billp

How do you set a price on your work

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I know this is going to be kind of hard to answer in some ways but as I'm starting to get going I was just wondering how would I price what I make. For starts I'm doing mostly things for use around a camp fire or use in camp in general. I know what I payed for the materials, and charcoal or coal, but then theres equipment use and your time. Again as I learn I will start off using a lot of time but as I get a routine down time will improve.

Then again what are people willing to pay with Wal-Mart and Home Depot even the local hardware store to compete with kind of puts you in a fix to compete. On top of the fact some people thinking hand made is cheep no matter how good it is with only a few truly appreciating the effort and skill it took to make what you sell. :confused:

So, I ask those of you with much more experience to please give me some ideas. I don't look to be doing much soon nor do I look to get rich quick. I might be slow to catch on but I'm not stupid either. But with me making things for my grandson, and son-in-law to use in there camping with scouts I anticipate some of the other parents asking and maybe even buying some of the same items I make for them. As there big camp outs are now family affairs here involving everyone and not the every boy for his self, hope to survive, kind of camp out we had back in my day. ;)

Which by the way my grandson was surprised that scouting had been around that long for me to have been a scout. And yes he got a slap on the back of the head for that one but not from me but from his mother, my daughter. :o

Bill P

Edited by billp
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Min wage for independent crafts person $ 30 /hr. + insurance and materials + depreciation of equipment + inventory costs+ Transportion+ advertising+ realestate costs= ?

Depends on each individual but I note that painters and home repair these days goes for like $100/hr when you contract the work.
Artists around here price their work at what seems to be around $150/ hr

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Ah, to be able to get "shop rate" on projects. Tiss a noble quest!

First, there is that distinction/difference between doing this as a Business, and doing it as a Hobby to make a little extra beverage money.

The "hobby" pricing tends more towards covering physical costs of materials, plus a little extra for the labor - just to make a little extra pizza/beer money. But that usually does not cover the ... infrastructure ... costs - building/land, tooling, insurance, taxes, depreciation, bookkeeping, etc.

"Business" pricing has to figure in all those ... extra costs. In his Cookbook, Francis Whitaker said that for every "billable" hour spent forging/working on a project, there is at least another hour of "shop" time that cannot be directly billed to a project. That extra time is for the normal business overhead. So what you charge for a project needs to cover that additional hour of time you cannot directly bill for.

And then there is your marketplace. Some locations will pay more for good iron work. But many will view it like fleamarket or garage sale junk/pricing. Plus they also tend to think that you BOUGHT it somewhere else just to re-sell, so you can ... dicker down ... on the price to not make as much "profit" off of them! And sometimes you still want to slap some snit who looks at the price and then goes storming off muttering that you must think it's made of gold! They don't see the 15 hours of work at below min-wage you spent making that. All they see is that they like and want it, but expect to pay pennies-on-the-dollar for it --- just like at most fleamarkets and garage sales.

And then there is all the competition with the cheap/import junk sold by so many stores and vendors. You just can't compete against that.

Selling "campfire" iron work at living history events is a rough market. Too many people want the better or fancy work, but they only want to pay the lowest possible price they ever saw for a similar item - no matter how many years ago that was. Plus you will be competing with all those "hobby" smiths who only want to make a few extra bucks to pay some of their costs and cover some extra pizza/beer. That level is only slightly above the junker/closeout fleamarket garage sale marketplace.

So pricing is a pretty mixed bag. On some things you will easily make back your costs plus some profit. On other things you will mostly end up losing money - but gaining experience. Plus what people want to buy varies from year-to-year or even week-to-week. A "hot" selling item today may never sell again. But too often the one item everybody wants is what you do not have along, or only had a couple of.

Big projects require a good commitment to full shop pricing. You have to figure your time, your materials, your "overhead", and then try to figure out how to make some profit off of it -- without scaring them completely away from "sticker shock". In the end you usually just hope you don't lose money making it for them. Water and beans instead of pizza and beer.

Just a few humble thoughts to share on a very complicated question.

