Which is what I suspected! One of the reasons I started this missive (which has grown beyond my intentions, as you shall soon see) was because I didn't feel I was getting enough for my work. I resisted all efforts to counter it and yet constantly, silently, resignedly complained that my jewelry was priced at the same level of Target, which is an abominable situation. I made quality jewelry using unique materials- if I were a charm on a chain kinda girl then yes, Target prices would be fine. But I ain't - and neither are you.
So herein begins the giant adventure I'm about to lead you on. We'll be looking at basic pricing formulas as well as my pricing and how I came up with it (no secrets)! We'll also be looking at a few other things toward the end about perceived and added value, branding and quality, all of which help to determine a price outside of your basic costings. There will be some easy but scary math - scary because it will sound off in your head like a klaxon. Because by the end of this wild ride, you will not only better understand your dream, your brand, your wants and your needs, but you will be unable to properly ignore your prices. No matter what excuse you come up with, you will be able to knock it flat with reason.
Are you ready for this?
Are you sure?
Okay- I hope that answer was yes because here we go!
To begin, I'll explain my stuff- I know you know it, just humor me. 90% of my materials are ethically sourced; they're vintage and/or antique (which gives them another level of value) and I've gone to great lengths to find crystal sellers who work with independent miners. Much of my supply comes from thrifts, which means my money goes into the community around that shop. Every piece is hand made from scratch, there's no sending it off to be put together by industrious Indonesians, no hobby store junk (even thrifted stuff is closely inspected), no glue and almost no plastic (it's just a thing, don't ask). A lot of my elements are fairly hard to get, like raw crystals and certain kinds of vintage chain, and much of the elements are either altered by me or made by other people, like drilled driftwood from England and artisan supplies such as those by Kim and Petra. Most of it is One of a Kind. Every single material is sourced by me and every item is made entirely by hand by me and every single photograph is taken by me. I list it, I write the copy, I answer the 'phones' (convos), process the orders, I even wrap it up and take it to the post office. On foot!
To find all of that in a piece of jewelry in a retail environment, you're looking at a 3 figure price, no problem.
So I said to myself last week 'okay me, up your prices. Go do it now. Go. Use Edit Express, it will be done in moments.' At first I felt a little queasy. I started to feel the guilt, the fear, the excuses flooded in. But, no, because... I've done this before and fobbed it off, but this time I stopped and thought about it. I had a long and awkward conversation with myself which culminated in my not being able to make any further excuses. Everything I could think of I could shoot down just as easily.
So for this first post in my re-pricing epic, let's take a look at some of those excuses in no particular order. Because sure as eggs if I was making them up until 2 days ago, you're making them right now.
1."Other people sell for less than me, there's no sense in competing"
Other people sell for more than you too, how do they compete with you? Secret- they don't. Competitive pricing is only applicable if you have multiple areas where you can cut costs and there are people selling exactly the same product. It's rarely applicable in the handmade realm and it's a dangerous game- someone starts out selling something, someone comes along and undercuts them, the other drops their prices to compete, a third player enters, the whole thing starts again and pretty soon someone somewhere is making a negative income.
I'll go over this more in a later post when I delve into who you are and what makes you special and yes, that very much has to do with prices. Right now just take the advice- If someone charges less than you, let them. This may shock you to learn, but not every shopper is after a bargain. Don't price to compete with lower people - price your work to compete with what you want to be. I know that you- just like me, just like everyone else, have at least one shop online or in a nearby town where we creep around in awe-struck heartache and wonder why they sell like they do with 'those prices'. If they can, so can you.
2. "I want everyone to be able to afford me"
This is a very honorable stance to have and I'm sure we all feel it. As artists we instinctively want to provide beauty for the masses. If this is something you have a genuine passion for, then you need to gear your work around it. You have to decide how far into quality your materials go- authentic antique trade beads, artisan lampwork and sterling silver findings will have to work hard to be a part of an affordable jewelry shop. Handmade jewelry can be affordable, but it takes some savvy math.
If on the other hand your high quality, artisan level pieces are kept at a rate where everyone can afford you, you will never have the income and lifestyle and life you want and need. I can't afford my own jewelry- and I never will if I keep charging fashion jewelry rates for artisan pieces. You need to stop catering to those who can't afford your work.
3."I have to be cheap because people don't have any money - it's the economy"
This one is outright lies. people who close down and blame the economy don't know how to run a business. Sounds harsh but study after study has shown that 'poor management' is the highest cause of business collapse, not economic downturn. Do you think Mr. Gucci says 'oh people are poor now, I better stop making my 5 figure handbags'. No he doesn't. It's not that other people have no money- people have plenty of money; you just have to charm it out of them. YOU make your market from something as simple as your prices. Jewlery is a stuffed full category on Etsy- there are successful jewelery shops there selling on a price point from $3.50 to $3500. There are also people all over the forums, in the street, in your local hairdressers, telling all and sundry that 'no one's going to pay that'. Don't listen to them. Mr.Gucci doesn't!
4. "I don't need to charge retail because I don't have a shop to pay rent and utilities on"
Yes you do! I'll explain all this later in pricing formulas, but if you sell one thing at a time to regular people, then you have shopkeeper expenses, whether that's a craft stall table, Etsy shop or rented cabinet in an antique mall. Retail prices not only keep you on the same level of perceived value as other artisans (again, I'll explain that later) but they will be your life raft when wholesale comes knocking. And don't say you'll never do wholesale.
5. "I'm afraid to raise my prices in case my current customers get mad and leave."
We all love our customers, they are our life blood. Many of us have repeat buyers and we love them. But let me tell you something my child, if someone loves your work that much, they will find a way to own it. And if it's not the customers you have now, it will be new customers. Over the years my prices have gone up and up as I gained confidence, and I have always had repeat buyers. If someone chooses to get mad at you for charging what you deserve to be charged, they are not the kind of person you need to sell to.
I'll talk about this later when I look at other stuff like finding out who your customer is- knowing that is the heart and soul of any business and will determine more than anything how much you can charge for your work.
6. "I just don't want to- I like my prices where they are."
What's that supposed to mean? I'll tell you what it means - it means you're finished talking about it. You've run out of excuses and you would prefer if everyone just shut up. This is because we have reached the worm in the bud. We have run out of reason, of excuses- and we are left with the fear.
Fear is the mother of all excuses and in this case it hides the biggest and the worst one of all. We very rarely use it, because we are ashamed of it, and yet there it lurks, right up the back of our mind, under the stairs of hope, in a box marked 'ignore this'. It's more than an excuse, it's a reason, and the reason for all those other excuses.
'I'm not worth it'.
It's true. Just sit there a moment and let that sink in. That's your biggest and most powerful excuse as to why you don't charge enough for your work. You think you suck and what you make is just a bit of crafty junk. Just accept it. No arguments- please; if you did think you were the shit, you wouldn't need me to tell you your shit is too cheap, would you?
The truth is you don't think what you make could possibly have that much value. Deep down inside yourself there's a mean person pointing at you and yelling 'how dare you think what you do is any good!? You made that necklace while watching re-runs of Oprah, you didn't even get dressed that day, it cost you $2.50 in materials! $10 is what Target asks for their stuff and it's more than you deserve!!!' That voice in our head is pretty persistent. And you think if you raise your prices other people will start thinking this too. Or worse, saying it. To your face. IN PUBLIC OMG THE SHAME
It's okay- everyone thinks they suck, it's part of being human and essential to being an artist. It is traditional for anyone who produces creative work to think their stuff is all worthy of the bin. I'm still getting through it- people send me letters all the time telling me how great my stuff is, but 90% of the time I stare at it and think 'where exactly is this genius you speak of?'
So suck it up sucker, because you're about to learn how to act like you don't suck. We're gunna fake it till ya make it. If I could just add one thing though- you don't suck. You are an amazingly talented person who makes great work, and you deserve to be paid for it. Let's say that again - You are an amazingly talented person who makes great work, and you deserve to be paid for it.
Here ends Part One! (aw you just got cozy.) I want to hear lots of comments especially if you're unclear about something or you have a question - or an excuse you don't see listed! I'll read every single comment but I'll answer them in the next post which will be in a couple of days.
image sources: weight baby; shopping mall ; Bill Murray pics - every website everywhere.