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Rex Johnson

How Do You Price Your Work?

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I'm back into this pottery gig (6 years running in development) after a 25 year or so hiatus. Yeah, I got a day job <_< .

It's not like I'm a beginner or a hobbyist. I made a living and put myself through university making and selling pottery.

But, way back then we sold what we could for what we could get, considering the going prices in that day, which appear to be quite inflated from what I've read here at C.A.

 

I realize there are different levels of talent and success.

Full time artist

Teacher/artist

Production potter/festival goer

Hobbyist

Etc.

 

I had my first Studio Sale last fall, actually did quite well for a small-ish town (Acton, CA).

Advertised in the local country journal, had a two page interview two weeks before the ad came out, flyers, word of mouth got around,etc.

A good occasion for exposure...but I digress...

 

I'm curious how professionals and hobbyists alike approach pricing their work.

By the pound?

By the hour?

Aesthetics?

Success of the individual piece?

Your notoriety?

 

IMG_5210-XL.jpg

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what you can get. I know that sounds snarky but its so true. At some shows $50 mugs move and others its a challenge to get $20. I would suggest visiting the types of shows you will be doing and see what seems to be the norm. Try to find out if they have been doing that show for a while because if they have their current prices probably reflect what they have figured out along these lines.

 

Assuming of course you and they make nice pots.

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Yes Mea, I have reviewed some of your blog.

You get good prices for your work.

I like your approach with the minimal amount of and standardized glazes.

Very organized, and that's one approach.

 

Until I do this full time, I'll probably do a couple studio sales a year and gradually get back into doing select festivals.

 

BTW, great idea with the throwing gauge!

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None of these are what I sue

By the pound?

By the hour?

Aesthetics?

Success of the individual piece?

Your notoriety?

 

By the market-that is what people will pay and at the same time keeping sales brisk.

Also what is the form-meaning I do not want to make lots of $120 bowls but I do make a few but I do want to sell 500 spoon rests so they are priced to move well

It has to work for both parties-you the seller and the buyer.

I started way back when mugs where $2.50

Now it can be 10 times that.

You need to try various prices and see what works with whatever cliental you are marketing to.

This takes time to learn and is different for each of us.

I try and cover all price points and it works for me.

If you are starting go look at what others are selling for-I never do that now but 40 years ago I did look at the startup.

The venues also can affect prices-they cost more to drive say to Park City art show (3 states away) than my local show

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Formulas have their limitations, but I think this simple formula is not a bad way to get a construction-based bottom-line for the cost of producing the work. Some people add in the cost of photographing, web sites, business cards,set-ups for shows, etc. Then there is the "value added" pricing of one's personal artistic and craftsmanship  vision, talents, style, technique and so forth that makes someone want to buy YOUR work.   

 

One pricing formula: Cost of materials + labor x 2 = wholesale; wholesale x 2 = retail.  

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Lee is correct to add in website costs, are business costs, studio lights to fuel for kilns, shipping, bubblewrap, boxes, etc. I ship pieces directly and add on that cost.

 

I agree with Mark. What the market will bear. I have been selling for 48 years. My Montana market was much stronger than my current location in Texas. Plus I had regular customers and followers. That's what 31 years in the same place will do. I really love what I am making now. It is selling and for good prices.When asked how long it took to make it, 50+ years.

 

Marcia

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I agree, what the market will bear. But even that is hard because I have an online market that bears one price and a local that might bear another. Since people shop ALL ways now, festivals, shops, galleries, and online I have spent some time this year attempting to find the sweet spot for all of them that will keep the prices as consistent as possible between all the various venues and still enough that I make a profit. That's been quite the challenge since the percentages taken vary from 0% to 40% depending on the venue. I am also looking into getting more into wholesale prices this next year so have to start figuring that in as well at 50% of the retail price.

 

I haven't being selling pots long enough to have it figured out so have been using my past art sales as a base starting point and tweaking from there. Just when I think I got it figured another type of venue pops up and I have to re- evaluate my pricing structure. That doesn't mean I dramatically change any of my prices since that isn't good either. It just means that at my quarterly review I will look over all my records and try and figure out what needs tweaking. If I find I am too far off part way through a year I will change the product enough to be able to do so without it seeming shocking. Example is last year and this early spring I offered necklaces at a local shop with beaded chains during my review realized the time to do the beading was most of the cost and I was losing. So starting this summer I am offering just the pendants for the same price as last year and they can add their own chain. It's a test to see if that will work or not.

 

T

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All good input and thanks.