Mikey - that grumpy ol' German blacksmith out in the Hinterlands

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Pricing

I enjoy smithing at reenactments as an unpaid demonstrator; I display items for sale, but they only offset my cost of being there in part. People will generally part with $20-30 at these events, but it's hard to get more no matter how nice the work. I've reached a level of quality in the past few years that justifies a higher price, even for my camping goods, with their braided handles, worked their full length, unusual design and decoration features, etc. Two of my options appear to be: Find a higher-class venue where they'll pay more and appreciate the work, or lower my prices and quality towards what the market will bear. My pleasure has been to solve special problems for other demonstrators, such as making a tool they can't get, or repairing something. They'll usually pay fairly for the work, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to do it.

My advice, if you are working only for the fun of it:

1) Don't go under the prevailing price. Over is fine.
2) Don't go under your costs unless you choose to do it for reasons that suit you.
3) Give your best work away as presents, donations, etc.

If you want to make some income, what Charlotte said above.

Best wishes! I forge for the fun of it. I did do a commission last summer for an upscale kitchen, felt I was well-paid, and the lady said next time, don't short yourself. Some of this work is out there too, if you are sharp and on the ball to present yourself well and get the work. The best move I've made on pricing is to put my wife in charge of it. She is much more ruthless than I am in getting the price, so she does the haggling when we're at the reenactments.

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its for fun so it kinda depends .. I price at 60$ an hr retail but i fudge it a bit depending on what ime makeing .. s hooks and wall hooks small stuff like that i easily get that or better bigger items its sometimes harder . i would check out websights and ck with other smiths in your area .. local variations can be quite a bit .mostly dont let it go too cheap.. i know some people are going to try to cheapen your work ... learn to not sell to them you will be happyier in the end.set your price and dont worry about being too expencive .I have in the past sold stuff for a discount and that is ok if you are giveing a deal for volume but it kinda makes you feel bad if you do it to just sell something and a person that is that cheap is going to be picky anyaway and never happy.. ive had one special order go bad and that was the type ... wanted it cheap and fancy and accepted it then decided later he didnt like it (after he paid for it and accepted it) . i told him it was his to do with as he pleased and i wasnt interested in more commisions...... on anything special order that is significantly different than my regular stuff i get a down payment . good luck

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I use the following formula:

(Hourly rate ($120/60) X actual time to create) + (material cost x 1.75) + (coal used in ounces x $0.75) + (% of aloe plant used for burns x $0.05) + (Cost of gas used to get to event / actual time to create) = Cost of item

For a standard 4 in. S hook this formula gets me to about $52.68. Then I go look at others are charging on websites and use that to set my prices.

Ok sorry that formula was a joke.

Here are some prices I have used in my area.

4 inch S hook - $2 or 3 for $5
5' Tripod made from 1/2" round stock - $30
Trammel - $35
Tripod and Trammel as set - $60
Fire poker - 3/8" square small plain - $25 - Large fancy - $45
Small colonial fork and knife - $10
Pig tail or meat filpper - $18
Oyster shucker - $18
Large roasting fork - $35

Hope this helps

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THANK YOU EVERYONE
DK Forge that is exactly what I'm looking for thanks, and Goat man I'll try out the sight you gave me later after my brake and Charlotte I fear I'm no where near being an artist yet but one day. As for Walking Dog, Mike, And dablacksmith I will defiantly keep all your advice on record to look back on as need. The advice of putting my wife in charge may work best for me as well. To spite what she will say she is the queen of shopping and will haggle with the best.

As for my work now I'm just getting the fill of making things and working on my technique and such and don't look to do to much selling as of yet. But it is in my mind of maybe doing some of the local fairs and things of that sort in the future. That is after I improve a lot and also get a few classes under my belt after the first of the year.

But, being an old scout I'm trying to be prepared and be ready if the subject of price comes up. As advised by you all I don't want to sell my self short nor feel like I'm cheating someone either. Even though I fear I may come out on the short end more times then not till I gain more experience.

Again thanks to all you gave me your thought and advice.

Bill P

Edited by billp

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ya dk forge is closer to your area and i do notice a variation in prices ... some places my prices are high some places low. its one of the things that is tough to figure cause its judgeing your worth and everyone has a problem with that especially early on.also if you have something your makeing and you sell a lot of them and dont think they are worth makeing at that price you can always raise it.Ive been doing that with items i no longer want to make. Eventually you price it out of range or you are willing to make it at that price.good luck

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Hey dablacksmith just out of curiosity how do your prices compare to what I posted? If you don't want to be specific, are you higher or lower in the southwest?

