September 6, 2012

On Being, or Not Being, a Sweatshop.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 10:26 am

First, I have to be honest with myself and my readership: I am not a sweatshop. I am a woman who crafts amigurumi dolls, writes her own patterns, and uses her fifteen years of experience as a crocheter to create unique, quality pieces of work.

That being said, I thought I was prepared to watch the “Pricing for Profit” video on Etsy. In fact, I had recently raised my prices after some good advice in the Etsy teams, when I stopped, really did the math, and realized I was paying myself practically nothing. I had realized that I had sold five of my most popular item within two months during the previous Christmas season, and if I had just charged a bit more, then yes, I might have lost one of those sales, but the other four would have made up for it, and my fingers wouldn’t have been sore from working them to the bone for those two months. I thought now I priced myself and my wares fairly, and the video would do nothing more than offer the bolstering “thumbs-up” I needed to keep on plugging away in my shop.

I was wrong.

I was bowled over by the audaciousness of these women and their frank, honest way of telling the world that, if we wanted to run a successful business, we needed to price ourselves to allow for profit. This shouldn’t be a revelation for me; I have seen companies around me grow and expand, and I do not question their pricing for profit. However, I suppose since I am not a “brick and mortar” store, this did not at first occur to me.

Aren’t I awful for wanting a profit? Aren’t I horrible for asking more than what the sum of the materials and my meager pittance nothing modest wage is? Shouldn’t I just be sharing the love?

What they were trying to say is that the answer is no, to all of those questions. I should want a profit if I want to grow my business; I must ask more than the sum of materials and wage; and I can both share the love and make money doing what I do. (And wasn’t that what made me start selling in the first place?)

I still don’t have an answer for you. I don’t know what I’m going to do about my prices. It’s a scary thought, to change the perception and the perceived value of my wares like *that*. And I have the poor pricing of other sellers against me; notoriously, sellers price crochet items too low because they feel people do not understand how much goes into a piece and therefore, would not pay what an item is truly worth. So even if I change my prices, won’t I look like the bitch in the bunch? (And does that get down to the heart of the matter–my fear of being the fearless one? Still something I’m working on.) But I am definitely going to have to think about it, and think about where I want to take this little business of mine.

Until then, I send the challenge out to you as well, you fellow Etsyians, or anyone who sells handmade goods. Will you watch the video? If so, what will you do, then?

Please let me know.


  1. I have yet to watch the video. I’m a little scared to. But I know I should, as a crafter who wants to supplement her income. I felt bad about charging a gal I work with $65 for a prayer shawl for her sister who is in the hospital. But, I had to cover the cost of the supplies, which also included a book on prayer shawls since I couldn’t find mine. Now, did I buy more than I needed for the project? Maybe. If so, I will earn a little more profit from my next pair of Flip-Furs.

    Good for you! Not only do you have to include the price for your supplies and wage, but also the time it took to create that pattern. And shipping. Don’t forget shipping supplies.

    Comment by Jen Anderson — September 6, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    • I completely understand what you mean–we somehow feel “guilty” about asking for the value of our pieces, or even just asking enough to cover materials and shipping! It’s something I think a lot of crafters struggle with, especially in the yarn arts, and I love when we band to together to work through it!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 6, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  2. I’m definitely struggling with this topic too. It is so hard to price items higher when I know that customers can just go out and buy something kind of similar for less from a big company. Being a newbie too makes this difficult because I want people to buy my items so badly that I don’t want to hinder sales by having higher prices. Blurg. I go back and forth and back and forth with this (even with each item I list). I’ve been trying to tweak some prices a little and figure out what works. Amanda, please let me know how you do with this topic and any experiences and/or advice you think might be helpful now or in the future. I really value your opinion (especially since you’ve been a customer and have insight from that perspective as well). Let me know if there is anything I can help with too! 😉

    Comment by Jamie "ChatterBlossom" — September 6, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

    • Thanks so much for being interested about this too! I know what you mean about being afraid that people will just go to big companies, too. I’ll keep you posted on my mental progress as I navigate the pricing waters, and please do the same, as well! We’ll work through it together 🙂

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 6, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  3. I think a lot of Etsyians struggle with prices because we are so used to buying mass-produced stuff. Why would anyone pay $60 for a knit scarf if they can buy a scarf at Target for $10? But more and more people are beginning to realize that handmade items are (usually) a much higher quality, made with better and longer-lasting materials. I took a peak at your shop, and you offer a wide range of prices. Maybe a $60 teddy bear isn’t for everyone, but they could always go for the $10 Thingling 🙂

    Comment by Amy @ Beads & Brass — September 7, 2012 @ 9:31 am

  4. It is TOUGH, especially with fiber arts. :/ In addition to, “I could get a [blank] at [big box store],” there’s also a lot of, “Oh, my mom/grandma/aunt/friend could make that for way cheaper.” This is the main reason I started selling more patterns and less crocheted things, and I’m still not charging very much for the crocheted things I do sell.

    Comment by The Craft Frog — September 11, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  5. I struggle with that as well… I started putting more thought into pricing after I joined Etsy (and watched that scary video!). I still struggle with the idea that I’m pricing myself out of the market. I just have to keep reminding myself that no, I wouldn’t buy my stuff because I’d go home and make it myself if I really wanted it. But people like my sister or mom don’t have that option (or wouldn’t without me) and would probably buy it because they know the quality that comes with handmade. It’s a hard lesson to learn and I’m still learning! I now have a slip of paper on my bathroom mirror that says “You deserve to be paid at least minimum wage as an artist.”. It’s nowhere near the hourly I’m supposed to make, but baby steps, right?

    Comment by Cindy — September 21, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    • I know what you mean; I’m about at the same point as you as well with paying myself minimum wage after I cover materials. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, though!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 21, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  6. I saw this video too Amanda and felt the same way. I did up my wage more, but I cannot justify the lady selling a $20 item for over $100! I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. But the video did help me feel more about what I was making was worth the price and I really got the “customer’s perceived value” of our item bit. That’s what Im going on. If they love it, they’ll buy it and not think about the price! Crossing my fingers! 🙂

    Comment by Kelli — September 24, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

    • I absolutely agree with you! I think the “perceived value” is that biggest thing I took away from the video–it’s so important to believe in your own items, and to show it!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 24, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

  7. Wonderful Post! It seems to me that a lot of women “devalue” themselves and accept less when they should be asking for more. I know that I have devalued myself many times. I’m trying to be aware of that and change it. I’m just mentioning women since although there are men selling on etsy, the majority of sellers seem to be women. I haven’t see the video yet, when I have time I’d like to check it out. Thank you for all of your wonderful posts about etsy!!

    Comment by averyfairytale — October 4, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    • I’m so glad that you could relate to this; I’d definitely recommend watching the video. And you’re very welcome for all the Etsy posts–it’s all about writing what you know, right? 😛

      Comment by amandajocrafts — October 4, 2012 @ 11:39 am

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