Marketing (part 2)

Pricing a handmade item really shouldn’t be hard but it is. I’ve struggled with pricing, and judging from the amount of posts on the subject other sellers have as well. My struggles come from wanting to make Ruggles as affordable as possible. I’d like everyone to be able to afford one, but I know realistically that’s not possible, since I’d also like to afford to make them.

My first Ruggle sold for $25. That was too low, even given I was using Velboa fur (less expensive than Minky) and they were a tad smaller than the ones I make now. I’ll never know for sure because I didn’t do the math. I just looked at it, thought “$25 sounds pretty good” and went with it. Very scientific, I know. When I finally did do the math, I choked on my coke. At that point “doing the math” meant coming up with a loose materials cost. Then I used the standard formula that most blogs, businesses and even Etsy recommend – materials x 2 = wholesale; wholesale x 2 = retail.

My very first sold Ruggle.

That number really did make me choke. It was north of $120 for a standard Ruggle. I wondered if people would even pay the wholesale price that equation had given me, but I did slowly start to raise prices trying to get to the point where my materials would be covered.

I still wasn’t paying myself for my time. I think it’s utterly ridiculous now, but like many other handmade artisans I didn’t think my time was worth anything. Of course, your time is the most important part of the materials equation. You can have a bunch of materials lying around, but without your time and talent it won’t amount to anything other than a stack of stuff.

The second time I did the math, I got serious about it. I factored in (almost) everything. Not just the things I’d taken into account before (fabric, thread, batting, etc.) but all the things I hadn’t (my time, pins, printer ink, and a ton of other stuff). I choked again. Then I turned to the Attack of the Craft forums and got several gems of advice that really helped me in pricing.

First, I am selling a luxury item. It’s not food or shelter and it’s not going to negatively impact the life of anyone who can’t afford it. Second, I am not my target market. My target market exists in an income bracket above myself, so just because *I* can’t pay that much for it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth the amount. Third, you have to trust the math. If you aren’t making enough money to make the process worth your time you will come to resent it. This is supposed to be fun and rewarding, not a pain in the budgetary ass.

And last, but not least, wholesale makes absolutely no sense for handmade. To be profitable in wholesale, you need an economy of scale that you just aren’t going to get with handmade. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling 1 or 100, you’re still doing the same amount of work. There are no savings for handmade in wholesale because there’s no automation in handmade. This lesson actually took me a while to really sink in. I had to do a few wholesale orders (losing money on each piece) and kill myself in the process before it hit home. I think for the longest time I equated wholesale with success. But it’s just not.

Wholesale orders were good for introducing new animals like this wombat.

I try to review my costs once a quarter, or whenever I know something I use is going up in price (like postage or fabric or what have you). My materials include fabric, thread, batting, stuffing, labor, fleece, pins, tags (which includes fabric, thread and printer ink), shipping envelopes (I pay a bit more for compostable/recyclable, reusable eco enclose mailers), business cards, thank you cards, ribbon and postage. I don’t include the cost of shipping materials to me, photography costs, internet access and website costs, licenses, gas and other things like that.

I’m pretty happy with where my prices are right now. I make enough to cover my time and materials plus about $10 in profit (sometimes less) on each Ruggle I sell, but because of those other expenses I don’t factor into pricing I haven’t made a profit overall yet. I have hopes for this year, but we’ll see. I have never charged what that original formula told me to, not even the wholesale cost and I don’t really ever intend to use it as a real pricing tool again. It may make sense for others, but not for me.

Writing this made me realize that I don’t have pricing on my website. That’s one of my big pet peeves – not being able to find out how much something is going to cost. So here’s a quick breakdown with a more detailed pricing structure to come on the main site…

Standard Ruggles $50 + $5 shipping (most animals who are simple, i.e., have two ears and a tail.)

Horned Ruggles $55 + $5 shipping (animals with ears and horns and maybe a fleece muzzle like this moose.)

Involved Ruggles $60 + $5 shipping (anything that is more involved than horns and ears. Critters with ridges down the back or wings fall into this category)

Pieced Ruggles $65 + $5 shipping (any animal with two or more colors of fur pieced together, like this fox.)