There's a thread here somewhere about mugs, so lets take a mug as an example.

Say 1 pound for an easy example, round out the figures...

Clay - $1 (including cost, shipping, time to get it to the studio)

Firing and glaze - throw $1 at it.

Time - 1/2 hour including throwing,trimming, decorating, glazing, firing.(and I've nixxed handles from my forte')

At $20 an hour - $10

$12 retail minimum seems about right.

 

Getting $2.50 back in the day, this doesn't sound so bad.

I'd prefer to make $50 an hour and get $25 a mug, but for now it's not looking like I'd sell very many.

I am pressed to charge even $12, but less than that I feel like I'm giving them away...

 

I spend a lot more time on my bowls, and feel their worth to be $15 to $55 depending on size and success of the piece(s).

I feel large platters (12"-16") should go for $45-$85

Cover jars depending on the size, are twice the work due to the lids.

 

I aspire to get what Mae charges for a piece.

It's going to take a little more development and time in my view...

 

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I watched a video about pricing for craftspeople and he said to price by the day to figure out the price of the item starting point. So you want to make say $500 a day. Then if you sell your mugs for around $33 you need to make around 15 mugs in a workday's time. ($500/$33). So here your saying you can make, attach handle, glaze in 8 hours of hands on labor, obviously for us this isn't in a single day, but if you add your hours up to a day's time. (8-10 hours).

 

I sort of like this logic as it puts a reasonable figure in your head for you to earn enough income to survive off of. So if you need $2500 a month, you need to sell 5 days worth of mugs every month. (this is very basic example)

 

If you add in more items you can really start to see how this works in your head. If you can't get $33 per mug then you lower your prices until customers start buying them. If they will pay $28, you can do the math to see how many mugs you need to make in a day's time. $500/$28 = around 18 mugs. So you either have to get faster and make 3 more mugs per day, or work extra time. You can apply this to every piece you make. 

 

Again this pricing model is based on what customers will pay, but its based on putting a figure in your head of what your 8 hours worth of time per day is. You pick a point and start there, then modify, it helps set realistic goals. It also really shows you that pots that take a lot of your time might not be worth it if you can't sell them. Say you spend 8 hands on hours to sell a pot for $200. That really isn't a good product if your goal per 8 hours is $500.

 

Just another view...

elaine clapper, LeeU, GEP and 4 others like this

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I watched a video about pricing for craftspeople and he said to price by the day to figure out the price of the item starting point. So you want to make say $500 a day. Then if you sell your mugs for around $33 you need to make around 15 mugs in a workday's time. ($500/$33). So here your saying you can make, attach handle, glaze in 8 hours of hands on labor, obviously for us this isn't in a single day, but if you add your hours up to a day's time. (8-10 hours).

 

I sort of like this logic as it puts a reasonable figure in your head for you to earn enough income to survive off of. So if you need $2500 a month, you need to sell 5 days worth of mugs every month. (this is very basic example)

 

If you add in more items you can really start to see how this works in your head. If you can't get $33 per mug then you lower your prices until customers start buying them. If they will pay $28, you can do the math to see how many mugs you need to make in a day's time. $500/$28 = around 18 mugs. So you either have to get faster and make 3 more mugs per day, or work extra time. You can apply this to every piece you make. 

 

Again this pricing model is based on what customers will pay, but its based on putting a figure in your head of what your 8 hours worth of time per day is. You pick a point and start there, then modify, it helps set realistic goals. It also really shows you that pots that take a lot of your time might not be worth it if you can't sell them. Say you spend 8 hands on hours to sell a pot for $200. That really isn't a good product if your goal per 8 hours is $500.

 

Just another view...

 

Best answer yet! Well said.

Since I'm not yet retired from my day job, I tend to slave 8-10 hours at a time on my weekends making various pieces, and/or glazing, firing, or other prepping. However, I do get alot done in these stints.

These long and laborious hours take the joy out of the process somewhat, which for me is the point of making clay, the joy of the process.

The fact that I sell anything at all is a bonus.

My second studio sale comes in July, so I'm cramming right now to round out the inventory, keeping in mind what might sell and for what price.

Thus this thread I guess. Good input folks.

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I should also add that if you can make 100 mugs in 8 hours it doesn't mean your prices should reflect that. Only that you should raise your minimum daily rate.

 

If your pots fly off the shelves your obviously either too cheap, undervaluing your work, or have the perfect price point. Raise prices until you find out then adjust as said above by others.

