Monday, April 25, 2011

About Pricing and An Apology

You've probably already seen "An Artist's Guide to Pricing" by Brandi Hussey on Art Bead Scene's blog last week. If you have not, it is a wonderful free resource certain to be indispensable to those starting out in the jewelry-making (or any craft) business. It definitely opened my eyes.

Pricing has been one of the most difficult things for me to do with my business. This is due to several reasons (which Brandi explores in her e-book, too). The first is that I've been an art student for most of my life and it has been ingrained in me that art has no real material value. Not only that, but it's been ingrained that this is the way it's supposed to be. It's like artists aren't supposed to be successful. Brandi calls this the "purist" attitude and it was an unbelievable relief to know that I am not alone in suffering from this damaging mindset.

The second thing is that I have always been extremely self-conscious. Doubts about one's self can definitely effect and be transferred down to how one thinks about one's work. I've always believed my artwork to be inferior for some reason. (When I was in school, no teacher I ever had approved of what I wanted to draw or paint. I have a sneaking suspicion that that had something to do with it...) Anyway, I've felt the same way about my jewelry. Even now, I struggle with it. No one likes me, no one will want my jewelry. When I give people drawings, paintings, or jewelry, I bet they imagine I'm too cheap to get them a real gift. My work is something they'll shove into a nook of a bookshelf or something and never look at again. It's just paper and ink, it's just acrylic paint, it's just beads and string. It's worthless in the real world. People buy things from me because they feel sorry for me. And so on, and so forth.  This is a real battle. It happens daily. Brandi Hussey says we must separate this sensitive artist part of ourselves from the pragmatic business part of ourselves in order to succeed. I am really starting to feel like she is correct.

The third one is ignorance. This is my first business experience. It has been one lesson learned after another. When all this began, I had no idea about pricing at all. I treated it like an afterthought, considered what I would pay for something sort of similar at Wal-Mart or someplace like that (HUGE MISTAKE). I didn't know what competitive selling was (I'm not a very competitive person). I didn't know any equations for computing cost of materials, overhead, or profit. Now I know a lot more and I owe you folks an apology. I had no idea what sorts of consequences underselling myself could have for other people involved in the world of handmade goods. People were telling me all the time that my prices were too low. Customers would often give me extra money and I didn't understand. I thought they felt sorry for me or were just trying to be nice or something. But then an art gallery owner made an offhand remark about my prices and a fellow artist took me aside and gave me a stern warning. It shocked me a bit. Again, though, I am not alone. Brandi has similar stories in her e-book. This is something I will have to seriously reconsider, I thought. Where to start? But her book lays everything out so simply and poignantly, it all makes so much sense.

I will have to revise the way that I do the business side of my business, especially if I want to continue making mostly one-of-a-kind pieces. I've put my Etsy shop into vacation mode and am going over my inventory.

To all you folks out there living the life of the artist, I'm so sorry. I certainly never meant to offend you or cause uneven competition between us. I hope you can forgive this newbie.

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Emerald Window said...

Jacinta, I have a story that may help you. Years ago, I started a business of designing gardens. I knew a lot about it, but didn't feel like I knew everything there was about it. I didn't have much belief in myself even though the people I designed for loved what I produced. I always undercharged ($10 per hour). A while later, I was getting swamped with work because I was underpricing myself. So I raised my rates to $25 per hour to cut some of my load. I figured that only the people who REALLY wanted me to do their design would hire me. What happened was that people started valuing my work more and I had even MORE customers who I then had to turn down. I was finally able to choose the projects I really wanted to work on and be paid well for them. When we underprice our wares, it devalues them and ourselves. You are a FABULOUS artist and beadsmith and you are worth more than you can imagine.

TesoriTrovati said...

I don't know that you should beat yourself up over this! I have this pricing conversation all the time with people, especially those just starting out. I had this epiphany rather early on in my 'career' as an artist that I needed to really consider more than just cost of materials in my pricing structure. I set up a plan for about 2 years where I documented every single thing in my primarily one-of-a-kind pieces. I got so good at it that I have very little trouble doing it now. It is more a feeling brought on by experience. You will find what works for you. But just having the knowledge that you are not alone in this handcrafted world is a great start! I am sorry that your self-esteem has taken a hit, that what you want to do as an artist growing up was not developed or valued, but you do have worth. Your time and talent account for a lot. Yes, there are pretty beads and beautiful artist made components out there, but you matter too. Treat yourself as if you do and the world will start to follow suit, I guarantee it!
Thank you for sharing your insights and for the reminder that we need to value what we create. I didn't have time to download Brandi's ebook but I will do it now!
Enjoy the day!

Marian Hertzog said...

Thanks for sharing this. Pricing is difficult to do. It also seems that it makes a difference where you are trying to sell. Glad you are learning and getting confidence in your work. Your pieces are awesome!