Lately I have been working like crazy on my holiday custom orders, so I figured it was time that I get back to the blog and give my hands a bit of a rest. I have also been doing a lot of research about making, selling, and buying handmade products in an effort to better understand my audience and grow my business.
One of my goals for the new year, is to give my Etsy shop an overhaul, starting with pricing my pieces for what they are really worth. As I started asking around in the small business groups I am a part of, it became apparent that I am not selling my pieces for what they are worth, and that it isn’t just buyers, but sellers that are part of the reason it is difficult to gauge how to price your handcrafted crochet and knit goods.
So, I am going to do my best to be part of the solution, starting with this post on how buying and selling handmade is different from shopping commercial/mass manufacture retailers.
what Are You getting when you buy a handmade product?
Shopping a handmade site like Etsy, at a craft fair, or a consignment shop, isn’t like shopping a big retailer such as Target or Walmart. As such, the products you are seeing can’t be compared. Say you are looking for a knit sweater. Looking around the clothing section at a big retailer will likely give you the idea that this type of product is worth somewhere in the $30-$40 range. Looking for a similar item on Etsy will likely reveal prices upwards from $100. So why the big difference?
When you buy from a handmade seller, you are buying an item that has been carefully inspected for quality. Each piece a handmade seller makes represents their skill, their brand, and contributes to their overall reputation. Each stitch is carefully made to represent the best they are able to produce. Subtle mistakes, sometimes representing hours of work, are ripped out and redone to ensure that the product leaving their doorstep is the best they can produce.
You are buying something that likely took hours or days to make, using skills that have been learned and honed over years and decades. You are buying individually selected materials chosen specifically to bring a pattern to life, that was likely also purchased from a small designer or designed by the crafter themselves. You are buying art. No matter how many of the same sweater that crafter makes, each one will be imbued with its own personality and subtle unique characteristics.
When you are shopping, you can’t approach shopping at a mass-manufacture retailer the same way that you approach shopping handmade artisans.
Now, reading this you are probably thinking, “what about the sellers who have prices in that big retailer range? Or for half the price of some of these other sellers?” These crafters, myself included at the present time, are likely not accurately representing the quality of their work, the time invested, and the skill displayed when calculating what a piece is worth. This not only hurts them in the long run, it creates a market that works against the crafter. I for one felt that if I wanted my pieces to sell, I needed to set my personal compensation as low as possible, almost to non-existent levels. What I have since learned, is that by pricing my products below what they are really worth, I am telling shoppers that my work isn’t worth being in that higher price bracket.
When you buy handmade, you are giving as much as you are getting.
Serious crafters pour their heart and soul into their work. Like any artist, what they create is part of who they are and what they love. It isn’t just another item to stock their shop, it isn’t just a way to make money. Crafters do what they do because they love it, and they want to be able to keep doing it. They want to share their love for their craft with others. They want to inspire others to pick up a needle, hook, or brush. They want to know that something they created is bringing a smile to someones face, and a little bit of beauty to the world.
When you buy handmade, you are giving someone the amazing feeling that their work is appreciated. You are telling them that someone understands what went in to making that sweater, that scarf, or that painting. That the beauty they hoped to share, is going to be shared. That their years of dedication and practice have helped them to create something that can be enjoyed by anyone (not just their mom).
You are also supporting a small business. For me, my goal is to pay my student loans. I stepped down from full-time work when I had my daughter, and I am grateful that is a choice I was able to make. That said, I still want to be able to contribute financially to our household. Every time you buy one of my handmade pieces, or purchase one of my designs, you are helping me grow my business. You are validating my craft, and for that I can’t express my gratitude enough.
Crafters, it is time to unite.
To all the other crafters out there trying to make it, I say this:
Understand your market, know your audience, and price what your pieces and your time are worth. Do this not only for yourself, but for all the other crafters out there. Be a steward of the handmade world, help your patrons understand what goes into what you make, and don’t stop crafting even when the market gets you down. You are worth it, and you can do it!
This post is the first step in a big transformation. I hope you will follow along as I embark on this journey, and I hope you will share this post far and wide. Together, we can transform our market into a place that let’s us showcase our work for what its worth.
Now, do me a solid, click one of these Etsy banners, and go support a handmade artisan!