Monday, 1 March 2010

To clarify my words

I just wanted to clarify a few things about my last post, as I feel that I didn't express myself well enough. (Sometimes the words just flow out in a certain way, and that's the way they stay and I don't  get to highly edit my posts. I guess I don't always remember that people are out there reading; so I'm just having a little babble to myself, and I sort of know what I'm talking about!!).

Anyway, I want to say that I'm really really really and truely sorry if I have offended any hobbyist crafter with my comments, about not wanting to be beside them at a market stall or on Etsy. This is wrong - What I should have said was :: It's so amazing that there are so many different sorts of crafters / designers / artists out there. And the reason that craft markets and Etsy work so well is that everyone out there isn't a full-time crafting business. {In fact, when you look around most of us aren't full time anyway - we have full children as well as sometimes part time jobs and other commitments.}

What I meant was that being a hobbyist crafter, as opposed to a full-time business crafter, doesn't mean that you shouldn't or don't have to cost out your products properly. When I see listings on Etsy or Made It and something is under-priced at only $5 or $10, I feel sad and upset and, yes, I'm going to say angered for a few reasons. The main reason is that I see that the hobby crafter isn't valuing their time or design skills. Even if you have made something that you perceive as simple and that everyone else out there is making, you have to remember that you have put your own voice into the picture. And that voice is worth something. And even if you used fabric from your stash, how did you buy that fabric in the first place - perhaps you did buy it 10 years ago and have no idea how much you paid for it; but once you use it you're going to have to buy some more aren't you. And fabric seems to increase in cost every year (in Australia anyway), and second hand shops are trendy now-days, so you may not be able to replace that piece of fabric as cheaply or easily. So while it only cost you $2 for that piece of fabric, it's actually going to cost you $10, or $5 or $15 for another piece.
And then you have to think about the time it took you to make your item. Yes - a lot of you may sit with your children, or while having cups of tea with your friends, or do snippets here and there so you couldn't possibly work out the cost and "you would have been doing nothing if you hadn't been doing that". Does this mean that your time spent making the item you want to sell is worth nothing - because you did it around the rest of your life? Or does it mean you are a multi-tasker who could be earning a little bit of money while playing with your children or chatting with your friends (or on lunch break at your part-time job). 
It is something that women do often, some women more than others, and something that we need to continue to fight to change. But we often undervalue ourselves, our time, our skills, our ideas.  Saying that you were only doing it around other things, so you don't need to worry about it. And anyway, you love sewing so why should you get paid for it. This is undervaluing yourself.
I totally understand that a lot of people start at home, making and then realise they could sell it, and they don't really know how to cost things out - their time or materials. You can make a rough gestimate - I mean, I think we all have a fairly good idea of how much a meter of fabric costs (you know things about your addictions, don't you!), and you know if it took you 15 mins compared to 2 hours. 
And then, there's the hidden costs - that we forget to factor in. Things like the tag you might sew into your item, and the swing tag or business card you'll print up (paper + ink costs, or pay someone else to print), and then things like the listing fees. Yes, Etsy + Made It don't cost much for a listing - but they still cost something about $0.50 or so (at least), and then Paypal fees. (If you list 5 things a week, with listing fees of $0.50c, then that's about $130 a year.) And then the time it takes you to actually upload an item, and then wrapping, packaging and taking it to the post office.
And other little things, like electricity. The Australian Government allows you to factor in $0.26c an hour for the cost of electricity in your daily usage of earning. This is your sewing machine, your computer (for uploading, etc), your lamp for toiling over your hand sewing, your radio. So, you spent maybe 5 - 10 hours this week on doing things that you are now selling online. This is $2.6 a week = $135 a year. Not much, you say? Well - I think if you could be factoring that into your costs, and earning yourself an extra $135 a year. Add that to the online listing fees - $260 or so; that's not something I'd scoff at for a nice little bonus.

