Artist Tip #25 – About the real price of things

So, today I read an article on the CBC about the surging Loonie. It’s now worth $1.05!

This is incredible, as growing up Canadian meant our dollar was always worth much less than the American Greenback. And even as recently as 2007 I was earning $1.25 CAD on every $1.00 USD when I transferred it from Paypal into my bank account. Those days are long gone and gone with them is the ability to price items for sale similarly to what my American friends and artists are pricing their items at.

Supplies and shipping costs are more expensive in Canada than what they are in the USA. And with the shipping and duty charges ordering supplies from the USA in the smaller amounts that I need, isn’t worth it at times. I do try to support both Canadian and US based businesses as possible when purchasing supplies and do scour the internet to be able to do so without decreasing the quality of my items. In fact, from whence I opened my shop in late 2007 to now I’ve actually increased substantially the quality of both the materials and packaging used on all the products I produce. That is what creates value.

I think I’ve hit the point though where I don’t even try to compete with other sellers on Etsy. I can’t fathom how people are able to sell an 11 x 14 inch print for $6.00 and still turn a profit to put back into their business. I can’t even buy the archival printing ink, fine art paper and packaging for that price. But good on them if it’s works for them. The only thing that comes to mind is that they are reselling prints from somewhere else that mass produces them which isn’t allowed on Etsy per the TOU or they are running a promotion. But that is another story for another time.

In late May my prices will be going up again on Etsy. I may switch over to selling in CAD on Etsy if the Canadian dollar continues to surge as I suspect it will. HandmadeCloud will be closing during the next month too as I make way for an exciting new venue that I’m developing where only digital products will be available for download. These digital downloads are going to be the coolest thing since sliced bread! Well, maybe not, but they’ll be priced in such a way that everyone with a few extra dollars will be able to afford them and freely use them on as many personal projects as you want. Commercial licenses will be available too at fair rates. So in the end I’ll have the Etsy shop for tangible goods and the digital shop for well, digital goods.

Both my fixed living costs and business related costs have dramatically risen this year. I did raise prices by 15% about one month ago and after doing my taxes scared the crap out of myself and thus will be raising prices again next month as previously mentioned.

You will never see my prices go down on tangible real life goods such as prints or original artworks. And that is where the green and earth friendly digital goods will come into play. You need to earn a certain amount from each sale that you make. You should never be eating shipping, materials, handling, tax, fees, hosting and other online and offline related costs associated with running your business unless it’s promotion or you are wealthy and can afford to donate your time, money and product to your customers.

I’m not a multi-million dollar corporation. And sadly, people don’t even realize the tricks big companies are playing on us so that they earn more money on less product. Our food stuffs packaging for instance, is getting ingeniously redesigned year after year and smaller in size while the price is at the same time rising. Yet, no one complains. Ever notice how many bottles now have a concave groove on the bottom or are taller and skinnier?

I couldn’t imagine selling ACEO’s and trimming them down to 2.4 by 3.4 inches from the standard 2.5 by 3.5 inches. That would be a lie unless I wrote out and stated within the listing that what you are purchasing has changed in size for whatever reason.

And while skinny jeans are all the rage at the moment just think of how much money the manufacturers are saving on fabric costs as wide legs take a back seat and fill the racks at your local second hand store. I wonder if the disappearance of wide leg jeans and bell bottoms correlate to slumping economies?

And why people buy pre-grated cheese is beyond me! You are being ripped off unless you are fully aware of how much extra you are paying for the convenience of buying pre-grated cheese. For goodness sake, a cheese grater costs only a few dollars and it takes mere minutes to grate enough cheese for a pizza.

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13 thoughts on “Artist Tip #25 – About the real price of things

  1. Excellent blogpost, Jessica.

    When I started making handmade jewelry last October I did some looking around on Etsy and Artfire to get an idea how to price it. I saw many, many women who priced their work very low. I could be wrong about this, but I think it’s directly related to their self-respect and how they value, or don’t value, their time and skills.

