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

Step 3: The cutting phase

This is another step that varies from piece to piece. My fairytale coats take at least 2 hours to cut because there are so many pieces. A simple tube top might take me 20 minutes. A zip-up hoodie takes an hour or more.

Start snipping!

 

Again, this one is pretty simple, so it only took 30 minutes

 

Step 4: The sewing phase

The most time consuming of all the steps, but one that also varies depending on an item. The formal dresses on my site, like the Nightshade dress, can take more than a full day to assemble. Same with the coats. A tube top takes 30 minutes, but a hoodie takes 3 hours.

 

This one took about an hour and 15 minutes. 75 minutes


Step 5: The photo phase

I usually make a big batch of items and photograph them all at once to make it easier. Because photos are The Most Important part of selling an item online, I like to be thorough. I generally take a modeled photo, a photo on the dressform, and a detail shot of the item.

This is one of the few steps that pretty much takes the same time, no matter what. I spend about 20 minutes on hair and makeup. Photographing 15 clothing items takes about 3 hours. Dividing the whole 3 hours and 20 minutes by 15 gives us 13 minutes per item.

Photographing the item: 13 minutes

 

Step 6: The measuring, weighing, and inspection phase

Before I put the completed items on the garment racks to wait to be sold, I measure and weigh each piece. I also take this time to inspect each one for any detail I might have missed before: stray threads, a skipped stitch, etc. Then they get a good going over with the lint roller and are put away.

Measuring, weighing, double-checking: 5 minutes

 

Step 7: The photo editing phase

The most tedious phase of all. I have to pick through all the modeled shots I take and find the ones where I’m not making a stupid face, blinking, or blurry. I adjust the light and color balance, crop, resize, and I add my watermark.

Editing the photos for one piece takes 30 minutes.

 

Step 8: The listing phase

When I add an item to my website, I have to upload the photos, write the listing description, and decide on a price. If I also list the item in my Etsy shop, I can copy most of that information, but it still takes time. It probably takes about 10-15 minutes to complete the original listing and 5-10 more minutes each time I relist in one of my other venues. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say 15 minutes.

Listing an item: 15 minutes

 

Step 9: The marketing phase

Listing isn’t enough. The second most important component of selling an item online (photos being most important, as I mentioned before) is promotion. If you don’t get the word out, no one will know your stuff is there! For the time it takes me to promote one item on the various social networking sites, 20 minutes is a conservative estimate. (This doesn’t even take into account if I actually purchase advertising.)

Marketing an item: 20 minutes

 

Step 10: The shipping phase

Once an item sells, I have to get it packed up and ready to ship. I spend about 5 minutes tagging and folding and another 5 minutes packaging and labeling. Then I email a shipping notification to the customer.

Note: Most sellers actually drive your package all the way to the post office and stand in line. They’re not only spending time doing that, but they’re spending money on gas. I didn’t figure that into my calculations because I print my labels at home and have the post office pick my packages up, but for some sellers, this is a big Time Hog.

Packing and shipping: 10 minutes

 

Grand total
Sketching: 5 minutes
Drafting: 15 minutes
Cutting: 30 minutes
Sewing: 75 minutes
Photographing: 13 minutes
Measuring: 5 minutes
Photo-editing: 30 minutes
Listing: 15 minutes
Marketing: 20 minutes
Shipping: 10 minutes

 

218 minutes or 3 hours and 38 minutes.

I’m going to stop right here and point out again that this is. not. how. I. determine. my. pricing. I do not time each and every part of making an item. That would be tedious and also I would freak out even more than I normally do about there not being enough hours in the day.

However, to put the amount of time it takes to create one of my items in the context of price, let’s do the math.

I would say my “goal” wage right now is $20 an hour. I used to use $10 as my goal, and then I realized that I could go get quite a few entry level jobs at that rate, and I’m not doing an entry level job. I have 8 years of experience and skill. $20 is a much more appropriate wage for skilled labor.

(And for those that think $20 is a huge wage, a full time job at that wage is equivalent to a salary of a little over $40,000 a year before taxes. Middle class in the US by every standard. On top of that, there’s no sick pay, vacation time, retirement or health insurance. If you still think it’s too high, then I can only shrug and continue on.)

At $20 an hour, this top cost $73 to make. That’s only time/labor, of course. Materials for this top cost $18, bringing our total to $91.

Even with being overly anal about calculating labor and materials, we’re still not anywhere near the true cost, because of “overhead”.

You can make the case that taking photos, editing photos and listing the items all should count as overhead. But so should the TON of time I spend doing extraneous things not counted on this list. Responding to customer emails is a huge one. Every time someone asks a question about an item, it’s another 5 minutes, at least. For the average custom order, I spend at least an hour emailing back and forth with the customer, sketching, shopping for materials, etc. Probably more like two or three hours.

A lot of people also have to drive to the post office (gas money) and stand in line (more time) to ship. I ship from home, because I got REALLY sick of that game. But I still often drive to the post office to get my orders in the mail TODAY, if I missed my mail carrier already. I had to buy a postal scale, and I pay a subscription fee for my print-at-home service.

I offer free shipping from my website, so there’s another cost that comes right out of the price of the item.

I have to order fabric and supplies. I try to clean and oil my machines and vacuum my studio at least once a week. Not to mention the actual cost of sewing machines, computers, utility bills, Etsy and Paypal fees, rent and utilities.

