pricing your work

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Forum topic by wiser1934 posted 02-22-2014 03:54 AM 2587 views 2 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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524 posts in 3262 days

02-22-2014 03:54 AM

i have been told i price too low for what i sell. have no idea of how much to mark up my work. mainly cheese cutting boards and cheese boards. some pepper mills and salt and pepper shakers. HELP any info or suggestions welcome. thank you

-- wiser1934, new york

29 replies so far

View Paul's profile


721 posts in 1680 days

#1 posted 02-22-2014 04:08 AM

I’ve been told by every single person I’ve run across that I charge too low as well. I have a hard time charging people for my work. interesting thread, I’ll be watching.

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 2924 days

#2 posted 02-22-2014 04:43 AM

Wiser, looking at your projects page I think you do some pretty nice work and should sell those items with pride, however one needs to ask himself how much would you pay for a novelty item that you don’t really need ?

However nice your renderings appear I see them as items that might be purchased as gifts, which is normally very seasonal.

Anyhow, I wouldn’t have any idea how to comment on our pricing because I don’t know your prices.

Enjoy the journey! JB

View JimRochester's profile


531 posts in 1729 days

#3 posted 02-22-2014 02:54 PM

Pricing is always so tricky. I usually go the easy route and so 2 – 2.5 times the cost of the wood. It means I’ll make a profit but the $$ per hour is below minimum wage. On the other hand I look at some of these pieces on ETSY and I can’t figure out how they can sell a cutting board for $15. I can’t buy the wood for $15 let alone put anything together and make a profit. It’s easy if all you want to do is subsidize your hobby but selling seemingly at a loss doesn’t make sense to me. I just made some wood whisperer boards. Two 8/4 boards 7’ long were 120.00. I got 4 cutting boards out of them plus I have some decent scrap to make some smaller pieces. I figure $60 – $65 for the full size boards then I’ll have a few sandwich size boards I can sell for cheap.

-- Schooled in the advanced art of sawdust and woodchip manufacturing.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2050 days

#4 posted 02-22-2014 03:18 PM

Read this blog. It was thoughtfully well-written by an LJ named “huff” who ran his own business for years. It’ll take you about 30 or 45 minutes to read the whole series, but it is totally worth it. Hopefully the link works…


He also has a blog series on marketing your stuff that is stupendous.

I want to share with you some personal experience on this that I have had. I also have run across some projects that friends and family wanted and have struggled to price things fairly. I always feel bad, but I have disciplined myself to price projects out and give them the real price. 1 recent example for you:

I had a friend who owns a small retail store ask me to build a “gate for the counter”. I was thinking it would be a small swinging door, maybe $300 or so all said and done. Well, when I visited the store, the span the door needed to cover was about 6 feet. So, I would have to make not one, but two doors, plus a column for them both to hit that would have to be drilled into the concrete floor. I priced it out and it came out to $1370. Seems like a ton, right? Well, when you consider that I would have to buy a hammer drill, put in 20 or so hours, buy all the material, drive to the lumber supplier, finish a lot of material, pay taxes, etc. IT ISN”T THAT BAD! I was about to tell her $800 even after I had priced it. I felt so bad, but then I just nutted up and sent her the full on $1370 price. Would she sell me her products for free? Would she give me 20 hours of labor at $4/hr. No, she wouldn’t. It isn’t because she is a bad friend or mean or doesn’t like me, it is because her time is worth more than that and there is no reason she should give it away to me, and I don’t blame her one bit. So, why would I give my time away? I told her the price and she has not gotten back to me, but I don’t really mind. It is a project that I would have marginally enjoyed at best, and if she never wants me to do it, then that is fine. I even told her I would give her some local guys contact info who could maybe do it cheaper, but she hasn’t asked for them. And when I really think about it, I don’t think she could find it for cheaper. All in all, I am happy. I am not getting underpaid to do a project that I don’t want to do. I am much happier without the extra few bucks and I am doing what I want in my shop.