Mini Ruggles $25 + $5 shipping (I only do animals that fall into the “standard ruggle” category as minis, and they are always ready to ship. No customs.)

Giant Ruggles $135 and up + $20 shipping (final cost dependent on the critter, but most “standard ruggle” animals will be $135 as giants.)

Even though it should be simple math, and easy, pricing just isn’t. There’s always an emotional component when you put a price on something you’ve made, as well as other factors that make it more difficult. But starting with the math is a smart way to go. As always, questions and comments welcome! Next up in the marketing series: placement.

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Time Challenges

It’s a common lament that there aren’t enough hours in the day. You’d think that would get better if you ran your own business, but it actually gets worse. I don’t call myself a “Work At Home Mom” because I don’t consider Bewhiskered to be my main job. I’m a Stay At Home Mom. My job is to care for and raise my boys. My part time job is to manage the household (a nice catch all phrase for handling everything from the dishes and laundry to scheduling doctors appointments to killing or relocating stray bugs). My other part time job is caring for our two cats which mainly involves letting Pilsbury in and out of the house hundreds of times a day.

Pilsbury, our brain damaged Manx

After all that, I have a husband who sometimes wants attention too. When I have free time (insert laugh here) I have to decide between sleeping, spending time with my husband, having “me” time or working on the business. I’ve gotten better at scheduling my time during the day so I manage to work a bit but it’s getting harder as Erik gets older and his naps get later. At one point I was getting so frustrated that I considered shutting Bewhiskered down.

I know other craft business people who have full time jobs (not involving kids) have the exact same problem. If anyone comes up with any sort of solution that doesn’t involve staying up later or waking up earlier please let me know. I’d love to stay up all night and work since that’s when I’m most productive, but on the rare occasions I’ve done that I’ve regretted it the next day. No matter how tired I am, I still have an energy filled three year old and toddler to deal with. And when I’m tired and cranky it’s not pretty. And I have never and will never be a morning person.

Almost human after hitting snooze three times and two cups of tea.

So until I come up with some magic way of doing it all (which personally I think is bullshit and something women put far too much pressure on ourselves to do) I’ll be bumbling around as I am now. I have found that the more organized I am, the better. When my space and supplies get disorganized I spend more time looking for things than I have to spare. I actually spent a couple of days last week getting even more organized which should help.

I try to keep in mind that running Bewhiskered should be fun for me. So I don’t schedule too many customs in too short a time. Being overdue on shipping them stresses me out big time. I’m going to give myself even more time when school ends and I’ll have both boys at home. Can I make a living working like this? Hell no. But that’s not what I’m going for right now.

It’s way past my bedtime, but this was the only time I had to update the blog. I’ve discovered it’s all about managing the tradeoffs. And naps. Naps are very important.

Changes…

Since there’s a man painting the window on the other side of my sewing machine, and if I worked I’d be about a foot from his crotch I’ve decided to write a blog post instead.

The first thing any crafter struggles with is what to make and I’m no different. I can walk into a craft store and spend hours, coming up with a thousand different projects that would be really cool. I’ve done it, and have the materials of hundreds of cool projects lying fallow in my supplies to prove it. (Plus another couple hundred pages of magazines with inspiration or things I want to make on top of that, and let’s not even talk about my Pinterest account.) Starting a crafting business was like that for me. I had a lot of ideas and little direction. Now, when I look at business sites and they talk about formulating a business plan and 5 year goals and whatnot I just have to laugh. I don’t know a single handmade business owner who did it that way. We all just started making stuff, thought “hey, somebody might buy this” and opened shop.

Aren't these blown egg geodes cool?

Which is a good a way to do it as any I guess. Especially when you’re working on this kind of scale. If we were talking about a big corporation, or hell even a small brick and mortar business, that would be different. But when you’re talking about a business whose greatest investment capital is probably already sitting in the craft room then it’s a different story. I didn’t have to go to a bank and take out a loan to get started, I just made stuff with what I already had. Even though it’s not a bad way to do it, I would have done it differently had I gone into this thinking “business” instead of “make a little money, might be fun!”

