I stumbled across an article today. It was linked from the Wood Whisperer newsletter. You can find a link at the end of this article. It touched on a few good points about why we struggle with charging an appropriate amount for our efforts. To summarize, (and relate it to our specific craft) it said we do three main things wrong when deciding on a price. The first is taking our ability for granted. This comes natural to us. It’s no big deal. How can we charge hundreds or thousands of dollars? Heck, it was even fun and it’s not right to be paid well to have fun, right? The thing is we’ve got hundreds or thousands of hours of pain and suffering invested in getting good at this and we deserve compensation for that, even if it’s fun. And we have a product that people want to own and can’t make themselves. They are the demand and we are the supply.
The second point is that we doubt people will pay for our skills when we would not. The thing is there’s barely anyone that can do this. It’s hard to feel this way when there’s something like 15k lumber jocks out there but that’s 15k out of 4 billion internet users which is like…well…a really low percentage. If there are a thousand lumber jocks type sites that’s still only 15 million out of 4 billion, well below 1%.
The third point is that we focus on the flaws of our work. We spend 30 hours planning, cutting, assembling and sanding a piece of furniture. When we apply the finish we see a small spot on the side where the 80 grit scratches show because we missed it with the 220. Crap! We admonish ourselves and sell it for 5% over cost and call it a “second.” Either that or we spend another day re-sanding the whole thing just in case there are more screw-ups and miss the deadline and give 25% off for being late. But our biggest critic is us, no matter if it’s with our work or how we dress or how our hair is cut or how our breath smells or how dirty our car is. We need to be able to distinguish between what flaws are truly show stoppers and what flaws do not detract from the overall beauty of the project. Heck, we marvel at inconsistencies in antiques, why not on our own work? I have a friend who is a fantastic custom car painter and has made a fine living and won many awards doing it. He says there’s a mistake on every car he’s ever painted. He calls it his “signature.” People will recognize it after he’s dead and gone. Maybe some day Norm A. the VII will be on TV at an antique museum saying “you can tell this was one of Matt’s earlier works because he was always sloppy at squaring up his mortises before he invested in a dedicated mortising machine but still this is a fine work of art.”
To these three I would like to add a fourth point. I believe it is imperative that we charge an appropriate amount for our work. Otherwise it lowers the bar and the whole professional woodworking community suffers. There has been much talk on LJ lately about competition from China. The thing is this should not be considered competition at all. It’s like saying the Toledo Mud Hens are competition for the New York Yankees. yeah, they play the same game and could maybe win once in a while but they’re in a whole different class, just like our customers. A certain group of people will buy crap from IKEA and certain group of people will seek out skilled people who can build something exactly the way they want it. If we lower our prices then we lower our standards and everyone else’s expectations. Then our products become as much of a commodity as 2X4’s. We mustn’t let that happen.
If you would like to read the original article you can find it here:
This site has a lot of good info about selling art for a living so I encourage you to click around on it for a while. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.
-- Don't just talk about it, be about it.