You can do it. Just be methodical on pricing things and stick to it. Something I have learned about dealing with close friends and family – If they want something real bad, make it for them as a gift and give it to them for a birthday or Christmas. I’d much rather benevolently give someone something than “get paid” by them to make it for way too cheap and be cursing them under my breath the whole time I was making it.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View WMD2006's profile


95 posts in 2338 days

#5 posted 02-22-2014 03:31 PM

My thinking is pretty similar to Jim’s; start with around 2-3x the material cost and go from there. It’ll also depend on the labor involved (scrollsawing a picture vs. cutting a plaque). Whatever you charge, make sure it’s worth your time. Remember, it’s been a substantial investment to be an awesome woodworker!
I build a lot of retirement gifts for Air Force guys and they consistently tell me to not sell myself short. People understand the effort and care that goes into a one-of-a-kind piece and they realize there’s a cost associated with it. I’ve never had anyone haggle with me over a price (hmm. maybe that’s the first sign I don’t charge enough!).
Maybe check out your local market. What kind of boards do they have at Williams-Sonoma? How about Etsy? Local craft shows?

-- -MDWhite

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2670 posts in 3037 days

#6 posted 02-22-2014 03:32 PM

I have been told that my prices are too low while selling my crafty items at street fairs and festivals. Not by shoppers but by other vendors. I just tell them if you are right, buy all or some of my stuff at my price and sell it for what you think it is worth. No takers so far. They just walk away. My point is: My stuff may be cheap but talk is a lot cheaper.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 2185 days

#7 posted 02-22-2014 03:53 PM

I normally keep this stuff somewhat private, but I thought Id chime in on this one.

I spent a few years apprenticing, and during this time I did do a little free work for family. Now things have changed, and this isnt a hobby anymore, this is now my living. Asking someone to donate time is fine. Charities and volunteer places do it all the time. But asking someone to donate free time in skilled labour, when this is the persons living and income, not just a hobby, dosnt sit well with me.

When I painted my house, I did it all myself. I did not ask anyone for help. If I had, I would have asked friends that had a little extra time, paid them in beer and gotten half assed painting help for free. This is why I didnt ask. I know several professional painters, that probably would have helped had I asked, but these guys paint 40-60 hours a week, do you think they really want to come paint more for free? NO.

On to my point. I am diligent about my pricing. Because I can get a lot of reclaimed lumber for free, this can save my client a lot of money. But the bottom line is I do need to get paid. Anything I sell, I know how much time I have put into it. Yes I count shopping time, finishing time, everything. When I sell a product to a friend or family member, whatever I sell it at ends up paying me 20 dollars an hour. To the general public, this goes up to 35. No one has ever had a problem with my pricing, although some are ignorant to the price of wood. Like I said, reclaimed wood is free, but custom work usually means I have to go buy some. So really the client has to buy it. 99% of the time I am picking it up and yes I get paid for that too. If they want to buy it themselves they can, but they wont get my contractors rate and even by not paying me an hour to get wood they still lose money in the end. The only wood I mark up are slabs. If I sell a piece made from 100% reclaimed, then I only price it based on hours, and maybe a little for finishing supplies and tool wear and tear.

I had a client not too long ago ask me about a chest/bench. I was given a set of measurements, and told it had to be 100% hardwood. Then at the end, almost as a side note, she told me, Id like to pay 2 or 3 hundred dollars. I had a little chuckle, because we all know where this is going. Just for fun I did up a materials list at cost, and it came to 375 dollars. I told her it would take around 10 hours to complete the project, at 35 an hour. She declined, and I advised her that to meet her budget, she should try ikea or something. Same as how many times Ive been shown a jewelry box form the bombay company flier and asked, could you make this? I say yes. Next question….wait for it…....can you make it cheaper then they do? FACEPALM. Nope, I say, sorry I cant. Sometimes I bother to explain why, sometimes I dont.

