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You Want How Much ? !!!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:34 am
Well the market went and was pretty good, but I got the usual amount of comments about my prices !!
Sorry folks, but I have to make a living from doing this. And my time and skills don't come cheap. And I'm not going to appologise for being expensive
I thought it might be a good time to start a topic explaining to people why it costs money for us to make things. I not going to get into the arguments about price vs quality ,or the part-time/beer money vs full time approach, as that's just a fact of life and commercial reality, and there's always going to be somebody who is prepared to do something cheaper. This post is merely to explain why our time costs and hopefully give people thinking about starting up an idea of what to charge, or other traders to compare and see why I think we should.
Allowing time for holidays, events, illness and a few days off. I manage about 40 weeks a year. On a 9-5 with 2 hours for lunch, paperwork and the telephone that's only 1400 hours available in a year.
If i want to earn £15,000 (not an unreasonable figure) that's £10.70 an hour.
Now to that, I've got admin costs (simply running the business; rent, phonebill, heating, paperwork, website, bank charges etc) that are about £4000, so add another £2.85.. Yep we're already looking at nearly £14.00 an hour. and I havn't even added anything for national insurance, pension, business insurance for car or public liability. And what about sick pay...? Who pays us, so we've got to factor something in for that.
So £20.00 an hour isn't unreasonable. In fact i'd consider it as a bare minimum. You'll pay a plumber or a car mechanic twice that. And we havn't even started to make a profit, or counted the amount of raw materials we have to hold, or the time taken to learn a new skill or research a new project.
Now... before you crie out in horror... you work out what you get paid ?
And how many of you get £15,000 a year, which isn't a lot.
So the next time you ask why it's so expensive ,and say, ' I could make it myself' , Have a thought about what your labour would cost if you were doing that as a living, and don't judge us quite as harsh.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:15 pm
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
At last some common sense. I am always getting people saying "Can't you make it a bit cheaper, just for me?" Er, no, not even for you. I am printing your comments for my, and other people's, information!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:21 pm
Just out of interest, what company do you represent? I have no issue with paying alot of money for top quality items, especially for stuff that I cannot make myself. I didn't go to the market so would be interested to see who was considered expensive.
PS - your arguments are very well reasoned and would give an insight to people that may not have considered the above factors.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 1:23 pm
My thanks as well - I believe I posted something similar on the old forum - folk don't realise how many hours a garment takes - I often hear - "well the fabric cost so much - you are making a hefty profit" well er.. no .. like everyone who works for payment, - my time, care, skill and judgement are worth something - and yes, I do have to meet overheads too.
Thing is what do we do? folk today are so used to the massed produced everyday clothes, that they transfer their expectations to the hand finished and bespoke re-enactment costumiers.
Perhaps we need a costumiers version of Free Trade - or perhaps a guild of costumiers who agree a bottom line price for a garment that we can build on with detail , amount and cost of fabric, trimming and time factor. But then do we contravene the competition laws?
What we do is very like the modern day clothing market. There are the cheap fashion suppliers where the garment might last a season but that is all they need because they will want to replace it for the next season ( with us - differnet colour diferent period or whatever) Then there are the middle of the road ( marks and spencers type) suppliers - good quality garments but nothing out of the ordinary. then there are the boutiques - with stylish garments and special ranges to purchase off the peg. then there are the bespoke designers who create garments to the customers requirements and fitting and develop one off garments. the prices escalate through these in the modern day - the prices also escalate through these in historical costuming.
There is also the consideration of theatrical costume which isn't going to be seen right up close and has to make a mark from a distance and as near as authentic wear for people where even the stiching may get examined.
While I am on my hobby horse - many people expect a 21st century mass produced finish to garments where a hand sewn or finished garment is very different.
Having said all of that I am afraid that my hourly rate is around £10 - and that at a push and that isn't taking in overheads - like tents and stall fittings, insurance etc.
