Literally. My post yesterday saw the final missive from my troll asking me to justify my prices but doubting I would be so transparent.
Challenge accepted. Here’s how I responded and she can’t say she didn’t ask for it.
You ask a very good question, because it’s almost impossible to say precisely what each item costs to make – the “cost of sale” in accountancy terms. There are a lot of costs that have to be averaged out between all the things I make in, say, a year, and this number changes all the time (especially at the moment). What I can say for sure is that the cost of sale is more than just the cost of the fabric, thread and a comb. Below is a, I think, hypothetical illustration which I first saw as being about a builder being asked to quote for a project but I’ve adapted it to make it more relevant to us:
A CONVERSATION ABOUT PERCEIVED VALUE
Next time someone asks me why I charge what I do
A customer asked me to create my This Is Not A Phase veil.
I gave them a quote of $280.
The customer responded: “That’s seems really high.”
I asked: “What do you think is a reasonable price for this veil?”
The customer answered: “$100 maximum.”
I responded: “OK, then I invite you to do it yourself.”
The customer answered: “I don’t know how to.”
I responded: “All right then, for $100 I’ll teach you how to. In addition to saving some money, you’ll learn valuable skills that will benefit you in the future.”
The customer answered: “Sounds good! Let’s do it!”
I responded: “Great! To get started, you are going to need some tools. You will need at least one embroidery machine ($1,300; annual maintenance $100, although the one I REEEEAAALLY want is $11k), an overlocker ($300, annual maintenance $50), embroidery software ($900), a large cutting mat (mine is 97″ x 50″, $350), a rotary cutter ($30), a tape measure, scissors, pins, needles, an iron and ironing board.”
The customer answered: “But I don’t have any of those tools and I can’t justify buying all of these for one veil.”
I responded: “OK. Well, for an additional $20 I can rent my tools to you to use for this project.”
The customer answered: “OK. That’s fair.”
I responded: “Great! We will start teaching you on Monday after we buy the $30’s worth of fabric, thread and water-soluble stabiliser.”
The customer answered: “I work Monday through Friday. I’m only available on the weekends.”
I responded: “If you want to learn from me, it will have to be during my working hours. I spend my weekends working on commissions, paperwork, admin, marketing and exhibiting at wedding fairs (when we’re not in a pandemic of course) in between looking after my two children. I work seven days a week.”
I continued: “To create this veil from start to finish will take about two days, so you will need to take two days off work.”
The customer answered: “That means I’m going to have to sacrifice my pay for two days or use my vacation time!”
I responded: “That’s true. Remember, when you do a job yourself you need to account for all factors. It isn’t just fabric and thread.”
The customer answered: “What do you mean by that?”
I responded: “Making a veil or wedding dress completely from start to finish includes time spent to plan the design, source fabrics, threads and embellishments, travel time, electricity, time for cutting, pattern making, sewing, embroidering, soaking (to dissolve the stabiliser), embellishing, edging, packaging, storage space for rolls of fabric, clean up and waste disposal amongst other things. So, we will start learning how to use the embroidery machine on Monday at 8am.”
The customer answered: “But that is so soon, surely that won’t take more than an hour or two.”
I responded: “It took me a year of practising to learn how to make them and several hours in paid classes. I estimate it will a full day to to embroider the seven moons on your veil – once you have the knack. Then we’ll add the comb and embellishments. They are going to cost you approx. $20. In addition to this you will have to get a public liability insurance ($400) and professional indemnity insurance ($400) and pay the Information Commissioner’s office $20 to stay registered, which is a legal requirement.”
The customer answered: “You know, I’m realising that a lot more goes in to a veil than what a customer sees in the finished product. Your quote of $280 is very reasonable. I would like to book you to create my veil.
When you pay for a job, especially a custom job, (whether it’s a physical project or digital project) you pay not only for the material and the work to be completed. You also pay for:
✔️Time to plan
✔️Time to prepare
Please don’t disrespect a service provider by trying to get them to lower their prices.
If their proposal exceeds your budget, there’s nothing wrong with getting other proposals.
Just remember, you get what you pay for.
SERVICE PROVIDERS: Know your worth and be confident in it.
CONSUMERS: Recognize their worth and be respectful of it.
Sharing this to support all my friends, family and clients who are entrepreneurs, business owners and radesman.
… and I’m back. I appreciate that was rather long. In addition to the extra costs in that example, Etsy takes 15% ($42 in this case) of every sale I make on its platform and PayPal takes a further cut (there are fees and hosting costs for sales through my own website too), I also include the packaging and international shipping in the price ($20). There’s also the cost of marketing: my regular magazine ads vary from $60-$350 per month, wedding fair exhibiting fees ($250-$4,500 per event) sponsored posts on social media (around $100 per month) plus the time and expertise that goes into creating the content (arranging styled shoots in collaboration with other wedding professionals – for no payment), writing blog posts and other social content (I spent nearly 20 years as a professional PR writer and consultant before starting my dressmaking business six years ago).
So. If you still insist on looking no further than the cost of the materials, I could send you three metres of ivory tulle, some lengths of thread (five kinds), a pack of embellishments and a comb. Then maybe you could tell me what you think my work is worth. 😊
Something she wouldn’t need, but still comes in rather handy for me in my business sometimes, is that I have learned to speak semi-fluent German and Japanese (most of the latter sadly now forgotten after a couple of fallow decades), functional French and a smattering of Spanish and Russian.
So yes, I absolutely and unapologetically will target my work to those who can afford it. If I don’t value myself, I can’t expect others to.