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pricing for an amateur

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Posted · Report post

I have a specific question further down, but first I wanted to set the table a bit. I'm an amateur blacksmith, and a fairly unskilled, if enthusiastic, one at that. I'm not overly interested in the money, although it never hurts; my primary motivation in pricing is to avoid offending the fulltime blacksmiths in the area. I can't use standard fulltime blacksmiths formulas as I don't have shop time that costs me anything too significant and it takes me far longer than a fulltime blacksmith would need. Normally I try to figure out what something comparable made by them would be worth and then discount for the lower quality. In this case, however, I can't find any comparables to go off of.

So, long story short, if somebody would be willing to suggest some ballpark price ranges that won't be too low as to seem like I'm undercutting but at the same time won't be too high as to seem presumptuous, I'd really appreciate it. In all cases, the closer you get to them, the worse they look. :-)

DNA structure, 2 feet high, all mortise and tenon joints (except to the base), no welds:
post-13268-0-85722400-1311374738_thumb.jpost-13268-0-52942800-1311374803_thumb.j

Tree, 4 feet high, all sloppy stick welds:
post-13268-0-59784200-1311374845_thumb.j

Chair, 4 feet high, all mortise and tenon joints, no welds, no torches:
post-13268-0-31089300-1311374899_thumb.jpost-13268-0-81369100-1311374911_thumb.jpost-13268-0-02367400-1311374931_thumb.jpost-13268-0-77414900-1311374955_thumb.j

Three coats of industrial (expensive) primer, three coats of black paint.

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Posted · Report post

Those all look really great. I have no idea what you should charge except what you feel they are worth. What price would you be offended at if offered? What price would make you feel that you didn't have to explain all the hard work you put into the pieces. It also depends on where you sell them. Gallery? Fair? Craft fair? Flea market?
To me, I feel that they should fetch whatever you feel they are worth. I like them. You must take into account that if you have a sentemental attachment, that will cause you to raise the price. In which case you will get to cherish them for a long time.

Good luck.

Mark <><

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Posted · Report post

I'll be selling them at a 4-day long gallery as part of a conference. I'm not sure I'd be offended by anything somewhat reasonable, but perhaps that is a good way of thinking about it, I'll have to ponder that, thanks for the idea.

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As Mark said, there are a lot of factors involved including the venue, your location, and how you wish to present yourself such as a craftsman or artist. You can also check the local fabrication shops and blacksmiths and find out what their hourly rates are. Make sure that you include all your costs in your estimate.


Nol Putnam wrote a very good article on pricing work :

"Blacksmithing as a Business" by Nol Putnam, http://www.anvilmag.com/smith/blcasabs.htm

another article is:
"A Fair Price by Jerry Hoffmann", Published in the June 2000 Issue of Anvil Magazine, http://www.anvilmag.com/smith/006d2.htm

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Posted · Report post


As Mark said, there are a lot of factors involved including the venue, your location, and how you wish to present yourself such as a craftsman or artist. You can also check the local fabrication shops and blacksmiths and find out what their hourly rates are. Make sure that you include all your costs in your estimate.


Nol Putnam wrote a very good article on pricing work :

"Blacksmithing as a Business" by Nol Putnam, http://www.anvilmag....th/blcasabs.htm

another article is:
"A Fair Price by Jerry Hoffmann", Published in the June 2000 Issue of Anvil Magazine, http://www.anvilmag....smith/006d2.htm


While I appreciate the response, I think you are missing my main difficulty, which is that these rules, and others like them, only apply to people running businesses. I am not running a business, I'm just trying to avoid pissing off the people who are.

