Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Art and Science and Insecurity of Pricing on Etsy: Round 2

So! I made a bracelet. I'm sure this is all shocking to anyone who's followed me for any length of time!

The picture is not the greatest. Better ones will be up on the Facebook page tomorrow, when I have more flattering daylight. Until then, here's this noisy, low-quality, poorly-edited mess:

Sciart jewelry: speed of light bracelet for physics lovers.
Speed of light (meters per second, in a vacuum)  wrap bracelet/choker

This is a bracelet I've been thinking about making since December. Today I sat down and made it (mostly because I put it on my HabitRPG "to do" list). It took around an hour and a half to make. The beaded portion is around 16", meaning it will comfortably wrap twice around the typical wrist as a bracelet or once around the neck as a choker. (Really. Probably. If it fits comfortably on me, it will probably fit comfortably on a lot of people; I have a thick neck.)

Sometimes when I finish a project, all I feel is unequivocal pride. "Girl, you are lookin' flyyyyyy," my inner diva says, admiring the work. Other times I shrug and go, "Eh."

That is how I feel about this bracelet. Anyone who knows anything about making these guys will be able to spot some problems with my ladder stitching straight away.

So then the question is: should I sell it?  Or keep it?

I love the colors the way I would love a throw pillow, or someone else's outfit. Really cool, but not necessarily my thing to wear on my person. So it's not something I'm dying to keep (unlike some other pieces in my shop that break my heart to sell). So the answer is to sell it, right? (Assuming for the moment I have no one to give it away to. Maybe I'll give it away here. Stay tuned!)

But then here we are, to the kernel of the issue: for how much? How should I price it? If I know how I normally value my time but wish to make an exception, how can I do that?

I talked just a few weeks ago about pricing items on Etsy, which I think sellers and buyers alike should read. If it's fresh in your memory, you'll recall that one of my guidelines for pricing is: how much do I value an hour of my time? how long did an item take to make?

My going rate when pricing things is $30 an hour, or $58,000 annually if I were working full-time. (Hint: I do not make jewelry full-time.) So I'd have to think of a retail price that would be profitable if I were selling this bracelet at $45 wholesale.

Whoa child, slow down!

If this had been a "girl, you are lookin' flyyyyyy" bracelet, I'd have no issue with that amount. But it's not.

Believe me, I value my work. And I value other people's work. But you should also be able to acknowledge when a piece of work is a (re)learning experience. When you were not efficient with the time you spent on something. So I can admit to myself that this is a practice piece, and so if I want to sell it I should take the hit. How much of a hit should I take?

Well, there's the "how much do I think other people would value it" method: you can try to imagine it in a store, or scour Etsy for similar items, but this involves a lot of shopping around and, ultimately, guess work. So

Let's make it the US minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. A retail value of $22 would be completely doable in that scenario....if I wanted to earn a minimum wage that hasn't been updated or adjusted in six years ($15,000 annually). Even if I think my time is worth more than minimum wage (it is!), I now have a "basement value" for this piece. If I sell it below this price, I'm valuing my time even less than Uncle Sam does. In fact, the basement price should really be something like $25, to account for Etsy fees, the time spent photographing and then image editing, and the packaging for when it finally ships—otherwise I'd be paying myself less than minimum wage.

Let's take the minimum wage that Barack Obama mandated in 2014 for federal workers: $10.10. That would be a retail price of $30. (Makes sense: an extra $2.85 an hour = an extra $4.37 in labor costs, which when doubled to account for retail is around the $8 difference.) Now we're looking at around $19,000 annually.

As a final tier, let's take the ideal minimum wage that many activists are campaigning: $15 / hour, or half of how I normally price my time: $29,000 annually. That would call for a retail cost of $44.

Now I have a range of concrete values to choose from, depending on how "meh" I feel about this particular piece—if I still want to sell it.

Because there are other ways to see value, too. The value for me, for example, isn't only in "how much money can I make from this?" There's also value in learning or remembering a technique, and practicing it so that in the future I can do it better and more efficiently. I can value it as a step towards more even stitches, and reducing the time it takes to make a comparable bracelet from an hour and a half to maybe just one hour, or maybe even less. It won't put food on the table but it's still worthwhile.

Even given away, under the right circumstances and with the right management, would be beneficial: free advertising, increased brand recognition, and other positive things could lead to future sales. Given away free, or for the cost of shipping, also relieves me of the guilt of "not as good as it could have been," since I'm asking nothing in return.

My point here in all this rambling is that it's possible to value "practice work" monetarily as well as abstractly. (My point also is that handiwork takes time and artisan's time is worth paying for, but that is kind of always my point.)

I guess my other point is that holy crap these wrap bracelets take a long time to make and I need some protips on how to do it better and faster.

No comments:

Post a Comment