There is an art and a science to pricing mugs. Conventional wisdom says: If you set your price too low, you will not sell many. If you set your price too high, you will not sell many.
Some background. My mugs have been sold only through my website for the last 15 years, I've never spent a penny for advertising, and I do not participate any longer in social media to drive sales. I definitely took advantage of social media for a few years in the beginning to build up my business, but am so thankful I don't need to do that anymore. I've written about this before elsewhere, but the success I have had as a potter primarily came from being inspired by a little marketing book by Seth Godin called "Purple Cow". (Odds are your library has this book - it only takes a couple of hours to read). Basically, the author argues that if you make your product easy to find, customers will find you because even now, there is someone out there looking to buy your work. In my case the secret to success was created by using organic search results for my website. Since I'm a one person company, I don't need to constantly be looking for sales. I am as busy as I want to be, and I use my website to let folks know when my next batch of mugs will be ready.
This leads to the question, what is the reasonable cost that people will pay for a handmade mug? When I started out, I had been selling my work through a couple of local galleries. When I decided I did not want to keep seeing the galleries taking 50% of the sale price, I went out on my own and designed my business to be a web-only business. (This way I don't have to do craft fairs or studio sales, which I do not find to be a very good use of my time. I'd rather be in the studio making money ). When I started out the cost of shipping a single mug was roughly around ten bucks. I priced my early work so that most customers would pay a total cost of between 25-30 bucks for a mug, including shipping. That was in the early days. My mugs were okay back then but with each additional 1000 mugs you make, they just keep getting better. So the prices would go up a little bit here and a little bit there.
Now I don't worry too much about pricing. I am in my own little bubble, I guess. Every pot I make sells. I am not a known potter, I have no intentions of being a famous potter, nor do I desire to have that in my life. I just make damn fine mugs. But, so saying that I am not a known potter, I guess that is not true. It's just that other potters don't know who I am and that is by design. The people who know my work are my customers, and they do me the favor of spreading word of mouth to their friends and family about the mug that they bought on line that has become their favorite. Awesome!
I have a line of mugs that start at $25 each and prices go up from there based on the size of the mug. These have been very successful sellers for me.
Two years ago I started making a line of mugs that allow my creativity to be in charge. Initially I priced these mugs about 50% higher than the lines of mugs I had developed over the years. I normally make between ten and twenty of these mugs for my firings (my gas kiln holds 250 mugs). When I first posted these mugs on my site, I was really happy to see that they sold out within a matter of a couple of weeks or so. They sold so well that I now charge up to $70 per mug, and shipping a single mug is now in the $15 range. So there are some customers out there who have no problem paying $85 US for a mug. I am mystified by this, but at the same time very humbled. The last time I posted the high end mugs on my site after my last firing, people were purchasing them within minutes of me posting them. I really was shocked by that.
I think that it is helpful to have some nice but plain mugs that are economically priced, and some higher end mugs that are priced accordingly. That way you are able to serve interested customers' budgetary restrictions. A sale is a sale is a sale.
Don't be afraid to price your work in such a way that you can have a sustainable life. Do not forget that you have put a lot of money into getting your studio set up. You have bought equipment and you spend money to keep it working properly. And you have spent a lot of time and money learning how to be a good potter. Forget about trying to compete with the guy who is selling his mugs for ten bucks each. Allow yourself to take the time it takes to make a good, solid mug, a mug so nice that the person who gets it immediately finds that it is their favorite mug.
Use a liner glaze. Get it tested at brandywine labs for lead and cadmium, and post the certified lead and cadmium free lab results on your site. It tells your customers that you care about their health. Make your own glazes, and consider making your own clay. Learn glaze and clay chemistry. Control your process and know how to adjust your clay and glazes when raw materials suddenly don't work like they used to.
Take care of your customers when there is a problem. They will appreciate you beyond any expectation you could ever have. If you are just starting out, realize that you have to play the long game to build up your business and your reputation. So don't price your work too high in the beginning. But when you see that everything you are making is selling out, that is the surest sign that it's time to raise prices.
I absolutely recommend that you get a stamp made with your website on it, and that you stamp it on the bottom of every mug you make. I cannot tell you how many sales I have gotten because I did that. As an example, someone bought one of my mugs at a Goodwill store years ago for a buck or two and dropped it one day and had to have another one...she looked on the bottom and there was my website...make it easy for customers to find you!
This is not to say that you should only sell your work through your website. What has worked for me may not work for you, but some of it might. I am only sharing my experience for you to consider. You have to start somewhere with sales, and then you have to decide which works best for you. But your emphasis should be on making a really great mug. Everything follows from that, including demand for your mug, and the price you charge for it.
Hope this helps! Cheers from Oregon! Mosey