As a concrete example, my costs for Advertising, Business Commissions, Donations, Dues & Publications, Freight, Insurance, Leasehold Improvements, Mail, Mail UPS, Office Expenses, Propane, Rent Paid, Sales Tax, Show Fees, Supplies, Tax Preparation, Taxes (Federal), Taxes (FUTA), Taxes (Unemployment), Taxes (State), Taxes (Town), Taxes (Personal Property), Taxes (Real Estate), Telephone, Travel, Truck (mileage), Water, Welding Gas are all zero. I have no expectation of a salary. So based on those estimates, all I should be charging is my raw material cost, which means I'd end up charging extremely little for pieces that a fulltime blacksmith would charge significantly more for, which would look for all the world like I was trying to undercut them, or at least that I was devaluing the value of blacksmith-produced materials.

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Posted · Report post



While I appreciate the response, I think you are missing my main difficulty, which is that these rules, and others like them, only apply to people running businesses. I am not running a business, I'm just trying to avoid pissing off the people who are.

As a concrete example, my costs...... are all zero. I have no expectation of a salary. .....


Actually, no this is a basic assumption when someone asks this question. You only think that you don't have costs. Electricity, consumables, equipment maintenance, building maintenance, etc are real costs even for a hobbyist. I humbly suggest reading the articles and giving them serious consideration.

You asked how to calculate a price, and these articles provide the answer.

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Electricity, consumables, equipment maintenance, building maintenance, etc are real costs even for a hobbyist.


I guess we'll agree to disagree. At no point did I state that all my costs were all zero, simply most of them. I completely agree that I have costs for electricity, coal, equipment and material. Using those formulas doesn't give me a price of zero, but it does give me an extremely low price which I don't view as something I can morally use.

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Maybe I can weigh in here. I have never sold one item I have made as a smith. Im just not that good yet. However, I have spent ten years in retail. I do know that different things are worth different amounts to different people. As stated, there are lots of hidden costs, whether you see them or not, whether you agree they are there or not. If you are going to be exhibiting them in a fair for show, and maybe in hopes of selling them, the cost of your booth comes in to play as well. Even turning on the computer to post this topic is a cost of doing business. What I would do is set two prices in your head. One of them is a break even plus ten percent as your floor and triple your total costs as your ceiling price. Talk to your customers and feel them out. If they are interested, ask them to make an offer. If it is in your range, you can either chose to try and work them up a bit or just take it. EIther way, you will know ahead of time what the parameters are in order to not lose money. Sentimental value to you is worth nothing to the next guy. I dont mean to sound harsh, but thats reailty. I think the pieces are great wrok and you should ahv eno touble selling them on thier craftsmanship alone. Good luck and let us know how it went.

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Cost plus is a no win for sure. And that will for sure be a way to make folks upset that your coming in to low. I have done this to myself recently on some custom restoration hardware. I could/should have trippled my selling price. But if you figure what your time is worth and the time you feel it should take to create the item (All slop and mistakes removed as you should not make your customer pay for your training in most cases). Then really figure what your materials will cost to replace (Not what you paid for them) with a resonable materials markup to count for freight and handling to get it to your place. Then like others have mentioned, rough claculate what the resource (power, gas, coal etc) cost you for the project you will then have these three things. Labor (Time it took to build the piece) , Materials (Steel it took to build the piece) , Resources (Stuff if took to make the steel into the piece). Then you will have an idea what to charge for your item. Scrounge around more to see what others are charging for an hour of labor. Not just Blacksmiths either... Mechanics, Machinist .... professionals (Not general labor ... we don't do that ... if we sell we are professionals even if it is the first piece). So with these three things you will have a price for your item. If it seems way out of line to you then you are probably close to a real retail price for your own work :) . Remember you can always drop your prices, but it is almost impossible to raise them on a customer for the same type of work. Oh yeah and people will rarely come out and give you a formula because that is one of the trade things we do if we compete with other Smith's for business.

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Depending on where you are, you may be responsible for collecting sales tax. Even if you are only a hobbyist. Before you decide you don't need to collect and remit tax and show up with anything for sale at any type of show you need to check with your state to determine if you need to collect and how you go about it. If only to avoid possible legal problems

ron

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How much time is in each of these projects? Ballpark is OK, How many work sessions, and how long is your typical session.