For one thing, I would have nailed down my product to begin with. That would have saved me a little money on supplies that never got used (in the case of the pet items idea) and a lot of time and effort (in the case of the diaper idea). Arriving at my one true thing wasn’t a long process, but it was long enough. I think that’s one of the beauties of the micro scale handmade business. You can fail without going bankrupt. You can try new things without a great deal of expense. Research and development is natural and fluid. Feedback is pretty instant. Change is a good thing, and doesn’t feel like such a huge risk. Because it isn’t.

Of course there have been changes to my shop even after I settled on Ruggles. I’m constantly trying to improve my items and my customer’s shopping experience. Being online, I have to keep updating my product and my shop to stay viable and current.

Some of the changes I’ve made have been to make my Ruggles bigger. Create a permanent pattern base that I can work from so they are all consistent in size. Went from using Velboa furs to Minky. I switched from using safety eyes to embroidered eyes. Made my tags double sided and filled the back with everything I need to be CPSIA compliant. I’ve changed my picture background (several times), orientation and size. I streamlined my item description and moved a lot of useful but not critical information from there to the policies section. I created a stand alone website. I’ve tried and discarded a dozen different marketing ideas (I’ll save the specifics on that for another post).

I still like this background, but it didn't do anything to showcase my Ruggles.

And that doesn’t even begin to touch all the changes I’ve made in suppliers, supplies, logo design, tags, and on and on. To sum up: change is good. When you’re running something this small $10 spent on new business cards can make it feel like a whole new business. So you can change quickly and respond to customer input, competition and innovation.

It only took me about 7 hours to write this post! I’ll have to talk about the unbalanced balancing act of Mom, wife, housekeeper and business owner. Later.

Meet Dusty of Inverness Studios

Once a week I feature other Etsy artisans on my blog. Most are fellow members of my Etsy Teams: Etsy for Animals, Attack of the Craft, Etsy Moms and the Georgia Etsy Team. Some are random Etsy sellers whom I stalk whose work I love and admire. All of them are unique and have interesting stories to tell. I hope you enjoy getting to know them!

Dusty is a fellow member of the Attack of the Craft Team and makes awesome items for book people.

Tell us a bit about yourself:
At this point in my life I won’t tell you my age, but I am old enough to remember when John Lennon was shot, when leg warmers were ‘in’ the first time around, and to have had a mad, passionate crush on The Two Corey’s. I am now much older and married to a wonderful man who lets me pursue this artsy passion of mine.


How did you come up with your shop name?
I was searching and searching for a name. I wanted something interesting, but everything seemed to be taken that I liked. I had almost given up and just going with the standard of using my name when one week the name, Inverness, started popping up everywhere. I heard it on a radio show (yes, I listen to those old things), then read it in a book, and finally an episode of Kitchen Nightmares did a spot in the town in Scotland. It just seemed like someone was telling me something. So I did a little research on the meaning which has two meanings – one being ‘A long, loose overcoat with a detachable cape having a round collar.’ (like Sherlock Holmes is shown wearing) or INVERNESS, from the Gaelic “Inbhir” meaning “river mouth” and from the old Celtic word “Nesta” meaning “roaring one”. Having such a love for Doyle and his character, Mr. Holmes, and having always had an obsession for Scotland I thought it was perfect. ‘Studio’ was added to keep my options open in my design process.

When did you start sewing?
I have been ‘crafting’ and sewing for as long as I can remember. My mother was a stay-at-home and always had us (my sisters, a neighbor kid she sat for, and myself) doing something to keep us occupied. I started sewing as soon as I could reach the pedal. Officially, I started way back in 2006 then opened my Etsy shop in 2008.


What made you want to start selling your creations?
I never thought I could sell anything. I just liked making stuff; it was family and friends that finally convinced me to give it a shot. I am still hoping they were right.

Please describe your creative process?
Pretty much just doing whatever and then the ideas come. When I try to think about an idea, they don’t come, but if I focus on something else they usually come around. A lot of the times they come while working on other projects which could be why I always have too many going at one time.

