Monday, October 1, 2012

Pricing - a thorny topic!

Pricing an art doll to sell - always a nightmare!

There are so many people out there who claim to be artists then in the next breath they write themselves off by pricing their work at rates so low that they barely cover the cost of materials. I have come across many such people and have even asked them why they do this. They say that it is something they love doing and would do it even if they weren't being paid... or that it's just a hobby... or that they have a husband/partner who pays all the bills and so they don't need the money.

Some of us very much need the money. For some of us this is the day job. I might earn most of my income as a freelance designer but I need to earn money from my dolls as well. It's a hobby I simply couldn't afford if I didn't sell. I would need to go out and get a part time job again as I so often have done over the years.

When I first started making dolls, about 7 years ago, I never thought of selling them. In fact the very first doll I sold was just on my handmade bag stall at a craft fair as decoration. A lady fell in love with her and paid me as much for the doll as the bag she had originally come to buy. I was a bit flummoxed even then as to what I should sell for. You add up all the materials, even the power you use in lighting etc... that bit is straight forward. Then total up all hours of your time that went into making the doll... and what price do you put on that? I certainly can't ask the same hourly rate as I get for my design work, I would never sell a single doll!

Then there is a natural fluctuation over time. Back in the craft fair days I started putting one of two cloth dolls on my stall and priced them quite high, as my income was mainly from the bags I didn't mind if they never sold, a big like my paintings. They all sold. Then I the craft fair circuit went through a lull for various reasons and so I started to list dolls on ebay. They did NOT sell. I decided they were too pricey for that market (this was about 5 or 6 years ago) and there were nowhere near as many people making oddball/gothic dolls back then, certainly not in the UK. So I revised my patterns and made the head bigger, to accommodate much larger eyes (make them all about the face rather than elaborate costuming) and stopped using vintage/antique fabrics, simplified everything. I could make them more quickly and for less outlay, so priced them much cheaper. They started to sell on Ebay. I just wasn't as happy with what I was making anymore and decided that Ebay just wasn't the right place for me.

So then I moved to etsy, a better fit, and my dolls began to evolve into the cloth/paperclay versions I enjoy making now. They are incredibly time consuming. I love this method though. Last Christmas I made 5 paperclay doll torso's over vintage glass bottles and sold two immediately to friends, one I kept and the other two were listed in my etsy shop... where they have sat all year gathering metaphorical dust and favourites. If it wasn't for those favourites, and the many treasuries they have been featured in, I would just assume they aren't liked. After such a long time and no sales, I must assume it's the price that's putting people off. Today, I halved the prices of both dolls. A valuable lesson, in this bad economy people just don't have the money to spare and I again need to simplify my dolls I guess. I wonder about trotting out my original cloth doll pattern and try making that first style again maybe? I will give the paperclay a rest after finishing the dolls on my work desk and go back to where it all started and hope to finally make a sale this year! Fingers crossed!


C said...

Indeed, a thorny topic. I know exactly what you mean about the well-off hobbyists who don't need the money; if it's not important to them then that's fair enough but sadly it distorts the whole perception of *value*. Creative things are hard to value at the best of times but there is sometimes this notion that somehow
they don't count! (I bet you've been asked to do things for free? I always think, but nobody would expect a decorator to paint your wall for free, or a plumber to fix your dripping tap! So why is an artist's time/ability/materials sometimes seen as being so worthless?!)
Anyway yes - I understand!
Lots of luck with the latest dolls.

Yve said...

Ha haa, yes, you are absolutely right! I don't think there is an artist, illustrator or designer alive who hasn't been earnestly EXPECTED to give up their free time and do work for free by people who would never dream of doing whatever their job is for free in the evenings or weekends.

A designer friend of mine recently recounted the number of rather wealthy friends who have decided to set up little hobby shops on etsy and ebay and assumed that she would be designing their logos and business cards as "a favour". The double standard always puzzles (and annoys) me...

Rhissanna said...

The pricing is indeed a thorny issue. I have no idea what I'm doing, so I'm just stabbing prices out there and waiting for something to happen. Not very professional, I know. And yes, what is it with the free stuff? The same people who say 'Oh, you should sell those', are the ones saying, 'Hey, make me something'.

I think there is an inherent problem in selling dolls on the Internet. All we can offer is a photograph for people to fall in love with our doll. A doll that you can see, maybe even pick up, is going to be able to sell itself, like the first doll you sold at the craft fair.

Good luck with your glamorous witch and her fabulous velvet pumpkin.

Yve said...

Rhissana, you have hit the nail on the head right there, When you do a craft show , the objects you make are right there in front of people. If you make soap then the aroma fills the air, if you have a stall full of fresh baked cakes then people are tasting them with their eyes and noses! The dolls I used to make were all cloth so incredibly tactile and cuddly as well as looking pretty, there is no way to get that across on the internet, or the feel and quality of the fabrics you use for costuming.

I wouldn't beat yourself up about your pricing, there is an element of guesswork for all of us. I say make dolls you really love because if they don't sell you will be happy to have them on display in your own home. Don't ever sell too cheaply or you will feel cheated and hen you will feel less happy to create.