A "fair" shop rate is $100/hour + materials. The shop rate covers overhead such as fuel, lights, and the incidentals you are discounting.

This is a starting point, you can adjust after you have a figure.

Phil

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How much time is in each of these projects? Ballpark is OK, How many work sessions, and how long is your typical session.

A "fair" shop rate is $100/hour + materials. The shop rate covers overhead such as fuel, lights, and the incidentals you are discounting.

This is a starting point, you can adjust after you have a figure.

Phil


The tree was a trained-monkey sort of a task, so I've probably only got 6-8 hours in that, by the time you figure in all the welding and painting. The DNA structure should have been faster, but my first couple attempts at how to get it to twist didn't work, and drifting those holes takes a while by hand, so I'm probably 6-8 hours into it as well. The chair...let's just say I've got a lot more of hours into the chair than I'd like to admit. I would imagine that somebody competent would be able to do these things in half the time, or twice as well, or some combination of those, so I suppose I could use the $100 figure and go with $300-400 for the tree and DNA. Does that seem reasonable? No idea what the chair should have taken, though. I don't imagine by hand it'd be possible to do the legs any faster than 8 hours, given the number of drifts and the size of the material, and the back is probably another 3, assembly (harder than it looks) and painting another 3, so figure 14 hours, give or take, so maybe $700 for the chair?

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I would price for the actual time, and be willing to come down. Don't forget that time spent with pencil and paper on these ideas counts too.

You also seem to have forgotten material costs in those figures. Buying new (yes, use the price for new unless it is obvious scrap, then the value you paid in cost or effort) I see about $100 of steel or more in the DNA alone, same with the chair.

Phil

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If you are doing this for fun why worry about what the proper price should be. Charge a fun price. One that you feel good about. One that you would be happy that it sold and the person would be happy to get it. Its not like you need to sell it. So why burn so many brain cells tiring to figure it out. Pricing for art is subjective anyway its more what you can get for it not what it cost to make.

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I have ask this same question of many people over many years and have come to the same conclusion. Everone has a different opinion.

I have decided what I charge for something is what works for me and what makes me satisfide with a sale. You can always sell something to cheap, but on the other end at $100.00 hr. I would proubably starve. The economy and the type of clients I deal with will not bring that type of price. I wish. At $ 100.00 hr. you dealing with mostly architects and designers for clients with expendable income and you are factoring in there cut of what YOU have done.

Once you start to sell your wares you will get a good feel for what your local market will bring. Play with your price and you will find a sweet spot that will make you happy. You will find one price does not fit all. Experience will help and don't be affraid to ask, "Hey what did you charge for that?"

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With quotes like "sloppy stick welds", "trained monkey", "The chair...let's just say I've got a lot more of hours into the chair than I'd like to admit. I would imagine that somebody competent ..." I would recommend not publicly devaluing your work even if it is just on a forum. Charge whatever you want but always convey to potential buyers that they are buying good work from a craftsman or artist. Being a hobbyist or full timer should matter very little.

As a hobbyist, I would not worry one bit about pissing people off because of price. Your output will probably be small and sporadic. Having a few pieces for sale should not drastically reduce the number of customers for the full time smiths. If you are really cranking out pieces and they are selling, I would recommend increasing your price.

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With quotes like "sloppy stick welds", "trained monkey", "The chair...let's just say I've got a lot more of hours into the chair than I'd like to admit. I would imagine that somebody competent ..." I would recommend not publicly devaluing your work even if it is just on a forum.


I can certainly understand your point, but I believe in calling a spade a spade. My wife, as an example, grows and sells plants for a living, and is very forthright with her customers about how they look when they are ordering them. Her customers appreciate the honesty, and can't justifiably complain afterwards about the size of something if it said 'tiny' on the order form. To go back to my work, I think its important, however few pieces I do produce, to explain to people looking at my work that it is not yet representative of the quality of what professional blacksmiths are capable of producing. That's not to say that what I produce is not worth having, by any means, simply that it should be viewed for what it is.