So what do we do about it? - the dilemma is to charge realisitcally or to charge what the market can support. I know that some of my gowns would cost over a grand in the bridal market - but the re-enactment market ......................................!!!!!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 1:48 pm
I run a company called Military Metalwork, though I didn't put it down as I wasn't trying to advertise in any way. I was just drawing attention to why things made here do cost and to help people understand why.
As a seperate point to this, comes the question of the changeover from a part-time hobby to a serious commercial enterprise. It's a big step for many of us, and one we're all guilty of failing to rise up to it at one time or another. (And I'm pretty guilty to be honest).
Realising that there's only so many hours and so much work we can do, we get lax with scheduling or work, taking too many orders, being unrealistic about delivery times, getting cuaght up in domestic issues that impact on time etc. Not the least is the difficulty of keeping enough cash-flow to actually get the work done, and banks are not exactly helpfull to micro-businesses like these.
Talk to any self-employed maker-trader and you'll realise that it's a struggle at times to juggle work and cashflow. One unplanned expense, an order that just won't work or takes twice as long and things can get very difficult. It's not like a big business that can hire extra help, or extend their credit facilities by a few extra ten of thousands. Just look at Gerry Burrows' accident ; a lot of traders suddenly saw how vulnerable they are to chance and their whole livelyhood at risk.
That said, perhaps we do need to pull our socks up and think like a business if we want to be treated as a business in return. We are making a contract with a customer, and should deliver what we agree, when we agree. like any other high street business.
Perhaps we should set out clear term and conditions to our customers. Make them aware of delivery difficulties, or time constraints that will have an effect.
Just bare in mind, we are not shops who can just order in something and it turns up magically. Most of what we do is a special commision, bespoke, tailor made etc, call it what you want. Somebody somewhere has to make it in the first place, and this type of stuff is not exactly factory made by the thousands of units.
Every trader can tell you a tale about a difficult customer, and every customer will tell you about a difficult trader. So maybe we have to work at being just a bit more professional ourselves and maybe we'll be treated like proffesionals in return if we manage that. (I know I'll have too).
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:26 pm
Deadlines are very important - I always state a deadline with built in unforseens - and I always quote early, mid to late parts of the month - unless a certain date is specified. If there is a genuine problem ( like when I was ill before christmas) I always contact he customer immediately I know it and do my best to offer an alternative deadline. They are usually fine about it.
I used to take 50% deposit on order so that I could always purchase the materials for the garment thus avoiding cash flow problems in the making of the garment - unfortunately having got stung a couple of times when the remainder of the money was not forthcoming once they had received the garment, I now charge fully up front apart from repeat customers.
My terms and conditions are clearly stated on the order form - this also contains the customer's name address, telephone number and e-mail - a complete description of the garment required - all the measurements needed, the cost - the post and packing and the delivery date - this is done in duplicate - top copy for me ( to make sure that I can read it) second copy to the customer - this acts as a receipt and contract. I usually send folk to my favourite cloth seller at the event to choose their fabric and bring back swatches for me which also goes into their file together with any pictorial evidence they may provide. If there is no suitable fabric at the event I will source it and send various swatches for the client to select, I then ask them to cut the preferred swatch in half and return one half to me, this way there are no surprises when the client receives the garment.
I noiw also point out that the garment will be made to the measurements taken (or given if it is a mail order) of which they have a copy, if the client changes measurement during the ordering period and does not inform me then there may be fitting issues on the completed garment - yes! half a stone either way will alter your measurements ( having just lost a stone myself, my bust is 4inches smaller as is my waist and my hips are 2 inches smaller!!!)
The bottom line is - if we take money for creating a garment then we are a professional ( or semi professional) and therefore we must present a professional approach to ourselves and business - it goes without saying and I am sure that the costumiers who frequent this forum would agree that it goes without saying and have nicely pulled up socks already..
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:34 pm
when I first started making for the reenactment world in 1989 I had already been making for film and theatre for a few years and as such charged the going rate in that area which was then approx £15ph.
I have also worked in the fashion industry as a pattern cutter which was also then priced at between £15 and £20ph.