At the end of this long rant, I think my point is, that I do ok for business. I could move more and make less, but why would I want to? I feel almost as good about saying no to a job I would have not been properly paid on then I do when finishing a nice product.

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View woodsmithshop's profile


1327 posts in 3660 days

#8 posted 02-22-2014 04:32 PM

I read an article many years ago that said there are three classifications of people when it comes to buying, first there are the “Fine Art” type of person, they have to have the best, and want to pay high dollar for what they buy, next you have “Craftsman” type of person, they usually appreciate and understand good craftsmanship, design, material, etc.and expect to pay a fair price for the amount of work that goes into a project.
then you have the “Utility” type of person, these are the ones that think, “oh you only have $5. worth of wood in that, or, I can make that cheaper myself, why should I pay you that much”.
all three of these types can be found in any given area, but each area is usually dominated by one of these types,
so you have to consider the area that you are selling in, depending on that you may have to adjust your prices to suit. usually the higher the population of any given area the more they are willing to pay for a product.
these are a few things to consider when pricing your products, and this is not a hard and fast rule, but true for the most part.

-- Smitty!!!

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3763 days

#9 posted 02-22-2014 04:46 PM

6x material cost is a good starting point. It depends on whether
joinery, shaping and sanding irregular shaped is involved and if you
have surface sanding machinery. Renting time on a wide belt
may be money in the bank. Look into it.

Really, sanding machines make it possible to get work done
quicker at a given price point, so the goal should be
productivity, not price cutting.

If you can’t get a good price, increase productivity to make the
pieces faster, of make pieces that can fetch a higher price
for the labor time invested.

I’ve never been very interested in doing street fair type
work. It seems to me however that things like pizza peels
and cutting boards are easy enough to produce with common
home shop machinery that there’s likely to be downward
price pressure in the market. Producing more complex and
even outright proprietary designs is a way to isolate the
work from lateral price comparison with other crafters
at a given show or working in the same territory.

View pmayer's profile


1029 posts in 3180 days

#10 posted 02-22-2014 04:54 PM

I disagree with tethering your pricing strategy to material costs. It is one factor, but there are other variables that are as or more important to consider.

- What are your business objectives? Do you want to keep yourself super busy, or do you want to maximize your dollars per hour?

- How unique is your product? This is a huge factor. People will pay more if they have never seen anything like your object. This can be a function of both what you make as well as where you sell it. If the item is similar to what others build and you do not use a unique route to market, then you will have to sell at or below your competition or you won’t sell any.

- Time. How long does it take you to make this item? Are you efficient at it? What hourly wage is fair for this level of craft in your area? If it takes you twice as long as your competitor to make the same thing, that doesn’t make it more valuable. But you don’t want to end up working for an hourly rate that doesn’t satisfy your requirements, so it is important to track this if it is important to you. For some people who are not dependent on this income, this is not important, and that is ok too, but you will get scowls from those who are trying to make a livable wage in the craft.

- route to market. You can take the same item and try to sell it on ebay, your own web site, etsy, a coffee shop on one side of town, a souvenir store on another end of town, and three different craft shows, and you might have to pick a different price point to sell it. Also, you have to consider selling costs, as there are different cost models everywhere. I have sold on consignment for fees ranging from 10% – 40% (and I know if places that charge higher than that), and I was approached by one venue that had a rate structure that was so confusing I wasn’t sure if I was going to get anything when they sold something (needless to say we don’t sell there).

When I started Vern’s Wood Goods with my father, we agreed on a minimum hourly wage for him, and we chose items that he could build that would allow him to earn that wage. Since we started five years ago, we have raised prices gradually (up roughly 25% now), and at the same time we have come up with several ways to increase efficiency so that he can make items more quickly without compromising quality. I have found sources for wood that are much cheaper than what we were using when we started, again without compromising quality or efficiency. Therefore his effective wage has risen quite a bit over the five years; perhaps 60 – 70%. But, for him, the most important things was to now let his wage drop below a certain point.

