My fellow artist and dear friend, Brigit Snyder, also opened her store around the same time and one big question we both struggle over is how to price our Spirit Dolls on Etsy. She and I have talked with other artists about this subject and we've found that prices are all over the board. They range from $15 on up, some even $1000's of dollars.
Ruminating on this subject, I came across an article on Etsy about how to price retail items. My dolls are priced on average $50-$150 for a one-a-kind mixed media art doll, which seems to be about the average for similar dolls but I had to see for myself how close that is to what the actual product is worth according to this formula. If you're not into formulas, numbers and accounting, you may want to scroll down to the *** section.
- For retail items: (hourly overhead + production cost + profit) x 4
Hourly Overhead: is computed by taking your business expenses over the last 12 months divided by the hours you expect to be able to create in that period of time. Here's an approximate list of my business expenses as a sole proprietor:
- Use of 1 room for doll making or 1/5th of my home for studio/office use $550/yr. ,
- Materials for doll (clay, molds, tools, fabrics, yarns, ribbons, thread, wire, glue, reference books) is approximately $1000-2000/yr. but let's go with the $1000,
- Materials for packing/shipping $100.
- Cost of internet hookup $1200.
- Etsy listing costs at .20 / item + 3.5% of selling price/item -- let's assume I sell 2 dolls/month at $50 each: $100 * 3.5% = $3.50 and with 50 listings/yr. * .20 = that would come to $10 + $3.50 = 13.50,
- Website domain name $70,
- Website yearly fee $70,
- Marketing (logo design, advertising, binders, flyers, cards, running a blog and website) =$200,
- Office supplies, printer cartridges, $200.
- Laptop/printer $650 (assuming 2 years worth of use) ,
- Continuing education & workshops (other doll purchases, how-to guides and hands-on training) $500.
- Healthcare premiums and rX $2600.
Production Cost: wage (hourly wage x hours spent creating the piece) + materials cost. Let's assume I make WA state minimum wage ($10/hr.), it takes a minimum of 12 hours on each doll, sometimes 16 or 20, including sculpting, baking and painting faces plus materials which average $15-25 per doll.
$10/hr * 12hrs +$15. = $135.00 production cost
Profit: the markup that you build in to grow her business. Let's just say $5/doll...
Now that we have all the numbers let's plug them into the equation:
(hourly overhead $5.60 + production cost $135.00 + $5.00) x 4 = $582/doll
It does put things into perspective for pricing a Spirit Doll with the objective of making a living from that endeavor. Also, I've noted that while other doll artists on Etsy charge over $200 / doll, they only have a few sales / year or even one sale / year. I don't think it's a stretch to say that most of these artists are not making a living selling Spirit Dolls but I may be wrong.
So assuming I don't want to make a living at it (although it would be nice), my goal is to get these dolls into the hands and hearts of those moved by my work and who feel a connection with these healing Spirits. I feel it's definitely a calling and a labor of love.
And, if indeed, these little dolls help one to regain emotional health, like they did for me, then let's compare those costs: Traditional therapy at $240/hour 1 or 2X / week, vs. a 1-time purchase of a Spirit Doll at $150--A Spirit Doll is a mental health bargain! If you can find one for $50, considering each doll is hand-crafted and is the only one in existence, plus the fact that a doll will last a lifetime if properly taken care of and can be passed down through generations, that's a steal! If you find a Spirit Doll for $15 (and I have), then I start worrying a bit for the artist -- do they undervalue their work or themselves as artists OR are they simply compelled to do the work no matter the cost? Every artist has a unique talent and perspective that only they can bring to their art. I think it's important to value that vision and talent both for the artist and the buyer. We tend to value those things we pay a higher price for and they become more meaningful, too.
I found 3 great tips from yet another article on Etsy regarding pricing your items when you are the creative person doing the work and possibly undervaluing what you do:
- Challenge yourself to charge a price that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable. Chances are, if you’re like most creatives, you are possibly underpricing your work. Really consider putting a price tag that pushes you up against any fears you’re having – a price that challenges you to dream bigger.
- Think about what sort of clientele you want to attract. As creatives, we often think that our only audience are people much like ourselves – people who don’t likely have a ton of money. If you’re constantly pricing your work for that audience, then you’ll likely never be able to successfully raise your prices. Instead, consider that there are other audiences out there that would be more than willing to pay a lot of money for your original work – people who likely have more money than you!
- When you underprice your work, you’re sending the message that it’s not the best quality; that’s it’s cheap. Our work is an undeniable reflection of who we are. How seriously cool and valuable and unique is that? Let’s make sure we’re treating ourselves fairly and with respect by not underpricing our creativity.
You can't put a price tag on happiness...or can you?
P.S. If you're an artist on Etsy, I'd love to hear your process in pricing items in the comments section. Also, I just discovered another formula from another article on Etsy--my head hurts from my previous calculations so I'm giong to pass on doing this one but just in case you're interested here it is:
Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail