Saturday, March 11, 2006

Selling Your Work: What's It's Value?

Sandy has been asking for quite a while now how does one price their work? 

To find the best answers I took out my (now out of print) book, "Crocheting For Fun & Profit" by Darla Sims and took a look at what she had to say on the subject.  First, the most important thing she has to say, and I'm in total agreement, is that you can use patterns to get creative ideas, but you should "never copy or use commercial patterns to create commercial products, because doing so could constitute copyright infringement." 

So, what this pretty much means is that when you use a pattern you've found on the Internet, or as a tear-sheet in your local craft/yarn shop, or a pattern/book you've paid for, the pattern is for your personal use only --NOT for selling the finished items!  If you have questions about what the copyright is protecting, then contact the copyright holder.  Be safe and cover your bases!

This now means if you're following the law then this means you're selling YOUR original works.  And that means value should be factored in for YOUR talent!

Darla lists a variety of ways to price your creations: by the cost of fiber used; using a percentage system over your actual cost; an hourly wage; a minimum per piece plus expenses; the cost of materials with a per-yard charge added in; or a price per item that your local market will bear.

If you go by the cost of the fiber alone, then you're giving your time and your skill away for free.  One lady wrote that her sister-in-law requested that she crochet her a thread table cloth that would cover a large rectangle table -- and that she'd pay her for it.  This woman spent countless (more like hundreds of) hours working tiny stitches until the project was completed.  She gave the table cloth to her sister-in-law who then paid the sister something like $20 plus supplies.  The woman who did the crocheting felt taken advantage of.  The problem was that there was no agreement on a set price.  And the question is, are you willing to do such work to be paid for just supplies, and maybe "a little bone" for all of your hard work?

Using a percentage system over your actual cost might not be such a great idea if you're working on a labor intensive project.  Lets say the aforementioned lady paid $50 for all the thread she used in the table cloth.  If she used a 50% mark up, then she'd make a total of $125 (cost plus percentage).  Is that worth hundreds of hours worth of work?  To some, it might be.  To others it may not be.  Only you can decide this.

An hourly wage is a good idea, or is it?  My afghan that is featured in the book,
Blue Ribbon Afghans from America's State Fairs: 40 Prize-Winning Crocheted Designs, took me 100 hours to create.  If minimum wage is $6.65 an hour, this would mean I'd be paid $665; not bad for a baby blanket!  But then you'd have to subtract the cost of supplies ... and do you know of many people willing to buy a baby blanket for $500 - $600?  In some locations a price like this wouldn't cause a blink of an eye, but in other areas it would cause "sticker shock."  This has to do with what the market will bear, which I'll discuss in just a bit.

Here's another example: I was offered $75 for the Irish Lace doily that was on display last year at the Lacis Textile Museum last summer (look to the right).  While flattered for the offer, this would mean an hourly wage of $1.00 since the piece took 75 hours to create.  I declined in selling it.  It all comes down to the value of your time and what you're willing to accept for it with this pricing technique. 

A minimum per piece plus expenses seems reasonable, but it's a system that both parties should agree to prior to starting any work.  Most stores that have finished displays pay their stitchers in this fashion -- most of the time offering the materials to the stitcher so that it reflects stock they have on hand. 

What about the cost of materials with a per-yard charge added in?  Maybe it's a quarter, maybe it's a dollar per yard or more; the idea is to price it so that your customer can afford what you're selling without giving your time & talents away.  If you're new to crochet or new to selling your work, you may opt to charge the quarter per yard; and if you're an experienced crocheter known for quality, then you may opt to factor that into your per-yard charge.  Interesting, huh?

Finally we come to the price per item that your local market will bear.  Remember the afghan I mentioned earlier?  Where might a baby blanket for $500 sell well?  It comes down to three words: location, location, location!  You'll need to study where your market is!  (I still have that afghan and hope to one day, in the faraway future, to give it to a grandchild!)

Rarely, in case you're already thinking about it, have I seen crochet work sell well on
ebay.  The afghan on the left?  It took me 29 hours to create; and on ebay I was barely able to fetch $29 for it.  This is where knowing your market, and how to market it is key to success.  If you plan on selling somewhere, look at what others are selling theirs for.  Otherwise the profits you hope to reap may not appear!  (Please, no requests for the pattern, I don't recall it as it was many years ago.) 

The best advice I can offer is to visit the blog/journal entry I wrote about "going pro" and checking out the books I have listed there, as well as Darla's that I mentioned earlier.  Cover your bases: ensure you have a pricing method that works for both you AND your customer, and always keep records!

As a final note, if you have a price system that you're comforable with and find that a customer thinks you're charging too much (and you've done your homework & are firm on the asking price), then consider handing them a skein of yarn & a hook.  Let them try crocheting for themselves.  {{wink wink}}

I hope this helps you Sandy; great question!  :)


Anonymous said...


Thank you so very much for answering my question.  This year I attended five or six craft fairs in my area.  Only at three such fairs have I seen crocheted items.  The prices were, in my opinion, very low.  After asking the vendor why the pricing was so low, her response was that the public was not willing to pay what it was really worth.  Again, thank you for your time and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dee. Andi here. I haven't commented in awhile, but I am a dedicated if you wonder why your hit counter goes up, without evidence thereof, it's me. (hanging my head*) LOL

I wondered, about understanding what the market will bear.  I have a friend that is a fiber/bead artist. I am very supportive of her, but  sometimes I wonder. She hasn't sold a single piece in 2 1/2 years, and it's not for lack of trying. She puts herself out there, even going up North (can't remember where) to one of those huge art/crafter fairs(not the right word, either) and didn't sell a single piece. The thing is, I think she WAY overprices her work. It is VERY detailed and time/intensive. She doesn't work anymore so this is her work now, and I am a little concerned, but I don't know enough to have an opinion. (And I may NEVER have one..LOL..) . I have been at gallery openings that feature her work, and without fail, people walk away whispering about how overpriced it is, that it's ridiculous.  I feel so bad. I would like to help, but I am hopelessly uninformed.  Thoughts?

Thanks so much,

Lillysmuul said...

It is so true!
That's way I don't do custom orders.
The prices are ridiculous!
I love your posts!