-- PaulMayer,

View Woodknack's profile


12329 posts in 2495 days

#11 posted 02-22-2014 04:58 PM

There are plenty of opinions on pricing. You can charge a lot and pretend you don’t care if it ever sells, someone once called this waiting for the lottery which I think is apt. Or you can find a reasonable middle ground that people will pay, keep making and selling items. If you want to make a utility item to sell, don’t make it then try to figure out it’s value based on labor and materials because that’s backwards. Determine the value, then figure out if/how you can afford to make and sell the item for a profit. For example if you see that a certain style of cutting board is selling at around $60 but costs $30 to make, that’s a loser. You’d need to drastically lower your material and labor cost to sell it for a profit. If you try to sell a $60 cutting board for $120, that’s waiting for the lottery. Instead come up with a cutting board that sells for $120 and costs $20 in materials. At the end of the day, something is only worth what someone will pay for it. If paying customers are telling you that your prices are cheap then raise them, if anyone else is telling you your prices are too cheap be wary. If your products are selling out quickly, you are too cheap.

-- Rick M,

View dhazelton's profile


2789 posts in 2411 days

#12 posted 02-22-2014 05:01 PM

Hardwood is expensive, you have to have a planer, jointer maybe, moisture meter, lots of expensive clamps, good tablesaw and blade, lots of Titebond 2, sandpaper, finishing oil, a plunge router if you put a drip catch in….your workspace isn’t free, electric to run everything, insurance….people who want things for HomeGoods or Ikea prices are off their rockers.

“i have been told i price too low for what i sell” – If a customer told you that you don’t charge enough then raise your prices. By how much is up to what the market will bear. You may find you sell fewer products but at a better price so you come out ahead by not making things for free. Good luck.

View JAAune's profile


1826 posts in 2432 days

#13 posted 02-22-2014 05:50 PM

Calculate cost of materials plus overhead plus wages. That’s your target price. Then compare that to the average market price and see if there’s a way to get the two to coincide.

-- See my work at and

View JimRochester's profile


531 posts in 1729 days

#14 posted 02-22-2014 06:44 PM

Absolutely, the product has everything to do with it. A full size edge grain cutting board takes approx. $30 in wood plus glue, sandpaper and a finish. Requires a good table saw, jointer, planer and a drum sander is a huge help when making anything flat. Plus all the clamps and assorted misc. materials. By the time you prep the wood, cut the strips, glue, recut and re-glue, then sand and finish you have a few hours into it. Just the feet I put on the bottom are $3. I sell mine depending on the woods and the size for anywhere from $50 – $95. I was at a show where a guy told me he mass produces them and sells them for $10. Not sure how he can make money or what size they are but it seems like that works out to about 10 cents per hour. But the pricing for cutting boards is down due to the perception they are easy to make and the cheap bamboo ones at WalMart.

-- Schooled in the advanced art of sawdust and woodchip manufacturing.

View iminmyshop's profile


285 posts in 2109 days

#15 posted 02-22-2014 07:25 PM

I don’t market what I do but when friends ask and offer to pay I tell them I will charge time plus materials. Using a multiple of the materials cost never made much sense to me since the time on a project varies so much depending on the kind of design and joinery involved. A large bed with no significant joinery uses a lot of wood and takes about as long or longer than a small jewelry box with several dovetailed drawers and a top with inlay. Most people really just have no idea how long it takes to make things. I try to educate them without being condescending. Most decide they can’t afford whatever it is they wanted or just don’t want it all that badly. A few weeks ago my neighbor offered to do a few hours of gardening in return for a hardwood TV stand to hold their new giant screen TV. It was to have a cabinet, doors and look really cool. I politely thanked her for the offer and declined. Besides, I like doing my own gardening.


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