Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pondering Pricing...

I read an article this morning was that both good, frustrating and got me thinking again on a smallish peeve. The general topic was the handmade industry and how people have made the switch from their day jobs to their own craft. I read similar articles frequently enough to see many themes, ideas and suggestions repeated but there is one in particular that sort of niggles at me: pricing.

This particular piece mentioned in it that the public and media push for sustainable resources, renewables, greengreengreen etc. is really helping out my industry, which wasn't news to me. I totally agree that as people move away from a consumer mindset and become aware of things like planned obsolenscence, business increases for local markets and entrepreneurs.

The crafters often interviewed always mention though how we should not undersell ourselves. Take into account the amount of time spent on a product, on photographing it, puting it into your store, searching for supplies, running websites and advertisements...yeah right. One comment in the article reflected on how vendors often have to haggle for that last $5 on their work because people want cookie-cutter prices for unique handmade items.

I do all of those things but if I honestly factored all that in, even at minimum wage, my pricing would be astronomically uncompetitive. People are still happy to go into Barnes and Noble or Borders and buy a mass produced journal for $35 (or more). There's nothing original about these books, they aren't even usually stitched, just glued but people gobble them up not giving a hoot-n-hollar that they're made in China (and we all know what that probably means what with those labor laws).

In the mean time, here I am with other book binders and paper artists like myself wondering how to be competitive with that??

My books take me, on average, anywhere from 5-8 hours not including materials or webwork. Trust me, I'm not underselling myself, I am trying to compete with the big box stores and a public that likes superficial apperances rather than internal quality or worse! They expect that small businesses churn out the latter for the same prices as corporations who are off-shoring their employees, customer service and anything else they can exploit - and then sweep up the tax breaks. *sigh*

I take a lot of pride in my work, in my customer service and really every aspect of my whole business, I just wish I knew the formula that could bridge the gap so that people would TRULY embrace going handmade, buying and shopping local and being conscious of recycling and thinking green and maybe give up a tiny bit of immediate convenience for some originality and quality.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever you run into an article online about this, I'd love if you passed the link. I find the issue very newsworthy.
    A couple things struck me when reading your post - you can't truly factor in all the time you spend on your business, as you say. Regular business people certainly don't. And by regular I mean noncrafting business owners. Restaurant owners can't factor in all the late hours and charge me $15 for a plate of pancakes. Farmers don't factor in late night calving. Hairdressers don't charge extra for my haircut because business is slow.... you get the point. There are things you should and must factor in, and others that are just part of being an entrepreneur.
    Another thought - it's frustrating too when you list all your expenses for taxes and it ends up you haven't "made money" at your business. If that happens too many years in a row, Uncle Sam doesn't believe you're really a business, says you're just a hobbyist, and won't let you file as a business. I used to not show all my business expenses when I filed for businesses, so it would show at least some profit, so that I'd appease the government definition. (this because I was always in the early years of a business when it's hard to show a profit - I assume if I'd stuck with one thing long enough that might have changed).
    I think it will take at least a generation to change the way we think about purchasing and owning things. The last few generations have been taught to think of "value" totally from an economic perspective. And to think of owning more instead of owning "just enough". And so on and so on and geeze I really should be working instead of pontificating here - we'll have to talk more in person - a truly worthy topic.