In most standard pricing models, you double the “at-cost” price for wholesale to cover the overhead and then you double the wholesale price for retail! That would put me at over $350.

I would be surprised if there were many handmade sellers using that kind of pricing model, though more power to them if they’re able to.

Let’s say I added on $10 to account for overhead to make it $101. That’s still my wholesale price, which I would then double that for retail – $202.

Yowzers. Obviously, I don’t use this method to price my items. Did I already mention that before? Oh, twice? Okay then.

In reality, I charge about $90 for this top, which coincidentally is the “at cost” price using the above formula.

I don’t point that out for pity’s sake. The responsibility to price things to meet my own goals and needs is on me. Like many artists, I choose to price where I’m comfortable knowing it will sell.

(And now I’m busted. Those of you who know me will have no doubt heard me preaching about the evils of undercharging, yet here I am committing the cardinal sin myself. For shame!)

When you buy a top at Walmart, someone was paid a decent wage to design the top ONCE, and then a person halfway across the world was paid a few cents an hour to make 1000 of them. Total time and materials for a single top at Walmart is maybe $3. If they sell it for $15, they’re marking it up FIVE TIMES the cost.

My stuff isn’t marked up at all, and neither are most handmade artisan goods. Even so, our time is more expensive than a sweatshop worker. But when you buy handmade instead of buying from a corporate giant, you’re getting a lot of things from us that they can’t offer. Handmade means we care about quality and attention to detail. Sweatshop workers care about one thing: make it as fast as possible. Handmade means we care about customer service. All corporations care about is that green stuff in your wallet. Handmade means you’re helping the local economy. Corporations mean you’re helping some rich greedy jerk get even richer.

A few people have responded to this article that just because I WANT to get paid $X an hour doesn’t mean I SHOULD or WILL. And they are absolutely correct. But that’s not the point of the article.

Others have commented that my process is too slow. Time yourself the next time you make a project, start to finish. I can promise you I thought I was a lot faster before I wrote this article. If you can do what I do, and do it faster, kudos to you. But that’s still not the point.

The point is: Don’t be a jerk. I put a lot of time and effort into my pieces, which is what I’ve tried to illustrate here. If you don’t appreciate that, that’s okay.

All I ask is that the next time you’re going to open your yapper about the price of someone’s handmade goods, think before you speak. (And if you’re still tempted to be a jackass, then at least remember the Golden Rule and keep it to yourself.)

And lastly, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my kickass customers, who are NOT the people that make the comments at the beginning of this post. With their support and appreciation, I am able to do something I love.

For more on this topic, check out these great articles:

About

My name is Alexis. I have a craft addiction. This is my story. also check out: www.smarmyclothes.com (my clothes) www.whatthecraft.com (my tutorials)

Posted in Selling Handmade Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
381 comments on “Why handmade is “so expensive”
  1. People have no idea how much it takes to get a hand crafted item made and marketed. And we all have been insulted, way to many times… loved your article!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is amazing how we undercharge for our work because of people who don’t think it is worth it. I personally feel like a sweat shop most day but love what I do. Now to go re-figure my price points and say this is what I’m worth, well atleast closer to what I’m worth.

  3. Lauren says:

    Comments like those made me shut down my repurposing and just focus on jewelry. I used to get books that the local library was throwing out (most had missing pages or water damage and they always tore the covers off before tossing them) and use the pages to make wreaths, origami, ect.

    A wreath would take me maybe 7 hours to make – planning, cutting, glueing, painting, decorating, sealing – and at the time I knew nothing about pricing, so I put them up for $70.

    I must have gotten at least one e-mail a week saying “It’s nice, but how can you charge that much? It cost you nothing!” I got so frustrated the one day that I actually flat out asked someone what their hourly wage was, and if they could expect anyone to work for less than minimum wage. That person bought the wreath they’d been looking at – the only one I ever sold for $70. The rest have slowly been given away as gifts or sold for ridiculously low prices.

  4. Janette Cremeans says:

    I understand why you would want to make 90 dollars from your handmade shirt, which more technically is probably home made instead of handmade, but a lot of the stuff you added to your time is stuff you need to do to run your business, not to create the product. Also, I have a four year degree and four years experience as a teacher and make about 20 dollars an hour, not counting any of the work I do at home like grading, write tests and worksheets, planning, and answering emails from parents. I just think your justification is flawed.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Janette-

      The only suggestion I have for you is to shop at Walmart and do not consider lovely, quality crafted, hand made products.

    • Lex says:

      “A lot of the stuff you added to your time is stuff you need to do to run your business.”

      Everything I do is needed to run my business. If I did the design work but outsourced the sewing work, I would pay the seamstress. The same way that if I hired an assistant to handle my customer service, I would pay that person. If I hired a model and photographer, they would either be paid in cash or goods. Each part of my process is a job I would have to pay someone to do if I didn’t do it. I do it, so I pay myself.

      Your justification of not counting all of the work you do at home is what’s flawed. If those things are expected and required of you as part of your job, then your salary is intended to compensate you for it.

      That being said, my “hourly wage” in the article is kind of figurative. If I truly totaled up the hours I put in per year with my total yearly salary, my hourly wage wouldn’t be anywhere near $20 an hour.