    Obviously the handmade jewelry business is…well…overpopulated shall we say? There are hundreds if not thousands of women doing it now and probably many of them are unemployed and trying to supplement the family income.

    I think they don’t have the self-confidence to price their work as they should. They probably also don’t have a good accounting system to know how much their supplies have cost them over time.

    I used to own a web design business so I know you have to keep good books, and as a result I know how what my start up costs have been with the jewelry. It’s staggering.

    I applaud you for your pricing strategy, your awareness of the situation and your ability to express yourself. I have purchased several of your pieces and have received one or two for gifts. I believe them to be worth every American dollar that we paid for it. I especially appreciate the quality of the packaging of your products. It’s hard to explain why, but that extra touch means a lot to me as a customer. Keep it up:)

  2. Christi – thank you for shedding light into the jewelry making business. I’ve touched on creating jewelry as I paint beads and make necklaces from those beads. Come to think of it, I haven’t done it in a while.

    I wish I could sell my 8×8′s for $5.00 but that won’t even cover the cost of my supplies. In three years my supply costs have risen so much. I try to buy larger amounts at a time to offset the rising costs but that takes money to begin with.

    Case in point: Last Summer, I made the mistake of buying too much fine art printing paper and calendar cases and shipping boxes and set myself back close to $1500 because of it. Haha! Thankfully, I have the materials stored safely for use later this year but it really was too much for me to absorb in hindsight. Lesson learned.

    Sadly, it was the shipping and duty I knew I’d have to pay as the cases came from California (and I live in Eastern Canada) which prompted my decision to double my order with the company as the duty and shipping charges would have been relatively the same for the half size order.

    Being aware is half the battle isn’t it? I’m amazed what I learn everyday.

    I’m grateful for you too, here on the blog. Thank you for adding your wisdom and experience to the conversation. :)

  3. I’ve often wondered about the low cost of creating prints, as I took tips from you and purchased the same printer. LOL Definitely can’t print an 11 x 14 for $6.00, that’s for sure! ;)

    Although I’ve been noticing the prices are slowly creeping up on Etsy, so perhaps artists are beginning to realize they miscalculated their prices to sustain them long term. $15 used to be average for an 8 x 8, and now I’ve seen a wide range of that size marked around $30. That’s double their old retail! :)

    I’ll have to dig through the TOU exceptions, but I seem to recall a huge debate over the “printing out of house” issue in the forum, where Rokali was quoted as saying it was okay to do. Photography and art prints being one small exception to the overall rule against out-sourcing.

    And the reference to shrinking containers of food had me laughing out loud!
    Customers do notice, by the way… oh yes, hehe, and they’re very upset about it.
    …In fact, if they see an associate stocking cereal, they will make a point to complain as if the poor soul had designed the new box himself.

    They still buy the box though.
    And the poor employee continues to work for the company he knows is being manipulative. :(
    People have lost the confidence in their own power to change things…

  4. Jessica your post is so bang on the money and you express it so well. Thank you for posting this.
    I have been on Etsy since 2008 and cringe at the postal prices we have to charge here in Canada compared to other countries … sure does make it very difficult to compete. And what is with that “magical” slot that they pull out when trying to ship something. Oh and don’t get me started with a package crossing the border. The wait time can be so unpredictable.
    I have also been watching this change in our dollar and I have been contemplating the same things… increase prices and changing my dollars to Canadian in my Etsy shop. It is certainly not to become “rich” it is so I may continue on this journey of doing something I love. (It is really weird after all these years to be sitting on the other side of the $ fence.)
    I can’t speak for the jewelry but I do agree with Christi. I can’t believe how many creative people undercut what they are creating. I know the hours and diligence I spend creating my work. If only people knew the hours I spend in not only creating a beautiful piece but a quality piece. Even at the prices I charge I am still undercutting my work.
    In regards to the ever shrinking food packages and increasing in prices … believe me I have noticed. So has my grocery bill!
    Again, thank you for sharing this post. You have said it so well.

