Friday, 17 January 2014

An Exercise in Value and Worth

As I mentioned before, I found Josh @ Molli Sparkles discussion of commissioned work last month very interesting and I pursued his link to Sam Hunter's We Are $ew Worth It posts. As I was in the process of starting a commission for a friend at the time, I thought I'd track everything to see what I might charge if I was prepared to do commissions as a business.

Now, this is not what I charged my friend nor what I expected to receive for this project, this is just an exercise.

Hands Hands Fingers Thumbs is the quilt we're discussing here. It is 55" by 70", a generous throw-sized quilt. It uses mostly solids, which cost less than prints. Because this is a fully custom design (drawings were made and discussed with the client) and a double sided quilt, I did put in a design fee. The minimum wage in Ontario, where I live, is $10.25. And because this is a business exercise, I put in a profit margin. 

I have to say that this was a rather eye opening experience and made me appreciate more the cost of the time I put into my projects.

Over the years, many friends and family members have commented that I could sell my quilts as I'm sure your friends and family have said the same to you. For most non-quilters though, the price they'd really be willing to pay for a quilt though is about the cost of the materials alone, correct? I think if I actually showed the spreadsheet above to those who want me to make them a quilt, there would be guffaws. As if I could charge/get $970 for a quilt?! But wait...

Now, I completely agree with Sam's bigger picture arguments for valuing our work for more than minimum wage. Even someone who has worked at Walmart or McDonalds for 15 years (which is how long I've been quilting) will earn more than minimum wage. So keeping in mind all of Sam's bigger picture arguments, let's put in what I think my quilting time is actually worth to me:

Well, there's some sticker shock, eh? $970 seems like a deal now, eh? LOL! I highly encourage you to check out Sam's bigger picture arguments before you tell me I'm right off my rocker for being audacious enough to think my quilting time is worth $25/hour. :)

I'm very curious what others think about this issue. Do you sell quilts? If so, how do you determine the price of the quilt? Does any of this change how you approach selling your quilts?

Thank you to Sam and to Josh for talking about this issue. It's been such an education for me and I'm now able to have a more educated discussion with others about the value and worth of a handmade product.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO


29 comments:

  1. So very glad you shared this with us!! I really appreciate seeing ACTUAL totals of what a quilt would realistically cost. :)

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  2. thanks M-R, I followed those conversations too, and have had the same thoughts. I have only sold a couple of small things, and those to friends, but I know I have trouble valuing my work because I do it as a hobby. It is really an eye opener to see all the costs set down in black and white. And I agree that you should be valued at more than minimum wage, and add in a profit margin. If people are quilting as a "business" that is only reasonable. What other business wouldn't expect a profit margin? But I also agree that most people look at those quilts and would be shocked at the ticket price. Not sure I will ever make it in that "business"! LOL

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  3. Great Post!! I don't think you are off in the least!! Knowing and getting are not the same thing unfortunately!! Especially in a day when people don't seem to value quality over quantity!! We want cheap, and don't care if we are buying junk that gets thrown away in a yr or less. Add that up and see where the value is and what really ends up being more expensive.

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  4. I have had these conversations as well. I don't think people would not be willing to pay the actual worth, or even in the range of what it costs. I would rather make thinks for family/friends and thank yous then be so undervalued.

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  5. Oh hells to the yes!!! I'm so glad you do this, now I don't feel like such a crazy person! When I first took up this "obsession" of quilting a friend off-handedly told me, "it's really an expensive hobby." I laughed it off and thought, how much is fabric, really?! How naive of me! The more people we have doing this type of exercise, the more vocal and educational we become about our own value as quilters, and ultimately artists. Thank you for a well presented post! (And... I've got something brewing for the end of this month that you will most certainly enjoy...)

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  6. Having had many conversations about quilt prices I fully relate to this post. I set up at craft fairs and try to sell online and many times people are barely willing ot cover material costs in this area and when you add in labor they usually won't complete an order even though the item is hand made and one of a kind. At craft fairs I try to sell larger throws for $150 and people think I'm crazy, perhapse I should make a sign like this one to show the real valus of the goods produced to show how great a deal the person is getting.

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  7. Love the spreadsheet. Speaks to a very valid business case. And you're right, most people are willing to pay for the materials only and even then they think we're crazy when they find out how much the material alone cost. In this example, your material costs are very moderate indeed with the solids.

    Quilters in general under value themselves, in the same way that everything we do 'free' is under valued.

    Time especially is VERY important. Some painters for instance can knock out a painting in a matter of hours and sell them for several hundred dollars. Quilting is a very time intensive art and our time should be valued and like everything else, skill and experience comes into play.

    In using this evaluation for advance quotes, we quilters would have to be very vigilant not to under estimate the time it would take us for quilts not yet made, ie. labour intensive appliques, piecing, etc.

    Love this post :)

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  8. I do sell my Kwilts at prices I am comfortable with. We can make lists that show the value..but those buying won't "buy it". Unless of course someone has unlimited funds.

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  9. I've been keeping up with this lately as well, and was commissioned to make two quilts this year--one is about 40 x 70, with detailed quilting, and I estimated $800--though I think I completely under estimated how long the piecing would take (it was 7 hours), or the straight line quilting (almost 2)...and I've just only started the FMQ. The second quilt is a queen, and I've estimated closed to $1200 for. I'd rather charge what I'm worth for my time than undersell myself in the name of a sale!

