I wanted to blog today about the price of buying handmade. It’s an issue that comes up a lot in our community, and there are a lot of articles about it already online, but I read a Twitter comment about my pricing today, so I felt prompted to talk about that a little on my blog, not really in a defensive way, but more an informative way. As shoppers, we can make votes with our money. Nobody is forcing us to buy anything (as far as shopping for clothing goes).
I recently read this article whose point I think was to explain handmade/indie pricing and why we should buy indie. But what was more interesting to me than the article was the RESPONSE. You may not want to spend the time reading the comments, but I did. The article (I think to be funny?) mentioned that handmade designers need to pay their rent just like you do and need to buy their food just like you do, except, she used expensive cities like LA and NYC as examples and said that we needed to buy our Trader Joe’s yogurt and $9 dollar wine. To this, people would respond, “They should move to a cheaper city to live in, and I don’t want to pay for their Trader Joe’s yogurt and $9 wine.” I get it, but it’s like, we do need to eat, and we do need to live. The article made me think about whether my handmade was even a worthy cause to give money to. Are we all just dreamers, expecting people to pay us to dream? (On a side note, I have often wondered whether living in LA or NYC would be beneficial to me, simply because there may be more opportunities there as far as sourcing materials & labor, marketing & PR events, etc. I mean, there’s the internet and everything, but BEING there is much different! Anyway, I digress…)
I just googled this article today, about how indie designers might price their wares. In her example, the person paid themselves $18/hr. If I paid myself $18/hr, my shop prices would be EXORBITANT, like even MORE exorbitant than they may seem now. Sometimes I end up paying myself more like $5/hr. Sometimes, on a brooch, my profit might be like 50 cents. Lexi also wrote a great article about it, where you can see that more than just making an item goes into the pricing. There’s also time for photographs, editing photographs, shipping, etc. And in her example, she is not even accounting for the fact that her final price is actually really a wholesale price, and retail is usually DOUBLE the wholesale. This keeps a lot of us indie handmade business out of other boutiques and shops. We simply couldn’t make any money at all.
Pricing is really difficult. Like, anxiety-ridden. It’s NOT SANE to price your items too high or else nobody will buy them, but you want to be paid for the 10+ hrs you invested in creating something awesome and unique for somebody. Personally, I can’t use the normal models for pricing because it would make my items way too expensive. So, I do admit: I kind of have to make it up, to keep prices LOWER, not inflate them.
I used to sell exclusively on eBay. I’d start the prices at 99 cents and just let the market decide the pricing. Scarves usually always sold over for $100, often over $200, and sometimes over $300. But I realized that it was the same few people winning the auctions. While money is nice (YES IT IS), I didn’t know that this model was working for me, because I wanted more people to be able to have my goodies, not just the highest bidder.
I thought about it for a long time, and finally tried Etsy, where I had to set my pricing, and I did so based on what I’d get on eBay, but a lot lower. So I knew, it was possible that I’d make less money, but hopefully, more of my product would be sprinkled all over the world.
I *am* a real person, just like everyone else. I know that spending $100 on something, ANYTHING, is a lot, which is why I also tried to expand into writing a pattern book, and also launching Yummy You! by Twinkie Chan, which has been this crazy rollercoaster, all with the intention of making my designs more affordable for more people. Yes, Yummy You has taken a while. It’s harder than you think to source affordable, handmade, crochet labor, especially because my designs are pretty out-there and not just a beanie or a rectangular scarf that a factory might be used to churning out.
All this is to say: I’m trying. I’m not sitting up here on my velvet throne, in my silken pajamas and golden tiara, laughing at all of you for buying a scarf made by me. I’m trying to get you guys some fun goodies that you can afford. That in itself has been a labor of love, with tons of work on spec and like two years of hard work for no profit. I am really hoping I can make more announcements about Yummy You soon!
I’m sorry if this has come off preachy (or boring…no pictures!), but it is an issue that a lot of handmade designers deal with on a daily business. We deal with un-informed, rude people complaining about our prices at craft shows right in front of our faces, and we deal with all those pesky bills at the end of the month. We deal with whether our work deserves to exist or not, whether our ideas and craft have worth, and what that worth is.
At the end of the day, my work stems from something my mom and Auntie Nita always told us when we were shopping: GO HOME AND MAKE IT. Shopping too expensive? Make it yourself. Stuff in the mall too boring? Make an awesome one yourself. Don’t know how to crochet/knit/sew/bead/etc? Hop on YouTube and find a tutorial.
Thanks again for supporting me. Even if you’ve never bought a single thing from my shop, but you still read along with me here or may have said hi to me in the Trader Joe’s parking lot (it did happen and I did not buy yogurt or wine…haha!), I appreciate you!