Thanks

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To make a living? First assume that as a small business person you can spend only 3/4 to 1/2 of your time actually producing work for sale, the rest of the time is spent on all the other stuff small businesses have to deal with (paperwork, marketing, taxes, insurance, ordering, shipping, management, etc.)

How much time have you spent gaining the knowledge to become a good blacksmith? Do you have a PHD (10,000 hours of training?) Better charge $150/hour or more. Equivalent of a Master's Degree? Perhaps $100/hr. Equivalent of a Bachelors? Maybe $65/hr.? Dropped out of High-school? $10/hr?

I suspect that if you are not good at the first part (small business) then you will struggle to make a living no matter your skill level. If you are smithing for fun as a hobby then all monetary bets are off. A programming job or a mid-manager gig will cover a lot of free time messing around in the forge.

From a free market perspective I hope you charge an awful lot so my customers don't feel shocked by my prices.

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I set my items where I make an average of $20-$25 an hour.
For instance, when I make leaf neclaces I make $50.00 an our because I can forge the faster. With a fire poker I make $15.00 an hour. It varies from piece to piece but on average it's about $20.00 an hour.
Dave

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I would like to take this opportunity to share some hopefully useful information and also to share a concern or two.

Over the years, as a hobby-smith, I have found books and magazines that cover pricing crafts and doing craft business including:

The Woodworker’s Guide to Pricing Your Work: How to calculate the value of your time, materials and craftsmanship to make money from your woodworking (1995), by Dan Ramsey, Betterway Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, ISBN 1558703721.

You can make money from your arts and crafts (1988), by Steve and Cindy Long, Mark Publishing, Scotts Valley, California, ISBN 0937769045.

I also suggest looking at craft magazines that focus on business practices and pricing.

My personal philosophy is that I do not under-price people that are trying to make a living at blacksmithing. If I was to sell items for less than the asking price of professionals, then the public would come to expect lower prices and the professionals would not be able to make enough money to cover their costs including but not limited to materials, consumables, electricity, equipment maintenance, insurance, fees, property taxes, building maintenance….. and a living wage. Over 35+ years, I have yet to meet a “rich” smith, just folks struggling to make a living for themselves and their families, a struggle that I have no desire to make more difficult. I also do not undercut the prices of vendors that are trying to make an honest living. I doubt that any hobbyist would appreciate it if someone went to their boss and offered to do their job as a hobby for $1.00 per hour for “fun and extra beer money”.

As part of my philosophy I do not denigrate other smiths, especially the professionals. Towards that aim, I do not go to demonstrations and tell the public that other smiths charge too much for their goods, or that the other smiths are trying to get rich off of the prices. I do not in any way imply that smiths or vendors are trying to take financial advantage of them. I do not state or imply that a lower than market price is the fair price or value.

I also don't criticize other demonstrators. I don't tell the public that the other smith's demonstration pieces require less skill than my demonstration pieces. I limit the size and scope of publicly demonstrated projects to simple objects that can be viewed from start to finish in about 10 minutes or less, and don't appreciate being criticized to the public for that. I also don't complain if a smith is not capable of demonstrating. As we age, health issues can take their toll on our ability to pound iron.

Yes, I might suggest once in a while that a smith might wish to consider the welfare of people trying to make a living, when setting their prices and when talking about other smiths to the public. If the recipient of my advice is offended, they have my deepest and most sincere apology. They also receive my hope that they will start considering the well being of other smiths and their sometimes financially struggling families.

Edited by UnicornForge

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One thing that I am dealing with, and this will apply to a lot of beginners and even hobbyists who are just starting to try and sell their work: you can't figure your time at "going rate" if it's going to take you three times longer than an accomplished smith. Well, you can, but there's not going to be much future in it.

