Friday, November 09, 2012

Why does handmade cost so much?


I’ve seen lots of blog posts out there with this same title. So here’s my spin on things.

I get many, many emails from potential customers asking me for discounts. They tell me that they simply can’t afford my prices but they really want my stockings/pillows/etc. I’m not really sure what they are asking me for—having monogrammed stockings or pillows is not a necessity in life.  Buy the basic ones from Target as they are very inexpensive. I am truly flattered that they love my work but there just isn’t much I can do—I simply can’t (and won’t) work just to break even.  That’s not very business savvy according my business management professors in college Smile. When customers ask for a discount I am tempted to ask them if they do that same thing at Macy’s—ask the clerk if they can have a discount if they buy more than one pair of pants. Yup, it sounds silly when it’s put that way. But I don’t say that—I simply reply with, “Price is firm”. Or better yet, I should advise them to buy my sewing pattern and make the stockings themselves!

1.  I live in the Unites States of America, not communist China. A living wage here is much higher.  usa_2 Depending on the time of year, I also have 1-2 assistants. I pay them a decent wage as well. Like my cousin tells me, “We may be Mexican but we don’t work for beans!” Amen, cousin.

2. Self employment taxes are extraordinarily high. At least in my opinion they are high. Most home-based businesses pay their taxes on their individual returns which means that we are taxed by our household income (spouse’s income included) which can be around 10-30%.  To incorporate my business would mean to pay even higher taxes. Sigh. So being honest means I have to pay Uncle Sam.

3. Supplies (variable costs) for me include, first of all, fabric. Have you seen the price of cotton in the last few years sky rocket? I pay double for muslin and other cottons now compared to two years ago. I use a ton of linen—a ton. Linen is spun from flax seeds—not cheap. All of my fabrics are man made fibers—silk, linen, and cotton. I do not use any polyester fabrics. Ever. (*Shivers*) I want you to have the best and the best isn’t free. Add to this zippers, stabilizers, thread, etc.

DSC_0939 copy


3. Equipment (fixed costs). For my business‘handmade’ doesn’t mean that I am sitting by candlelight at night stitching stockings or pillows with a needle and thread. (For many businesses, that is handmade though, well, hopefully not the candle part) In my business I have to have professional software  which costs in the thousands, the best embroidery machine, the best sewing machine, a great camera with changeable lenses,  sometimes hiring a photographer when needed, and all of that costs mucho dinero. My embroidery machine cost more than a car—I’ll just leave it at that. Other fixed costs include Pay Pal fees, credit card fees, website hosting fees, webmaster fees, etsy fees, and on the list goes.


4. Tender loving care, oh and lots of time. On the stockings pictured below—I digitized every one of those names unique to that order. The snowflakes are my own creation as well—digitized by yours truly. Every individual stocking starts out with me at my computer. The name is typed out in the customer’s choice of  font, I manually space the letters to get the best look—some letters further apart, some overlapping until it is visually pleasing. The snowflakes are then added in, again one by one, spaced to look pleasing all the while remembering that it must all fall within a 7” wide strip of fabric. Okay, too much information, back to being general about things. Notice each of the snowflakes is in a different position, all relative to the name—all hand done. Then the real work at the machines begins. I won’t even try to explain that part!

stockings  (12) copy

Do you see the zipper installed in the below image? Exactly, you can hardly see it because I’m good at what I do. Quality, quality, quality. (Shameless bragging, sorry.)

red bird pillow 004

5. The final step is packaging, which my amazing husband does for me. He prints the labels, weighs each package, calculates the postage, buys my shipping supplies, etc. What a great guy! He could easily say to me, “I just worked 10 hours today counting beans, do your own work lady!” But he spends hours a week at night helping my our small business.

6. Unique. I often get emails from clients, “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”. And that’s why handmade costs more than crap made. You are paying an artist. She has a unique talent that she’s willing to share that with you for a very modest price.

Please value that talent.


rainbow stripes pillow 006


QuiltingCyclist said...

Dear Cynthia, Stand firm. You stated the facts very clearly and briefly. Well done. Your work always shows your talent and attention to detail. Merry Christmas to your entire family!

Jessica said...

Back in the day when I'd started designing cloth diaper patterns, someone did the math and decided that it only cost $3.00 or so in fabric and materials to make a diaper. Ladies who were sewing diapers and selling them were charging $15 - $30 for a single diaper.

A veritable online mutiny ensued. People freaked out, demanding to know why all these women were 'snowing' the poor, talentless, masses to get rich on diaper purchases.

I died. Well, a lot of us died. And then someone wrote the best post ever... though I suppose it wasn't a post back then, as no one had blogs. But it detailed the cost of buying fabric and notions in bulk, sometimes needing to purchase huge quantities for custom milled fabrics, purchasing and maintaining sergers, sewing machines, embroidery machines, and in some cases fabric saws to cut out many diaper cuts at once. On top of it all, was the time, the labor, the skill. Oh, and don't forget high speed internet costs, web designer fees, shopping cart, and merchant card plans, paypal fees, paper for invoices, labels, ink, packaging supplies, and electricity to run it all.

She then listed out the costs of having employees to help, and being able to provide a fair wage for them. In the end, most of those ladies selling diapers at $18 a pop were earning below minimum wage.

So. High five sister. Stand strong.

Cindy's Custom Creations said...

Thank you for this post. I try to explain this, but you have summed up all the hidden costs that most customers are unaware of.

Cyndia said...

A perfect post. Stand firm.

Tonje said...

Fabulous, I love this article! This is so true. I use your site for inspiration and you are truly an inspiration, thank you! Have a nice week :)

Anne Rita said...

Go girl! Thanks for all the great designs you share with the rest of us. Love your style and thanks for sharing techniques and inspiration as well. :-)

CH said...

Ordered some Chrustmas stocking from you because they (you) are worth every penny! You insire me. I think of myself as crafty but you are amazing.

Lisa Holman of XSBaggage and Co. said...

I just stumbled across your post, and you explain this so well! I also sell sewn products, online and at markets and shows, and get so weary of people making snide remarks about the prices. I try to just chalk it up to ignorance on their part. :) I'd love to point them to your well thought out blog post.

Maryannescloset said...

This is my first posted comment ever. I apologize if it is not protocol...I have just found you cynthia and well you speak my language. I was a dressmaker many years ago. Started at age 18. I worked up to an expert sewing for many prominent women making all their clothes from designer patterns. Took care of my babies during the day and sewing for customers all night. I was always having to justify to people why I charged what I did. Then I went into retail fabrics selling only the best natural fibers and it started all over again..."when will this be on sale ? I love your fabrics and designs etc but I will wait to buy them when they are cheaper"! Anyway I just got so tired of explaining.......well this is long and I could go on...but thanks for writing this. I am going to print it out and give it to a friend of mine with a home based business selling children's fabrics and smocking supplies etc. Keep is priceless! Maryanne


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