As it was my sole source of income I didn't see the need to change to suit this new market as after all I had a living to earn. I had a few 'How Much' comments until I asked the potential customers what they earned per hour and why they wouldn't expect me to do the same. They were always happy with that and realised that I was only trying to basically exist and they wouldn't work for tuppence so why should I. Living in London I had to make £2,000 to cover everything and have a vague life so couldn't and didn't do discounts.
You also have to equate shopping time, fitting time and telephone time as well as the fixed costs. These can add up to a several hours and it has to be paid for somehow.
As others have said there are all levels of costs and you have to decide when you start to become self employed which bracket you want to fall into in terms of whether mass produced or bespoke.
I became seriously ill 3 years ago and had to give up working for a long time. i wasn't entitled to anything but basic income support, our NI contributions don't count towards incapacity benefit, but had been unable to make provisions for this in general business practice so very little savings, no provison for sick pay, holidays and pensions. All this has to be added in.
There has been talk over the years of some sort of guild mark to regulate, show cost, quality, baseline etc but nothing has been really workable and who sets the levels anyway. the only realistic thing is for the companies involved to behave like proper businesses and so command more respect form teh customers and eventually it will all change, it already has done to a certain extent. It is very differnt now to the markets I first traded at. More people now are doing this for a living. I think there were only a couple when i first went to Lains Barn all those years ago, and I guess now at least 50% if not more of the traders this weekend are full time, so in order for us all to eat etc it has to
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:47 pm
oops just realised that reply has come under neibs login. I'm on his computer having been a slave for him this weekend at TORM as I don't trade there and his login over rode mine
In response to Cheryl's post most definitley TOB and order forms , SIGNED!!!!. Mine was put together after years of occurrences here and there so they wouldn't happen again. I have to abide when i buy things from suppliers and customers have to from me.
I take a 50% deposti and it doesn't leave my hands until full payment has been taken, even with pals, The only times I've made exceptions because i though I could trust the person I've been shafted so it doesn't happen at all now. If I don't take the measurements and can't do fittings then things will be made to the ones sent but if it doesn't fit.... not my fault although I will try and sort if possible
dawn aka Ages of Elegance
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:54 pm
(Note.. Dawn was using my computer so signed in under my setting)
I don't think there's a right or a wrong price to charge out at. It's whatever the individual or the circumstance demands. I do jobs at a much lower rate if it's simple, or repetative or unskilled, or even if I just want to get the job.
Costs will vary, depending an where you live, how much you need to live on etc. and there's always what the market will support. No good trying to compete with Asia on some things when it's killed the base price.
As to a trade guild... Well it's a nice idea, but it just doesn't work. We're all in competition, however friendly. Life is like that. Pehaps the closest is a forum like this, where we can all discuss and evaluate and make comparisons.
Just don't ever sell yourself short... if everybody could make as well as we hope we can, everybody would be in this business... but then that's why they come to us...
.... or perhaps we're just cheaper than they would be prepared to do it for themselves !!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:24 pm
Here here! great hourly rate working out, thanks for that!
I'm a week away from finishing a long term project which has taken me non-stop more or less from November to now, mainly because it went wrong & I had to start again! Cash flow?! Aargh!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:50 pm
I have never used order forms, or any of the signed agreements that you all seem to use. In nearly 40 years I have only ever had one person not pay in full. I take a deposit for fabric, then payment before the costume leaves me. I generally fit everyone myself, so any mistakes in the fitting are mine and get altered at my expense. I usually source fabric myself too. I do, however, write everything down. (Usually. Why is it always the thing you most need to remember that you forgot to write down?)
But I do take on too much, dawdle when I should be working (like now, putting off a job) and I take on work 'cos I need the money.
Kate, I have done just the same as you. Took on a museum job last year that took three times longer than it should, did it wrong so many times, and should have charged twice as much!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:11 pm
I can identify with the "having to redo it" bit. I used to take on commissions for garments that I had not made before - obviously entailed making a prototype and fiddling with that to get it right before embarkng on the actual garment. The times I have had to re think prototypes - sometimes I got so cheesed off with it that I carried the resentment over to the actual garment which meant there was no pleasure in making it.
