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Finding the Right Price for Your Created Items: Know Your Value

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

We talked yesterday about finding the Cost of Goods and how to keep track of every real cost involved in making your creations. Today we're going to talk about something equally - if not more- important. Today we're going to talk about you - and the value you bring to the creation of the items you will be selling as an artist.

This was one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with, and if you're struggling in the same way, I hope this helps. YOU are your greatest asset. YOU are the creator of your art. YOU are the reason there is a product to sell, and a place to sell them. If you leave yourself out of the equation, you just have another something that people can already get anywhere. You give your creations their soul. You determine the impact your creations will have on lives.

So let's dive into how to turn that into a real monetary number.

Tip #1 - Determine what you need to be worth

There is a certain amount of money you will need to keep going. Unless you live in a far more socialized society than I do, you have a real dollar amount you will need to bring in to have a place to live, food to eat, and the ability to buy new supplies.

This is one of the main reasons most people start making creations as a hobby, before they move to selling, and ultimately to deciding whether they are ready to pursue their creating as a primary source of income. There's no race going on - unless it's a race to chase your dreams. You aren't less of an artist because you need to keep your healthcare. I wish we lived in a world where we didn't have to make that level of choice, but we live in the real world. If you have a dream of doing your art full time, this is a very important step to include in building a dream you can truly visualize and pursue.

The first thing you will want to do is determine what you need to make in a year to do everything you need to do. You might want to start with the pay you are currently making, if that is enough to keep you going as you pay your bills and buy your supplies. You can do this by considering that 40 hours a week will be 2080 working hours in a year. Once you know how much you need to make a month, you can multiply that by 12 to get the annual income you need, and then divide it by 2080. That will give you the amount you need to average for an hour of your time.

This has to be a foundational consideration as you move into pursuing your dream of being a full time artist.

Tip #2 - Determine your productivity

If you need to make $50 an hour and it takes you an hour to make a pair of earrings, they'd better be some spectacular earrings! And maybe they are. That would be fabulous. If they aren't, however, you will want to consider ways to speed up that process, or ask yourself if there is something else you can make faster, or sell for more.

I am all about the right brained artistic pursuit of making only things I love - I mean, come on! I refuse to settle on one thing to even focus on. I am also a realist, and if I really enjoy the process of making something that I cannot sell for what makes it worth doing with my time, it's the thing I do in my spare time. Maybe after awhile of it being my hobby craft, my free time pursuit, I will get faster, or maybe l will be inspired with some change that allows me to charge more. Either way, what I make has to be worth the time it takes me to make it.

Just as an example, I enjoy knitting. I am not fast enough to have this be my primary creation for selling, especially after an elbow injury. I taught myself to crochet (though following patterns is still not my strong suit!) but I'm not super fast at this either. Just faster than knitting. Sometimes people ask why I don't make and sell sweaters (I do make them for gifts - it's my hobby craft). I tell them they wouldn't want to pay what I'd need to charge for it to be worth it for me. If I need to make $30 an hour, and it takes me 12 hours to make a sweater . .. . you get the idea.

As you re doing. your art, really consider how long it takes you to do things -- and the quality you produce in that time. You don't want to work faster if your quality goes down. You will end up in the same place and putting your name on lesser quality creations. I love to make all sorts of creations - and I make them at differing speeds. I am able to have a very wide range of cost of goods and price I can ask (we'll get to that tomorrow). Because of this I like to shake things up. One day I might spend all of my time sewing - another day I might shift back and forth between 3 projects. Because of the gift of ADHD I find it excruciating to sit still. If the paper from decoupage is drying, I'm leaning another direction decorating bookmarks, or hand sewing project bags.

What I make has to be worth the time it takes me to make it

Tip #3 - Practice Practice Practice

Because the last two years allowed me the opportunity to dive into my artistic pursuits, I found all of my skills heightened. If you are making something beautiful for a special gift, it's different than mass producing items for sale. I'd made a few fascinators for specific cosplay or Disney Bounding events, but it's very different to make 30 gold glitter top hat fascinators to match the costume for A Chorus Line. (Let me know if you want the details on how I figured out to do that). High volume, consistent quality, attention to detail . . . I was amazed at how strongly my skills were honed. You need to work on honing your skills if you want to do this full time.

Look at this kitten in the Chorus Line top hat!!! SOOO CUTE!

It's okay if you aren't there yet. If you are still working on getting there, you can start selling your creations! It just might not be time to quit your day job and jump into this full time. It's okay to be honest about where you are and make a transition that suits your needs.

Tip #4 - What Else Can You Do?

I'm not talking about another day job - I'm talking about what other skills you can bring to the business to increase income. If you can build your own site, create your own content, manage your online presence, etc., these are things you won't need to hire someone to do for you. You may also be able to monetize some teaching, other other art related things that you can do. Maybe you can sell patterns, or take commissions that you can charge more for in order to meet specific requests, etc.

It's also very likely you won't be able to make enough, at least starting off, from online sales alone. Look into local shops who might sell your creations on commission, or local farmer's markets and art markets. I've even found one that goes through the Phoenix summer and since the timing of my shift into full time independent artist wasn't up to me, I've been participating in this market as I "work out the kinks" and get ready for the increase in Markets that happens in October.

If you need to, are there any other skills you can call on to help supplement your pay? There are some legitimate work from home jobs, and there are things people will pay someone to do if they don't have time. I'm not trying to be vague, I just don't want to limit you with a short list of things I'm not doing. If you've found things to supplement your time, please share in the comments! Maybe we can all get some ideas for what to do when we need that extra income.

Tip #5 - Be Unapologetic

When you are doing your art, and creating something powerful and personal, that you intend to sell, do not diminish your value and undersell your contribution. If that piece took an hour of your time, calculate your value into what you charge for the item. It's also reasonable to step back and have the big picture bring it all into focus.

For example, if I need to earn $30 an hour (I know I keep using this number - it's just a random number for illustration), it might take me an hour to adorn a journal. I get a lot of joy from adorning the journals and making them very special. But I know I can't reasonably charge $30 plus the cost of goods for a journal. Well, I could, and I would probably sell some, but not frequently enough to justify focusing only on that creation. But I can take an hour and indulge in adorning a journal, and then another hour to make 6 decorated wooden bookmarks, or earrings, so that over several hours I can average a contribution of $30 an hour for my time.

I want to also encourage you to count your time working on your site, and at markets, as time you are contributing to your business. You are creating content, engaging in marketing, generating engagement, and getting knowledge of your art out there. Please don't ask yourself to work for free. Even if you aren't generating income yet, you are working, and if you wouldn't expect anyone else to work for free, don't justify doing that to yourself. You might not be getting that cash today - but your effort is part of your investment.

It's so important to know your worth

Please be honest with yourself, and if you aren't in a place where you can truly know your worth, you might want to consider finding a counselor, therapist, or coach to talk with. If you can figure out why you undervalue yourself, or don't feel worthy of being paid what you're worth, you can begin to heal that trauma and claim your power. When you are creating art, it's okay to be proud of what you are doing. It's okay to love what you've made. If you don't love what you're making, you won't be able to ask others to buy it.

Honestly, even if you decide not to pursue doing your art full time, this is worth doing. You might only ever create things that you give as highly valued gifts, you still deserve to love what you're creating.

Tomorrow we'll talk about how to factor in your overhead when determining your price for goods you're selling. This is where it all starts coming together.

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