  5. I think many artists on Etsy are selling their products at wholesale cost and forgetting that wholesale is for larger orders.

    Incredible shrinking containers bug me too. It makes me think of the Jetsons and that pretty soon we’ll be able to buy a pill and just ad water and it’ll grow into a meal. Sadly, we’ll still be charged more that we should be for this pill from whatever company that produces it first.

    I hope online though we continue to get the word out and fight back against the monopolies. I long for the day when a person’s value isn’t based on currency alone.

  6. Canada Post isn’t subsidized by our government as the US postal service is. Canada Post, while being a crown corporation is required by law to make a profit. Hence, our higher rates. Our Gas is also more expensive here and our landmass, well, is huge :D

    I suspect that USPS prices are artificially low because it seems that many other developed countries have shipping prices that are comparable to Canada’s.

    I think in the end I’ll be switching my prices to CAD and save the headache and constant checking of exchange rates to make sure it’s all good in my shop.

    Good luck with your decisions.

  7. I think with Esty because the merchant site is set up to benefit shoppers it makes some people feel as though they have to be competative with pricing. Although I have an etsy store I devote the majority of my time promoting myself through my own ecommerce site. That way folks don’t have the option of clicking on the etsy logo and browsing other stores. Not to say they can’t look else where but I just can’t possibly eat the cost of doing business and expect to stay in business.

  8. Dunno about the bell-bottoms vs. skinnys – the US economy was in the tank in the 70s (bell-bottoms/disco aka my parents) and doing well in the 80s (uber-skinny jeans).

    I am in the minority that like the skinny jeans though. :) They’re good for people like me with straight figures and no hips.

  9. I’ve been seeing more and more posts like yours about pricing and what devaluing our work does to us – the creatives. I’m happy that people within our little creative world are realizing that we should not be undercharging for what we do – even if there are some consumers who can’t wrap their heads around our prices. (Especially those who say that they can get the exact same thing at Wal-Mart for a quarter of the price.)

    We need to make a living at what we do, too… why should we be willing to take losses on our hard work when no one else will? Why is our work – the creative, the artistic – worth less than that of a lawyer, chef or plumber?

  10. I had set up another ecommerce shop off of Etsy but it didn’t work out that great. Even my Canadian buyers were still buying from me off of Etsy in American dollars which I didn’t expect to happen. So now, I still continue to promote my Etsy shop and will be adjusting HandmadeCloud into something else.

  11. You could be right… :)

    I like skinny jeans too Candace. I love that most of the jeans today also have some spandex that actually allow one to move about more easily while retining the shape and fit of your jeans.

    I remember in the 80′s/90′s how fast jeans became loose fitting after one or two wears and then would have to be shrunk again in the dryer to fit snuggly again.

  12. I think the changes are happening though Stacey as more and more people to realize the value in handmade and supporting individual artists.

    I am close to signing with art agent who will actually be representing my artwork to places such as Target and Walmart. I guess we have to remember that behind every print, plate, napkin, drape and blanket there is an artist who created the design we see on it.

    I’m hoping to find a happy medium between the manufacturing and handmade world. The art the agent will be using of mine will not be the same art and illustration that appears in my Etsy shop for the most part so that there are no copyright issues. I needed to branch out or get a real job so having an agent working on my behalf is a way for me to hopefully make up for lost sales on Etsy.

  13. This post is so spot on. I can’t believe the number of sellers on etsy who vastly underprice their work.
    I’m in Australia, and have seen the same thing happen with out dollar, and have suffered the same more expensive postage too.
    I’m one of the leaders of DUST – the Down Under Street Team, and many of our members are becoming disheartened with Etsy, and a good number have tried other venues, but like you find that Etsy seems to be where people prefer to shop.

    One of the great benefits of our team is that when new people join and ask for critiques one of the first things they get told is “your prices are too low!”

    The difficulty I find is in finding the happy medium between paying yourself a wage and pricing yourself out of the market. People like you though, inspire me.
    Good luck with your agent! I hope we get to see your art on items down here in Australia!

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