I now say to folk who ask for garments I haven't made before - " let me have a play and once I have mastered it I will let you know so you can place an order" - that seems to work fine and I can fiddle with a prototype in my own time with no deadline pressure. I do try to factor in some time to create new styles in each season - along with making off the peg stock. That was another thing I discovered - suspending the orderbook for June, July and August ( except in special time critical instances) - it is almost impossible to find time to renew stock once one has honoured one's orders when one is out every weekend trading in the season.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:15 pm
I agree with altering at my own expense even when the fault isn't mine ( the diet scenario). I nearly alway take the measurements but when you are selling to folk who are a distance away from you there is no possibility of a fitting before completion of the garment - obviously if fitting is an option I will do so.
It seems to work out OK - haven't had to alter much at all - but those are the ones that stick in your mind./
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:59 pm
Well said Mr N
I have been totaly self employed for the last 18 years . The number of times I have told your story to customers is uncountable. I have always used a formular simalar to yours to calculate my base wage and then add materials with a 15% minumum mark up. I gave up doing free quotes fairly quickly .
The hardest thing I found was learning to say NO to customers . I have found that customers who I have been honest with come back , but those I strung along because I had said yes to many times never did. If your work is good enough people will always come along .
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:36 pm
Agree to the above, costs are very hard to get across often as people have a preconception of the item's end worth.
My example is say woodblock prints, the woodblock can take up to two weeks to draw cut and proof, the actual printing is a few minutes, material costs are part wood (one off) and paper and ink, consumable. Other values not seen are my skills and any research and training I undertake to improve my work, I do attend courses I need to if I make claims as to the authenticity/quality of my work etc.
If people don't like the prints etc then it is my risk up front and they get sold over a longer period of time, maybe recouping costs, maybe not.
Writing, that is easier to get across as I charge per 100 words, a very small letter and people can dictate what they want, or a book can be costed without much of a headache, materials extra if not paper, as are any other finishes.
No work without an order in writing, email accepted but only after land line and address, clear agreement as to scope of work (most of my writing is bespoke), delivery terms, payment terms etc.
There are about half a dozen posters here (some lurkers) who have dealt with me in the above manner, with no problems that I could tell.
If you are up front and honest I think that goes a fair way.
I agree that it would be very hard to get some sort of guild standard as who would be the final arbiter, there are some areas where I could see some strong antagonism. Personally I want my products to be associated with others of a similar perceived 'quality', sounds a bit snotty but not really, if I want musem based work I want to be following the example of those that already do it, is where I am coming from. From a cost/value perspective that makes sense too.
Thanks to Niebelungen/Dawn for bringing the topic up.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:46 pm
I agree that people don't realise who much some things costs to make. I started with simple leatherwork because what I was offered was rubbish and historically incorrect. Even when I walked round TORM at the week end there was some of the same stuff for sale.
All my leatherwork including shoes is hand stitched. I research it, make the patterns, cut it, sew it and finish it. I don't rivit mickey mouse sword belts, or use plastic coated leather, and yet I still get comments about price.
On the flip side people do come to me if they want the right stuff. At the NLHF there are people travelling huge distances just to discuss their order so that they get what they want AND they don't mind paying my prices. I do not rip people off. I charge a fair price. The metal work I use is from other traders who in general give me a discount as I would to them.
The one problem is that there are people selling rubbish at knock down prices and if the buyers don't know whech is correct they will opt for the cheap option.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:53 pm
The one problem is that there are people selling rubbish at knock down prices
Do we need authenti-police at markets?
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 6:22 pm
"Do we need authenti-police at markets?"
depends on who you are asking, people who reproduce things 'well' or 'badly', buyers - they may not want authenti stuff, the fair organiser: it may or may not limit their scope, depends on their marketing of the event.
