Thanks for all the interest and comments on my Booth tips last week. I decided to follow up with some talk about pricing! A much debated topic but I hope I can help you by sharing my thoughts and ideas.
The first thing to understand about pricing handmade items to sell is that your time and effort are THE biggest factor in the process when you are sewing. YES, material costs are something to think about but they really only add pennies instead of dollars to the bottom line. Here is my story of sewing crayon art folios to help you understand my pricing process.
My biggest seller from over the years is the Crayon Art Folio. Year after year after YEAR, people keep buying them when I do a holiday show. When I designed the sewing pattern back in 2010, I made a few (maybe 7) for the holiday show I attended that year. They sold out quickly and I wished I had made many more. The following year, I made 20, and priced them at $20, and again, ALL sold! Wow! That was $400 dollars. The following year, I made 20 again and priced them at $25. Only half sold to my disappointment but not my surprise. $25 was too much for a crayon holder even if it did have cute designer fabrics, crayola crayons and a nice paper pad. But honestly when I calculated my time, $25 was a more realistic price for all my efforts! There are lots of parts to the crayon holder- the fusing of interfacing, the sewing on velcro, the individual tiny crayon pockets, and then, top stitching through thick layers, etc.
My customers (in Pittsburgh- a pretty frugal market) are willing to pay about $20 for this product. I tried $22 and that sold OK, but $20 is the sweet spot. They feel like they are getting something really nice for their kids and even though it’s a little much for crayons and paper, its something that will last. For me, I needed to figure out how to make ME feel comfortable with selling for $20, not try to get THEM to change their whole understanding of the worth of handmade. Other things can sell for more- designer pillows, chic purses, etc. Nothing is worse than person after person at a show praising your work and then after looking at the price walking away! Ouch.
Here is what I did to get ME comfortable with $20. First- I looked at the design. How can I make this quicker and easier? That is the question you need to ask your self over and over again. Selling handmade is about craftsmanship, but you can very quickly eat up your own compensation with details that don’t affect the over all design and quality of your piece. I realized that the 2nd pocket was not really needed. I basically realized this because my own kids never used that pocket! By omitting the 2nd pocket, I saved time and materials. I adjusted that 1 pocket to be a little longer.
Second- I looked at my materials. I know that my customers want the fun, unique fabric that I order online or purchase at the quilt shop. They don’t want something common from the big fabric store. How can I make sure that I use every bit of that fabric and make all of it count? MATH. Yes. I know you can do math too! I discovered that for 3 half yards of fabric, I could make 4 complete crayon holders with very little waste. If one of those 1/2 yards was solid (for the interior backing) I only spent about $12 or $13 on 3 half yards of fancy fabric not even on sale! 4 crayon holders would bring me $80. So, $80-13 = $67. Your profit is a little more when you shop a fabric sale but not that much really.
Next, the insides. I discovered that if I used cheap ($1.50 a yard) stabilizer instead of fusible interfacing ($3.50 a yard), I actually liked the results better since the crayon holder was a little more sturdy. AND, no more pressing all that fusible stuff! Also, after people emailing this suggestion to me for years, I finally used fusible fleece for the exterior piece instead of fusing a layer of interfacing and then using expensive cotton batting in each crayon holder. For 4 crayon holders, the fleece is about $2.60 and the stabilizer is $1.50. My equation is $67-2.60= 64.40. Then, $64.40- 1.50= $62.90
You also need about 2 feet of velcro to make 4 crayon holders. That is about $.75. So, 62.90-.75= $62.15
Then, I include 12 crayola crayons and a 5” x 7” pad of paper. I have looked online for crayon deals, like buying in bulk but no luck so far. The best I find is purchasing many boxes at back to school time for $.50 a box. This year I bought 30 boxes! Each box has 24 crayons so, I use 2 boxes for 4 crayon holders. I purchased a bunch of the paper pads from a local printer for $.50 a pad. I bought them at a variety of places before going this route, but I found my local printer was happy to do the job! yay! So, $62.15- 1.00 ( 48 crayons) = 61.15, and $61.15- 2.00 (4 paper pads) = $59.15.
SO, I have $59.15 to work with on my time to make a worthwhile profit. Can i work with that to make FOUR crayon holders?
Third- My time is really the deciding factor on keeping my profits to a reasonable amount. First, I always make this 4 or more at a time, assembly line style. I sew all 4 exterior pieces together at once and fuse the fleece at one time. Then fold and top stitch all the pockets at once. Then make all the handles. Then sew on all the velcro (tedious!). Then attach all the crayon pockets. Then sew all the crayon pocket dividers (even more tedious!!!). Then sew the exteriors and interiors right sides together. Then turn them all inside out. Then press and carefully top stitch the perimeter of all 4. Finally, I add the crayons and paper pad. DONE! I can make 4 in 2 hours if I don’t make too many mistakes. Phew. That’s almost $30 an hour. Not bad!
BUT, what about the fees from the show? What about all the time and effort developing this strategy? What about the business cards, the website fees? The time spent promoting through social media? Those numbers are hard to estimate into an individual crayon holder 🙂 . But, safely, and honestly, it could almost cut my hourly wage in half down to only about $15 an hour.
Still, working with adorable fabrics and making something cute and useful for families- on my own time schedule so that I can spend time with MY adorable family, $15 an hour isn’t too bad 🙂 . PLUS, sewing is fun. Very fun. Even if I have to sew those tedious crayon divider pockets 🙂
Can you relate your pricing to this strategy? I have probably made almost 300 crayon holders over the past 8 years! It’s harder to evaluate other things I sew for sales so easily. What lessons have you learned? Are you honest with yourself about pricing? I have broken down my income/ spending after some craft shows and discovered I only made about $4 an hour. That was so depressing! But, eventually those things sold and kept bringing my numbers up. Patience is needed in the handmade business 🙂