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Well I just go for sort of a gut feel. I make this one type of chicken figure thats pretty fast and easy and sells for $25. Other stuff is more.  I am happily retired from the real world so I figured based on my gross ceramic sales minus studio costs and gallery costs that I make about minimum wage for the hours put in.  Could be worse as I could do the same flipping burgers. Of course, with min wage going up at least in CA  then I will be below it.  Its odd what sells sometimes. rakuku

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I'd prefer to make $50 an hour and get $25 a mug, but for now it's not looking like I'd sell very many.

I am pressed to charge even $12, but less than that I feel like I'm giving them away...

Ya know I do get the need to price an item to move and if we tried $30+ for mugs I don't think they would sell very well, if at all at some of our smallish venues.

 

I'd rethink the $12 mug though. More than any other item I think mugs and cups are the stable of your booth and at $12 it is dangerously close to being a lost leader. High teens and low twenties can still get traction as I think most people that buy pottery these days see that as the average range and a $20ish price still leaves some room for wholesale or consignment. We do a lot of small local shows and outdoor markets and we are able to keep our mugs moving at the higher price point. BUT of course everyone is different and at the end of the day you have to do what's right for your market and your booth.

 

When you say you are hard pressed to get $12, how many are you moving at your shows at that price and what higher prices have you tried to contrast it with? Maybe do a little more decorating or other things to your mugs to make them seem like a better bargain at a higher price. Where we sell our dipped mugs at a steady pace, hand painted ones at 20-30% more sell briskly. I think people need to often see something about a coffee mug that makes it really seem more special than what they already have in their cabinets. I guess what I am getting at is that at a certain point I think you have to consider other factors than just price if a product is not moving at what seems to be a low price.

 

This a topic we are constantly coming back to because we, like you, need to move pottery. As strange as it sounds that's not the case for everyone. If time is limited then the part time potter may be much more concerned with getting compensated more for each item than selling more. They have the luxury of putting in more time and waiting for the higher price.

 

We've all heard the analogy that it is obviously better for the potter to get $40 for one mug than $20 for 2 since its the same money and obviously half the work. I sure wish it were that simple ;-)

 

For the record though we do shoot for $50 an hour for studio hours to keep a form in the lineup and by and large our prices have been allowing for that with the exception of show hours. That's our hill to climb right now because we do not have enough volume to cover that and if you factor in the time at the markets evenly distributed across the items sold while we are growing our business it skews the numbers. So to balance this price review process I take those hours aside and only factor each product with a rightful allocation and essentially the remaining unpaid hours are the business loss until we grow to the point our sales are matching our production output.

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A few things not covered yet.

The price for ceramics is higher in the east than west-meaning ceramics sell for more back east generally I have noticed. The further east the higher the price.

That what I have observed over many years.

This is geared towards art show works-

The things that will affect price is the quality of work (how long  one has been at it and how polished it is)

The setting-or show-or venue

the display

The glazing the amount of work in each piece vs price. Like added stamps or attachments .Multiple glazes vs one.

Also say if one is retired they really do not need to focus on what it sells for vs a professional who is making a living at this

 

The thing about this is its different for everyone everywhere.

Maybe a better approach is learn to be faster making things and more efficient processing then you will make more profit.

Or another thought is produce so much each day or week.

I know most folks torture themselves with this but I would rather spend the time either making more stuff or doing something else for fun.

For me at the end of year at tax time is where this all comes down on paper-you either make money and pay taxes or lost your butt.No about of number crunching can fix this at the end.You can raise prices to make more with less sales or make  more and sell for less for more sales -its personal decision.

I tend to like to sell pots at shows vs sitting and waiting for an occasional sale so I try to as Joseph said above (or have the perfect price point) for the works so it moves well.

 

My pots sell for different amounts at different venues-after reading Pugaboo's story about same pricing at all venues-even though one is taking 40% I stopped working about that long ago. I need a certain amount for my work and that sets the price-a show price is different than a wholesale or consignment price.

The prices are close to some degree but I do not sweat this small stuff.

 

I have always said for those whom are thinking about clay for a living if you ask how much time one spends in the studio you are in the wrong business.

The only way to really know what price is get out there and learn from the school of hard knocks thats where you will fine tune this for your work.

There is really no other way.

Joseph F, Min, GEP and 1 other like this

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I feel how Mark C feels. If being in the studio a long time is a problem and it isn't enjoyable then I don't think clay is a good career as it is pretty demanding of your body. This brings up another point, I think that as you age in your career your prices should reflect your body wearing out. I watched a few videos about some potters who made tons of pots and sold them for super cheap because that's the model they wanted to do. Then as they started aging their prices start increasing as they couldn't make as many pots and they sorta realized no one was doing the same thing they were doing. They sold a lot less pots, but made around the same amount of money with a lot less work. Of course these people are 30-40 year careers with a name and a following so they can get away with this kind of thing. 

