Response to my previous blog on pricing your handmade items

Well, last week was a bit mad wasn’t it? My old blog on pricing got shared and suddenly I had a LOT of people telling me that my personal opinion was wrong – not just that they disagreed, but that it was just flat out wrong and I don’t understand economics or the elasticity of retail. Someone even added up my sales over two of the selling platforms I use (out of about 8) and accuse me of not selling enough to be able to write a blog about selling.

Do you know what? I never said I knew anything about anything. The people leaving these kind of comments don’t know me, or what I’ve been doing, or they would realise how crazy that sounds.

I’ve been making and selling for about five years, and I’ve interacted with people who sell handmade things for most of that time. I’ve heard lots of differing opinions on pricing, visual merchandising, selling items, packaging items. I single-handedly ran a shop selling my own and other people’s handmade items for three years, successfully enough that I needed employees. I also won an award for doing so.

None of this matters though – a blog is opinion. It is not meant to be final say on something, merely adding to the discussion. I’m happy to discuss constructive criticism with anyone – I approved every comment except for a couple, because they were just really cruel and I couldn’t be bothered discussing their thoughts.

So here I am replying to the more negative comments, or the ones who disagreed with me, and why I chose the view I chose.

“Mostly well thought out and good advice, except for one thing: you should never worry about what your competition is selling their item for, or increase your price just for them. That’s bunk. Your business is not about them, it is about you. Don’t deliberately undercut them (at least not by much, because competition is part of the sales world whether indies like it or not) but try to find a fair price and adjust as necessary for your shop. Find a good pricing model for YOU. Good customer service and sales are part of your business, and if you are being undercut, you’ll find a way to sell even when it’s hard. A business is much more than the product. That said, do listen to feedback from those you respect. If they are genuinely trying to help you, consider it. If they’re just worried about their own business, that is their problem. Don’t make an enemy but don’t let them tell you to change something that works for you. I hate competition, but a poorly run business will not thrive for long and being threatened by someone else isn’t productive.”

I included this one as it states what I’m saying is ‘bunk’ – the thing is what follows is stuff I completely agree with, but just didn’t cover in my blogpost. The post was NOT a post about pricing, added value and so on. It was literally about what you shouldn’t say to yourself about pricing. It was written as a chatty blogpost to encourage makers to value themselves. I have actually written articles about some aspects of pricing, mainly saying, ‘I’m not writing an article about pricing because so many other good ones exist,’ and then linking to those articles.

So in answer to this comment, and a few similar ones, you absolutely need to find a pricing model that works for you. You absolutely shouldn’t make enemies or listen to people if you don’t want to. Good customer service is the most important thing for a handmade company to focus on because it’s the way we can be different to bigger companies.

Some other posts I’ve written on pricing and shopkeeping

The importance of pricing correctly in order to keep shops open and keep your business expanding

A discussion on commission and rent rates in independent shops

How small shops can learn from bigger shops and emulate or deviate from their practices

The perils of being a sole trader and blurring the lines between professional and personal

“I only disagree with #8. Looking at others’ prices is a good way to see how much people will pay. If I’m charging $2 more than someone for the same thing, I’ll lower it to the exact same price as the other person so I’m not overcharging.”

I’m actually confused by this, as this is what I said, or what I thought I was saying. I thought it went without saying that if I think you should increase your price to match, then you should also decrease your price to match as long as you are still making a profit.

“I agree with most of your advice but sometimes people price things based on what the market will bear where they live. Someone might be able to charge $30 for a scarf in one area and someone else may not be able to get more than $15 for it. I don’t think people can continually worry about what someone else is charging. People will pay for quality. … Bottom line is this…people are always going to value themselves and their product differently and they have to do what works for them. You will never walk into 2 different stores and find things priced exactly the same. Do you think Walmart is concerned with how Nieman Marcus prices things? Quality is different and customers are aware of that. They are going to spend what they can afford to and your needing to make a full time living from what you do is not going to trump their wanting to find a good deal. We all want our money to go as far as possible.”

Regional pricing is something that I don’t think applies so much in the days of people buying from websites. Basically if you go into a shop and something is more expensive than online, then people think it’s too expensive, regardless of your geographic location. People do want to find a good deal, but that doesn’t mean they have to get the good deal from artisans – I personally believe it’s important that as people who make items with our hands we do not try and compete with the high street, and we do not try and give people a ‘bargain’.

“There are a lot of great points in this article, but I don’t actually think #7 is very valid. I understand the idea behind it, but I think that it prioritizes the interest of one party over the interests of multiple other parties.

For example, what about the societal benefit of having greater access to affordable goods and services? In the hairdresser example, presumably the person who does it as a hobby has less skill than the person who does it as a hobby and doesn’t have all that training. Quality versus cost is a tradeoff that many people are willing to make, but it should be their choice. Moreover, if the person with all that training is not objectively more skilled, perhaps that isn’t a cost that should be passed on to the consumer (since the training doesn’t seem to have impacted the quality of the product).

In addition, what about the interests of the hobbyist who is willing to sell for less? If it is truly something they do for fun or relaxation, then maybe getting replacement cost allows them to keep doing the hobby whereas they might have fewer sales and not be able to recoup costs if they charge more, thus they may not be able to continue doing the hobby.

As I said, I understand the impact this can have on the interests of the professional crafter, but if people are willing to provide the same goods/services at a lower cost (and able to produce enough to meet demand) then maybe it simply isn’t a viable product to make a profession out of selling. It sucks for the person who wants to make a living out of selling that thing, but I don’t see why our interests should trump the interests of the public or the hobbyist.”

This is an interesting point, and I thought it was worth copying here in full, even though I mainly disagree. I just found it a good example of the sort of comment I will bother to engage in. It also feeds into the above point- yes hobbyists can charge less because the quality is not as good as the professional. Unfortunately though the general public buying are still looking for that ‘bargain’.

Also, why should the hobbyist get to do their hobby for free? I have hobbies, I pay for my hobbies. I would like to continue to earn my living from making and not be undercut by someone who makes paper items as a hobby and only wants to get back the cost of the paper. My hobby is cross stitching. I make items for myself and friends, and sometimes to exhibit. I don’t sell my cross stitch because I’m not good enough at it, and I know people who do it for a living. If I start selling my items just to try and cover the costs, it’s not fair on them. To me it’s just manners.

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These are the sort of comments I will engage with. I will not engage in discussions on grammar, spelling, or how I am not as much of a success as you think someone has to be. Anyone who knows me properly knows I will always try and see both sides of everything. The other day I said, ‘just to play devil’s advocate…’ to which a friend immediately said, ‘as you always do.’ What I refuse to do is tell someone if they’ve spelt something wrong, or punctuated it incorrectly, if I have managed to understand what they are saying. I also believe in the old adage of ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ – so whether you’re telling me you hate what I make, you hope I fail, or you think I’m fat, I don’t really care.

One comment I want to answer more fully will be getting its own blogpost, and it’s the comment about ‘knowing when to stop trying to make a living from making things’ – so look out for that soon. In the meantime, if you don’t know what blogpost all this refers to, have a look here

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