And then there's the market thing. I read a while ago, on a USA blog (can't remember where now), that she won't go back to another craft market if she hasn't made more than 10x her stall fees. This sounds like a lot, and sounds scary to think about. And it's not something that we all would aim for - some people may be happy to earn enough money to head back out into the market and buy some lovely things from the other crafters. And, really, that sounds pretty good to me! {In reality,  it's not always so easy to earn 10x the stall fee at just a general monthly craft market - in Brisbane, anyway. The bigger designer markets are a different story.}
But, when you think about what it means - 10x your stall fees. A lot of markets around Brisbane cost about $85 for a stall. So that's $850 for the day. You sold $850 worth of things - Yah! That's really exciting. But this isn't profit - this is your takings. How much did it cost you to make these items, perhaps $450 (if you had costed things out and then doubled your costs to get to sell price). Take this off your takings (=$400). This has to cover things like, well for starters your stall fee. So take $85 off your takings (= $315), then think about your petrol to the market, and the fact that you had to sneak out of the house at 5am or drop the kids off at your in-laws (which the kids do love, but you're away from them for a day, missing out on family life - which is sometimes nice!), and whatever props you had to buy for your market set-up, and paper / plastic bags for people to take their goodies home in.  Let's say maybe $30 - which may actually be more on your first market, and then not have to rebuy for your next ones. (So, take that off = $285). And also all the pretty little business cards or postcards you gave away to all those customers who liked your things, but didn't want to buy then and there (or, just as likely, took it out of guilt, or because it's a pretty postcard that they like, but they're never going to buy from you, or because they're a kid running around and collecting them). Did you give away 100 business cards - oh, they only cost $20 (take that away = $265). And, there's other costs which sort of got forgotten along the way - that happens when it's just for fun, and you're not keeping receipts or factoring in all costs. So, $265 sounds really decent doesn't it. You just earnt that one day at the market. BUT - did you factor in your time when you costed your items? No, okay - umm... so that $265 for one market day now has to get divided up between all the little bits of time that you spent making your items. And sometimes you take custom orders, so you now have to go home and make those things because someone's paid you for it. And, remember, if you are actually charging just the material costs for your product, without taking into consideration any other factors, and you didn't double your costs (because "why would you charge someone for more than it cost you to buy your materials"). You made your $850 by selling lots and lots of cheaper items - but did you make any money to take home, or did you only make enough to pay back costs?
If you only took 4x your market stall fee, then your final profit would be a whole lot less. {$400 - $200 (product costings - which doesn't include your time, because you didn't factor that in at the start) - $85 (stall fee) - $30 (paper bags, etc) -$20 (business cards) = $65. That's how much you just earnt by sitting at that hot, cold, wet, windy, long, tiring, force-your smile market day}.
So - this whole ramble is best summed up by saying that if you are a hobbyist, you can still factor your costs so you can earn some money - for your time, your materials, and to contribute to your family income.
I feel upset when I see something online or at a market stall that is beautifully designed, well made, unique fabric, buttons, etc and is well photographed or stall lay-out is lovingly planned. And then you are only asking a small amount for your actual item. And then, I go into some high-end boutique and see a similar sort of item, but of course with a designer name, and they are charging 5x what you were asking at your market stall. 

So, I do love sitting next to hobbyists (and yes, that's you Hol, because I'd love to share another craft show experience with you) at market stalls, but only if you are valuing your time and design skills, and asking others to do the same. 

Rant over. Thank you if you made it to the end. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
*photos included because a post this long really needs some brightening up! 


  1. Well said Ellie! I actually got all of the above from your first post. I guess as we are both on similar thought lines regarding this and also as we have spoken about this before.

    I think it is wonderful that people are making a little more out of their hobby and show the public their skills and I personally love browsing the markets. But you're right, if artists and crafters (hobbyist or professional) are not pricing their product properly, they're not just doing the wrong thing by themselves and undervaluing their product, other crafters also suffer from this with their products now seeming far to expensive in comparison.

    I couldn't believe the things people said in the comments on the post by Cicada Daydream. When on earth did the perception start that handmade should be cheaper than mass-produced?

    Pricing is an incredibly hard task and (still) takes up many hours of my week, but without it, even if you do it for the love and not the money, it will only be a matter of time before you burn out making your items for no pay ~ now matter how passionate you might be about it. Don't get me wrong, my hourly wage is not exactly one to be proud of yet but it is a start nonetheless. Thanks for putting this out there, some good food for thought!