    • Beth says:

      That is the problem with teacher salaries! I taught full-time before losing my job to budget cuts. I made 35,700/year (no raises). I live in VA so we are a right-to-work state without union representation so salary and benefits do not get improved. I taught electives so ALL my grading was in the form of rubrics which are way more time consuming than scantron tests or basic worksheets. One of the classes I taught was drama so I responsible for a performance each semester. I also taught art and co-coordinated 1-2 art shows each year. In addition to teaching responsibilities, there are also mandatory meetings, committees etc. not to mention chaperoning trips and/or dances. I got so sick of hearing, ‘but you have summers off’ or ‘that’s a decent salary for having summers off’. Is it?? When I finally broke my salary down to a ‘per hour’ rate I ended up making $5-$10/hour. Talk about a flawed system!

      Now I work whenever I can find something, and have recently opened an online shop to sell my handmade items (bags, quilts etc). Currently, I am undercutting myself horribly but plan to change that.

      I appreciate you comparing this career to teaching because it has given me an even greater incentive not to cheat myself. It is bad enough for the system to take advantage, but it’s even more disgraceful to do it to yourself.

      And for the record, many of the artisans I know have at least four year degrees; which unfortunately, have become useless in our current economic climate. Should I start factoring in the cost of my school loans while determining my per hour wage? Because as an English and fine arts major, I am constantly using my education as I create and build my handmade business.

      Lex, I follow you on Twitter but had no idea about this site – it’s excellent! Thank you for such a valuable resource!

    • Miriel says:

      I have a three year diploma in jewelry design and manufacture. And would like to go and do my fourth year to turn it into a degree. I’ve also got a few years experience following my studies designing and making jewellery.
      I have my workshop at home (I’m wondering if I’m now handmade or homemade simply because of the location on my workbench).

      Grading, writing tests and worksheets… isn’t that directly part of teaching? Like my design work is directly part of making jewellery? I agree with Lex that its part of your salary, just like my design work is part of mine.

      Do you get medical cover? Sick leave? Holidays? What about maternity leave?
      Do you decide the direction of the school? The syllabus? The time table? When the holidays are? What the school fees are? Do you decide how many cleaners should be hired? Which teachers should be fired? Do you track who is going to be leaving for retirement? Do you find the best source of stationary suppliers for your school? Do you plan what sports events the school should and shouldn’t take part in?

      I know its going off topic to the price of handmade goods, but at the end of the day working for yourself cuts out those benefits like leave and health insurance that a fair amount of job offers can supply. Working for yourself also adds a nice pile of risk in decision making that can make or break your business.

      As an employed person (when I was employed), all I had to do was pitch up and do the job assigned to me. The owners had to play the cards in the right places. Something goes wrong? Sucks to be them – it wasn’t my problem as long as my performance was fine.

      Now I’m working for myself, I have to make all those decisions that could potentially wreck me or lead me to…well, at least a comfortable life! If I make a decision to do everything myself, I will be sure to cover the costs somehow; because while I might be able to do my own bookkeeping and photography now, or enter my own Etsy entries or whatever there may come a possibility where I get too busy and have to hired people to do tasks. How the hell will I pay them if I don’t accommodate those costs?
      Bookkeeping and photographing my work etc is all part of the business. I *have* to keep them in mind otherwise my business will never grow. Another thing employed people may not have to think about. Business growth.

      By all means, be the best teacher you can be; and all the best with it. But I must be the best creative business I can be. I want my customers to feel like that not only bought a piece of art that they can enjoy, I want them to also feel that they invested in something that is going somewhere. That they supported something when it was starting out (when the hourly rate was too low!!!) and they watched it grow and turn into it’s own creative brand. Yes, that is a whole new ballgame. As an artistic jeweler, I gladly take on the challenge of my work becoming investment quality work, where my hallmark becomes valuable. (Cartier, here I come! Hahaha!)

  5. Maggie says:

    As someone who sews, who has made products to sell for profit, etc. You have to think of your audience and how much they can pay. That is number one. Most of the people in your audience cannot afford the prices you’re doling out. I doesn’t matter how many sales you have made–the fact is the audience: average fashionable women from 15-25 cannot afford this stuff, or they are paying for higher quality stuff.

    Number two: You are just serging at least on the outfit up there (I don’t know about other ones). Anyone can serge up an outfit and pow they’re done. This isn’t an insult but honestly I’m not paying 91 bucks for something I could do myself in 1 hour after cutting and measuring for probably $40 cheaper.

    Number three: I know how much time it takes to do marketing. It’s a load of work and only pays off about 1/3 of the time. BUT this is free time. Sorry, but you don’t get paid for this time. It’s basically shit work you gotta do while you’re climbing to the top.

    Number four: Again, no one, and I mean no one cares how much time you put into your work. No one is paying for time. They are paying for what it looks like. And while you are actually very innovative, although I might say you need to fine tune as constructive criticism, time is not something you will ever get paid for. Everyone gets paid by their work–when we get paid by the day, 8 hours, we’re actually getting paid to work for that amount of time, not to sit there for that amount of time. And if that quality of work during that amount of time blows, then we are fired. The employer does not care if you sit there all night and spend so much time doing this work.

    Number five: Shipping and handling is not added into a the item’s amount. It’s added into shipping and handling. And no designer worth their salt adds the time it takes them to write a name on the label into their cost. I mean really?

