Discussion: The true cost of making handmade

Crafters really are the lowest paid profession in existence.
So many times I have heard people almost gasp when they have heard the true price of a handmade garment or product.  It's like you've asked them for their first born!
As a result, many crafters now feel almost obliged to lower their prices and sell for well below what they are truly worth.

I had a chat this morning with my sister in law Leanne who I shared a market stall with for about 5 years.  Leanne made the most divine hand knitted blankets and she has very generously provided some figures for me to share with you, to give an idea just how little profit is made. 
Of course this doesn't relate to all crafters, some are making a nice profit and rightly so.  But overall most would fall into the following category.
  • To make the above hand knitted blanket you would need 8 balls of 50g wool (400g).
  • As a rule of thumb - each 50g ball takes about 2 hours to knit.
  • Wholesale cost of the wool used $2.50 per ball x 8 = $20
  • Leanne at times employed local ladies to help with the bulk of the knitting (they just loved to knit). Not including trims & embellishments.  They did sew squares together.  Equivalent to about 6 balls (10-12 hours) $35 per blanket. ($3.00 per hour)
  • Crocheted flower embellishments - yarn supplied, dropped off & collected to local crocheters. Cost to Leanne $0.50 + small scrap materials
  • Leanne took 6 hours to finish off the blanket by knitting & attaching trim with mitred corners, attaching flowers & steam pressing.
So the final result:
Cost of wool: $20 + Labour for knitting: $35 + Embellishments: $2 = $57

Sale price of blanket $85 less cost $57 leaves $28
Divide by Lea's 6 hours = $4.67 per hour
Now add on the associated costs of having a market stall plus all the running around she had to do - she made a grand total of 2 cents per hour (OK that's an exaggeration but you get my point!)

If crafters charged what a handmade product is really worth, would the increased price make these items unaffordable?

Do you think we would then see a dramatic decrease in the number of online marketplace sellers & buyers with all consumers going back to buying from commercial retailers?


Emma said...

I could not agree more. With my crafts and markets stalls my lovely fiance does all the sums like that in his head and is like you can not sell it for anything less than xyz!! Alarming but true, people don't realise and it makes me sad to think people want to pay the same money for something coming out of a factory in Taiwan as something lovingly handstitched :(

Kawaii for You said...

I would say this would be true for most crafters. When I had my handmade business I was absolutely shocked when I sat down and worked out the cost of everything. You just don't really take all the little bits and pieces into account, let alone your own time!

Bree said...

I've always sold bits and pieces of my work but mainly as a hobby and never for great profit. The way I currently look at it is as long as I cover my materials and maybe a bit towards some more materials for myself then I've done ok. I've previously sold at market stalls and it is a good way to reach the public but unfortunately it's a lot of work for not much gain. I think really beautiful handmade goods are really something you buy for a special occasion - I can see people paying for that beautiful blanket when a baby is born or christened but not as an every day gift. I make things for my child to use every day and they cost more than store bought items but I love doing it so it's ok. But I know other people wouldn't pay what the items were 'worth'.

Anonymous said...

I tried to sell some of my handmade stuff - but to date (after six months) nothing has sold via madeit.. I've had a few friends buy a few things off me - but I think that was more out of a sense of duty than anything else. If I was to reduce the price of the items - I would not be covering my costs at all - let alone making any profit. I try to buy handmade when I can - I like the sentimentality of it.

Jacki said...

It's pretty sad to think that people are turning away from handmade items in favour of mass-produced cheaper things. I can understand it, but I would always prefer to pay more for something knowing that it's made by an artisan and that it's someone's livelihood. Long live all the talented crafters out there - I hope they can thrive!

CurlyPops said...

It's so hard to price your work at a point that it's profitable, but not so expensive that it doesn't sell.
I use a minimum hourly rate for myself when costing. There are some things that I can only make and sell directly, as there's no way that I could make a profit on consignment with them.

Tiff said...

There is just no way I could earn what I do teaching by selling my hand made treasures. I love creating and making hand made items.... but I realized long ago I couldn't make a comparable income from doing what I love... I so I'll just have to be content doing it for fun in my (limited) spare time! I truly admire everyone who commits themselves to making a living by selling their gorgeous (and far superior) hand made goods! X

clare's craftroom said...

I think maybe this is why crafters buy from other crafters not always as a sense of obligation but real appreciation .(This is just my opinion )

koralee said...

I agree 100% with you my friend. I guess it comes down to the love more than the $$$$.

Hugs to you and thank you for visiting me the other day. xo

trudi said...

Yes, selling a handmade item is a hard road because of the under value of the process and costs associated with it by the mainstream. Like minded craft souls can see the effort, skill and time, not to mention material costs, in a handmade item. So the challenge is to either produce a quality item for minimal cost price and minimal time OR enlighten/educate people on the value of a handmade item. Start a handmade campaign...

Melanie said...

My sister in law and I are talking about starting up a market stall. It is so true....I am at the stage of really counting it all up to see if it is worth it. I also teach piano and when I compare what I make doing that it seems my love of sewing is the only thing going for me!

Cat from Raspberry Rainbow said...

Fantastic topic of discussion, one very close to my heart. If I cant make some thing myself, I buy handmade every opportunity I get, and often know the time and effort gone to make some thing, so am happy to pay more than the shoddy "made in China" equivalent.
I go to some markets and am amazed at the low prices for exquisite items, wondering if they make any money, or are just doing it for the love of their craft?
I am also closing down my madeit shop (for different many reasons)