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real talk: prices at craft shows

pricing handmade work

If you get a group of crafters together, inevitably the conversation will turn to pricing. All makers struggle to price their work fairly, and, more often than not, we undersell ourselves. It’s difficult to charge what our products are worth, because invariably shoppers compare our prices to the prices of similar mass-produced items.

We realize this isn’t always apparent to shoppers at craft shows, so we thought we’d explain a little bit the process of pricing handmade work. (Etsy also has a good article about pricing. Grace also tackles the topic in her book Crafty Superstar!) Crafters have to consider many things when setting their prices. Among them:

  • Time: When you’re making things by hand, the time investment is going to be substantial. How long does it take to make this thing? What hourly rate do I need to earn to make a living?
  • Materials: Many makers spend quite a bit of time sourcing materials that meet their ethical and/or environmental standards. High-quality materials cost more, even when they’re bought in bulk. Or sometimes crafters hunt down materials that are unique or vintage — that kind of sourcing is also expensive because of the time it takes. Some crafters are able to source very affordable materials by buying in bulk. Plus, you have to consider the cost of packaging, too.
  • Overhead: To make a living from selling crafts, you also incur costs of bank fees, online store fees, domain registration, equipment purchases, studio space, vendor fees for craft shows, education and training…
  • Profit: This is essentially a buffer. Makers have to build in profit to their pricing to sustain their business, grow it and prepare for unexpected losses. If an order gets lost in the mail or  a box of fragile products gets dropped or a big wholesale order falls through, it can devastate a maker’s business if they aren’t prepared. And if a maker also sells their work in a bricks-and-mortar store, they’ve got to take into account the fact that the merchant will take a cut and adjust their prices accordingly.

The awesome thing about craft shows is that you get to meet the maker and find out how they made their pricing decisions! We’ve heard good questions and bad ones in our many years of organizing and selling at craft shows. Here are a few things crafters really hate to hear:

  • “Can you give me a discount?” Most of the time that’s not going to happen, just because the profit margins on handmade items are so thin. The exception is if you’re buying a large amount of an item (like more than four or five). But be polite when you ask, and be prepared to hear “no.”
  • “That’s way too expensive.” We try to have a range of prices for every budget at our Crafty Supermarket shows, from the super affordable $8 art objects to gorgeous $200 jewelry pieces. But, that being said, we know not every item fits into every person’s budget. Telling someone that they are charging too much for something that they made won’t make them lower the price. And — to be honest — it stings a little.
  • “I could make this for a lot cheaper.” This is our least favorite thing we overhear at craft shows. You might well be able to, but our vendors have spent years perfecting their crafts and gone through the trouble of making these things so you don’t have to. :)

On the other hand, here are some questions we love to hear people ask at a craft show:

  • “How do you set your prices?” This is a totally reasonable question to ask, and most crafters will be happy to answer! Crafters put a lot of time and thought into setting their prices, and craft shows are one of the few places where you get to speak directly with the maker of what you’re buying.
  • “Do you make a living from selling things you make?” Some crafters make things full-time, others have traditional jobs, some are in school, some are raising families. This question is respectful, and you might be surprised by the answer you hear!
  • “How did you get started?” Crafters come from all different backgrounds — from formally trained artists and graphic designers to DIYers who are totally self-taught. It’s awesome to hear their stories and find out what inspires them.  It might even inspire you to start making things!
  • “Where do you get your materials?” Most crafters will be happy to tell you about how they’ve sourced their materials. Be aware that some might protect their actual sources as trade secrets. (If you spent six months sourcing fair-trade interfacing, you’d hold those details close to the vest, too!)

Any other questions we missed?

Crafter applications for our April 26 show are open through March 1 — learn more about applying to be a vendor at our craft show here. You can also get involved as a volunteer or a sponsor

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