Apart from that, who has the right to say so? I don't, no matter how much I may or may not want to be associated with the 'right' crowd for me.
I think there is scope for markets with more stringent 'quality' control and a broader range, both for traders and buyers, as long as you are not sold one thing and get another that is...
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 6:59 pm
There will always be those who want the cheap option - either to get started or because they cannot afford the expensive stuff but really want to have their hobby - those who will spend loads on hard kit and not bother so much about soft kit.
I think various markets set their own criteria - I am sure that the Fed events are stricter on autheticity than others.
It really is horses for courses - I think you have to tot up how much you would like to earn for the goods you offer and then charge what the market will support whilst not overcharging for the bottom end of the market.
No matter where we pitch ourselves within the market we will have our strata of customers - and sometimes there is a cross over. It is more important to do what we say we do - hand embroidery means hand embroidery not a hand guiding material through a machine - hand bound seams means that, not overlocking. Personally I think it is OK to admit to machined construction seams or even machined embroidery, lets face it hand embroidery doesn't half put the price up because it is so time consuming. Its Ok to admit to reproduction style buttons - providing you state them as such and its OK to produce flights of fancy ( even pre raphaelite style) providing you don't pass them off as totally authentic.
there is room for all of us and surely our own pride in our work will ensure that we do the best work we can within the market we have chosen to target
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:10 pm
Ok so how do you convince someone that your stuff is:
Good value etc
Do buyers always care?
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:28 pm
And then of course there is the being copied
Another pottery group that I chat on has had a long discusion recently about being copied, ways to avoid it, & the whole philosophy & attitude that you have to end up taking towards it. With the whole historical accuracy element as opposed to the 'newly created' idea or design, it does complicate matters a little.
I think I've finally 'arrived' as I noticed this weekend that someone is copying the little necklaces that I make (NB this wasn't anyone at TORM doing this!) - their copies were crap - very poorly made & obviously knocked out, but half the price of what I make. I'd noticed that a wholesaler I trade with hadn't come back to me for a while & this is obviously why, but actually I don't care - as up until now I'd been extra cautious not to overlap with any of the work that this person produces, so I guess now all bets are off & its an open market!
The necklaces I make probably don't make me very much money at all, in fact some of them take longer to work on each individual one than the full sized tiles I make! They are individually carved & I sometimes set myself 'head of a pin' style challenges to see just how fine I can get the detail. I realy enjoy making them because each one is unique & I get to play & try out ideas, without the pressure of getting it 'right'.
The whole reason I do them started as a way of giving children an opportunity to buy something little as a souvenir and I often give them away to children who have spent a long time with me & who have obviously really been captivated by the clay.
So I learnt that actually I'm much less threatened by being 'ripped off' than I used to be, must be growing up or something
Thanks for letting me ramble off topic, back to prices....
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:58 pm
I am afraid there is a fair bit of ripping off amongst us, not happened to me as yet, touch wood, but there are those that see no harm in making off the hard work and research of others, I wont buy from them no matter how cheap because those people ultimately cause the demise of those that really do bother. Sad that money blinds people, even a piffling amount in reality, sadder still that the buyer doesn't know.
Mind some form of code of ethics even intent might not go amiss, maybe there is scope for some of us to do that, so a 'guild' in some ways may not be a bad idea, if only as an intent. Dunno what do people think?
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:07 pm
Trouble is one person may say, go to a museum and research a particular garment and create a copy - what is to stop another person doing exactly the same - and coming up with the same garment.
There are only so many historical resources to go on and drawing frm those folk are bound to make similar assumptions.
But copying Kate's necklaces definitely is a rip off.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:09 pm
Trouble with that is all the 'good guys' will sign up, take the pledge & all the people doing the ripping off will just carry on!
I've had a couple of people recently who wanted lots & lots of advice & actually wanted tuition on how to make their own tiles, which I'm too busy to give at the moment, so I even phoned a lady back when I remembered a few tips like special kiln furniture for firing tiles & a book that is a good place to start.
