Today we’ll begin to delve into the topic of pricing your products. Pricing your handcrafted products can be one of the most challenging tasks for a creative entrepreneur. You can have an awesome product, a cohesive brand, a great webpage…you can even have amazing sales. But if your product isn’t priced right, you won’t make a profit and it will be hard to keep running your creative biz.
Please note, before you read this post, I suggest you read our articles on tracking expenses and overhead first to better understand the concepts we discuss below.
We could write a whole novel on this topic, so we’ll divide it into a series of posts. Please feel free to comment with any questions! This is a tricky, but important, concept that we owe it to ourselves to get educated about and get it right!
The Unprofitable Pricing Formula
Browsing the interwebs, you’ll frequently see a pricing formula that looks a lot like this:
Supplies x 2 = Wholesale Price
Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price (or Supplies x 4)
I’m hesitant to even type that one on here because I don’t want you to just see it, use it, and then leave. A pricing formula like this might be simple, but it most likely will not get you a profit. Why? Because it leaves out a whole bunch of other fees and expenses that you’re probably incurring. Sure, the “x2” or “x4” multiplier is probably helping you cover part of that, but it’s better to come up with a more exact measure of all your expenses and include them.
Pricing for Profit – A Better Formula
Here’s what I suggest:
My pricing formula also includes labor and what I’m calling an overhead rate. Yes, my formula is a little more complicated. Let me explain my reasoning by defining each piece of the formula. Then, I’ll give an example of pricing two hypothetical products, a wire-wrapped ring and a pair of stud earrings.
Supplies: As I explained in this post, your supplies expense is the cost of whatever materials went directly into your product. You should always have a record of what you pay for your materials (don’t forget what you paid for shipping too). You should be recording this at the per unit level, unless it is cost-prohibitive (basically, too time-consuming) to do so.
For example, if you bought 100 beads, you should take the price and divide it by 100 to get the price per bead. If you bought a bunch of fabric, you’d calculate the price per foot or yard. This will help you determine how much a product you made with 1 bead or 1 yard of fabric cost you.
Being able to come up with an exact supply cost for a product implies that you are tracking this data somewhere in your bookkeeping system, whether it be some accounting software, a giant shoe box of receipts, an email folder, or a nicely organized spreadsheet. So…I hope you’re doing that!
Labor: Just like with a “real” job, you must pay yourself an hourly rate. Decide what you want your hourly rate to be (please, at least pay yourself more than minimum wage!), and determine how long it took you to make the product. Labor cost should equal Time x Wage, so if you’re paying yourself $10 an hour and it took you half an hour to make it, pay yourself $5 for that product. Keep in mind that you spend lots of time working on your business that isn’t necessarily spent making products, and you don’t get paid for that. When in doubt, I suggest you round up your time to more make sure you’re paying yourself what you’re worth.
Overhead Rate: We’ve previously discussed what overhead is, so check out this article to get the full rundown. Basically, overhead is all the other expenses you have that 1) go into your product, but you can’t get the exact amount per product (the cost of the thread you used in your apron, the ink you used to write the calligraphy, etc.), plus 2) all of the other business expenses you pay that don’t have directly go into a product (advertising costs, a web domain, your crafting tools, etc.).
The best way to include these expenses in your pricing formula is to come up with a rate. You are basically putting a little chunk of these expenses into the price of everything you sell. Please refer to our other article on how to calculate your overhead rate. I suggest calculating your rate based on your estimated products sold in a year.
To refine your formula further, you can even have multiple categories of overhead with their own rates. In my own practice, I don’t have the time or energy to count how many jump rings I have, or how much adhesive went into a specific item, so I just have separate overhead rates for those categories that I use for the applicable products. Then I have a “general business” overhead rate that I use to price all my products.
Don’t forget that your fees should be included in your overhead rate calculation. These are the fees that you pay to Etsy, Paypal, Square, etc. to list and sell your products. Examples include Etsy’s 20 cent listing fee, their percentage of your sale, Paypal’s percentage of your sale, etc. To complicate things further, your total fee might vary based on whether you sell it via Paypal or Etsy’s Direct Checkout. Currently, Paypal fees are 2.9% plus 30 cents. Etsy fees are 3.5% of the sales price (this is their cut no matter which method it sells via), and their Direct Checkout takes a 3% cut and a 25 cents transaction fee. Whew, confusing!
