There’s a huge problem that most artisans face when trying to make a living with their craft. That problem is that people think we should all sell what we do at yard sale prices and that enjoying what we do means we shouldn’t be paid well. We are often given a hard time for having “high” prices and we are frequently asked to give people special deals or create things for free. Before you call a shop’s prices too high or ask for lower prices, think about the following points.
- Just because we enjoy what we do, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paid well for it. By that reasoning, it would be totally acceptable to cut the wages of any person who enjoys their job. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be too thrilled if your boss told you they were cutting your pay by 50% because you seemed to be enjoying your job.
- There’s a big difference between a hobbyist and a working artisan. Hobbyists usually have plenty of money and create things for fun. They don’t care about the money, so they sell their work at cost or less. Hobbyists actually hurt business for working artisans who are trying to make a living selling what they create. Working artisans are people using their skills and artistic gifts to try to pay the bills.
- Just because Wal-Mart can sell something for $1.50 doesn’t mean that an artisan can. Mega stores use inferior supplies, cheap labor and they have all sorts of ways to cut corners and save money. Artisans put their hearts into what they do, and most of the time the quality is so far superior to mass-produced items that there’s simply no comparison. Not to mention the fast that by their very nature, most artisan items are unique, which is something you can’t get from a big box store.
So what exactly are you paying for when you buy an artisan item?
- The materials. Many customers think that this is all we charge for, but it’s actually a small part of the price, even when you’re looking at an item that uses high-end materials.
- The time it took. The better an artisan is at their craft, the faster they can do it, but that doesn’t mean we whip things out in five minutes. Most of my items, for example, take at least an hour or more to create, and sometimes 3-5 hours go into a single item.
Based on the way artisans are treated, we’re expected to charge $5 or less per hour for our work, usually closer to $1 an hour. If there were no tips, how many skilled jobs would you be willing to do for under $5 per hour? Not many, I’d say. It’s considered normal in the industry to charge $50 or more per hour, but in reality, most artisans charge $20 or less.
- The ideas. It takes time to come up with ideas for things to make, to work out how they’ll be done, and plan to make them.
- The packaging. It costs money to buy boxes, paper, tape, bubble wrap and all the other packing supplies used to send you your item. Plus the cost of taking things to the post office, and the time we use packing and shipping.
- The fees. An artisan either has to pay for their own domain and hosting, plus any paid plugins, or they have to pay fees to whatever site they use to sell on.
- Maintenance and listing. An artisan has to keep their site or shop updated, write descriptions, take photos, edit photos and content, and list the items for sale. Then they have to process orders and deal with inventory.
- Promotion. When you’re running a business you need business cards, social media accounts, SEO, and so much more to get the word out and keep people coming to your shop.
When you take all of that into account, you should realize that asking an artisan to charge a mere handful dollars for a unique, quality item is just insulting. Put yourself in their shoes! Would you do all of that for just a few dollars a day? Probably not. And unlike a standard job, there’s no guarantee that an artisan is going to get paid from one day to the next. We could make $1000 one month, then make nothing for months on end.
I am one of many artisans who’s underpricing their items. I’ve really been considering raising them. I love what I do, but I, like any other artisan, deserve to be paid well for the time and effort that I put into creating beautiful things for others to own. I typically only charge $10 per hour, which I’ve been chastised for by other artisans. My work, like the work of many artisans, is worth far more.
I hope that this article makes you think about all that goes into creating a piece of art or artisan product, and encourages you to pay what the work is worth. Artisans deserve your respect, and reasonable payment for their hard work.