  2. hi Ellie,
    so awfully sorry I have been SO absent from your blog, really I am totally confused.
    Thank you very much for your visit the other day, your visit brightened my blog :D
    I just read this post & the previous one, and I couldn't agree more. I just don't know which kind of crafter I am myself. I'm not selling on markets, I only sell on Etsy (though I just created a new one on Big Cartel) & don't think it would be interesting for me to do so. I raised my prices a bit this year (shipping fees because they also go up each year !) & I've ALWAYS had a hard time putting the most correct price for each item. So, really, both your posts (and Cicada's Daydream's too) got me thinking a lot. I guess I'm somewhere between crafting as a hobby & crafting for selling. (though I regret myself that I don't craft enough -at all- for my family or myself)
    You gave me something to think about seriously today, thanks Ellie. I'll be back more often, I promise.
    I hope you're all doing fine, dear you.
    PS : I love this corner (the last photo), is that in your creative space ? or new home ?

  3. Just stumbled upon your blog and found your post very refreshing and to be honest fantastically helpful. As a hobby crafter (and someone who runs a craft market too) I really struggle to find the right prices for the things I make. In then end, I tend to go with what I would pay for them if I was buying them at a market. I keep meaning to spend some time working out all the costs of my time and materials but in amongst general life I never quite get around to it. Thanks for all the useful information.

  4. Fabulous post! I have only done a few markets and know exactly what you are talking about. When the others around you don't value their goods highly enough and price them too low, shoppers at the market expect everyones prices to be the same. I believe I price my goods very well, when at the market they don't all. Yet when they are in a retail store, priced the same way, they sell extremely well. I was shopping at a market last weekend and actually told someone they were pricing their goods way to low, and she got quite narky about it! I'm sorry but $15 for a wool(!!) crochet baby blanket was ridiculously low!

  5. Hey Ellie! First, thanks for your posts and I want to say I really was not at all offended by your last post (just having a dig at the terms, being cheeky as usual...)

    I think all of your comments make a lot of sense and I've read some great thoughts of a similar nature about the true costs of selling created goods on other blogs before.

    I guess I'm coming at things from a different perspective all together, and I'll try to explain it (and probably offend people in the process, eeek!).

    I believe that my worth as an artist/crafter is not related to whether I sell my products or not. It seems to me that lots of people are jumping on the 'selling craft' bandwagon for some form of personal validation - that is, receiving money for things means that the goods (and by extension the creator) is 'worth' something, and more justifiable/acceptable to themselves and other people as something worthy of spending time and effort on.

    My take on it is that this comes down to our cultural obsession with tying our identities to what we do. If you are earning money doing something, you have status, you are contributing. If you are doing something for free (or it costs you!) then you are a burden/unambitious/irrelevant.

    In some ways, I wish that people would either jump in boots-and-all and go for the craft-as-career thing, or just be contented to see it as a hobby and get pleasure out of it and not feel like they need to validate themselves or justify the time and money spent, and not get jaded and burned and turn craft into a semi-chore.

    ANYWAY. Of course, some people NEED to earn money (for reasons of survival and not just a sense of worth), and although earning through crafting or any of the arts is quite perilous, I totally understand that people choose it because it's what they're passionate about, and we all dream of being passionate about AND earning money from the same thing! But I think those jobs are really quite rare, so if I NEEDED to earn money to contribute to my family's income (and neither I nor my husband feel that I do at this time) then I would do it through something boring like admin, because I am risk-averse! As a classical musician by trade, I know full well the ups and downs of an artistic career and would opt for boring security any day to earn the bread and butter, and seek to balance that with more meaning in my unpaid pursuits.

    Anyway. Sorry. Massive comment. Massive rant. I don't think I've ever tried to express that before. I hope it makes some sense and isn't offensive to you, because you're one of the boots-and-all girls whom I admire.

  6. Oh Ellie, you hadn't offended me so don't worry! I was more curious than anything, really.

    I class myself as a hobbyist PURELY because I don't focus my full-time efforts on my crafting as a business, not because I don't care about actually turning a profit. If I could afford to, that would be great! But for right now I need to work full time to support myself and my partner so that is my job, not craft (unfortunately).

    However, I've known 'professional' artists to underprice themselves too - which is truely sad as you would think they would best know how much you need to sell in order to live solely off your art! I think it's definitely easier for hobbyists to underprice because well, if you make back your money from your stall and cover material costs then that's great, right? Anything else is just the icing on the cake.

    And I agree that it is frustrating because people see someone selling for a super low price, and your prices automatically look EVEN HIGHER than they normally would in comparison. Or people expect those bargain prices to be reflected throughout the whole market.

