Monday, 16 January 2012

Between the devil and the deep blue sea....

I've posted before that I'd like to make sewing and all other things quilty, provide me with an I've made a few things and listed some of them on Etsy and on Madeit.  I priced them according to the value of the actual materials it cost me to buy as well as a cost per hour for the time it took me to make them (and I have to say the cost per hour was exceptionally low - I could make 3 times as much per hour serving in a shop - this is not a moan, honestly, just wanted to highlight that my cost per hour is not over the top).

I was super excited that I sold one of my pouches, and looked forward to perhaps selling some more - but unfortunately, to date, that hasn't been the case....I seem to have a few viewers of my stuff, but no takers.....are they too expensive?, are they naff?, have I not adequately highlighted the care I've taken in making them?, is my taste in my bum?..and today I finished a couple more items that I'm going to list and I have worked out how much they cost me to make (materials and time).

bright baby quilt with matching soft basket

pastel baby quilt with matching soft basket

My quandry though is one that I am sure everyone who has attempted to put a price on a handmade item has experienced - where is the line between value for money and expensive?  I really don't want to completely understate my time and effort but if I undercut my per hour rate further, I will be earning less than those working in sweatshops in 3rd world countries!

Obviously, I'm assuming that the reason no-one's buying is because of the price - but maybe it's because I don't have a big enough audience, or maybe it's because there's a recession on, or my stuff doesn't stand out from whatever else is on Etsy or Madeit - maybe I need to offer items at a vastly reduced price to 'get my name out there' and go for volume - but this then means I can't afford to spend as much time per item as I do - something will have to give.  I tell you, it's a real quandry.

I'm currently reading:

The Handmade Market Place:

How to sell your crafts locally, globally and onlineBy Kari Chapin

recommended by the lovely Kathy and hope to have further insight into 'selling handmade' success, as well as reading the Etsy 'boot camp' lessons that I filed away to read another day - obviously need to digest the pearls of wisdom provided.

This on-line selling is very much a learning experience but I will persevere....anyone out there have any pearls of wisdom for me?


  1. I've read a few posts on the problem of pricing in the last year and the sad truth is that very few people are prepared to pay what a handmade item is worth.
    I can't remember who, but someone put together a formula to calculate the real price you should charge.
    Non crafters have absolutely no idea about the time taken and cost of materials.
    Thats part of the reason I decided not to go down that route. Its just too difficult.

  2. There's another interesting post on this subject here

    Like Shevvy I wonder if most of the people who appreciate and understand the value of hand made things the most are actually crafters themselves.

  3. Complete agreement with shevvy and catherine. I have no pearls of wisdom but I am cheering you on in your goals and your attempt...has to be challenging. You will win!

  4. I'm agreeing with the above and I think trying to find your niche can be soul destroying at times. Just know that we are all cheering you on and fingers crossed you find the right formula.

  5. I agree with what has been said. I have no idea what to change or whether you are doing it right or wrong. All I can say is good luck and I have my fingers crossed for you.

  6. Have you had a look through the etsy forums for advice? I know they do shop critiques and can offer help on SEO/photography etc ( I only know this because I've been psyching myself up to do the same thing lol)

  7. Oh dear, this is one of those make or break a friendship things... Right, the following is not a personal attack, just an impersonal observation!

    Firstly pricing - Those of us outside the US will always be at a disadvantage over base material costs, since the fabric costs us so much more import, unfortunately that means that when it comes to 'fair' pricing for our hours of labour, we will then potentially price ourselves out of the market.

    Looking at the first things returned on a search for box pouch, I can see similar sized pouches to yours which are coming in about £5 -£3 cheaper each @ £8 - £10 rather than yours @ £13.50 (sorry, not sure what your dollar conversions are here, but felt the difference could still be used to illuminate things, ie, that you're charging around 1/2 to 1/3 more again) Etsy is an international marketplace, and unfortunately, from my point of view, and, I imagine those also buying internationally and within the US, the US items are much cheaper, so I'd be inclined to buy them (were I in the market for such a thing). With items such as this I think you'd probably do better with passing trade at a local craft fair, where you're unlikely to meet buyers that either know or care about comparative prices outside the fair, plus they want instant gratification without postage costs.

