Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making a Living

I tend to be a pushover to inertia; when I'm working, I keep working and find it difficult to stop. And when I'm not working... well, I tend to have a really hard time overcoming that inertia hump and starting back up again.

calling to me...

Of course, I love my work and have a visceral need to be creative, but I also really needed that break. Sure, my shop is still up and I've been slowly working on some readymade things to fill it (and I still have some very delinquent things to finish for some very gracious and forgiving friends) but it's really my custom work that sells. And so I really haven't sold anything. And, it turns out, I can't make any money hanging out with my kids and organizing my house.

I am not really a fan of money. I wish we could all barter for what we need and not have to think about money. But, alas, there are bills to pay and children to feed and clothe and deck out in silly bands and the silly band peddler isn't interested in my work.

The mister and I have been thinking a lot about how we can live well with little money. We're firm believers in the idea of right livelihood (which I talked about a little bit here), doing and making as much for ourselves as we can and "working" (for money) only as much as we need to, doing things that we love and care about or at least don't hate. Skye is really starting to feel burnt out on carpentry (mostly physically, but also a bit psychologically) and I've been feeling more and more determined to actively contribute to our family's income.


So it's time for me to get back to work. Seriously. I'm ready to jump right in but I'll have to take it slow at first. I don't have much time with the kids home for the summer but I'll make it work. Thinking about starting up custom orders again has me thinking more about money and the sustainability of my business and I realize I really need to rethink my prices and make sure I am charging enough. The reality is that I have been charging far too little for some of my work (even though it can seem like a lot, I know!).

I'm working on a system of pricing that will make things more manageable for me and fair for all. It's based on lots of choices and hopefully there will be something for everyone and options that everyone can afford.

The idea is this: Books will be priced according to their length, the complexity of the images on each page, embroidery and cover style. There is a base price for each book length and then everything else is รก la carte. This actually doesn't change book prices too drastically--in fact there will now be some even more affordable options--it will simply mean that the more complicated images that take so much time to make (but are so cool!) will be priced accordingly.

I'll be back on Friday with some concrete numbers for all of this and will spend the weekend listing some custom options in the shop. Stay tuned!


  1. Good for you. I can't wait to see your new pricing and how this works out. :)

  2. I am kind of in the same boat--trying to figure out how to make a living off of something that doesn't seem to be financially sustainable, and feeling less-than-comfortable with my new-found place in capitalism. Do you feel as though other sellers underprice on Etsy? It seems difficult to ask for a price that is fair to the maker. I enjoy sewing & do it for free all the time, so for me, there was a guilt attached to making a profit. Sorry to blah blah blah, but I've been thinking a lot about this & I like to hear how another person, who is not entirely stoked on money, deals with pricing and sustainability.

  3. Thanks for the comments, ladies!

    Britt--I know it's a struggle for a lot of creative folks to work out how to charge for their work. For me it was definitely a process; first overcoming the feelings of inadequacy ("no one will want to buy this!") and then slowly gaining the confidence to stand behind my work and actually call myself an artist. I think it's especially difficult for us folks who have been making things for enjoyment for so long to all of a sudden try to attach a price to our work. But it's amazing that we live in a world where it's really possible to make a living with craft and I think it's worth a go, at least!

    There are definitely LOTS of Etsy sellers who undercharge for their work and it's really unfortunate for everyone involved. My strategy has always been to price my goods as fairly as I can and try not to pay too much attention to those other sellers. I also don't do wholesale because, according to all of the formulas out there, my retail price is actually a wholesale price and I couldn't go any lower. I'd rather skip selling in stores than feel like my work is way overpriced.

    There was a good CraftyPod episode recently touching on the subject of professionals vs. hobbyists on Etsy and the discrepancies of pricing that's really interesting. You should check it out if you haven't already :)

    Good luck!!