    These artists need to get confidence in their work and say "you know what? I DO have skill. And I have taken a lot of my personal time and expensive materials to produce this. It's worth more!"

    I actually took part in a great conversation about this issue this morning actually! (A great digital artist was selling custom digital bust paintings for 100 euros and people were throwing up a storm that it was too expensive - they didn't factor in the time it cost her to do them, the fact they were CUSTOM portraits, the fact she went to art school for X amount of years and practiced for X amount of years to get to that skill level, her rent, food, bills, etc...) And I face this issue a lot when I tell people my custom soft toys (that take around 3 weeks to make around my full time job) are $150. :(

    So yes it's an issue I'm completely behind! I guess I just didn't see all hobbyists as being the sole people who underprice their work.


  7. My take thoughts on this matter are that you are right and I've often thought the same thing. I first noticed it when I ventured into the world of cloth nappies and I realised that many of the women who sold them and classified themselves as SAHMs were seriously undervaluing their work. There is no way they were making a profit and that annoyed me on two levels - one, why the heck weren't they making a profit, did they not feel they deserved one? And secondly, if they were underpricing then it meant, as someone noted above, that the punters were unwilling to pay for the goods of someone who _was_ pricing properly. I think that's the main reason I've never ventured into selling the stuff I make (well aside from the fact I don't have an entrepreneurial bone in my body!) is that I want to pay myself for my valuable time and skill - it's worth something. And the things I make are often so darned fiddly and take me so long, that I don't see how I could charge what they're worth and have anyone buy them. Anyways, I just wanted to say "right on!" and shake your hand for saying what you did.

  8. Thank you so much for both posts, they have been really great at looking at both sides of the coin. I have just started making and selling some things this year and I know I undervalue things as I compare it to the pricing systems out there and try to cater to the market.

    However this year I have decide to turn over a new leaf and create work that I love and then correctly price!

    Keep up the great work and business commentary.

  9. WOW!! What a well thought out and RESEARCHED rant! :D You are sooo wise, as are your commenters. Ya know when I first started thinking of selling the things I create...I TOTALLY underpriced them!! My thoughts were that EVERYONE should have something handmade and "nice" and the boutiques around these parts just so OVERPRICED EVERYTHING. I mean TWO cloth diapers with a strip of designer fabric sewn down the middle...$30!! I thought to myself, "I CAN MAKE THAT!!" It wasn't even personalized for crying out loud!! It made me sooo mad! But as I've grown as a "creator" and so has my STASH...I see the WHOLE picture. It COSTS to make one of a kind items. It takes a toll on your wallet, your time, and mostly your family because you are trying to work around your time with them and COMPLETELY wearing yourself out in the process!! I've never done a craft fair or market and I don't have an Etsy shop..but sewing requests from my extended family alone has been enough for me to learn that high cost! Not to cut them down, but really, they do not understand the process of creating something from "nothing". Until they are here and see me take a WHOLE DAY just to make them 6 placemats...they just don't understand! So before I get off topic and go off on my own rant...I agree that underpricing hurts the handmade community, and hopefully we will all learn to start believing in our own personal worth...but don't you just LOVE it when you get that ONE person who TOTALLY appreciates your lovingly handmade creation and can't BELIEVE that they can afford it??!! But $15 for a WOOL crochet baby blanket??? THAT is ridiculous!! :)

  10. You've put into words a rant I was trying to have a little while ago. There are so many things to factor into a pricing point and then add the possibility of wholesaling...

    A little thing that also upsets me about people under valuing their own talent and time, is that it does hurt those of us who are trying to make a living of sorts. I saw someone on Etsy using a similar technique to some handstitched brooches that I make and they are charging next to nothing for them. They can't possibly be charging for their time, I know how long these take to make, they'd only just be covering their material costs. But then people could look at the price difference and think that I'm overcharging, which I'm not by any means.

    Basically, what I'm trying to say is that "hobbyist crafters" that undervalue their own time and skills are not only hurting themselves, but those friends they've made at the markets who rely (or are trying to) on their craft for a living.

    OK. My rant over.


Thank you for your words and thoughts. I do so appreciate each and every visitor to my blog. While I try hard to reply to your comment, it often doesn't quite happen..... know that I'm sending you a thoughtful thanks xxx

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