I have to quote a job based on the time it would take if I absolutely knew what I was doing. What I mean is that I can look at an example or a drawing and say "yeah, I can make that", but what if I get into it and need to make some tongs or hardy tooling... stuff a pro would have on hand, but I have to make it as I go. Blacksmiths are unique in this, but suppose your mechanic had to fabricate a special tool to work on your car. You would not expect to have to pay for his time or material for something that he'll keep in his tool box.

I have been doing this for several years, but am only recently learning the advantages of moving metal faster and more efficiently under the hammer. When you're just learning and messing around, it's not that important, but whem time = money, economy of time, effort, and material begins to matter more.

Same applies to do-overs. A first time project might result in several "drop back and punt" situations (see my scrap pile for proof). If we choose to try and make the customer absorb the cost of "R&D", we probably won't end up with many customers.

Regardless of how many tries it takes, I wouldn't try to sell a piece that I felt was second rate. If we start out with high standards on or work, it might take a few jobs to do quality work quickly. But in the beginning, I would always default to quality.

Price it like you know what your doing... then work at it until you do.

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I agree with what Unicorn Forge and Don A had to say. You make very good sense and I thank you for it. For now this is a learning experience for me. I don't look to try and make a living off my smithing but would not mind if I could in the future as a craft's man or artist. As for pricing by figuring my time involved is not a good option for me at this time. I do learn by my mistakes as I do have a number of them before I start making successes. As in the rebar stakes I made for my family's scout camps. As simple as putting a ring on the top the first 5 or 6 it took some time doing and redoing till I finely figured out a way to do the ring in 1 heating and a point in 2. So if I priced these by my time they would be to much to buy. So as a comparison such as what DKForge gave is more what I'm looking for to be fair but not sell myself to short. For now I more then likely will be selling to friends or friends of family and I don't want it to be too much or to little. But with in a year or so maybe doing fairs or craft shows things like that. Who knows it's all in the future and no telling what the future holds.
Bill P

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DonA makes good points. I remember back in the stone-age a professional smith told me that the most important instructional object in the shop is your clock. If you are not making the object in the same amount of time as a professional smith (with comparable quality) then your technique is wrong. Towards that end, don't hunch over your anvil and go dink dink dink. Stand up straight, have good posture, hit the work while hot, hit the work decisively and powerfully, and use good hammer technique. Watch videos of Hofi, and practice until you can make decorative twisted S hooks "without hammer marks" quickly and nicely without having to think much about what you are doing.

Where you get reimbursed for your learning time is when you can make quality product quickly.

Edited by UnicornForge

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I think Walking Dog said some thing about don't sell your self short, boy ain't that the truth. I just finished a sign bracket for a Bed and Breakfast and to get my work and name out there I did it cheap. Won't do that again. Sign bracket was beautiful and the the lady started crying when she saw it. Made me feel good that she really liked it, but it doesn't replace what I lost on it. Also DO NOT come down on your price. Did that once at a county fair, was kicking my butt all day long because I felt cheated.

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Everything's pretty much been said that I could say but I would add that there will be some items that you can make more on that cover the lost cost on another and those items vary with the market your targeting. For example, my leaf keychains I take a bit of a hit on for $/hour but I make it up on the horseshoe hoof picks because the market would rather buy the one over the other so the value changes in their eyes. Another thing is, I've had to lower my price to make a larger sale but it was a matter of selling 4 vs 14 as the club wanted gifts for volunteers so they wanted to match the gifts to groups of time volunteered. By dropping my price, I made over $50 more for a small hourly wage drop. Right now I'm working on a candle set that will take me at most an hour when I have a good hacksaw and forge time following. All said and done I should get $50-$100 for them. Mind you, I'm a hobbist in university so it is grocery money and I don't mind getting paid for what I would be doing normally to give away.

That said, I do price based on local professionals, the internet and local mass produced options. However, and that's the beauty of being self employed in a craft-type trade, I can make deals to maximize total income at the time rather than trying to make sure my hourly wage is met and storing things for longer. And always remember that if it's custom, people will pay more than if they're buying something you're offering.

One last point is that, especially in this recession, there will be some areas that just won't support many, if any, full-time smiths which is what my area is like. As well, until you get a market, you may need to take a bit of an hourly wage hit like I did to make a sale because the next one might take a while.