Wait a Minute, What’s That “Multiplier” for?
The “x2” and “x4” is what I shall call your profit multiplier. It’s basically what’s ensuring you a profit at the end of the day. You’re taking your costs, multiplying them by the profit multiplier, and getting your sales price. Your sales price means you are getting paid back enough to first cover all your costs, then actually make some money on top of that.
Now let’s work some hypothetical examples.
Wire-wrapped druzy ring
- Supplies – That’s the cost of the wire and the druzy stone. The druzy stone cost me $3. I buy the wire in 30 feet spools. One spool costs me $8. So, I can either measure exactly how much wire I used for this ring, or I can make an estimated cost based on an average for each ring. Let’s say I use an average of 2.5 feet for each ring, so that gets me about 67 cents of wire in 1 ring ($8 per spool / 30 feet = $.267 per foot x 2.5 feet = $.67). Am I confusing you yet? So, my supplies expense for this one ring is $3.67.
- Labor – This ring takes me 10 minutes to make, and I want to earn $12 an hour. So 1/6th of an hour x $12 = $2 in labor for this ring
- Overhead Rate – In my hypothetical situation, let’s say these are my estimated overhead expenses for the year:
$800 – Etsy fees
$250 – Paypal fees
$250 – Advertising & printing expenses
$300 – Craft show fees
$50 – Photo props
$100 – Editing software
$75 – Tools
$275 – Indirect product costs
$15 – Website costs
Wow! That’s a lot of overhead! These costs add up, that’s why it’s important to include them in your pricing strategy somehow.
I’m going to calculate my overhead rate based on an estimated annual number of products sold. Last year, let’s say I sold 400 items. This year, I’m estimating that I will sell 500 pieces. $2,115 / 500 = $4.23 per item for overhead. So, my formula would look like this:
[(Supplies + Labor) x 2] + Overhead Rate = Wholesale Price
[($3.67 + $2) x 2] + $4.23 = $15.57 for my wholesale price, x 2 = $31.14 for my retail price. If this were me I’d probably do some rounding and sell it for $31 flat.
Remember, there’s several ways you can calculate your overhead rate and incorporate it in your pricing strategy.
Rosette stud earrings
- Supplies – Let’s say the rosettes cost me 20 cents a pair, 20 cents for the studs, and 5 cents for the earnuts. That means my supply expense is 45 cents.
- Labor – I make a bunch of earrings at once, so each pair doesn’t take me too long. Let’s say I pay myself 50 cents for each pair.
- Overhead rate – $4.23 as I calculated it in the above example, and you can use that same overhead rate across the board for all your products.
So, my formula would look like this:
[(Supplies + Labor) x 2] + Overhead Rate = Wholesale Price
[($.45 + $.50) x 2] + $4.23 = $6.13 for my wholesale price, x 2 = $12.26 for my retail price. Again, that’d be $12 flat for me.
The Big Picture
Does it seem crazy that a ring that cost you less than $4 to make should be priced at $31? Or a pair of earrings that cost you less than $1 could sell for 12 times that amount? That is why soooo many artisans underprice their goods, or make awesome sales but never turn a profit. It all boils down to two things when coming up with a pricing formula that works:
- Covering all of your costs – find a reasonable, doable way to include all your business costs in your pricing formula, not just the obvious ones, whether this is by using an overhead rate, a percentage markup, or something else that works for you.
- Making a profit – here’s the kicker. If all your business expenses are represented somewhere in your pricing formula, that little “x2” or “x4” profit multiplier is what will allow you to be profitable (duh!). Too many entrepreneurs forget to include all their true costs in their formula, and profit multiplier that should be giving them a profit is really just covering all those forgotten expenses instead.