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Why are you worried about it?

Why would what you charge for a few off hand items have any bearing on anyone else's business? If others don't have a solid business model that weather's the fact that folk will undercut them then they need to re-examine how they're set up

I've only been doing this for a living for a short time (12 years) but I never tuck my tail between my legs or get PO'd because a hobby smith or other vendor undercuts my pricing at a show or online. I had a fella at a show next to me selling POS marshmallow shooters made outta scrap PVC for $5.00. He sells out and I don't turn a dime for some really nice handcrafted work . . . Hey, good on him! He came to the show with what folk wanted that day - that's the way it goes.

You've got good looking work, sell if for what you want to get for it . . . give it away . . . treat it like a priceless piece of art . . . it's up to you not us.

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Why are you worried about it?


I don't want to be seen as pretending to be something I'm not, and I'd rather educate the public about blacksmithing to my own detriment than mislead them by omission. You are probably right, though, that I am being overly sensitive about this, but I guess that's just who I am.

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I can certainly understand your point, but I believe in calling a spade a spade. My wife, as an example, grows and sells plants for a living, and is very forthright with her customers about how they look when they are ordering them. Her customers appreciate the honesty, and can't justifiably complain afterwards about the size of something if it said 'tiny' on the order form. To go back to my work, I think its important, however few pieces I do produce, to explain to people looking at my work that it is not yet representative of the quality of what professional blacksmiths are capable of producing. That's not to say that what I produce is not worth having, by any means, simply that it should be viewed for what it is.


Instead of "sloppy stick weld" etc. call it "rustic" or "primitive". You can convey that it isn't what someone with more experience would produce without reducing it's value.

ron

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Instead of "sloppy stick weld" etc. call it "rustic" or "primitive". You can convey that it isn't what someone with more experience would produce without reducing it's value.


I like 'primitive', that's a good suggestion.

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I don't want to be seen as pretending to be something I'm not, and I'd rather educate the public about blacksmithing to my own detriment than mislead them by omission. You are probably right, though, that I am being overly sensitive about this, but I guess that's just who I am.


That's my point - don't be sensitive to it. Just put your stuff out there and ask what you want for it. Folk will see it and buy it or not for their own reasons. You're not pretending to be something or misleading anyone unless you're outright lying about your work and it certainly doesn't sound like you are. Just jump in and do it - it's a great way to learn how your work will be received and no one is going to hold it against you.

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As a hobbyist you are producing what are effectively "one of" art pieces (which usually means you can charge eye watering expensive prices because thats what they are). Try producing the same thing in any sort of number and you run into all of the pricing problems listed above. If you come up with a really good design and don't patent it someone will copy it and kill your market with cheap copy's (and a patent don't mean anything).

Welcome to the world of supply and demand, you are happy to sell your product at a low price because to you it doesn't "cost" anything. An art dealer could probably sell it for your price to the power of ten. As someone said above, charge your maximum price, you can always come down, but never ever undersell your work because the complaints come thick and fast if you put your prices up.

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If you are selling items then you are a professional blacksmith not an amateur,so charge professional prices.

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As an art piece the chair is ok but:
- you might wish to consider function a little more, the arms have pinch points in the back, the arms are narrow, and the seat looks like once side is significantly higher than the other. Sitting in it might require visits to a chiropractor. :-)
- you might wish to consider appearance, take the extra couple of minutes and straighten out bends and curves so that each part looks deliberate rather than odd bends and bumps that don't look like they were intended. Try drawing the parts full size and match the pieces to the drawing.
- you also might wish to consider liability, it is highly unlikely that you have an insurance policy that would cover a customer's injuries that might come from using your chair, especially since that type of thing is not included in your "expenses". ;-) Here is another formula for you: (Price-of-chair) plus (injury) plus (lawsuit) equals (new-owner-of-your-home).

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