What inspires you?
Everything; mostly books and my emotions.

Does your shop have a theme or purpose?
Recently I have been making a transition from a Recycled purpose to an over-all Relaxing of the Mind, Body, and Soul theme. I feel my book related items still encompass that area so I will be keeping those items in the shop; I am just expanding to an area I have always loved – a low-stress life (who doesn’t right?). I still try to incorporate a recycled element into everything I do where I can. My bookmarks are almost 100% recycled (sealer and ribbon are the only ‘new’ parts), but others, like my ComfortRead pillows only have a small portion and my ComfortTherapy pillows concentrate entirely on the Mind, Body, and Soul.


Are your items custom or premade?
Most are premade, but I have done the occasional custom for clients.

Tell us two of your short term goals and one long term goal:
My two most important short term goals are to make this smooth transition to ‘Relax Your Life’ and make sure all clients are able to do obtain that element in their life. My long term goal is to be able to support myself and family on Inverness Studios.


Walk us through a typical day in your life:
At the moment it is pretty boring. On a perfect day:
Gym
Breakfast
Work the ‘Day Job’ (which is pretty flexible at the moment)
Within the said flexible ‘day job’ schedule I work on any ideas I have had.
Dinner
Time with hubby

What is your favorite item in your shop at the moment?
My favorite would have to be my new ComfortTherapy pillows. They are so soft, warm, and comfy. I love making the cases and creating new aromatherapies.


If you had any super power, what would it be?
To be able to live on only a 3-4 hours of sleep a night.

Where on the web can you be found?
www.etsy.com/shop/invernessstudios

invernessstudios.tumblr.com/
I look forward to seeing you around the shop!

Meet Kez of Kezbirdie

Once a week I feature other Etsy artisans on my blog. Most are fellow members of my Etsy Teams: Etsy for Animals, Attack of the Craft, Etsy Moms and the Georgia Etsy Team. Some are random Etsy sellers whom I stalk whose work I love and admire. All of them are unique and have interesting stories to tell. I hope you enjoy getting to know them!

Kez creates amazing clothes and accessories. She’s a fellow member of the AttackoftheCraft Etsy Team.

How did you come up with your shop name?
Well back at high school a friend of mine started calling me Kes after watching the film ‘Kes’ (which I believe has something to do with birds….I’ve never watched it). Fast foward a bit to when I signed up for DeviantArt I needed a user name and that’s how Kezbirdie came about.

When did you start crafting?
I’ve been knitting since I was 15 and sewing properly form the age of 18. Sewing has always been a part of my life, I have very fond memories of my mom sewing late into the night when I was a wee one 😛
Plus I have a keen interest in the fine arts, for which I’m on a BA Fine Art course.

What made you want to start selling your creations?
It was a combination of things, I wanted a job that I would love (even if it is part time), something that would help towards university costs and lots of encouragment from a dear friend.

Please describe your creative process?
Well it occssionally starts out with sketching and picking out fabrics. Or I pick up a pair of scissors and start cutting away at tee shirts.
With paintings/drawings I flick through inspirational images, or it’s work based on my current university projects which require lots of reasearch.


What inspires you?
Ooohh everything, great movies, music, nature, colours, patterns and all other random things

Does your shop have a theme or purpose, like crafting for charity or eco-friendly, etc.?
I do craft for charity whenever I can but not through my shop and I try my best to be as eco-friendly as I can.
Like using recycled packaging, finding clothes to recon and shoes to paint from thrift stores and using non-toxic paints.


Are your items custom or premade?
Both

Tell us two of your short term goals and one long term goal:
Short term:
(not business related) I want to finish up the BA fine art course I’m studying and get a somewhat decent job (hopefully)
I want to introduce a line of clothes to my shop that aren’t OOAK and haves sizes from regular to plus sizes. And to get a website set up.
A long term goal: I would eventually love to have a b&m store and to make couture pieces.

