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by Zoe Rooney of A Quick Study

knowing your value, valuing your self, pricing talent and technique

In the world of creative entrepreneurs, solo businesses, and income-through-crafting (or attempted-income-through-crafting, as the case may be), the conversation about worth, value, and pricing is having a big moment.

People are coming to realize that there’s actually quite a bit that goes into what you pay for an item and what an item is really worth (note that those two things are often not equivalent).

Jess and I have tried to contribute to the value conversation through our grand experiment Worthsy, but beyond the numbers game of pricing, discounts, and value, I think there’s a whole element about personal worth that hasn’t been discussed as thoroughly.

When you ARE your business, when your products come directly from your brain and your hands, it feels like putting a price point on your products means putting a price point on yourself.

I paint as a hobby (in fact, my art degree was actually focused on painting). If I were to put up a painting for sale, I would be pricing not on the cost of the canvas nor on the number of hours it took to complete the painting. Of course, I’d consider those things as a starting point. But if I were to sell a painting, what I’d really be pricing is the creativity, inspiration, and technique, and how all those things (and likely more) come together in a final product.

In a society where we make fun of too much self-confidence, it’s incredibly hard to place value on our own strengths and talents.

It often feels awkward and socially unacceptable to put a high price on our skills and talents.

The thing is, by lowering the price point, by undervaluing our work, and by underselling ourselves, what we’re really communicating is that our creativity or inspiration or technique isn’t valuable.

If that’s true, like for certain processes and media where technique isn’t central to the outcome, that’s fine.

But when we get down to the pieces and products that are truly wrought from our hands, that take attention to technique, and that take extensive development and creativity, it’s downright dangerous.

Dangerous because it risks lowering the value of handmade across our community to the point where it isn’t sustainable for makers and artists to keep making and creating art, and where the only thing that can be maintained is mass-production or a low quality of life for the makers.

Putting a price on intangibles that go into your work is hard.

But a world without sustainable small businesses built around handmade products? Hard doesn’t even come close.

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about the author

Zoe Rooney has written 7 posts on Oh My! Handmade Goodness. Zoe is a front-end web developer who creates custom websites and also runs a number of various web-related side projects. When not coding, she's mom-in-chief to two little boys and a large dog, which leaves little time for other interests like reading, running, drawing, and home renovation.
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  • http://noisettemarketing.com Isa

    Yes, yes, yes! I actually liked this on Facebook before I even read it! I knew it would be great and it is. I hope the conversation about worth and value keeps on going until it finally starts to sink in. If you value yourself + value your products others will value you (and your products) in return. It is simple really but many people (myself included) struggle with it everyday.

    I love the phrase, “when your products come directly from your brain and your hands…” Brilliant, such powerful imagery.

    Thank you!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      I love how this post takes the conversation deeper-if we value ourselves AND our work we are also better able to see value in what others have to offer. When I worked with inner city youth I would tell them how the hardest thing I ever did in my life was to fight for myself and to see my own worth. We are bombarded with images/ideas of how we should view ourselves and taught to judge our own abilities against others instead of identifying our own inner beauty/value. It’s no wonder that this is an issue for the handmade community in terms of valuing products when it is such a wider/deeper issue. Thank you for bringing it up so eloquently Zoe, this is a post to read many times as a reminder of what is really valuable.

  • http://www.hendersonrubincreative.blogspot.com/ Lisa~HR Creative Design Studio

    Zoe, such an important conversation to have in our community. Thank you for bring this topic to light. I agree with Isa and Jessika’s comments as well, spot on for sure.

  • http://www.allisajacobs.etsy.com Allisa

    Just brilliant. So thoughtful & well said.

    I love how you point out the intangibles of pricing…it’s that extra little spark of specialness that often gets over looked and undervalued.

    Thank you for this wonderful post Zoe!

  • http://www.dotandlil.com Dot & Lil

    I was underpriced for so long. I am finally able to let those who think my prices are too high walk away! And not feel bad! My product doesn’t have to be for everybody. It IS special! It doesn’t belong in a bargain bin.

    But being able to confidently raise prices takes time and experience. Thank you so much for the lovely post!

  • http://myteddy.com.au Toni – My Teddy

    Couldn’t agree more! With so many handmade a personalised products now in the market, those that thought they were escaping the grind of 9-5 now find they are working harder than ever for a buck due to underpricing. I value what I don’t want to feel apologetic when I raise prices due to rising costs. But it is hard to walk away. I know what we do takes time and creativity, and is not mass manufactured. If others who do underprice continue, they may find themselves out of business before too long.

  • http://www.fourthandfolded.com Chelsey | 4th&Folded

    This reminds me of the quote I have above my desk – “The artist only has one ambition, to master his material in such a way that his work is independant of the value of the raw materials”. – Adolf Loos
    I’ll be raising my prices again shortly!

  • Tracey

    You very eloquently summed up a problem/issue/state of mind that, while individual in nature, truly affects scores of artists.

    From personal experience of trying to determine worth and value for a very intangible products-brand ideas and creativity-I have to say it really took me a long time to set prices that were fair to me. The process was daunting, only because I had not taken the time to understand what the value was for my clients (and it was huge).

    Taking the leap to research the market and then just muster up the cajones to set my prices at a level were I was able to grow my business and my clients’ business was worth it not just for my business, but also my soul.

  • http://drawntoletters.etsy.com Joanne

    When you see a good piece of original art that seems speedy to create I always remind people that you are paying for the hundreds of drawings and paintings that came before in order to create the magic and confidence of a few fresh strokes in exactly the right place! Thanks for this thoughtful post.

  • http://www.lauribakerphotography.com lauri

    It’s about time someone else talked about the value of talent. So many artists think they’re successful if they can just cover their costs and maybe make enough profit to buy themselves a coffee. And even more of them celebrate just getting paid period, even if they get paid less than their costs. They don’t even consider getting paid for their artistic contribution to the finished product…which is by far the biggest component! Sustainability is a concept most customers don’t understand because there are so many artists underpricing, that the perceived value of art is becoming really distorted.

  • http://chairyblossoms.etsy.com chairyblossoms

    You talk about a difficult topic with such grace.

  • http://jeanhuangphotography.wordpress.com Jean Huang Photography

    Very well said!

    I was having a discussion with a potential client recently about the common recognition of consumers on the value of the “tangibles” and not that of the “intangibles”.

    One customer was complaining about how “just a few prints” from his family portrait would cost “that much”. I responded with “you do know you are buying art, don’t you?”

    Everyone of us creative types need to do a little bit of market education. Or we will disappear from the market that’s flooded by the mass-produced (hence more “affordable” and less unique) or the low quality. Trust me, as a CPA from my “past life”, I walked away from the big churning “machines” that kept me well-fed.

  • http://www.minkyminx-design.com.au Suzie

    Thank you for this beautifully written and thought provoking article…

    Now comes the challenge of implimentation… : )