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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.


4 Etsy Lessons, Learned from Doing it Wrong January 6, 2010

Posted by Deb Kosiba in online sales.
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We’ve had our Etsy store up for a little over a month and had 3 sales.  Does that make me an Etsy Guru?  No, it does not.  Does that make me someone who has gone through the process and has made a bunch of mistakes?  Yes.  I am letting you know what I did wrong so you don’t have to.

1.  Use a Wimpy Title
Before I came to Etsy, I spent a lot of time on Deviant Art.   DA has an annoyingly short character limit on the titles of your pieces.  Subconsciously, I had been programmed to think in short names.  Etsy doesn’t have this problem.  I don’t know what the character limit is,  I haven’t run up against it yet.  As an experiment, I typed in the entire first stanza of The Raven and it took it.

The reason you want to use a longer, more descriptive name, is so that you have a better chance of it showing up in searches.  Both Google and the search tool in Etsy use your title as one of the things it looks at for searches.  I have a piece currently called Stained Glass Blimp.  I really need to go back and name it something like This Blue and Red Stained Glass Blimp Panel will Glow as it Flies Through Clear Skies! Unfortunately, I will still need to come up with something witty for the description.

2.  Don’t use all 5 of your photos
Have you ever seen something in a catalog and thought you’d really like to see what the back looks like before you buy it?  Well, people shopping on Etsy are no different.  When I created our Etsy shop I only had one good photo for each piece.  Specifically, the photo I had used to post the item on DA.  I did go back through all of the photos I took to find a few more to use, but it’s not the same as planning out your 5 views when you do your photo shoot.  In the next round of pieces I upload, I will have far more photos to choose from.  That is, once the sun finally comes back.  It’s a little hard to photograph stained glass when it’s been overcast for the last several weeks.

3.  Don’t use all 14 of your tags
Did you know there were 14 tags available?  I didn’t.  There is nothing in the listing process that tells you there are 14 slots at your disposal.  It was only after trial and error that I figured out how many there are.  Even then I didn’t understand why you’d need to use all 14.  But then I got lucky.  I had, as a whim, included the word peppermint as one of my tags in this piece.  Because of that, someone found it and included it in a Treasury they created with a peppermint theme.   You know all those cool collections on the front page of Etsy, the ones that are all themed and look nice together?  Those are selected from the Treasuries created by the users.  A connection was made in my head.

Use all 14 slots.  Use the names of colors, fancy names if  you can.  Like Pastel Mint instead of Green.  Use synonyms.  Is it a shirt?  Can you say blouse or top?  Even better, Ruffled Blouse or Elegant Top?   If you are stuck for more words, you can use your shop name for filler, in case someone remembers your shop name but not a specific product.

4.  Post all of your pieces all at once
I did this.  WindyCon had just finished and I decided to open a Etsy shop and get all the leftover pieces up before Christmas. I got the shop created and everything loaded in 6 days!  Yay!  Plenty of time for people to buy my stuff!  Except what I didn’t know was that each time you post a piece you get a little spike in traffic to your store.  Unfortunately, if you post a lot of pieces, you don’t get a corresponding big spike in traffic.  What I had was the initial spike from posting everything at once and then a big drop in traffic.  The real trick is to spread out the listings so you can have a running series of little boosts of people looking at your stuff.

More Reading
The 4 items listed above are mistakes that I personally made.  Maybe by reading this you will avoid making these mistakes yourself and make your own new and unique mistakes.  You will find a lot of good information on how to build and promote your shop at Etsy’s blog, the Storque.  This link will take you to their Seller’s Handbook.

If you have your own stories about setting up your Etsy shop to sell 3-D SF&F Art, I’d like to know about it!