 

I plan on slowly increasing my prices as my career progresses, every other career in the world does this, but I see many craftsmen who don't. I think that if your naturally progressing your work and improving it each year then your prices should increase with your work. I think a lot of ceramics are way under-priced. I look at some of the top galleries on the internet and I see people who have amazing unique mugs priced at like $40 dollars, all of their mugs are sold. Then I see someone selling work that is equally as good and aesthetically as good and their mugs are priced at $60 and they are all sold as well. Maybe the other potter had a better name brand or something, but I feel name brand is sort of based on pricing, confidence and your ability to market yourself.

 

Another thing I don't understand is wood fired pots, people sell them for so cheap, I look on around online and see wood fired pots that are beautiful for like $30 dollars. I don't see how these people are making any money. I have watched videos and read blogs about wood firings, having people do 5 hours on and 10 hours off for days at a time, and then you pull out pots and sell them for $30 bucks. Seems absurd, no offense to woodfirers out there, but I don't get it(correct me if I am wrong). How can you afford to cut all that wood, stack it all, build that huge kiln, fire it for days at a time, then sell a one of a kind super unique mug for $30 dollars.

 

I ran a business in the past before I got cancer and my prices always went up every year, and my loyal customers never had a problem with that as they knew the quality of work I gave them. I was always learning new technology and updating everything on their end. That knowledge and learning was expensive and took my time, so they paid for that(some still do). Is pottery really any different, I don't think so?

 

I think along the lines that if you want more money for your work, you should work harder to improve your work by pushing limits so that your work is unique and coveted by people who appreciate ceramics. A part of being in business is getting your product in front of the right people, if your making beautiful mugs that are unique and very well made then you should be going to shows full of people who are looking for that type of product, not the ones looking for 15 dollar mugs and want to bargain the price down if they buy 2.

 

I imagine a problem with making unique stuff and selling it for high prices is that you have to be very aggressive in your work quality, you can't dilute your brand at all, and you have to hammer a lot of your good work, but not good enough. 

 

note: I am new to all this ceramic business so my views could be wildly off. If I am blessed enough to alive for another 20 years and working in ceramics still, if I can't get more then $40-100 dollars for a mug I will stop making mugs and find a more profitable item to make. If I offended anyone with my post I apologize, just my long winded thoughts and confusion about ceramics.

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I price mine by time, utility & material costs although material costs is very small in the end to me. I sell mostly online and my name and works is not famous or anything =P.

 

I make my own molds from my own 3D models and do mostly slip casting. My stuff do not use alot of material because it is slip cast. 

 

Clay is rather cheap to buy in my opinion, especially so when I mix my own because it comes in dry form so I imagine cheaper for suppliers to ship without all that moisture.

 

I'd say the simple formula is price your items by base cost times 3-4. I think that is rather standard and fair for how most businesses operate.

 

The 3-4 times usually also includes coverage including your personal costs - housing, rent - and also costs for future purchases and than finally, a little profit for the piggie bank.

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I agree very much with everything Joseph has covered so far.

I'd just like to elaborate on the $12 mug price: $12 is your wholesale price, not your retail. In the calculation you've used, you've been paid for your making time, but you still now have to turn around and market the work, or pay someone else to do that part of the job for you. Like Lee pointed out, If you're doing the selling yourself, wether that's online or at markets of some kind, there's more overhead there to be considered. Booth fees, a tent, card processing fees, business cards, online gateways and websites, and time spent advertising online all cost. Your retail price for that mug is actually $24, and I wouldn't balk in the slightest at that price. In my area, that's on the lower end for a good pottery mug of the size you describe.

 

As for how I price things, I first look at the work made locally, and (this is the only time I allow myself to do this) compare it to my own in terms of quality. I will sometimes make polite, discreet inquiries about how fast it moves, and wether the proprietor of the shop thinks it's reasonable. I'll then use a combination of the "work backwards and see how many mugs you have to make" method, and Mea's formula for seeing if I can make that form profitably or not. I also take a page from Mark's book, and I have a few kiln filler items (espresso mugs, teabag plates) that I price at wholesale in my booth that I won't send to a gallery or wholesale account for that reason. It helps me cover all price points, and it helps pad the take on a given sale. There is a major recession happening in my area, and that last tactic has saved my @ss this year.

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