    Just remember:

    1. Time is free. No one will pay you for it.
    2. People will pay more only if your quality of product deserves it, not because you put more time into it (time is free).
    3. Always remember the most important people–your audience–and what they can afford. Don’t think of your dream audience, think of your real time audience.

    • Miranda says:

      Did you not read the article? Why is Armani so expensive? Why is something less expensive at Wal-mart? Because of quality, skill, and TIME that it takes to create something. The person in a factory sewing that one garment is getting paid to do just that – sew one thing, all day. Not create, draft, cut, piece, photograph, market, and ship. Just sew. One thing. All day. If you were to take all the time and effort put forth by EVERYONE that went into making the ONE garment and rolled into one lump price, I think it would probably be more than what she’s charging. And, obviously people are buying her stuff because she has her own site and she’s able to continue making it. So it sounds like her “dream audience” is her “real audience”.

      Also, not everyone can sew or serge. You’re also paying for the SKILL that goes into making a garment. If you can do that, great, go ahead and do it yourself. But for those who can’t or don’t want to, it’s satisfying to know that they can buy handmade and directly support a fellow person. The same person that, y’know, created, drafted, cut, pieced, sewed, photographed, marketed, and shipped that one piece.

      Stop whining about someone else’s success and go create your own.

    • Beth says:

      Time is not free. Lawyers get paid for their time. Graphic designers get paid for their time. Consultants get paid for their time… Obviously, quality work is expected, that’s why a person is hired. If she wasn’t working for said amount of time, then she wouldn’t have a product to sell. If the work wasn’t quality, then she wouldn’t have a business/repeat customers.

      Why is okay for ‘experts’ (for example) to be paid for the time it takes to give their opinions, but as soon artisans demand that same respect, their value is automatically questioned? And ‘that’s just the way it is’ doesn’t cut it. If you demand to be paid for your time, then people WILL pay you for your time.

      And I don’t understand why other creatives would put down anyone with that standard. I think it’s wrong and insulting to support any notion that we should disregard our time and effort when pricing our items.

      No one and I mean no one, works for free!

      • Matt says:

        I’m not necessarily in disagreement with the article – but just to play devil’s advocate for a moment:

        I spent 20 years getting good at guitar, 6 months writing a load of songs, another 6 months practicing them with my band, and on gig days, the whole evening is spent carting loads of equipment around on top of the performance itself.

        If I worked out how much I “should be paid” based on how much time has been put in not just by me but the rest of the band, we’d be seriously expensive – but no one would pay. I have NEVER been paid for one of these gigs – promoters just seem to think that your payment is “the pleasure to have played a gig” and yes, it is a pleasure but Christ…

        You have to remember that some things are just hobbies and you don’t get paid for them. Until you get to the level where the income comes from volume of sales you can’t realistically charge for your time. Bands may get paid shitloads for stadium gigs – but they’re playing to 70,000 people who paid £30 to be there so that’s a huge income – when you’re paying to 25 people who are there for £2 (which goes straight to the promoter I might add)
        – you can’t suddenly say “well this band got paid 5000 for their gig where 50000 people paid £20, so I’m going to charge these 25 people £200 pounds each to get my 5 grand!”

        You just have to accept that the reason they’re getting paid more is cos they’ve done all the slog of doing shit for free and got somewhere, and you’re just a few blokes playing in a pub. If you make it – you get compensated – until then you have to just do it for the love and admit to yourself that you still have to have a normal job too.

        • Matt says:

          Sorry that’s a bit ranty :/

        • Lex says:

          No disagreement from me, either.

          The point of the article isn’t to make the case that I SHOULD be paid a certain amount. I’m merely explaining the process for the people that think I spend $5 and 5 minutes on a piece and then arbitrarily determine a price. The same way you’ve explained that it took you a lot of time, skill, and effort to get good at guitar and writing songs.

          • Matt says:

            Aha! Sorry, I misunderstood the conceit of your article. That’s fair enough. Good luck with your continued work!

    • Lex says:

      “You have to think of your audience and how much they can pay. That is number one. Most of the people in your audience cannot afford the prices you’re doling out. It doesn’t matter how many sales you have made–the fact is the audience: average fashionable women from 15-25 cannot afford this stuff, or they are paying for higher quality stuff.”

      How many sales I’ve made is exactly what matters. In fact, it is the ONLY thing that matters. If you have a high enough volume of sales to maintain your business, that says all it needs to about your audience.

  6. Sara O. says:

    You’ve said everything I wish I’d had the foresight to say when questioned about my knitting prices in the past. Thank you. 🙂

  7. Sara says:

    Wonderful article! Thank you 🙂

  8. EBlalock says:

    I’d like your permission to add a link from my blog to this page on yours. last Wednesday I just wrote a piece on how women who HAD to do their own sewing, and knitting, and cooking, and child care before the industrial age were phenomenal. I included a comment about hand-knit scarves that I make, and that there’s no way I could charge enough to make money. Please feel free to email me at epenniman99@gmail.com if you would not mind. Thank you. Please also take a look at my site if you’d like to familiarize yourself with the content before giving me permission. Thank you.

  9. Most of the hand-made stuffs are getting expensive not just because of the “hand-made” or the materials itself, but also for the idea, design concept, etc….