    As for big ticket items... well, here I've done an experiment of my own. When Etsy was first becoming popular, a number of us bear-makers put our work up for sale. I know of next to no-one that got sales, and from what others have said, big ticket items, such as bears and quilts, are very hard to sell - it seems to be a marketplace where people browse for the small and relatively cheap rather than big and pricey. Also, as a comparison, on page 1 of quilts alone, there's a woman with a 54 x 60 lap quilt, ie slightly bigger than yours, that's selling for £100. Yours is about £160. Again, it's down to the whole fabric pricing, and also that people won't appreciate that whirly gigs are more time consuming than squares to create (there's also a quilt that's a shade over £2k, but I think we'll gloss over that one o.O) There are 33" square baby quilts going for £33. Heartbreaking to us, but the reality is that either we need to not pay ourselves labour, or, again, find another marketplace.

    I think in order to be able to sell on Etsy you'd need to come up with something truly unique, original and that there is no comparison for, and then market the hell out of it. Which you probably don't have time for...

    Secondly, photos. Those pouches need to be on a solid, non cluttered background (bit of white fabric from Spotlight would do, ironed and spread out evenly) You also could probably do with a couple more angles and close ups, plus something to give a sense of scale (and not a coin because, well, would you know the size of a 5p piece for example?) perhaps pencils, make up or whatever you're suggesting the pouch be used for.

    My buying criteria for items is that I want good, bright, evenly lit photos where I'm not even in the slightest bit dubious about the colour, and it's something I spend a lot of time on for my website. I don't want to see your furnishings, junk you haven't cleared out of the way, the fact that you apparently live in a house with a 1 watt bulb, that lives on the other side of the room from where you tried to take your photo, etc and find it astonishing that people don't consider this for their own photos when it's likely a buying criteria they have themselves! Again, of course, if you sold at a fair in the flesh, it wouldn't be an issue!

    Sorry, I bet you're wishing I hadn't caught up on my blog reading now!

  8. Hi Katie,
    All good comments here. I believe that the only person who sells her quilts online must be Rita of Red Pepper and I wonder if it is because 1) she has a gigantor readership (her last giveaway had 1000+ comments) and 2) she's tapped into a market where the clientele are not crafters and are willing to pay more money for her quilts? I've also tried to sell my things (before the online universe got started) at craft fairs, consignment shops, etc. and did feel like I was always getting the raw end of the deal in terms of pricing. Your quilts are beautiful, and I hope you don't view this as a reflection of your handiwork (I have some of it and it is topnotch), but perhaps the market in general.

    Hang in there--
    Elizabeth E.

  9. Selling handmade is always hard Katie - only those that make things understand the love and devotion that goes into the end product - and if we do appreciate tht we are more likely to make it ourselves.

    Having said that, you have to price yourself accordingly - if you were lower your prices and you suddenly sell 20 quilts - would you (a) be really happy to have to make that many and (b) be happy to sell them at a much lower margin.

    I tend to agree that people like to touchy feely these types of things - who can appreciate the quality of the fabrics or the workmanship from photos - perhaps a craft market near you would be a good idea - at least there you can judge reaction of real live people - and not just your friends either (cos we'd all buy all of it) :o)

    I'd also question how Etsy and Madeit do their marketing - I only visit the stores of people I know - other crafty people - where else do they advertise to gather the interest of non-crafty people?

    In no way is the number of quilts you sell any reflection on your skills or your tastes my lovely friend xxx

  10. I need these pearls of wisdom too, because I'd like to start selling on Etsy this year. So many factors to consider...

  11. I'm afraid I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said but I do love the quilts and baskets and no, your taste isn't in your bum!


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