These are my thoughts on pricing based on four years of selling as an indie business owner and three years in marketing for a multi-million earning company (named the fastest growing biz in my city). I've seen talented workers sell the seemingly impossible at high prices by effectively communicating value.
Lesson 1: Prices Must Cover Expenses and a Basic Wage.
Your retail price must recover expenses on gas, inventory, memberships, supplies and listing fees. They also must pay you an hourly wage for time spent making, hunting, photographing, researching and listing. The rookie mistake is to price too low because you fear no one will buy otherwise; lies! Pay yourself.
Lesson 2. You're Not Getting Rich, But Maybe You Should?
The indie biz lifestyle is selected out of love and passion, but when you count the hours many indie business, myself included, would earn minimum wage or less- even if there are a couple of items priced $100 or above. But what's wrong with getting rich? Buyers/fans feel bitter or exploited if it happens, but they should want the artist they love to improve their station in life. You want to live comfortably and make decent money, too, right? Everyone does. Don't resign yourself to poverty just because it's "the artist's way."
Lesson 3. The Value of What You Sell IS NOT the sum of its parts.
Would you haggle with a known fine artist on the price of his work because the cost of the paint on canvas only amounts to fifty cents? Hell no, you don't because the value comes from the actual piece: the line it belongs to, the message, its connection to you, how it makes you feel, its story, the artist's story. If you find something for $1.00 and it's worth $1,000 don't feel guilty, price at the highest amount someone will pay guilt-free.
Lesson 4. My Personal Pricing Formula.
Many price their items by comparing themselves to the marketplace or googling a specific item. It's better to determine your price point first and go from there. Do you want to be high end, in the middle, low? You can have items across the board. I look up my vintage find's value and price from there and for items that are very unique and beautiful, I'll price a little higher. I still consider myself to be "low-end" in pricing.
Lesson 5. I Feel Cheated When I Sell For Less.
I've marked items down locally only for them to sell for much more online; a specific example, a gorgeous owl embroidered art piece sold locally for $27 and online simultaneously for $100- I paid $10 for it. Pain! When I mark something down just to "move it fast" and it sells for a small amount I feel crushed, absolutely cheated. I refuse to feel like this anymore. I am pricing in a way that sustains me. When it sells at a higher price I am happy and satisfied and feel like my hard work was paid for.
Lesson 6. It's Okay if Something Sits for Months if it Has to.
A common complaint is that items will sit for longer if priced higher, that's fine to me. I feel happy that I stuck to my guns and got what it's worth. I've renewed items, that's fine. I just sold these paint by number pieces (above) for $45, I've had them for at least a year.
Another example, I bought a gorgeous Japanese lamp for myself 3.5 years ago and recently suggested it to a buyer who bought something very similar from my Etsy shop. The $90 price seemed to high to her and first, she asked for less but I told her I couldn't go down. (I paid $35 or so for it. $90 was literally the lowest I could go.) She later got her sister to pay for it as a gift and I was rewarded for staying my ground. Selling vintage and art is very emotional, sometimes it really does take the right personal to resonate with it at the right time.
Lesson 7. Perceived Value is Everything, and Love Will Find a Way.
Stories abound of people who were struggling to sell their wares until they raised prices- then they flew off the shelves. Raising your prices sounds like an insane thing to do when sales are slow, but try it. It can make a huge difference in sales and how you're perceived in the marketplace. Do you want to be a quality artisan, or WalMart? The answer is individual and there's nothing wrong with either choice, you can have different price points and bargain bin/quality finds in one brand which I'll get to.
I told my sea beast story before, but to recap: I'm sea creature obsessed and had to have a vintage cuttlefish anatomy poster from a local antique shop. (above) It was $250. I scraped up some funds and requested anyone to just donate to my cuttlefish fund as my gift for Christmas. Now the gorgeous piece is mine the vendor was happily $250.00 richer for it. When buyers want it they will find a way.
Lesson 8. Release Your Items as a "Line". Curate & Quality.
So if you're going to charge the big bucks it helps to carefully curate what you're selling, like any line of wares released in a catalog. The market you choose to sell in will determine how easy or hard it will be to sell wares at a certain price, it's easier to sell a piece of art for $250.00 online than at a yard sale, for instance. Work to communicate value with your displays, price tags, and descriptions. Tell a story. Create the absolute best quality work you can and you will be rewarded.
Reminder: I've often see my pieces purchased from me and priced in other antique mall booths across this city for much more! It something to consider- do I want to be the "middle man" or the person at the top earning the most? Top, please!
Lesson 9. Things at Different Price Points, Your Bigs & Smalls.
You don't have to commit to one price point or change everything overnight. You can make/offer lower priced items, these can often help save you when your "bigs" are moving slowly. I have $15.00 art prints in my Etsy shop and I'm going to making low-priced helpful small business eBooks next. I more ideas for smalls behind-the-scenes, like more pouches. I sold out of the set below the first day!
Thank you so much Mary and Sarah! So many more low-priced small like these pouches are on the way and I will of course take any/all suggestions.
Lesson 10. No One Can Do What You Do. On Solidarity.
Every single person in the market place brings their own perspective and that has value. Your story has value, what you sell has that edge just by being yours. When you sell art, it's the sum of you, your time, materials, and overhead. When you sell vintage, you're selling time capsule pieces that are no longer manufactured. This has value, you can price "high" for that and people will pay for it.
I hope this post helps you determine how to price your wares and also provides some understanding. If an artist you enjoy seems to be unfairly raising the prices on their wares remember that the $200 for some item is not just going straight into their bank account. They paid for supplies, gas, their time (no hourly wage), the listing prices/membership prices, cost of the item, time to clean and list--- our current inflated personal prices on rent/utilities/food just to live. We're not being jerks, or trying to rip people off. We're helping the market understand the value of their work with their prices and just trying to make a living.
Artist Venting: Makers are often at the bottom of the artisan-crafted totem pole in the corporate world. Why should we be expected to have to "just scrape by" just to be "fair" and "nice" to others with our prices? Why does our craft continue to have a low perceived value? Because that's the status quo, because we often lack the confidence to demand we get better pay and treatment. I was in that boat starting out, I'm not anymore. You shouldn't be either.
TLDR (TooLongDon'tRead); Do what feels right for YOU. Stick to your mission and make sure you never feel cheated. You deserve to live well, guilt-free.
Would knowing someone paid $2.00 for something you want to buy for $100 keep you from buying? It wouldn't for me.
I personally try to support artist I love the best I can, even if it's a small purchase. (Hence why my home is filled with framed bits of local art!- as seen in just one of my gallery walls above!) If you enjoy someone or something and want them to stick around, support them. I hope we can have a discussion in the comments that helps everyone! I'll have many more details and formulas on pricing in my upcoming eBook. For anyone who comments, writes-in, buys items, you are so very appreciated! I'm working on freebies and low-priced items for buyers into the future. You are so appreciated.
Let's Discuss: How do you choose to price your art or vintage items? What do you feel about "high" prices, what are "high" prices to you? This convo has been coming up again because I shared what I pay for an item in my haul posts again as was requested after this post. I'm going to stop sharing what I pay for items again into the future for my business because that's what feels right. Do you think it's rude or tacky to do that? You will NOT offend me, I promise.