Walk us through a typical day in your life:
A typical Uni day:
I get up at 8am, eat breakfast whilst enjoying some cartoons 😀
I’m out the house by 9.30am for lecture days, 10am on the other days.
I’m back home by 6pm, I relax have fun with the siblings watch movies/tv shows/ play some lego star wars :D.
Then depending on which is most urgent I start work on sewing/crafting or more uni work, til I feel sleepy

A non uni day:
Getting up at 8am and still enjoying those morning cartoons.
May need to head out and do some shopping if not then I can get started on sewing projects which I usually do til about 2pm.
I eat lunch with mom and then commence some uni work.

What is your favorite item in your shop at the moment?
It’s a toss up between my all time fav Killer Koi shoes and the Skirt of Epic Proportions


Where on the web can you be found?

Etsy: www.kezbirdie.etsy.com
dA: www.kezbirdie.deviantart.com
Blog: www.kezbirdie.blogspot.com
FB: www.facebook.com/home.php?#/KezbirdieKreations

Meet Rachel of LunarraStar

On Mondays I feature other Etsy artisans on my blog. Most are fellow members of my Etsy Teams: Etsy for Animals, Attack of the Craft, Etsy Moms and the Georgia Etsy Team. Some are random Etsy sellers who I stalk whose work I love and admire. All of them are unique and have interesting stories to tell. I hope you enjoy getting to know them! (ed. note: obviously it’s Tuesday. We are snowed in here in Atlanta, and I spent yesterday playing in the snow with my son. 🙂

Rachel creates wonderful jewelry and baubles.

How did you come up with your shop name?
I’m in love with the moon and the stars, Luna means moon in Italian 🙂

When did you start making jewelry?
2005 ish


What made you want to start selling your creations?
I enjoy doing it and i would have had a lot of jewellery if i didn’t sell it 🙂

I’ve always been crafty. Over the years I could never find clothes or jewellery I wanted so I started making my own. My first memory of finding jewellery magical was my grandmothers velvet jewellery box, when I was a child, if I was good she would let me look through it :).

Please describe your creative process?
I love to collect charms, be inspired by them 🙂


What inspires you?
inspired by whimsical Fairytales like Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz & Snow White, adventurous historical tales, unusual curious charms and glittery magical things

Does your shop have a theme or purpose, like crafting for charity or eco-friendly, etc.?
It is whimsical, childlike.


Are your items custom or premade?
Premade and i do custom.

Tell us two of your short term goals and one long term goal:
I would like to have more time to make new designs, I’m kept so busy with current ones and I think my head might explode with all the new ideas in it. So on both counts more time please.


Walk us through a typical day in your life:
I live in Bristol, England, a very beautiful city with gorgeous countryside, lots of beautiful architecture, things to do and brimming with history. I have 3 fur children, Maia cat, Chloe cat and my adorable little chihuahua called Bellatrix who is only a year but knows so many tricks we lose count. A typical day involves spacing out work and spending time with friends and my animals.

What is your favorite item in your shop at the moment?
The “we’re all mad here” ring, it’s simple but a statement.

Where on the web can you be found?
Dark Elegance Designs –
.com store – www.DarkEleganceDesigns.co.uk
Etsy store – DarkEleganceDesigns.Etsy.com
Facebook fanpage – www.facebook.com/DarkEleganceDesigns

LunarraStar Jewellery –
.com store – www.LunarraStar.com
Etsy store – LunarraStar.Etsy.com
Facebook fanpage – www.facebook.com/LunarraStarJewellery
Flickr – www.flickr.com/photos/LunarraStar
Twitter – twitter.com/LunarraStar

Meet Rebecca of Smelly Rhino Studios

On Mondays I feature other Etsy artisans on my blog. Most are fellow members of my Etsy Teams: Etsy for Animals, Attack of the Craft, Etsy Moms and the Georgia Etsy Team. Some are random Etsy sellers who I stalk whose work I love and admire. All of them are unique and have interesting stories to tell. I hope you enjoy getting to know them!

Rebecca is a fellow member of the Georgia Etsy Team. She creates awesome works of art and also makes notebooks with recycled DVD covers.

