biz ladies: the value of your work


Today’s Biz Ladies post is by Regina Morrison, owner of the small handmade accessories business and blog, Acute Designs. Regina is actively pursuing her life as a handmade business owner in San Diego, where she lives with her husband and two crazy dogs. Today Regina graciously shares some of her insights on properly valuing your work. Thanks, Regina, for this inspiring post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

A few weeks ago, someone commented that one of my designs was “not worth the price.” I was not offended by this comment, as I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they spend their money. I was actually a little *ahem* annoyed with the handmade community for inadvertently causing this sort of comment.

I do not fault the consumer. Many people don’t understand why a handmade item costs more than a similar item from a big-box retailer. However, the handmade and small business community needs to take responsibility and accurately price their work.

If someone chooses to buy from a handmade or small business, they should pay more. Why? Because handmade and small business owners should pay themselves a living wage. Unfortunately, I have noticed a huge amount of small business owners making the mistake of attempting to compete on price, and this concerns me.

If you want to buy an accessory from me, you are going to pay a little more. This is not because I am in the business of ripping anyone off, but because I value myself.  I value my time and my work, and I pay myself a living wage.

Some people will never pay the slightly higher price for handmade, and this is totally fine. These people are not our customers. We need to stop trying to entice them with low prices.

We as a community have a responsibility not only to our customers but also to each other. By under-valuing our products or services, we are sending the message that handmade and small business equals CHEAP. And there is nothing cheap about this community or the work that it produces.

When I see a handmade product, I think about the individual behind the price. There is an individual creating, designing or photographing their way to a living, and these people deserve to make a living wage. When I see products priced incredibly low, I wonder why the sellers are selling themselves and their work short. There is no need to over-price your work, but there is a need to accurately price your work.

When we, as a community of handmade and small business owners, price our work in order to compete with the big-box stores, we are doing a disservice to the entire community. A potential customer might see accurately priced web design prices and think, “I saw another designer offering the same service for half the price; therefore, it is not worth that much.”

Whether this thinking is conscious or not does not matter. The fact is, it happens. We live in a society that is addicted to cheap goods and services. Every single one of us reading this post knows of a big store where a $20 dog bed or a $5 necklace can be purchased. Cheap goods and services exist, and I am not arguing that there is anything wrong with these cheap goods. What I am arguing is that handmade cannot compete on price.

If we talk in terms of dollars and cents, it is almost always cheaper to buy from a big-box retailer or to hire from a big company. Small business owners are rarely able to compete on price, but in every other aspect of the buying process, they blow the big boys out of the water.

There is a story behind the work we do; whether it is a woman who needed extra income to support her family or a 20-something college grad who cannot find a job. It is a story of creating our own jobs and our own companies through doing what we love. This is where small businesses can compete.

Price? Rarely. Sentiment? Always.

Value yourself and your work. The right customer will pay what your product is truly worth.

  1. Bianca says:

    Amen! So well said! I sell notepads and I often see people selling notepads on etsy with a very low price and it makes me question if I’m charging right, but I am. If I reduce my price, I can’t keep doing it. I love what I do and I would happily pay for handmade because I know a maker pays for the materials and I need to compensate them for that + their time + a profit. That’s only fair!

  2. cathy says:

    what great comments.I too was under selling my work,the cost of materials has really taken a big jump in such a short time.I do appreciate the local people that do buy from me.If you do use good quality material then I think that they will continue to buy from you and spread the word.This year i’ve added my email address to my word ,see if it add to my selling of my product. Happy crafting

  3. wc says:

    Has anyone had the experience of selling through a boutique store and also selling on their own online store? We recently have had a retailer make a stink about price matching the price in the store to our online price. We sell aprox. $15 cheaper on our own online store because people can buy from us directly and we can offer cheaper prices because we do not have the boutique store taking 50% of the sale profit.

    We are currently under a consignment contract of 50/50

    The boutique is forcing our hand stating “If we are questioned about the
    price difference I will have to honor the online price to reflect our
    commitment to good customer service.”

    Is this ethical or is it something that makes sense? Of course it is less from us because we make it and no one is taking 50% of the profit. We must sell it at the price we sell it in the boutique store and if we sold it for less then we would lose money because it takes time to handcraft and object. I feel like they want to work under the same business dealings they would if the good were bought from china and resold.

    Anyone have insight on this…. I really want to stick up for our rights as a small business owner and maker and get paid what the work is worth.

    Feedback is much appreciated.

  4. Linnaea says:

    As a store devoted 100% to handmade items, I certainly support the retailer mentioned in the above comment. Just as you need to support the artist making a living wage, you need to support the stores that sell your work. Otherwise stores just become “showrooms” and people buy from the artist. While this is a nice idea to support the artist, independent stores pay so much just to open the doors. For example, it costs about $500 a day for me to open my doors before selling a thing. I wouldn’t carry an artists work who didn’t sell it themselves for at least double the wholesale cost. They need to trust that work should cost that much from any source, them or a store.

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