Maker business tips: What’s it worth?

know your worth illustration

Prices in the craft world vary so wildly it can be hard to know how to set them. How do you value your work, both in time and money? Your first paid commission is a special moment in every maker’s journey – the realisation that not only do people like your work, but they’re willing to part with cold, hard cash to take a piece of it home.

If you want to turn your hobby into a money-maker, the obvious routes are selling at local craft fairs or setting up an Etsy shop. Pricing your work can be a headache, though. ‘What’s it worth?’ is a very different question to ‘What does it cost?’, and many newly-professional crafters struggle to realise their value.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking raw material costs and rounding up to an amount that fits with high-street prices, without factoring in any profit. Crafters have a tendency to underestimate what their time is worth; often because doing what you love doesn’t feel like something you can justify as work.

Laura Redburn agrees. “When you’re making for yourself, it’s because you feel the urge. But when you’re making for a professional commission there are set parameters, which can leave you feeling conflicted.”

The key is to think of time spent crafting as you would time spent doing something you don’t enjoy – just because it’s fun, it doesn’t mean there’s not a value attached. Cost in how long it takes to create your pieces at a rate above minimum wage (currently £8.21 per hour) so you’re recognising your work fairly.

Tot it up

“Costing is only the first part,” explains Patricia van den Akker of the Design Trust. “Pricing is also based on the quality of your work and materials, your profile and branding, where you position yourself in the market, what others charge in your market, what clients are prepared to pay and what they value – there’s no standard answer! If you undervalue yourself and undersell your work though, you won’t make a living, or be taken seriously.”

Patricia’s advice to crafters looking to transform their passion into a business? “You need to do your research into what others charge and take into account retailer commissions if you’re planning to sell wholesale. Find out what your annual business costs are and what (realistic!) salary you want, then look at how many products you need to sell a year, and at what price to cover your costs and salary.”

One crafter who’s taken this approach to a new level is Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective. In 2017, her salary was paid entirely by supporters of her ‘Adopt a Craftivist’ campaign, who pledged enough to support Sarah on the Living Wage (the London rate is 3.7% higher than the minimum wage).

“It still makes me uncomfortable to ask for money, but to be a skilled and effective craftivist and sustain myself I need shelter and food like anyone else. It’s important people value your input in the world.”

Sarah’s calculations include: the time taken to deliver a piece of work; her years of experience and knowledge, and the resources needed to deliver the goal. “Finally, I try to factor in what individuals or organisations can afford without causing me financial strain. It’s not healthy to work myself into the ground helping others and then burning myself out.”

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

So what about those who’ve turned craft into a career? Is there an inherent respect afforded here to aspire to, even if you’re operating on a smaller scale?

“Craft is a skill that is highly valued but a word that is often shunned in the fashion world,” says fashion designer Katie Jones of Katie Knits. “I fell into being a designer but grew up with craft. I think if it’s something you’ve always done you don’t value what you can do, as it comes so easily. What I’ve learnt is that, for most, it doesn’t. It’s very much a dying art, and one that I spend a lot of my time teaching others.”

So what exactly is it about craft that Katie sees as valuable? “Being able to make something from nothing is one of the best things in the world. Producing an item yourself makes it a luxury product. It’s bespoke! It’s couture! Embrace your power to create beauty.” That’s something that’s truly priceless.

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Author is Lottie Storey and illustration is by Katie Housley.