Tell us a bit about yourself:
Well, I am an eternal optimist who writes, paints, sings, likes science, animals and dorky things. (and rhyming)

How did you come up with your shop name?
I was at the airport with a goofy friend drinking (how many ideas start that way?)  I wanted something memorable.  He was into designing toys and figurines and suggested it to me.  I thought, “Silly; Perfect!”

When did you start painting? I don’t really remember.  I started sewing at an early age, but my earliest memory of art is when my Dad taught me to draw perspective when I was eight.  He gave me one of those flat pencils that architects and construction people use and showed me how to draw the steps to his house, then had me practice (I think he was trying to give me a task that would keep me out of his hair for hours at a time.)  It caught on for me and my brother, and as we grew into teenagers, would do just that, sometimes into the night.  I still spend most of my time alone, drawing or painting.  I need to get out.



What made you want to start selling your creations?

My company closed and I got laid off.  I started my own business and have been at it for 4 years now.


Please describe your creative process?

I spend inordinate amounts of time imagining my compositions before they ever get out of my head.  But, there is a lot to be said for just showing up at the page and working.  Sometimes, I avoid that part until the whole painting is more or less complete, then I paint it.  I wish I didn’t always do that, but I think it works for me.


What inspires you?
Everything inspires me.  Gosh.  Light and Dark. shadows.  Expressions on people and dogs. Music.

Does your shop have a theme or purpose, like crafting for charity or eco-friendly, etc.?
I guess my theme is happy art.  and dogs!

I think helping a charity is a great thing, but I think this is a good time to say to everyone reading that you are helping others if you buy handmade.  Does it always have to be for an organization, when helping an individual is also very important?  Many crafters are in need out there, I know a large number of unemployed professionals who are trying to get by selling handmade, so I urge people to consider that even though they aren’t “non-profit”, artists and crafters are working really hard for you and their families! For many, this has become their only means of survival in a very rough economy.
(Rebecca makes an excellent point here, and it’s why artisans encourage people to buy handmade. –Kenzie)

I do offer eco-friendly products in my other shop, Outwardbound, where I make notebooks from recycled DVD covers.

Are your items custom or premade?
Most of my business right now is selling prints of my original art, although I do have to paint an original in order to sell a print!  Luckily, custom portraits also grace my desk every month and I am happy to have the opportunity to paint them.

Tell us two of your short term goals and one long term goal:
Short term goals, hmmm..  Well, I would like to be completely self-supported as an artist, and then I would like my partner Eric to be able to do his thing, I think mad scientist, not sure.

Long term, I would like to have a view of water, somewhere in the world.

Walk us through a typical day in your life:
I get up and look for coffee.  If it’s already made, I’m super lucky.
Write a few pages of brain-unloading, brain-storming stuff.
Paint some, depending on the day.
Get more coffee.
Check my email, blog, tweet or FB (sometimes to Regis and Kelly, but turn it off before The View starts so I don’t get a headache.)
Add new listings or relist sold items.
If it’s postal day, I get my orders together, go to the Post Office and then hit Starbucks.
Lunch
Photograph new products if needed around 2, when the light is right.
Start painting.
By 3:30, it’s snacktime so I can have more coffee
It’s now that I really want to paint (around 4pm.)
Consider dinner.  If it’s already made, great!
Most nights I am up until midnight or later and I wake around 7:30.
I don’t get enough sleep, but I think you have to put in the time to make a business successful, and it takes time.  For me, years.

What is your favorite item in your shop at the moment?
My new art print blocks are incredible!  I mount prints to high quality wood art cradles, then paint, stain and glamorously finish them.  They are really beautiful and I’m very proud to sell them.

Art print blocksGuitar Art Print Block


 

 

 

 

 

Where on the web can you be found?
I have identical shops on etsy and artfire, plus my websites and blog.

Website/blog: http://www.smellyrhino.com

Shops
http://www.smellyrhino.etsy.com

http://smellyrhinostudio.artfire.com

http://outwardbound.artfire.com

http://outwardbound.etsy.com

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