I think having 'lost' one complete identity when I had my breakdown & had to give up 'proper' work, I'm less attached to what I do now than I used to be - even though I have created this Kate Tiler identity, I know I can walk away from it should I want to, so its not going to kill me anymore if someone clones what I do!
But at the same time there is the other extreme of Jack, who won't make things that he knows other people now make, even though he was doing it first! Hippie that he is
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:13 pm
Clothing is harder to pin down (oo a pun) other things are not, I wont mention them specifically here but other things are let us say harder to rip off, if that happens then we should be wary of that and then challenge.
Clothing has a huge set of parameters that as you rightly say are quite hard to prove, but say in terms of armour if one is not copying a particular item then the design you come up with is yours, ok you might not have the dosh to go to messrs Sue Grabbit and Runne, but a good relationship with other traders, event organisers and the reenactment community might help if say a polite "sorry but that is a rip off, please stop selling it here", esp if people already know about it.
Tricky one really and a bit of a mosh pit, but nothing stopping people getting together to keep a watchful eye out.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:17 pm
Also I think with the good makers, the originators who do put in their own research, rather than buying a replica from another trader & copying it, there is an integrity and a quality to what they make that shines through.
You have to have that depth I think to get the satisfaction from spending 20 minutes discussing the minutiae of one of your pieces with someone who then walks away without spending any money with you - you still gain something from that exchange, and the odds are that they'll return in a year or two & place an order.
If you have the passion and the interest in what you do, if you would do it even if you don't make money from it, then that is captured and held in what you make.
Its what marketing people call selling the sizzle, rather than the sausage! The rip off people don't have that sizzle - their sausages might be cheaper but people will eventually educate their pallet & buy the real thing!
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:23 pm
gregory23b wrote:Ok so how do you convince someone that your stuff is:
Good value etc
Do buyers always care?
In answer to your first - I always thought I could tell pretty well because the person had a knowledgeable air about them. I made a mistake in thinking a particular trade knew their stuff, I was quite willing to part with a couple of hundred quid for some stuff, but proto-types proved me wrong. I will be more cautious next time.
Some buyers - me and some of my friends - care very much if we are buying for society events. If I am buying a nice bit of pottery to use at home - no it dosen't matter.
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:27 pm
Kate as a mod wopuld it make sense to move this to the buy and sell dept? we seem to (sorry Niebelungen) to have drifted in to wider terrritory, would anyone have any objection?
Hey would anyone also object to a buyer's guide to stuff, say some top tips on how to identify say decent quality cloth against non?
Not references to specific traders by any means but we often hear complaints of people buying something that wasn't quite right or that they didn't know the right kind of questions, esp in raw materials, I rely on others for that (a lot).
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:33 pm
could do, or I could try & split it - would anyone mind if I moved it?
Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:36 pm
I hope a few of you managed to read my post on copyright, as that's about all you can do to protect yourself, however limited it is.
It's a bit like designer labels and the high street, they make a few modifications and it's no longer considered copying. And most designers are only copying a style from the 20's to 50's in the first place.
All I can really recommend is for people to physically mark their work with a date and/or a name. It's stops a direct copy, but will never stop them borrowing the style.
As a final resort I would look at getting a soliciter's letter or going to the small claims court. It can be surprisingly effective, although I would try talking to the person involved first.. it's often much easier and far less trouble, and most people are reasonable if your reasonable too. That said. a soliciter could cost you as much as the profit you'd earn if you had made them, but maybe the satisfaction is worth it.
I have a button I made being reproduced by somebody else, I even think it still has my name on the back !! Though to be fair, I took so long in supplying the customer they had to go elsewhere, so maybe that was my own fault too.
I guess the only way for traders to help themselves is for them to talk together and maybe share their advice and experience. Most of us have made enough errors and mistakes to cover most aspects at one time or another.
In a way a forum section on here for traders to discuss things might be the closest to anything like a guild, although the costume section is as good as any. But naming names is still a big no-no.