Thursday, January 29, 2009

how do you respond?

Okay, here it comes! It's a Tracey Diatribe! Maybe it's because I have been snowed in or because I'm in the 'paperwork' stage of most of my business, but I feel like sharing!

Recently I was speaking with an acquaintance and I showed them the baby spoon I was working on. When they asked the price and when I responded they proclaimed 'that sounds like a rip off to me.' How do you come back from something like that? I was just stunned, babbled something and changed the subject. But really, I need to figure out how to respond in situations like this.

I decided to do a little math. Was this baby spoon a rip off? The cost of the sterling silver and the hand engraving (which I have done by a master engraver) comes to over half of what I was charging for the piece. BUT then I spend around 6-8 hours making the spoon (sawing, filing, dapping the bowl, sanding, tumbling, polishing and delivering it to the engraver), one full work day. By doing this math, I realized I make under 10 dollars an hour fabricating this piece. I'm sorry, I don't work in a 3rd world sweat shop. And just like everybody else, my time is worth money.

So, what does this make me realize... well, first off, I'm not charging enough for baby spoons. And second, I need to figure out how to defend my pricing.

I thought I should do what Sal would do, start off with research. A basic Google Shopping search for 'Sterling Baby Spoon' gives a few options of mass manufactured, plain, thin, machine engraved spoons ranging in price from $30 - $100. Okay, that is less than I charge, but mine is made by me specifically for the client... not by a machine. Then I added in the the word 'handmade' to see what that would result in, and there were only antique pieces for sale with the price closer to $225. So, where does that leave me? Upping my price.

Let's think about this. I not only spend the time fabricating the piece, but I spend my time with the client designing it (in person/answering emails/on the phone), writing up contracts, ordering materials and laying out the pattern ALL BEFORE I START MAKING THE PIECE! And none of that time gets figured into the final price.

Sal gets really upset with me because I am constantly working (even while we're watching movies or television, I'm on the computer), but not charging anything for that time. It's not that he feels I'm a bad business person, he just wishes I could be more like a lawyer, charging down to the 15 minute intervals. Wouldn't that be nice? I do have 4 years of college, 2 years of jewelry training (student loans up the wazoo), and then apprenticeships with a few different people (nearly unpaid.) That equals about 7-8 years to training total... so why can't I charge more for my craft?

I guess I don't have a final answer with this note. I just need to figure out how charge properly to survive and keep my clients. It's all about a happy balance.

But, as a side note, every once in a while I receive a little something extra from my clients. A hug, a note, a special thank you. And no matter how much I make, the unsolicited thank you is the most delightful part. But don't get me wrong, I still like getting paid so I can pay my bills, too.


^-^ said...

I am offended by that. I love every piece you made for me - and I think you are totally worth it! I think that person can go buy a spoon from the mall store and shove it where the sun don't shine...

Nathaniel said...

Pricing and art, an interesting mix. I agree with Sal though, you are a professional with a unique skill set. Your time is worth what it is. Time and materials people!

The problem is that art can be so price sensitive (elastic). Maybe Sal could create a few pricing models for you, sorry Sal!

Anyway, one thing I learned in B-School is you can't be everything to everyone. Figure out where you compete and dig yourself a little (big) niche, and don't let anyone get in your way!

Alline said...

I've just found your blog by chance, and was really amazed. Your pieces are just great, and you're totally right about charging the price you consider 'fair'!!
I also work as a jewelry designer... in Brazil! yeeeeah, I'm the 3rd world girl making less than us$ 10 per hour you talked about!! LOL!(though I'm into designing pieces, not really making them)

As you can imagine, people don't understand we do spend time AND money in education, post-education and, finally, creating stuff. And now gold is soooo damn expensive!!

What are we supposed to do?

Anyway, congratulations again! You have all the skills, so now go for it!!

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