Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Treatise on Artisan Pricing for Your Handmade Work

lampwork glass beads fro Isinglass DesignThis is not to be a blog on how to price your work. If you're looking for that, check out Laura Bracken's jewelry and craft pricing calculator.

What I wanted to talk about here is a bit about the vagaries of pricing artisan handmade work. Yes, you need to take your supply cost and time into account. Also all the training you've done to get to where you are today. But there are other elements that can come into play. I think of it as the 'because I say so' factor. I have jokingly said this to customers from time to time (if I think
they will understand that it IS a joke), but there is a big element of truth involved in that statement. Only I understand exactly how a particular bead was made and what it took to do it. There are pieces I love because I am so happy with the success of the technique involved. But the customer has no clue about that. If you meet me in person at a market or show, I am likely to try and encapsulate the technique used that I am so delighted with. But as a customer, you'd probably have no clue what I was talking about. Most folks smile and nod~ their take away is probably something like 'well the artisan is pretty excited about that piece, so there must be something special about it.' ( I hope they're not thinking- 'well SHE'S certainly proud of herself!).
Colorful handmade wet felted bowls from Isinglass Design
Does size matter? Well, in perceived value, it probably does, but in reality, size is not the main determining factor in my own price structure. If you look at my etsy shop you will see that most pieces of the same type are pretty close to each other in price. Even though there are some pieces that I am really happy with and some that I feel are more average, I determine a basic price for the type of item and then stay within that range. The base price is pretty much a result of the time I normally spend making a piece of that type. Some pieces take a little less time, some considerably more, but time is not the only thing that makes a piece more or less valuable to me. And since I'm the one making the decisions around here, the prices I determine on are the ones I'll use. Why not charge more for the pieces I like better? Well, as my mom used to say 'it all comes out in the wash.' It is true that, just because I like something, that doesn't mean it will be a customer favorite. And just because I am not impressed with something else doesn't mean it is inferior. Again, perceived value comes into play. What the customer likes will seem more valuable to them than the pieces that didn't catch their eye, regardless of what I tell them. I would never say- 'oh I hate that piece, you should get this one instead, it's nicer!'- regardless of what I might be thinking!

Isinglass Design earrings on handmade glass headpins
Prices for each type of item will rise over the years as I feel that the pieces in general are nicer, larger or more complicated and therefore worth a bit more. One other thing that I am aware of is what I perceive as the value of the item. If I were out shopping, how much would I be willing to pay for something like I make? What would I think of as a reasonable price? I want my work to be affordable. Maybe something you wouldn't buy every day, but something you're not kicking yourself about buying later because of the price. In the spirit of keeping the joy of owning a wee bit of an artisan's work alive, I'd like customers to remain happy with their purchase on all levels. It is also a reason that I am not a 'hard seller'. If you like something, can afford it and want to take it home with you, then I am on board and happy to help you out! If you want to just stop and chat and look, that's good too. I have gotten so many ideas and suggestions from window shoppers and customers alike~ I consider getting out of my box a bonus to setting up for in person shows.

I am a 'bail as you go' bead seller. When I am at my table, I have a few pieces bailed and ready to roll and a lot that can be fixed up on demand. It is true that folks tend to buy the bailed pieces first (so I probably should have more of them ready to roll). I can sit at my table and do a few more throughout the day, which often brings folks by to see what I'm up to. I've also had folks who want to watch the bailing process- a mini class if you will. I'm just fine with giving out some pointers. If they're serious about it, they may learn a little something.

Here's a little pricing trick I use at my table when selling in person. I use signs that show a range of prices rather than pricing each item individually. After years of hearing folks say 'oh it figures I would choose the most expensive one' I have made my price signs so the highest possible price is a little more than the most expensive piece on the table. Silly? Yes, but I'm much happier not having to hear folks say that so often.