Trust me, it’s a lot easier to price your product for a profit now, even if it feels too high, and lower your price later for whatever reason, than to be in business for a while with prices that are too low, realize you aren’t going to have a sustainable business, and have to raise your prices later to stay open.
Next time we’ll continue the conversation about pricing your creative goods and discuss tweaking the formula to fit your business, checking out (or not) your competitors’ prices, and why it’s so important to not under-price yourself. We might even be feeling really generous and include a little downloadable freebie spreadsheet with the pricing formulas already embedded for you!
In the meantime, if there’s any specific things you’d like us to talk about or any pricing questions you may have, feel free to hit us up in the comments.
UPDATE: Check out part 2 of our series, which discusses the pitfalls of under-pricing, tweaking the formula to fit your needs, and competing with other shops, here.
I have been following your series & really appreciate the advice. So many different ways, & they all come out with different totals.If you’re new to all this, how do figure out how much you will sell in a yr? Also, are you sure that at $10/hr, 20 minutes = only $2.? 🙂
Hi Barbara! I’m so glad you’ve found these articles helpful. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
You are so right in that there are many pricing methods out there. The important thing is that you are actually thinking about them, instead of just guessing at a price that sounds good without any thought put into it. Like the article mentioned, as long as your strategy includes trying to cover all your expenses AND pricing for profit, then you are one step ahead.
If you’re a new business trying to estimate your annual products sold to calculate your overhead rate, I’d come up with a very conservative (on the low side) estimate and go from there. After a month or two of business you can always adjust up or down. Another idea would be to base your overhead rate on an estimated number of products MADE in one year, rather than sold, since you have more control over that number. The hope is that over time, all the products you make will eventually sell and that cost will be recouped.
And yes, you are totally right about my math error! That’s what I get for not using a calculator (not all accountants are good at math I guess haha!). I’m going to go re-work that part now, thanks for calling it to my attention!
Thank you for this post! I’ve been struggling with pricing for a long time and still don’t have it right. My crocheted items take some time to make and it kills my profit margin, so I’m not sure if there’s a realistic solution for my business other than to try a different craft or only make quick and easy items. For example, I have some small stuffed bears in my shop. They take about 45 minutes each to make and the yarn is $1. Let’s say I’m paying myself $10 an hour. ([$1+$7.50 labor]x2)+$4 overhead=$21 wholesale, $42 retail. No one would pay that much for a little stuffed bear, so it definitely gets discouraging trying to price for profit. It seems easy to use this pricing model on jewelry items and other quicker crafts but difficult on the more time consuming. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you and thanks again for the post!
Hi Linda, excellent excellent question! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I believe your situation is one that many other artists are challenged with, so I’m going to take your question and answer it in its very own post later this week. I will link back to it when it’s ready, this way I can give you a thorough response! Thanks for the inspiration!
Thank you so much! I look forward to reading it. There have been so many times that I’ve read posts about pricing and thought “Welp, that doesn’t work for me” so I’m glad I asked!
Hi Linda, I’ve finally posted my answer to your question here: http://lazyowlboutique.com/2014/06/23/financial-records-for-my-creative-business-keeping-track-of-expenses-2/
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Hi Janet ur pricing formula was correct. where $10 and 20minutes u work out to equal $2.00 in labor which u used to explain your formula; if am wrong wat is the correct answer using your formula bcuz am a newbie to this. Thanks in advance for responce.
Hi Kimberley! Thanks so much for stopping by. Barbara’s earlier comment was correcting me on an error I had in this article, but I’ve since corrected my error, so now everything in the article is correct and the math works!
If you wanted to pay yourself $10 an hour and worked on something for 20 minutes, you’d calculate your labor like this:
1 hour = 60 minutes
20 minutes / 60 minutes = .3333 of an hour
.3333 x $10 an hour = $3.33 of labor for that item
My example in the article is if I paid myself $12 an hour for something that took me 10 minutes to make, so in that case, the math works out like this:
10 minutes / 60 minutes = .167 of an hour x $12 an hour = $2 in labor for that item
I hope that clarifies things for you! Be sure to let me know if you have any more questions.