So I did my first ever panel this last weekend at Norfolk Anime Explosion in Norfolk VA and I gotta tell you, I was more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
I feel like it went pretty well too. I started out with two people so we made it a round table thing and then more people joined and they all had really good questions, a lot of which I have answered in the blog but then someone asked the one I’ve been dreading.
How do you price your work?
Oh Gods… I am not prepared for this can of worms.
I say that because pricing is one of the most controversial aspects of what you will do outside of Fan Art vs Bootleg. And it’s one of the hardest things to justify to customers who don’t know a damned thing about how much work it takes to make tiny paintings of Octopi wearing funny hats.
And they really don’t much care. It’s a sad fact of consumerism in America, the customer is looking for the cheapest deal that gets them the most stuff with the least amount of money and your insistence on charging what you’re worth is just unfair! *Cue whining here*
But I care, I have spent years struggling to be taken seriously as a crafter and just as long trying to convince customers that yes that Supernatural Hunting Kit with the real glass bottles and the fake badge and the car key and the goofer dust is really worth the $30 I charge for it which is frankly a pittance given how popular the damned show is thank you very much.
Here’s the thing. No matter what you are selling you are still selling YOU. You are selling what you love, you have worked hard to learn how to do whatever it is you’re doing. You make custom etched glassware? That shit’s hard! You make Gundam Shaped Cookie Cutters? How long did it take to shape the metal for that?! You make guitar picks out of animation cells? I wanna hear that music! You order bobbleheads online and sell licensed merch. That’s still a hella lot of work!
My point is this, no matter what you sell, hand made, drawn/painted or purchased from a supplier online you still deserve to get paid because you work hard. This is a hard industry to be in, we travel long distances and for long hours to get there, we spend hours upon hours perfecting our craft and building our businesses and on top of all that we then spend the whole weekend justifying ourselves to every Joker, Harley and Deadpool who wants a deal.
YOU ARE WORTH IT.
I’m gonna say it again for the people in the back.
YOU ARE WORTH IT. You are worth being paid fairly for the work you do, You are worth the sense of satisfaction at being paid the price you charge for that truly excellent perler bead portrait of Carrie Fisher or that sculpted Baby Groot made from Styrofoam and rubber bands and 26 hours about 6 of which were spent explaining to mom that ‘yes mom it really is an art form.’ You are a part of your work and therefore YOU are worth the money you are asking for.
I get asked this question all the time and I usually answer accordingly.
“Well what do you do for work?”
“I’m a Dentist.”
“Oh, so you had to work hard through school to become a dentist and now you must work really hard to stay current in the advances in your field and make sure your patients are satisfied and healthy right?”
“And you feel justified in asking your customers to pay you what your hard work and long study have allowed them to enjoy?”
“Of course, why would you ask that?”
“Well sir I spent almost 5,000 hours learning how to sew, I have also dedicated a huge portion of my time learning new kinds of sewing and keeping up with the advancements in fabric and textiles as well as learning to maintain my sewing machine. On top of that I have had to learn business management, budgeting and how to file the relevant taxes on top of making sure my product quality is consistent. So why am I not allowed to feel justified in the price I am asking when in reality it is far far less than what you charge for your skill?”
I’d like to point out this is an actual conversation I had with someone recently, he walked off in a huff but three other people came over and said they’d overheard and hadn’t thought about it quite that way before, they did end up buying.
Formulas for pricing your work vary wildly so it’s going to be hard to pin down the best way to do it, you could do what I do which is calculate how much materials were, time yourself on how long it takes to make one of your products and pay yourself the Federal Minimum Wage per hour, add the State Taxes for wherever you live and Round up to the Nearest Dollar. I’ll break it down even further for you.
Materials For One Item= $20
3 Hours @ $7.25 per Hour = $21.75
The Total pre Tax= $41.75
Now calculate the taxes, our taxes in TN are pretty high at 9.96% so that’s what we use:
Taxes on the Total = $4.15
Add the tax amount to the Pre Tax Total:
Total plus Tax= $45.90
Round up to Nearest Dollar = $46.00
And that’s one of the easiest ways to calculate a price, I’ve seen some of them get pretty convoluted. And if you think your time is worth more than $7.25 an hour then by all means charge more. YOU ARE WORTH IT! Keep in mind, your time is your most precious resource, it is the one resource that you can give that you can never get back. Your time is a non-renewable resource. So charge accordingly and never let someone bully you into lowering your price or doing a project ‘For the Exposure.’
I cannot promise that everyone will think that your custom beanie with every pokebadge ever made sewn into it is worth the $65 you want to charge for it but the right fan will. And the trick to a successful business as I have stated in posts past is to diversify your portfolio. Have a good mix of higher end product that you can charge more for and some lower end stuff that won’t make parents go pale and ask if you’ll be needing their first born to pay for it.