  10. FEDRA says:

    Great article!I absolutely agree with you, and I am entitled to say that after 25 years of handmade work!All the best!

  11. Kimberly says:

    I design/sell Elizabethan embroidery and I wish more people understood how much goes into it. Hand embroidery takes even more time.

    Thank you so much for saying this on behalf of all textile artists!

  12. Jan Sutter says:

    I know exactly what you mean!! I use to have a cake business and everyone wanted a homemade cake for Walmart prices…really?!!!?? People have no clue how much time it takes to make something from scratch or the work or the creativity to produce a homemade item, not matter what it is.
    They are so use to walking into a store and buying it off the shelf, they just are clueless. Hang in there – you cloths are adorable!!

  13. Sandra says:

    Well said! Needed to read this today!

  14. O. Torres says:

    Bravo! Well said, So glad that a fellow crafter introduce me to this article. People just dont understand that you cannot compare what you buy in the store at retail, to what you may buy from an artisan. We do our best to buy things in bulk. However we do not have the buying power of the large manufacturers. Nor do we work with sweat shops in other countries where the employees are paid pennies on the dollar to help keep cost down. We meticulously work on each item, making sure it is as humanly perfect as possible. They do not do that in sweat shops. How many times have you take something home, to find a hole in the garment or some sort of flaw? If we price our goods to inexpensive than people look at it like wow whats wrong with it? Then of course if we price to high then its, Shes not Gucci! So we do our best to find a middle ground. And If its still to high for you, well move along go buy at Walmart and have something just like everyone else, Because the next person or the next is going to love it and appreciate it.
    Thanks for letting me vent too!

  15. michaela says:

    hi my name is michaela i think this was VERY usefull i am only 10 years old but im VERY crafty and wanting to start a new item everyone will love and i just love your creativity! thankyou for wrighting this for everyone to see!!

  16. Paea Wilkinson says:

    O.M.G thankyou, I am a cake decorater and people freak at the price of a cake. They will gladly pay less for less quality. Today I realised from reading your article that Yes my work is definitely worth what I’m charging if not more. From now on I will no longer drop my price or my skill to satisfy someone else. I have you to thank for that!!!! BTW your clothes are amazing!!!!!!! Worth every penny 🙂

  17. Good on ya… stick it to them… I make things that take even longer [crochet] & I know what I charge makes some people baulk but Hey its my artist work… We never make a proper wage that is for sure but like you say we are making/doing what we love… <3

  18. Charo says:

    Your works are fantastic! I love them!
    What you say is so true. I have an internal fight everytime I have to decide what price to sell my things. I have people around me telling me your things are fantastic, so well made, so beautiful, and on and on… BUT that’s too expensive you know, people can’t spend money nowdays. In the end, I’ve decided that if I want to make a living from this someday I have to take myself seriously and quote decent, appropriate prices.
    Thanks for this post which has explained so well what’s involved on developping things from zero. Good job!
    Charo

  19. Rachel says:

    Oh my goodness!!!
    Thank you so much for the much needed explanation!!
    Im always so afraid to price things
    So i usually undercut it..like…free labor pretty much!!!

    I love this!!

  20. Giovanna says:

    Great article! I’m sharing it with my readers as well so they know what it takes to make a unique handmade piece. Love it.
    xx
    Giovanna

  21. Emilie M says:

    Very awesome article. I love to buy handmade items, but cannot always afford it. I stress though to people that while certain things are not in my budget right now, that doesn’t make the crafter’s items overpriced. The time and effort and cost of supplies all goes into this, and not by someone who can push a button and walk away so each item is WORTH IT. Your work is phenomenal, if I find myself in a position to splurge I know where to look.

  22. Raye says:

    Thank you very much for this article, it’s something I would LOVE to blow up and hang beside my table at craft fairs!! 🙂

  23. I also figured out long ago that the people who say it is “too expensive” etc. most likely wouldn’t buy what I sell at $5.00 or even $2.00 cause it would still be “too expensive.” I know because when I first started out I had no idea how to price things and I was selling things at $2.00. I had customers. OK i’ll be honest I had 3 customers. But I still have those customers even though my prices are much higher and in fact they are the ones to tell me I was selling way too cheaply. would also be cutting my own throat at that point too. I have found my sales have actually gone up when I priced my stuff higher. If we don’t value our stuff who else will? I am still not making a living wage every year I am doing better.

  24. nancy says:

    exactly why I would not go into the cake business. My mother in law tells me all the time I should do something with the cakes I bake. I do special cakes all the time for family and friends. The few that I’ve charged for, while I’ve not heard the comments, you can see the look in the persons eyes “she wants what”. And as you pointed out people don’t think about the time you’ve put in coming up with a design and actually reaching the end product. They just see shirt, or a vase or a cake and that’s it. Good post.

  25. Amen sister. I love sewing. I don’t love when people don’t want to pay me $15.00 to hem a pair of pants but they will take them to a tailor and pay him that because he has a shop (I work out of my home). I made a few small clutch purses to see on etsy. Started them at $15.00 but then dropped them to $7.00. Each took me about 3 hours to make (cutting, pressing on stabilizer, sewing). I’m repricing them back up to $15.00. If they don’t sell I’d rather give them to friends than to take less. Let’s all stay strong together and maybe some people will start to “get it”!