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  10. Nope, I don't sell quilts. Someone once asked me what one that I had made would cost. I told them, they were clearly shocked. I don't think you're average by a $60 quilt at Target shopper really understands what they cost.

    On the flip side, I do know of some quilters that get what their quilts are worth. There are fair buyers out there!

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  11. I don't sell my quilts for a couple of reasons - one being exactly what you've described here - I'd never get what I would consider to be a fair and reasonable return on my investment of time, expertise and resources (by the way you missed the "non-tangibles" - the overhead items required to actually produce a quilt, electricity, machine costs/depreciation, space costs etc. - all things that are legitimate business costs and should be included before your profit margin). The second reason is I don't want to turn my hobby which I love to do on my time into a business which has to be done on someone else's timeline, and takes my enjoyment away. Excellent post!

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  12. what a great post! I only wish I was making that much...LOL
    I enjoy the process;so, I charge according to that? cover the actual cost, and justify buying fabric for another quilt...lol

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  13. Excellent article -- I tell all my craftspeople artist friends -- you should be able to choose your
    charity -- I do not mind making the occasional item for a charitable benefit but I never like to
    think that I owe it to anybody to make them an inexpensive (cheap) quilt when I know they pay
    the asking price for so many other things in their lives.... and that is what I mean by choosing
    your charity -- are all your customers entitled to your charity? And if so, why? -- We need to teach ourselves and our customers the value of our work.... perhaps including that spreadsheet with every quilt would be a good start.
    teach them to value your work by

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  14. I think a lot of people - too many people - discount how much our own attitudes toward what we're worth affect the people who might buy the things we make. Every time someone on Etsy sells a baby quilt for $60 or every time someone sheepishly suggests a middle of the road but high by WalMart standards price ($500, say, for a queen size quilt) or every time someone says "It's just a hobby, I don't need to make money, just to recover enough to pay for the materials for the next one" they're sending out a silent but damning message that what quilters do (and what many artists do) isn't worth anything. If we don't value ourselves, nobody else will either.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this! I absolutely think that the rates you're charging here are reasonable, particularly when I compare to my seamstress who does a great job and (with reason) charges about $30 an hour for simple but time consuming alterations to clothing.

    I always get a little disheartened when I see the Etsy shops with the priced to move quilts. It undermines everyone when we charge that little, although I do understand the desire to recoup the costs quickly and play with something new.

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  16. Your work is worth it. The trick is finding someone willing to pay for it.

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  17. Your spreadsheet results are well worth the time to actually see what not only you are worth but also others who make from their hands and heart. This is why I give my creations instead of trying to sell them and be disappointed. I learned long ago from my Grandma the value of time and knowledge that others do not appreciate. Thank you for sharing this lesson. Creative Blessings...

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  18. It is interesting because people are not so troubled to pay that much for a smaller painting. Your quilt is lovely.

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  19. Loved your spreadsheet evaluation. I've not been keeping track of my time, but I love seeing yours. I have made quilts for others, and yes, undervalued myself. I do it for love of the game. I've not gotten serious about it because I know I won't get paid my full value, so I keep it a hobby. It bothers me greatly that an auto mechanic, who has similar education and experience to mine, can charge $65 dollars an hour, and people expect our time to be much less valued. It is a centuries old perception that "women's work" has never been as highly valued. Keep up the discussions. Great work.

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  20. Sam Hunter of We Are $ew Worth It here! Bravo for taking on the conversation M-R! I appreciate the link-up as well :-) You are not off your rocker to think that $25 an hour is a reasonable rate for a skilled craftsperson (my car mechanic charges $99). Yes, we are up against the lower perception of the value of women's work, but I think that every time we offer the education (show the buyer the true numbers) what we do gains a bit more respect - and that respect is going to lead to a higher perception of value, and higher wages for us. I know that, right now, most of us don't get that higher wage, and many of us will make a deal for less because we need the moola (this girl included!) But that education component is critical... most people offer us less because they are benignly ignorant, bless 'em. Let's teach them!

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  21. Great discussion. I think this is why you don't see "professional" quilters selling their quilts as a means of making a living. I take quilt classes from quilters/teachers who have one international awards but they make a living by teaching and selling products and kits. I also wanted to mention that the artistic value of the quilt isn't accounted for in your spreadsheet.

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  22. I too have been following that discussion. You are definitely not off your rocker for thinking your time is worth 25$/hr. Unfortunately, very few people are willing to pay the price. It's up to all of us to educate our friends and family members and the general public for those who sell their work, and when the tables are turned and we are buying handcrafted items, we also have to recognize the work that others put in their craft. Very interesting topic...

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  23. Loved your article - I've recently made a few commissions of "memory cushions" using photgraphs printed onto fabric... I've taken into account the price of materials, thread, zipper, etc etc and a realistic price for my time, and the biggest factor that there's NO WAY someone could buy one of these from a shop.... a few "non-quilting" colleagues have been aghast at what I charged... but the orderss have still been coming in...so I must be doing something right ;)

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  24. Very interesting indeed - thanks for sharing!

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  25. thanks for costing this out for us. I always say my quilts only have two prices -- free or four figures. Your math proves that I'm in the ballpark!

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  26. I`ve never sold my quilts but I`ve had offers on two of them that really surprised me because people so often underestimate the amount of time, work and skill that goes into them. In my case the offers were fairly `generous` but at the same time didn`t come anywhere near what the true cost would be.

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  27. Thank you so much for this post, M-R. Doing the cost breakdown is a real eye opener - isn't it? This is my first encounter with this topic, so am off to read the links.

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