I sold an astonishing 29 pieces at a show last weekend (in spite of the scary thunderstorm that ended the second day of the show an hour early), and with another show this weekend, I decided I'd take today off from my real job and produce.
I beaded my butt off. (Sigh. Don't you wish you could really do that?) I started before 8 a.m. and just quit about half an hour ago, 7:15-ish. I stopped for lunch and dinner and ran a couple of errands. I'll subtract an hour and half for all that, and that still was nearly 10 hours of beading. And in that time I produced exactly two pairs of earrings, a bracelet and a pendant. (Wow! Just another 25 pieces to go between now and Friday! And tomorrow is Thursday.)
I suspect many beaders are like I am when it comes to pricing work -- clueless. Back when I was a freelance writer, I once asked a fellow freelancer how much to charge for, say, writing a press release. The answer was, "As much as you can ask while still keeping a straight face. And if they accept your price without a quibble, you didn't ask enough." Of course, writing is not beading (thank goodness -- I don't want anyone coming back to me with requests for revisions on my earrings!), and I don't think any of us want to have our customers haggle over prices. Nonetheless, when something doesn't sell, I always wonder if I've priced it too high.
So how does one decide how much to charge? I've read in various places that one should charge 2.5 times the cost of materials. That might work for silversmiths or furniture makers, but I think beadweavers are more like painters, in that regard. Does a painter weigh each dab of pigment he or she puts on the palette? My seed beads are like that. Even if I had the discipline to track the price of every tube of beads and record how many of each bead I use in a piece, I'd spend more time counting than creating. And if I had the mindset for that, I'd be an accountant, not an artist. (Before all the accountants rush to hit the "comment" link, let me add that I'm sure there are many artists who are accountants and vise versa. But I'm not that talented!)
Another pricing philosophy is that one should price pieces according to an hourly rate. This is a bit problematic for me, too. Since I have a day job, I rarely complete a piece in one sitting. And if I kept a record of how many minutes I spend on a piece, we're back to the "counting, not creating" problem. Today, however, turned out to be a good benchmark, since I was specifically focused on beading. Ten hours, four pieces. I didn't track how much time I spent on each piece, but if I assigned four hours each to the bracelet and pendant, and an hour to each pair of earrings, the prices I charge for these pieces are very close to the hourly rate I've set for myself.
Is my hourly rate too low? Probably -- but that's a whole 'nother issue. What is our time worth?
Article by Frances of bebop beads.