  26. Lia says:

    Great post. May I translate it into Italian and publish it and its pictures on my website http://www.cosedilia.com? Of course I’d give you full credit and add a link to the original post.

  27. Aline says:

    Great stuff! Several years ago I had NY&CO. Half way in my pocket, I had designed a top, one of kind n
    o two alike. I couldn’t produce the quanity they asked for by myself. I under estimated my design and hence was not prepared. I’m picking up where I left off. Next week I’m doing my first craft show ever. Keyword MARKETING!. I won’t make that mistake twice. One line will be for craft shows, and in the meantime I’m working on the golden ticket. P.S. If you ever run into that woman again, tell her the top would have been $300 at Gucci’s! She obviously doesn’t know her Sh…t:). Good Luck.

  28. Psyko Ted says:

    So your prices are standard to me, consider what I see come through at the alteration shop. People spend 100 to 200 bucks on a pair of jeans that are not even all the different from walmart brand (whats the difference?) Bling and thick thread on the expensive pair. to me all store bought clothes are all made the same, and they all fall apart the same. Unless your actually getting High qualitly clothes.
    Hand made clothes are a hundred times better. (by someone who can actually do this professionly) the clothes will last longer.
    I can litteraly pull a pair of pants or a shirt a part by a single thread. you can’t do that with a regular sewing machine.

    So in my opinion 20 bucks an hour is soo cheap. 71$ for a shirt is found in the mall in stores that think they sell high end clothes.

    If your going to spend your good money on something, spend it on something thats worth it.

    p.s as a warning some people who sell on online can’t sew. its sad when i see people come in my alterations shop with something they got on etsy and is looking to fix it. So be careful what you buy online as well.

    Great article i am deffinetly refering to it for sure!!
    sorry about bad grammar and spelling 😛

    • Lex says:

      It’s true. $20/hr sounds like a high wage to most, but it’s below the national median income, assuming you earn the equivalent to 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. And as I pointed out, that’s before taxes, no employee health ins. or other benefits like sick pay or vacation time.

  29. Amber says:

    AMEN sister!!!! I want to high five you!!!

    I was once told that my stuff seems expensive for something that is going to end up in the garbabge at the end of the night. That hurt my feelings. I feel like every custom thing I create for someone has thought and care put into it. Yes it is going to go in the garbage but that doesn’t mean it didn’t take me time to make it…..just for you!!!

    Thanks for letting me know I am not alone and blogging about this. I have FANTASTIC customers and every thank you and OMG I LOVE IT makes it all worth while:)

  30. Ti says:

    Brava on a well-written article! You’ve got a good summation on pricing. It’s also a great demonstration of capitalism and the free market in action, which I have been thinking hard about lately.

    The price of anything is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. Let’s look at your $91 top. That’s what you need to charge to have a profitable business. Now you look at the market and ask yourself, can I convince enough people to pay $91 for my top for me to have a successul business? If the answer is no, then there is no market for your product. If the answer is yes, then you have a potentially profitable business. Getting the answer is the tricky part. Consumers buy things based upon emotions and perception of value which are influenced in many ways and not always based upon facts. Predicting how consumers are going to perceive the value of your goods is like trying to read a crystal ball.

    Your article does a great job of educating, which is a great way to show the value of your product. It also demonstrates how difficult it can be to increase perceived value, which is every seller’s holy grail. Billions are spent on advertising and consumer research to influence consumer spending. And here we are, lone artisans, trying to compete with giant, deep-pocketed coporations with only our wits and creativity as our resources.

    Does anyone know if there are any good free or reasonably-priced data sources or other resources on the artisanal market? It can be difficult to find pricing on what things are actually selling for in any volume. I would love to hear from serious artisans who have made a real, profitable business and find out how they have put their pricing together and how they have operated from a business standpoint. It would be great if we can support and help each other out.

    • Lex says:

      “Now you look at the market and ask yourself, can I convince enough people to pay $91 for my top for me to have a successul business? If the answer is no, then there is no market for your product. If the answer is yes, then you have a potentially profitable business. Getting the answer is the tricky part.”

      So so true!

      I don’t know of any data sources like that. I’d imagine even if there was, it could be difficult to draw too many conclusions from it.

      The closest thing I can think of are the lists out there of the “top etsy sellers”. You’d have to look at their shops and do a lot of the homework on your own, but it’s at least a starting point.

  31. Ladi Adra says:

    Lex, it looks like I’m going to HAVE TO dub you “The Blue Ribbon Queen.” You are so on point in this posting. In the words of my late dad, “I love it. . . I love it. . . I love it!!!!!!”

  32. Ladi Adra says:

    . . . I just had a horrible flash back of an incident with some sweatshirts that I designed for christmas some years back, I wore the one I had designed for myself to an outing at a womans home. She was in awe of the work, and praised me for a job well done whenever she asked where I got the shirt, and I gave her a business card. She began a more thourough examination of the design only to discover it was SIGNED. A few days later I was at her home again, and she made this statement to me. “I want you to make a shirt for me, and one for my daughter but I don’t want you to put your name on mine.” I had a few questions for her at that point. I asked her if she were in the market to purchase a Van Gooh, a Picasso, or a Renoir would she ask that their names not be added to the paintings. She said “well, of course not.” Needless to say that shirt was never made. She did purchase the one for her daughter though.Go figure!!!!!!!! LOL.