Edited by easilyconfused

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I like what Unicorn forge said about not asking less than a professional smith. I have seen first hand what happens when hobbyist sell stuff for way less than it cost's me to make it. As a hobbyist, your craft is still worth charging the right price for what you make. If you figure in your true cost-labor,tooling,materials,gas,etc, you'll find that you are probably losing money when you sell stuff at bargain prices. Don't forget about taxes, too. Figure that about 30% of what you make should be going for taxes (yes, you really should pay taxes on that income-it's not fair if you don't pay your share of taxes). When hobbyist sell stuff for cheap money, it makes it harder for me as a professional to get what my stuff is really worth,speaking from first hand experience.
Mark

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i am a professional self employed landscaper, not a smith but an artistic hobby turned full time job. I price as high as i can because:
no one pays your pension, sick, holiday etc,
if u sell it cheap people do not respect it,
you are not forcing them to buy it, so if they dont like the price they can go elsewhere or go without
if you charge too much u can drop your price if u charge too little u rob yourself

if u charge a cheap price will anyone charge u less for groceries, car repairs etc.
however u must distinguish friends from customers. i dont work for friends because if you charge full price they get annoyed, if u dont they think you and your work is worthless

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Well i charge arround 10Euros/hour for every man that i have in my shop + iron(not material) and this is no metter what the man does welder/painter/forger/machinist. Some times i charge extra and some times i go lower but this is where i whant to be. There are about 25 people working in that shop and everybody does what it knows the welder welds painter paints and so on ...this means that there are little dead time that the customer has to suport. After a few years of making money out of blacksmithing and ironworking i realized one thing. Keep your price low and quality high .But than again i live in Romania and my prices may be different from yours.

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It is a tough question. How much are you worth, and how much the market will bare. From what I have found over the last 40 years is that artists of any kind don't so much make a good hourly wage. A select few make way over the hourly wage.
When talking value of art it is of course subjective. I have seen fireplace sets for $1600, I don't think my skill level will ever attain that high of artistry. Lower quality work should be lower cost. If I make something functional for someone I wouldn't charge artist prices.
You may not want to cutthroat someone else and sell it cheaper, but if you mortgage is due and you are offered the money it may become a tougher decision.
Things never seem to be so black and white as we would like.

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The big problem I have with my historical reproductions is that I usually charge my "working person" price instead of a "commissioned art work" price. It's one of those judgement calls you make at the time. And it has led to a bunch of repeat business.

With my reproduction flint strikers, I charge what many consider to be a high price for them. I started charging $10 to $15 for them years ago. After seeing my pricing, a bunch of the local people making flint strikers moved their prices up to my pricing level - but their work quality varied quite a bit. Then I shifted up to $12 to $15 for them. Very few other have moved their pricing up. This year, after a dozen years, I've shifted my pricing up to an average of $15 each. A few people have decided to match that, but most say they will never sell costing so much. But mine always sell. The quality of the work plus the historical research behind it tell in the end. People searching for the absolute cheapest price buy from those other guys. Those comparing quality of workmanship tend to buy from me. Too many of those other guys only put in the absolute bare minimum effort/time into forging their flint strikers, and it shows in the end product.

In the end, the quality of the work you do shines through. And applying the same level of quality workmanship to the simple/basic things also shows in the end. Otherwise you are just competing for that bottom rung of the marketplace.

But some people start right out charging "commissioned art work" pricing. They are looking for that top end of the marketplace. But too often their clientel become educated about what truly is quality work and shift to other sources.

With time/experience, you develop a "feel" for the pricing in your area. Just keep all those behind-the-scenes business considerations in mind.

Mikey - that grumpy ol' German blacksmith out in the Hinterlands

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That's a good point Mike. Don't be afraid to adjust your your prices, especially raise them if needed to cover costs. Most people will understand if you explain why, just don't do it mid-negotiations. And don't forget the customer service side. That is as important in the sale as anything IMO, particularly our area of more custom work. Another thing I've noticed is that, with the advent of ATM's, up here at least, the $20 is becoming the staging point for most things including entertainment, so anything less than $20 is cheap these days. Everything seems to be sold for a total of around the $20 so people don't need to make change or carry it.

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