Thursday, 21 March 2013

On Pricing and the Emotional Turmoil It Brings!

A haven't blogged in a while - I have been busy, working, playing and most importantly for our purposes making plenty of jewellery :)

Mrs Owl is Waiting for Spring - I don't understand why all owl beads are referred to as 'Mr'.  After all, if there are no Mrs Owl's, where do cute, fluffy little baby owls come from?  The beautiful copper owl clasp is from Jo at Daisy Chain Extra.
I am trying to build up a shop inventory, enough pieces to open a shop on Etsy that doesn't look rather bare!   I'm finding it hard to decide just how many pieces are enough.  I'm aiming for about 20 necklaces and bracelets at the moment, and about 15 pairs of earrings on top of that (I never get around to making earrings though).

It's difficult, 'cos when I make a piece I fall in love with, I have to remember that I'm not gonna get to keep it.   A part of me is tempted to say 'hey, in a month or so after I've stopped inventory building, I can make myself another one', but in a way I feel that would be unfair to my potential customers who are paying to receive a unique one of a kind piece.

Now the thing is, preparing to open an Etsy store has forced me to face the pricing issue.  From reading various blogs I have long since sussed that pricing is an object of aggravation for many people.  It is really rather difficult!  I read somewhere that we as artisans are often tempted to under value our work.  We put our pieces through the pricing machine and come up with a total that just can't possibly be right surely!!

Mother Earth is Waking Up - a simple beaded chain for my Mum on Mother's Day - I didn't bother pricing this one as it was a gift :)
I have had exactly that problem!  I spent a day going through my bead stash and taking inventory of everything - tracking down receipts and paypal invoices so I could update the nifty bead spreadsheet I set up a few years ago when I last seriously considered selling jewellery.  I then started calculating prices for all the pieces I am going to sell.  Despite all the advice I had read on several sites I was still quite honestly shocked!

The owl bracelet above?  That came out at £38.  It can't be worth that much surely??  It didn't help when I took it in to work the next day and asked a colleague of mine who also made jewellery how much she thought is was worth.  She said she would charge £15-£20, but she wasn't really sure as she doesn't usually make such complex pieces.  I found that just a wee bit disheartening.  My other colleagues didn't do much to boost my ego - they were too polite to say but it was clear they would not pay so much!

I have been through this before though, the last time I tried calculating prices I was so astounded that I was put off jewellery making all together!  For about a year!  Why is that?  When I browse through Etsy and look at other Artisan made jewellery the price seems quite reasonable.  In fact it could even be a little on the low side.  When you compare the market, £33 for a necklace like the following is perfectly acceptable:

Leaves Burn Beneath the Water - Ceramic leaf pendant by Teresa of Bo Hulley Beads
My mother says the problem is probably due to my chronic lack of self worth.  Which is possibly partially true.  It's hard to think that something I have done is worth that much of someone elses money!  But there is another level to this too - I know exactly how much all the materials that go in to these pieces cost me (very precisely in fact, 'cos I spent ages figuring out the value of each little bead).  I umm-ed and aah-ed for quite a while over how much I would charge for my time - after all it does seem cheeky to charge someone for doing what I love to do.

It also made me think about how long it takes to complete a given design.  I love to make really long beaded chains like the one below (sorry for the awful photo - photographing long necklaces is hard and a massive storm cloud came over and stole the light).  Making over a hundred little links, joining the together and then making sure they are all secure sure takes a looooong time.  This necklace would cost a whopping £52!  Yet the actual materials come in at less than a tenner.

I haven't named this one yet - it is so so long though!  You can't really tell from the photo, but this reaches my navel!
And I am rather tall!
I think these prices seem high because I make the jewellery myself and I know exactly what goes into them - both material costs and effort spent.  This brings into the equation the power of perception - to people who don't make jewellery there is an element of mystery to its creation.  Most people don't have the patience to make a hundred links, or don't have a brain that just loves to play with colour.

Also, I think that when people buy artisan jewellery they are buying a little bit of the artist as well.  They are buying a little bit of your lifestyle - or perhaps rather a bit of the lifestyle they perceive behind the layers of shop fronts and photo props and blurbs.  Whether it's gritty urban priestess or flowing-gowned hippy chick, they are buying a little bit of that lifestyle for themselves.  When you say an admired piece of jewellery you are wearing is artisan handmade you are drawing a little of the mystery of the artisan world to you.  Perhaps that is why my friends and work colleagues shy away from my suggested prices - they know me, and so the mystery is truncated - jewellery made by that nutter in the corner doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?


  1. First, let me say that pricing does get easier over time.

    We are our worst critics and know materials costs but devalue our labor. I remember reading that we should never price our work according to what *we* would be willing to pay because we are often not comparable to our customers. This is true for me because I know that I could not afford some of my pricier items.

    I've noted my hours of labor and have a tiered system. I charge more as the skills involved increase with the lowest level work set at $10/hour and the highest at $40/hour. I find that it works for me because it allows me to charge less for time spent doing mundane things such as polishing or writing listings and more for soldering, sawing, etching, or PMC work.

    I wish you lots of luck in opening your new shop. I'm sure your work will have a large following--the detail and quality speak for themselves.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and advice :)

      I do hope it gets easier - I think it is just a shock to realise the worth of what you create. I hear you on not being able to afford some of the pieces that I make. I certainly couldn't spend £50 on a necklace right now, even if I really, really loved it! Thank goodness I can make it for a tenner instead :) I am keen to develop some ideas that people in my salary range can afford though.

      I also really appreciate your tip on having different pricing teirs for different work. I think I may implement that in future, especially as I start adding more complex skills to my repertoire.

  2. Jess, I would add to Susan's comment's above: if there were not a market for handmade, high quality jewellery, no one would be making it. It exists BACAUSE it is sought-after and valued. We often forget that not everyone has a designer's skill, nor does everyone want it. Many would rather pay for the privilege of owning something unique and bespoke. Not everyone is satisfied with factory-made junk that is readily available in any number of stores!

    Just keep perfecting your skills. It is natural to downplay one's own skill; we are taught to be self-effacing in our society. Yet in every part of the world, humans seek adornment, not for its intrinsic value, but for how it makes them feel about themselves. It is time jewellery artisans saw their talents as important and valuable.

    IMHO your designs are elegant but with a soupçon of edginess. Most times the style which we ourselves enjoy wearing, and looking at, develops into the identifier by which we are recognized as a designer. Keep on creating!

  3. *TeeHee* apparently I have forgotten how to spell "BECAUSE". I didn't delete as I thought you might enjoy a little humour at my expense!

    1. Heehee, don't worry Monique, I am just as bad when it comes to typing/spelling :) I have a web spell checker installed to help me out!

      You are totally right of course, handmade jewellery is very popular - in fact today I have had an offer I may blog about later this weekend that I'm very excited (yet slightly apprehensive) about ;)

      It's true that when people buy handmade they are paying the extra for individuality - there is some satisfaction in knowing no-one else will have the exact same piece! It's partly why I started making jewellery for myself. That and shop prices are ridiculous - when I think how mch you can pay for a decent mass produced necklace, suddenly my prices don't seem so scary!

      It's sad that we, especially women, are taught to be self-effacing - think how much happier the world would be if we all had a decent sense of self-worth!

      Massive bonus points for use of the word 'soupçon' by the way I love a good bit of lexical brain flexing ;) Elegant and slightly edgy - I would like to think so! It's definitely what I love, I hope others will too!