  33. Silvia says:

    I am afraid that some People will never understand!!!! And being able to pop into shops and picking similar Items up for and ‘apple and an eye’ doesn’t help either:(

  34. Crystal says:

    “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.” <= THIS. Thank you for this post Lex. I am a new reader. My husband stumbled across this post when he was trying to convince me that I am seriously underpaying myself. It was disheartening to break down the numbers today and realize that at this point I am literally not turning any profit. I am essentially a hobbyist on Etsy and telling people that my time and expertise isn't worth anything. I am in the process of raising my prices to a more realistic level. It's just tough because as it stands I am already one of the higher priced shops on Etsy for what I make and sell (mostly sewn tutus) and I constantly question if people will still buy my stuff if I raise my prices even higher. I guess there's only one way to find out. Sorry for the rambling post. This post really did put things into perspective for me and does raise my confidence a bit more, so thank you. 🙂

  35. Crystal says:

    Hi, it’s me again. I’ve linked back to your blog entry from my blog (hope you don’t mind) and I have pinned this because it is so worth the read. In a perfect world all Etsians would price honestly and realistically but until then it’s good to know that there are people out there who will pay the “premiums” for quality, handmade goods.

  36. Scott says:

    Awesome article! My wife makes custom items and sells on Etsy and Artfire. I keep telling her she is underpricing. She makes sales but she isn’t making any money… What good is it to spend 3-4 hours making something, spending untold hours hunting down materials to make them, spend entire days working on listings and advertising/blogging etc… only to spend more making the stuff and listing it than you recover through sales. The idea of people buying Gucci or other designer items made by someone in a sweat shop… not being paid pennies per item, but pennies per day. That $3000 t-shirt advertised in Elle Magazine probably had a total production cost from sweat shop to market of under $5. The rest goes to marketing and the people in the fancy building pushing the stuff. The actual designer that came up with that $3000 plain white (but it’s Egyptian Cotton!) t-shirt probably makes $60-100K a year. The decision is if you are going to market to the people that are deciding between your item and a plastic bag with 5 white t-shirts for $5, or between your item and that sweatshop produced $3000 item that has a specific name on the label that they have been told will make their life better. The crafts people that are trying to do this to make a living where they can actually afford health care, afford to take a vacation, afford to retire need to target the audience that can afford to pay them what they need. My sister used to sell Breitling Watches in a store in NYC… a store that used to be a staircase. When you can market $5K-$100K watches, you can make a pretty darn nice living. Did they keep time better than a Timex? Probably not (although they are really really nice watches), but it is a company that markets to customers that can afford to pay for serious quality which allows them to treat their employees very well. Sitting in the JC Penny watch department isn’t going to pay as well, and I doubt many find it fulfilling. It is all about perception, and you along with the rest of the hand crafted creators need to step up to creating a “Why this is worth 10x what I’m charging!” story for each piece, because percieved value is everything. The poster saying time if free is absolutely WRONG. Time is the item you can NEVER get back.

  37. kylie says:

    I have just been gien a link to this article and it is an amazing illustration of the breakdown of pricing an item. Lex, I agree with you and I think the people, particularly at the beginning of the comments, that disagree must not work for themselves. Well done! You are really supporting the handmade/handcrafted network and I’m sorry that people are so rude, I think your clothes are amazing and original and your pricing breakdown shows complete integrity.I have a shop on Etsy, and sometimes I despair at the low prices of handmade items there. I try to charge a fair price for my time.I try to be fair to my customers but also to myself. It is not always easy, especially to price your time for something you enjoy, how crazy are we, I’m sure the people at Gucci love what they do too!

  38. Darlene says:

    I sew a little myself and it is a lot of work. But, the quality of home sown is far better than store bought, so there is really no comparison. Besides you are getting something made with love instead of just a job, that makes a huge difference to me. I know that my sister would buy my niece and nephew blankets and pillows and they thought nothing of them, but the ones I made then, although not even close to perfect, they still treasure ten years later. To me, that says it all……………….

  39. Delia Stone says:

    You forgot to mention research and purchasing! You have to hunt down the material, the right patterns and find the best deals for quality materials too. Oh, and did you mention accounting for your business? Overhead for lights, power, etc. in your studio?
    Underpaid, that’s what you are!

  40. marjean says:

    Your pricing guidelines are exactly on target. If your current customers aren’t happy with the prices, it just means you need to put more time and money into marketing to find your dream customers. The ones that you want for a business like yours are the ones that are willing to pay for the unique and special pleasure of owning what you create.
    The only other guideline I have to add to your list, is that when you really can’t decide on a price, think about how you would feel if someone ordered 10 of them or 100 at that price. If that doesn’t feel like a good price, all of a sudden, its time to raise it properly. Looking at it that way always makes it much clearer in my mind. Hope it helps.
    Thank you for writing such a lovely article

  41. Kirstin says:

    Great article! I definitely needed to read your article at this moment – I was having serious doubts about my pricing – was it to high, too low? But I believe the reasoning behind my pricing is solid, I just needed to have a reminder that I am providing a unique product, not a bulk produced art print in the department stores.. But I am guilty of not including the extras – editing, photographing, standing in the postal queue (hours and hours gone forever there). So thank you for reminding me of these little ‘extras’ that are often overlooked. One day I will be brave enough to add these to my prices.

