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Ramblings on Pricing Your Work January 19, 2010

Posted by Deb Kosiba in Business, Convention Art Shows, online sales.

I hadn’t planned on having a post so soon after the last one, but I just ran across this post that was written today by Megan Auman, the creator of the Cozy Cuff, a reusable felt band for your take-out coffee cup.  In it, she talks about the conversation sparked over the price of her product.   It hit a hot button for me because stained glass is an expensive medium to work in which makes pricing even harder.  The first big question is…

How do you price your piece?

In this post, on her own blog, Megan gives a brief outline of what factors go into her pricing.  Not only does she include the cost of the materials and her time, but she factors in cost of living expenses! How dare she!

…um that is sarcasm, for those who can’t see my face as I type this.

In most start-your-own-business guides, one of the things they will have you do is write up a list of your expenses.  Materials, rent, insurance, equipment maintenance, salaries, travel expenses, etc. You add it all up and divide by the number of widgets you can make in a year.  The result is how much you should charge per widget.  But very often Art, and especially 3-D Art  gets the short end of the stick.

For some reason a potential buyer will look at your artistic widget and not care that it took you 20 hours to make.  Because it is art it shouldn’t cost what you really should charge.

  • Maybe it’s because they don’t understand the process, and teaching the consumer more about what you do will help them feel ok with paying a higher price?
  • Maybe it is because art isn’t a necessity and they have a  hard time justifying the expense for something that serves no purpose other than to make them feel good when they look at it?
  • Maybe in their minds they are mentally comparing it to (what they perceive as a)  the similar item they saw in the dollar store?

Selling on Price

So we compromise.  We want our pieces to sell so we start trimming the things we should build into the price.

  • It’s just a hobby and we do it out of our living room so we don’t need to charge for overhead.
  • We love it so much we’d be doing it anyway, and if it doesn’t sell it’ll just pile up, so we pay ourselves $2 per hour, if anything at all.
  • I made it from scraps leftover from another project so I don’t need to charge as much to cover the materials.
  • Fandom is poor and they are all my friends so I should trim it a little more.
  • I have a day job so it will be ok if I don’t make anything on it.

In the end, you finally have a price low enough that people buy it without hesitation or complaint.  But you don’t have a sustainable business.  It’s called Selling on Price and you should’t do it.

Pot, Kettle.  Kettle, Pot

In full disclosure, I sort of do sell on price myself.  Which is why this is such a hot topic for me.  I’m new to satined glass, been at it less than a year, and I’m still trying to figure out where my prices should be.  I currently charge $3-4 per piece of glass in a window.  A 3 piece suncatcher, $10.  A 60 piece panel, $180.  All other expense aside, that pays me about $10/hr. for my labor.  If you factor in the cost of the materials, it’s closer to $6/hr.  Not exactly a living wage.  Good thing I have a day job.

All those price slashing excuses?  Those are the ones I personally use in my own head to justify charging too little for my work.

Why don’t I charge more?

One of the laws of supply and demand says that you can charge only as much as the market can bear.  And the market price is dictated by what price others are charging.  For some Bizzaro reason, the majority of the other stained glass artists on Esty value their time even less than I do.  The going rate seems to be about .40 – $2 per piece.  So a window with 20 pieces of glass will often be listed for under $20.

I know how long it takes for them to cut, grind, foil, solder, patina, and polish each piece.  Not to mention the time it takes to photograph and list a window, or the percentage of the sale taken by Etsy and PayPal.   Even if they were getting the glass for free, they are still paying themselves less than $4/hr.  You can get better than that working retail.

So my “sort of” is that my prices are on the high end for stained glass on Etsy,  but still lower than I really should be charging.

I thought I was fine with it, but the more I read, the less fine I get.  I know I need to charge more but I haven’t made the mental leap to do it yet.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way

As for “What the Market will Bear?”  A quick poke around Etsy shows other hot beverage cup sleeves go for $5-8.  A hand knitted one may go for as much as $15.  The Cozy Cup?  $32.

Yes, $32.

That’s 2-6 times what the competition charges.  Not a few dollars more.  Two to Six Times More.

And yet she has had more than 300 sales.

No, I don’t know why.  I need to spend some time rummaging around her Etsy store and her web site to try to figure that out.  But believe me, when I have some idea, I’ll let you know.

But before I go, I have one more question.

Why is it worth more in a different category?

In her post she points out that her product is dual purpose.  It can be worn as a bracelet, and it can be used on your coffee cup.  In the comments, someone said “expensive for a cup holder but not for a piece of jewelery”.  Why is that?  Why is the same piece of laser cut felt worth more as a body decoration and worth less as a functioning item?

Another one I don’t have an answer for.  It’s a question I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I have a lot more to say on the subject, so I guess I’ll just have to write another post.

Talk to Me!

How do you price your 3-D SF&F Art?  Do you price different for Etsy than you do for conventions?  I’m trying to figure this out myself, and I’m sure many others are too.  Sharing your experiences will help us all do a better job at pricing our work.



1. meauman - January 21, 2010

Deb –

Thanks for writing such a nice response to my post! I thought you and your readers might appreciate hearing a little more background on how I price the cozy/cuff, since the price is so different from other, similar products on Etsy.

First, I don’t base my prices on what other people on Etsy are selling for. If I did, I would never make any money. I figure out my pricing based on expenses and time. The reason I have that many sales, despite being more expensive than similar products on Etsy, is that I do most of my promotion outside of Etsy. I have a small, but loyal fan base that reads my blog and follows me on Twitter. And I’ve been fortunate to have some really big name blog coverage, which does wonders for driving sales!

Oh, and I have no idea why people are willing to pay more for a bracelet than a coffee cup cozy, but it seems to be the case!

Hope this helps!


Deb Kosiba - January 21, 2010

*squeee!* My first comment!

er, *ahem*

It has been a huge help, and what I think will end up being a corner piece in the puzzle of how to make money selling art/craft online. I’m learning that Etsy isn’t the end product, but just one tool in a larger online presence.

And thank you very much for showing the rest of us that we don’t have to lower ourselves to Etsy pricing to get sales.

2. business buzz 1-22-10 « craftMBA.com – business thinking for designers & makers - January 22, 2010

[…] Ramblings on pricing your work […]

3. Micki Grigg - March 18, 2010

I want to say thank you to both Deb and Megan for their insight in this area. I have really been struggling with how to price my items on ETSY too. I try to stick close to my normal pricing schedule but don’t make many sales on ETSY by doing this. I am pretty new to selling my art other than to friends any by word of mouth so all that you have to teach me is much appreciated. I have been reading all I can find and absorbing all the advice. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.


Deb Kosiba - March 19, 2010

Thank you for the kind words! I had a look at your Etsy shop and your work is beautiful!

The more reading I do, the more I come to the conclusion that you should set the prices that are right for you, and absolutely not based on what others are selling pieces for on Etsy. I’ve also concluded that the individuals who sell regularly do so “by word of mouth” through blog posts, facebook fan pages, twitter, business cards handed out at craft fairs, and other networking opportunities. Not through anything inherent with Etsy. All but one of my Etsy sales have been from people who have read my posts elsewhere, not from people looking for stained glass on Etsy. And if they are going to my Etsy shop because they followed one of my links, they are not likely to look at something I’m selling and then see if there are other sellers offering something similar for less money. They are there because they like me, follow me elsewhere online, and would like to buy something specifically from me.

So my current thinking is to treat Etsy as a repository and convenient transaction handling tool only.

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