If you’re a seller or buyer of handmade goods, this post is for you. A major benefit of buying from small businesses and actual people (as opposed to, ya know, Target) is the fact that, most of the time, you can get something totally custom that you specifically helped design. When I saw a burlap clutch my friend Emily was selling in her Etsy shop, I knew I wanted one. Only instead of the peach floral lining, I wanted a teal chevron pattern because it was so much more “me”. Emily went to the fabric store, sent me pictures of some samples, and made the clutch happen. An awesome handmade jewelry shop (whose branding was created by Dinosaur Stew. Check it.), Every Day Baubles, held my hand through the process of creating a custom ring, including helping me figure out my ring size when I had no idea how. In the end, I got a fab custom ring. It fits perfectly and no one else has one like it. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that pretty nifty!
You can see the obvious perks to ordering custom from handmade sellers. However, a lot of creators don’t charge more for custom work, and I’m going to tell you why they should.
1. Time is Money
It’s an old cliche, but it’s true. Custom work usually takes more time, from the (sometimes incessant) messaging back and forth with the client to make sure you’re getting the order just so to, in the example I gave above, physically going out of the way to purchase a special type of fabric or other supply. All of this eats into time that a creator could spend doing other stuff, like making non-custom products or promoting their business. I love customizing Dinosaur Stew’s products for our clients, which usually consists of adding in their existing logo or changing colors so it better suits their brand. But it takes time: time to figure out what exactly I’ll be doing, and time to actually do it. That’s why I always charge a small fee to make changes.
2. Don’t Give it Away
A lot of handmade sellers are usually so desperate to make a sale they undervalue their work, pricing things low because they think it will entice buyers. At a craft show, I recently saw crochet towels (visual here) selling for a mere $3.25. Three dollars and twenty five cents. My grandmother crochets in her spare time and has made these before, and I know for a fact that $3.25 doesn’t even cover the supplies, let alone the labor. I’ve read on the Etsy forums how sellers have actually lost money on custom sales because they were quick to agree to selling a custom item for the “regular” price because, ooooh, it’s a sale!, but the materials required actually ended up being much more expensive than the usual supplies. Don’t become a “yes man.” If it’s going to cost you extra to make, figure it out ahead of time, let the client know, and charge accordingly.
3. Don’t Grow the Wrong Customer Base
What kind of customers do you want: bargain shoppers or shoppers looking for beautiful, quality, handmade goods? I think we all know the answer. I highly doubt that any full-time seller trying to grow their business and actually, ya know, eat is going to ever turn a profit on a crochet towel priced at $3.25. Eventually, you will have to raise your prices. A customer base full of people wanting a super bargain probably aren’t going to understand that you’re sick of eating ramen, so they will likely abandon you for the next latest deal. Besides, if I’m ordering something custom, I will gladly pay a little bit more to get a quality, customized product instead of receiving something that falls apart in two days. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Quality Comes First
I love offering affordable products for clients with limited budgets, but I also believe that quality comes first. I recently increased my prices on custom blog and website designs because a lot of time goes into them, making sure everything not only looks great, but is coded properly and up to the industry’s latest standards. Could I chop my prices in half? Sure, but the end result wouldn’t be the best it could be, and that’s not the type of business I want to run.
5. The Domino Effect
Undervaluing and underpricing your work has a domino effect on the whole handmade industry. By keeping your prices respectable, not only will you save yourself from becoming equivalent with a knock-off Coach bag sold at a flea market in Mexico, you’ll be doing the whole industry a favor by keeping the handmade buyer’s expectations where they should be. If you cut your prices, then I might have to cut my prices, and, before you know it, every seller will be forced to sell their products for cheap, unsustainable prices. Don’t let “handmade” become equivalent with “cheap pricing” or “golly, the quality of this SUCKS”.