  42. Marsha says:

    I am a beader and talk about labor intensive! Plus, I design all my own work and do one-of-a-kind pieces. I just sold a $495 necklace on Etsy and a $1500 hat through a gallery. It is possible to get that $20 an hour. But you really have to stick to your guns. Sadly I don’t make those big sales every day. But when I have invested 65 hours in a project, I really don’t want to give it away. Great post girl!

  43. Sherylee Harper says:

    uh? WOW! I knit, crochet and sew, I generally give my stuff to friends. And I do appreciate what it takes when I go to a craft show or fair or the farmers markets where much of handmade is sold here. Thank you, this is a really good article.

  44. Teresa says:

    I am not 100% comfortable with terminology for we handmade/crafted
    ‘artists.’
    Having said that, I was greatly impressed with your confident business approach to pricing.
    You are so right in your approach.
    Far too long ‘crafters’ have undervalued their creations AND their time. Typically women undervalue their own talents/time.
    Congratulations on the wonderful use of your talents! Your artistry is exciting and fun.
    Tip of the hat to you for your wise use of business methods.
    I am wiser, thank you.

  45. Lille says:

    Loved the article, I am having trouble pricing my handmade items too. Its pretty funny how people are saying your charging too much for your target audience etc etc.. when YOU are the person charging these prices and people are paying them! You are earning a living charging those prices .. so you must be doing something right regardless if people dont agree. I suppose in life you can never really please everyone.

    Keep up the good work!
    Lille

  46. Manjit says:

    Well said. Great article.

  47. Hi Lex. My name is Victoria and I’m 13 years old. I designed clothes for my aunties fashion show and I have no idea how to price them. So I need help and fast because the fashion show is only a few weeks away.

  48. Tee Gee says:

    To those who say that you don’t get paid for things like cleaning up etc, they obviously know nothing substantial about business. ALL over head funnels into the prices of goods. It’s just that in a bigger business the janitor is paid out of a different Gl than the seamstress lol.
    Also – when buying handmade the customer gets the LUXURY of not having 1000’s of copies of the garment on every second gal walking down the street. It’s the tradeoff of having a ‘pennies-per-piece’ worker in a 3rd world country.

    Lastly, anyone who says “I can make that for XXX” is not a customer but rather a competitor who hasn’t gotten off their duff and actually MADE anything. Lots of people pay premium prices for their garments. Just because she and her Walmart circle of family/friends don’t, doesn’t mean that your market goes “Poof!” – it just means that those who have more flap to their lips than their purses should be summarily dismissed as wannabees.

  49. Lily says:

    If the shirt you used in this example really took you 168 minutes to conceptualize, sew, and photograph you are absolutely doing something wrong. I run a successful handmade clothing company and have done so for almost 9 years, starting on eBay before etsy even existed. There were a handful of us back in the eBay days and now there are thousands. Competition is huge and it is vital that you produce the highest quality garments at a reasonable price. “reasonable price” is open to interpretation and based upon your targeted demographic. Your designs are most appealling to a demographic of people who generally do not think it is reasonable to spend $100 on a shirt. In addition, you are not taking it upon yourself to do simple things that could save your customer money. It is absolutely wrong to gouge your customer because you refuse to streamline your process. Some of the processes you describe aren’t necessarily things that can be streamlined, but take you an absurd amount of time. An 8 pattern piece knit garment does not take 75 minutes to assemble, not even for an amateur! Handmade is valued, it is appreciated, it is desired. Many people charge to little for their artisan wares, some too much. But to expect your customer to pay more because you are slow makes no sense. Work hard to achieve the hourly wage you want, but the answer is not in raising your prices.. It is in working smarter and developing stronger sewing skills.

    • Lex says:

      The “right answer” in terms of pricing is in whatever the market will bear. I’m making a living, so I think that speaks for itself.

      • lily says:

        You do not make the living that you want to make, nor are you willing to make changes to your process to facilitate competitive pricing. This article is trying to be a justification for your price but I (and others) do not see justifications.. i see excuses and an inability to work smart and effective time management. If you were happy with the living that you make and the reaction to your pricing was positive this article would never have been written. You have been told enough times that your prices are bad that it has hurt your feelings and compelled you to defend them. That speaks for itself.

        • Lex says:

          You’re jumping to conclusions to assume that I won’t or haven’t made changes to my process. This article was written over a year ago, and plenty has changed since then. I’m always looking to improve my process.
          The article is meant as less of a justification of the price and more as an explanation of the immense amount of behind-the-scenes work that takes place, as it’s my opinion that a lot of pricing comments come from ignorance.
          Reaction to pricing is rarely positive- studies have shown that people literally have a “pain” response when they have to spend money. But that’s neither here nor there. If you don’t like my prices (or anyone else’s for that matter), it’s a simple courtesy to keep it to yourself. I would never look at someone’s paycheck and say, “Wow, you’re overpaid!” and I would appreciate the same.

    • Manda says:

      Hahaha, I was doing handmade before handmade was popular.
      #HandmadeHipster

  50. JANET says:

    Wonderful explanation for those who don’t understand, but unfortunately those who don’t understand handmade, probably never will.

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Howdy, I'm Lex! I'm a craft addict & fashion designer.
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