Valuing my work

I saw a friend at a party recently and he asked me why I’d been sewing so many bird ornaments at a craft party a few months ago. When I explained that I sold them, and that I’d had orders for twenty of them, he asked the price.

“Fourteen dollars each.”

That set him off. He couldn’t believe that anyone would buy one of my bird ornaments for $14. Not because they weren’t nice but because he thought that was just too expensive.

This shook me up. I’d struggled for a long time with pricing – I think a lot of artists do. We’re surrounded by a culture of cheap. Inexpensive consumer goods, often made by extremely underpaid people in developing countries, abound. We’re a society that prizes white-collar jobs and outsources its blue collar/manufacturing ones; we often undervalue the things that are made, grown, consumed. So, yes, when you compare an ornament selling for $6 at the mall with one of my $14 ornaments, of course mine seems expensive.

But my pricing factors in the amount of time it took me to come up with the design, create the transparencies, choose the colors, expose my screen, cut the linen, print the linen and sew and stuff the ornament. It includes the time I spent photographing the item and listing it online for sale. It takes into consideration my ultimate goal of doing this for a living – I need to value my time and my skills and pay myself a livable wage.

And I remind myself that my friend isn’t my market. I’m not going to convince everyone that a $14 ornament or a $35 art print is worth it. There’s a small, but growing, market for these items; my friend just isn’t part of it. Not yet. Not ever, maybe, but I’m not going to let one naysayer (or even a million of them) convince me to undervalue my work.

28 thoughts on “Valuing my work”

  1. PLEEEAAASE, don’t bother because of 14 dollars! there is no healthy way on working creatively while selling your creations and your art undervaluated – it’s as simple as this: set the prices you deserve and you will get the money for it – if someone finds it too pricey, don’t bother :-) take care, dana

  2. Your designs are gorgeous. I think $14 is very reasonable for a beautiful ornament like this that you have created from beginning to end. Well done for staying true to yourself and what you deserve. Pricing your itemns at the cheaper end of the market to compete with mass produced items can sometimes also mean your work will be taken for granted. Saying all of this makes me realise its probably time to adjust my own prices!

  3. I think you have a very fair and healthy way to calculate the price of an item. I’m often shocked by the very low prices of handmade items on etsy – I think people should value their time and ideas and not try to compete with cheap mass products. Probably only people who make things themselves understand how much time and effort it takes to create and finish a project.

  4. ah yes. In the same day recently, I’ve had one person scoff at “what a scam” it was to charge x for a portrait, while a few hours later, someone else was like “that’s all your charging?” the first comment shook me too, but the 2nd one reminded me that it is all relative and to keep in mind YOUR customers, your process, etc etc. Which you are doing.
    But yes, Arrrgh!

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