By Julie Goodenough

Have you ever wanted to try selling your crochet, or other craftwork, in shops or at fairs? Getting a handle on how to go about it can be a challenge. Julie has been doing it successfully for years, and shares her expertise with CI readers.

I make one-of-a-kind crocheted jewelry and accessories. I sell through galleries and do retail shows such as the Contemporary Crafts Market. In my experience retail outlets typically take 50% of the retail price for consignment. The retail shows charge a booth fee. Higher if they don’t take commission ($400 – $1000), lower ($200 – $400 + 10% – 15% of your gross sales) if they do. These fees typically get you a 10′ x 10′ space, sometimes smaller. Corner spaces or bigger spaces cost more. Indoor shows typically charge higher fees than outdoor shows.

Some of what I’m going to tell you is plain common sense or things you may already know, but I’ve decided to give you a lot of detail. That said, when pricing your work you need to determine who the typical customer is at the retail outlet and what the market will bear. If the typical customer is a bargain shopper on a budget, then that market will not bear a very high price. But if the store specializes in unique, handmade items and has the clientele that can afford them, then it’s probably a good fit.

Next, you have to be sure that the price the market will bear is enough to pay you for your work. If you don’t already do it, start keeping track of how much time it takes you to make a piece – include design time too! You have to track your time on multiple projects to determine what is typical. There are always those projects that take much longer or go faster than usual. Make sure you’re basing your time on what is typical. Also, when you’re making something new – let’s say you’ve always made hats and now you want to make purses – be aware of the learning curve. It will take you a while to get the design down. Once you do, your labor time will probably be less.

What is your cost of materials? How much do you want to pay yourself for labor? Once you have those figures, you can factor in overhead and profit. I typically take 50% of the total of labor & materials and add that on to my price to cover overhead and profit (25% for each). If the final price is too high, I play with the 25% I’ve factored in for profit, that way I’m sure to get my labor, materials & overhead covered. But, I really try to make the total for labor and materials plus overhead and profit the lowest price I will take for the piece.

Why overhead? That’s where I factor in costs that are tricky to add in elsewhere such as the cost of utilities. Because I work at home, it’s not feasible to figure what part of the utilities goes to my business. Time spent shopping for materials, gas, bridge tolls, parking, etc. I may buy materials that I like that aren’t for a specific project or are for multiple projects. The time I spend doing that is factored in under overhead. The time spent finding retail outlets, meeting with buyers, entering juried shows. Any marketing you do for your business, promotions, website, mailings, etc. It would be impossible to caluclate these things on a per item basis. I find that adding 25% covers it pretty well. This is where a lot of newbies get burned. They only factor in labor and materials, some only factor in for materials. Those are the people I see with the $10 hats for sale who spent $7.50 on materials. If they are selling at very low fee venues like flea markets or to their friends and family, they probably do OK, but you rarely, if ever, see them at the high entry-fee shows or in stores/galleries that take a 50% commission. I don’t consider them my competition and I never sell at the same venues they do.

I happen to live in a fairly affluent area so there are lots of stores, shows, and galleries that charge the prices I need to get for my work. If the area you live in doesn’t have retail outlets that can bear the price of your work, you need to look elsewhere. Niche Magazine, American Style, and the Crafts Report are all magazines that are great resources for finding galleries, stores, and shows around the country. You’ll need professional quality images of your work if you plan to send out your portfolio, enter shows, or direct them to your website. I am currently producing three fine art and craft shows in my city and I am appalled by the images that some artists think are acceptable. Poorly lit and styled work, images printed on plain (not photo) paper from their home computer, out of focus… They probably wanted to save money and were in a hurry to get their entry in. But, if I’m presented with two equally good bodies of work, which one do you think I’ll choose for my show? And quite frankly, “equally good” isn’t realistic, because the photos are often so bad, we literally can’t tell what the work looks like. Don’t sabotage yourself with bad images!

One more thing I forgot to mention. I pay myself more per hour for the jewelry because people are willing to pay more for a necklace than a scarf. People equate jewelry with higher prices than they do garments. Purses are somewhere in between. Ironically, it takes me way less time to make a necklace than a scarf. Why do I bother making accessories? Because jewelry is the most competitive category at the retail shows and it is a way for me to stand out. Also, I can make hats, scarves, and purses almost anywhere, anytime – but I really need to be in my studio to make jewelry. And, I find that switching between the two keeps my work fresher. When I get bored with jewelry, I can switch.

I hope people find this information helpful, and wish you the best of luck in pursuing your work and dreams!

Julie Goodenough