a CHARITY AUCTION for KIDS WITH LEPROSY and isn’t this a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to get the word out about your AMAZING items and do something GREAT FOR KIDS all at the same time!

My personal rule is that unless I’ve heard of the site doing the giveaway or actually know the person, I don’t give freebies. There are too many people out there willing to take advantage. It might not even be intentional, but it’s still costing you something. Never forget that. A freebie isn’t free for you.

Rebel Yell ORIGINAL by NeverDieArt

Here’s a simple checklist you can use if you’re considering doing a giveaway with a blog/website you’re not familiar with:

  • Have they done giveaways in the past? What was the response like? I’d like to see that they’ve done lots of giveaways before mine. I’d also like to see a lot of response. If their last giveaway only go 10 entries, then it’s probably not worth it for you, because that generally means the site doesn’t get much traffic and/or the person running it isn’t promoting it. If you’re giving away freebies, then their side of the bargain is getting the word out!
  • How much response do non-giveaway posts/pages get? I like to see a regular stream of interaction on posts that aren’t giveaways. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but a few comments here and there show me that the site gets some amount of organic traffic. If they only really get comments on giveaways, then I wonder if their only source of traffic are the freebie/giveaway junkies that run around entering every giveaway on the net, never bothering to look at what they’re even trying to win. Part of the appeal of a giveaway is exposure to your key demographic and freebie junkies aren’t part of it.
  • Do they have a following on Twitter and/or Facebook? Again, this speaks to their commitment to promoting their site. I’d want to see a Facebook page or a Twitter account with significant followings (at least 1,000 on Facebook and at least 3,000 on Twitter)
  • Are they asking you to pay to do the giveaway or give them a freebie in addition to the giveaway prize? This is an automatic deal-killer for me.

People often get overwhelmed by the idea that they’ll never be done with marketing, but that’s the nature of running any business. We’re like sharks. We have to keep swimming, or we die. To make it easier, set small goals for yourself. If you make it a point to get 10 new Twitter followers a day, by the end of the year, you’ll have gained 3,650 followers! If you get 100 new Facebook likes on your fanpage per week, that’s 5200 new fans for your page in a year! That’s thousands more potential buyers for your shop. They won’t all buy, but again, that’s the nature of running any business.

Happy crafting!


Do you have a crafty business question or just general crafty question you’d like to ask?

  • Send your questions to what.the.craft[at]gmail.com with your question!
  • Include your shop/blog/website URL with your question, and I’ll include it in the post if I choose to answer your question in the blog!
  • (Unless you’d prefer to be anonymous. In that case, just tell me you’d prefer to not be credited!)


6 Secrets to Twitter Success for a Handmade Business

Lots of people know that social networking can be great marketing tools for your handmade business, but not as many people know how to use them effectively. Have no fear! These 6 trusty tips will have you tweeting in no time!

1. Don’t just tweet about sales and new listings, people learn to tune that stuff out. Tell people about yourself, your day, your thoughts. Try to make it interesting and specific. Just tweeting a random thought with no context is going to get ignored.

Bad: OMG, watch where you’re going, psycho.

Good: I wish grocery carts had car horns attached to them.

Apparently I’m not alone.

2. When you do tweet about sales and new listings, try to think of a way to make it stand out from all the other sales and ads people see on Twitter and everywhere else. You’re not a big corporation (and that’s a good thing), so don’t sound like one. People have learned to ignore blatant commercials. Give a personal touch to your sales tweets.

Bad: I just listed this new top for sale in my shop: [link]

Good: I love the color of this top: [link]

3. Don’t think about it too much, or you’ll get overwhelmed. It’s okay to sometimes be too lazy to come up with something clever and to just say, “Check out my website! [link]“.

4. Interact with your followers. You don’t have to become BFFs and remember their birthday and favorite color, but when someone compliments your items or your website, say thank you! I’ve found it works well to retweet their tweet with my Thank You attached.

5. Before you sign off for the night, tweet your website or your product so that for the next 8-12 hours, anyone that checks your twitter account will see a link to your creations instead of “Mmmm… spaghetti for dinner.

6. Try to tweet at least once a day. No one is interested in following a dead account.


How do you set yourself apart from the competition?

Today’s Crafty Business Advice Question comes from Krista of Kihten.

How do you anticipate what people want / will buy from the shop & how do you set yourself apart from other people who make essentially the same types of things that you do?

I tend to use my own taste to determine what I think people will want. I know if I stick to what I know and like, then at least I can be sure I’d buy it. Then again, sometimes I finish something and think, “Hmmm, I don’t know if I like this anymore,” and it’s gone 5 minutes after I list it. The bottom line is: be true to your own aesthetic.


Handstamped Dr. Seuss Bracelet by Serenitystorms

I think the same answer applies to setting yourself apart from “the competition.” Design with your aesthetic in mind, and you’ll stand out all on your own.

I actually choose not to look at other handmade designers as competition, though. I think it tends to breed an unfriendly environment. I pity those handmade sellers that choose to knock other designers, because they’re missing a great opportunity to make friends and network with like-minded business people.

I can’t tell you how many referrals I’ve gotten from fellow sellers that I’m friendly with. Some of them make very similar items to mine, but since they don’t take custom work and they know I do, they send customers looking for custom orders my way. If I made snarky remarks about how crappy so-and-so’s shop is or how my stuff is so much better than the other garbage t-shirt reconstructions on Etsy, I don’t think I’d be getting those referrals.

The other reason networking with “the competition” is important is that the true competition is mass production, and it’s a lot easier to convince the masses of all that handmade has to offer when you can point them in the direction of not only YOUR shop, but also those of all the talented people you know.

Happy crafting!



Do you have a crafty business question or just general crafty question you’d like to ask?

  • Send your questions to what.the.craft[at]gmail.com with your question!
  • Include your shop/blog/website URL with your question, and I’ll include it in the post if I choose to answer your question in the blog!
  • (Unless you’d prefer to be anonymous. In that case, just tell me you’d prefer to not be credited!)


Should I leave the tags in a reconstructed garment?

Today’s Crafty Business Advice Question comes from Joy.

I had a question about recon clothing.. I have been purchasing gently used thrift store clothing and or clearance items and refashioning them to sell..Do I cut  the tag out or leave it in?? For example, I have items from J Crew, Old Navy etc. I add things and cut some things out. Do I cut the tag out if I am cutting them up or refashioning them? Not sure what the laws are or etiquette.

I would cut the tags off. Once you recon an item, you’ve made your own unique piece, so the focus and credit should go to you. It’s not illegal either way, of course, so you could leave them if you wanted.

One thing you should be wary of is mentioning the brand names in your item title or description. Calling something a “reconstructed J Crew hoodie”, for example, could get your listing removed on a site like Etsy. While it’s perfectly legal for you to sell such an item, some companies are very protective of their trademarks, and they’ll have your item removed on the basis that you don’t have their permission to use the trademarked name “J Crew”.
Happy crafting!



Do you have a crafty business question or just general crafty question you’d like to ask?

  • Send your questions to what.the.craft[at]gmail.com with your question!
  • Include your shop/blog/website URL with your question, and I’ll include it in the post if I choose to answer your question in the blog!
  • (Unless you’d prefer to be anonymous. In that case, just tell me you’d prefer to not be credited!)