The Business of Beadwork: Pricing Your Beadwork for Sale

Nov 29, 2011

How much would you charge for a beaded necklace like this?
This morning, as some of you may know, I received a message on Etsy about a particular piece that I have listed for sale in my shop. It went something like this:

"about your necklace are you seriously charging that much !!! i saw one idetical but with jade and it was only $50 your price is ridicolous besides a kid could make this minus the edging around the pietersite"

My initial thought was, "Um, really?" How did this person think I would reply to this message? Maybe something like this:

"Oh, my goodness! I didn't realize that I was overpricing my work! How helpful of you to drop me such a direct note to let me know that I'm heading down the road to failure because I am charging too much for my handmade work! Would you like me to knock $85 off the price for you? And can I get you some cocoa with that?"

Or possibly:

"You appear to have confused my work with that which is made by child labor in a sweat shop for a dime a day. So sorry."

But snark and sarcasm aside, if you're trying to earn some extra money by selling your finished beadwork, you'll need to know how to price your beadwork appropriately. Underpricing your work can be just as bad as overpricing your work, so it's important to be comfortable with the prices you set.

A Basic Formula For Pricing Your Finished Beadwork

Pricing your beaded jewelry is probably one of the hardest things you will encounter when you start turning your beading into a business. But if you want to make money selling your beaded jewelry, then you have to make sure that you price your work fairly to include at least two things: the cost of your materials and a fee for your time.

Most people will balk when I tell them that they should include a fee for the time they spent creating a piece of beaded jewelry. It doesn't matter if you did it in your spare time or as your full-time occupation. You wouldn't go to work at a job for forty hours every week and then tell your boss not to pay you for the time you spent at the office, right? It's the same with the time that you spend creating beaded jewelry to sell for your business.

The basic formula for pricing your beadwork should be:

1. Your cost of materials + anywhere from 25% to 40% for profit

2. Fee for your time. This can range anywhere from $5 to $20, depending on what you are comfortable with charging, but I encourage new artists to charge at least $8 to $10 an hour for their time.

You can also include any overhead charges that you might pay every year for your business, such as electricity for your studio (if you have one) or insurance. Those who make lampwork glass beads should also factor in the costs of propane and oxygen.

But No One Will Pay THAT Much!

So, you've finished your piece of beaded jewelry for your business, done your math to calculate the price of the finished piece, and . . . you have sticker shock. You've suddenly convinced yourself that no one will pay THAT much for a piece of handmade beaded jewelry.

But remember, you're not trying to sell this piece as a bargain. You're not appealing to the customer who wants to buy her jewelry for pennies at a big-box store or even a department store. You're trying to sell your work to the customer who understands and appreciates handmade jewelry for what it is: a piece of wearable art.

No one says you have to charge the full amount that you calculate based on the formula I showed you. However, I always encourage bead artists to at least include a fee, however small, for their time. If you want to nurture yourself as an artist (and as a businessperson!), you should start thinking of your time and your skills as valuable commodities. The final price of your finished beadwork should reflect that!

When you're pricing your beadwork for sale, you also want to think carefully about underpricing your beadwork. Underpricing (like asking $25 for a peyote-stitched needle case) doesn't help anyone. Underpricing your work can backfire on you, too - to some buyers, a low price signifies inferior quality beads or poor workmanship.

The good news is that there are plenty of venues out there for selling your handmade beadwork at a fair price. It takes a little bit of research and a little bit of planning, but you CAN find people out there who will purchase and love your beadwork.

The Bottom Line

Being in the business of selling your finished beadwork means that if you want to have a successful business, you need to make a profit. How much profit you make it entirely up to you. Take the time to price your work fairly (and seek out the best market for selling handmade beaded jewelry and finished beadwork) and you just might be able to turn your favorite hobby into a profitable side business!

Have you struggled with pricing your beadwork? Share your questions, thoughts and formulas for pricing your beadwork here on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

on Nov 30, 2011 11:52 AM

Jennifer thank you for this article!  I will have to compare your formula to what I've been doing which is 3x my cost.

katsommers wrote
on Nov 30, 2011 11:56 AM

One of the reasons I do not do many craft fairs any more is for that reason - everybody's a pricing critic... I feel the I am actually low on my handmade jewelry, but I try to do what the market will bear...  And I did one show with some students who hung around to ask questions and the next year were selling similar items to mine (really, one was a downright steal of my design...) right in front of me...

But no more... I won't sell it if I don't get the price I'm asking...

on Nov 30, 2011 12:02 PM

I really think that retail has spoiled people to the point that they expect handmade quality and uniqueness at Walmart prices. Thanks for a great article and keep up the good work!

And by the way...I checked out the listing you referenced and I don't think it's too high AT ALL!!

Boomer1952 wrote
on Nov 30, 2011 12:24 PM

I love your reply to the snarky remark. That seems like the perfect price to me. Also, it does not look like cheap beads either!

Thanks too for the pricing info. I've made lots of jewelry but not sure how to price it!

bpene wrote
on Nov 30, 2011 1:09 PM

Thank you for sharing this.  I recently did a market and was scorned at by people for charging what I charge on a piece.  Comments like "oh that's lovely but very expensive for what it is".  These comments sting and I have to bite my tongue not to say something just as awful back.  I'm not aiming to sell to the person who wants a bargain and won't appreciate the love and effort gone into my work.  I would rather sell less work for more money to people who appreciate what it is to buy handmade.  I will be sharing this wonderful post on my facebook page today!

on Dec 1, 2011 11:36 AM

First, I wish everyone who experiences those kinds of rude comments would read this post and know they're not alone. To me, that commenter is an example of a "toxic" person.  Someone who makes ridiculous, offensive comments for no logical reason.

Not every person who buys jewelry is in our target market, as artists. OK, that's fine. But what's the point of the rude comments? What would bring someone to write something like that, rather than just skipping the listing and saying to her/himself "Wo - that's not for me," and moving on? Isn't it kind of baffling?

salla2 wrote
on Dec 2, 2011 3:30 PM

Very nice article. The thing I think many people forget about when pricing any handmade item, is that you didn't just make the item. You made the item, you photographed the item, you listed the item, you paid for a booth at a craft fair, you paid for displays, you paid for packaging.

Most crafters who choose to sell are designers, creators, photographers, marketers, salespeople... All of that takes time, much of it takes an investment of money, and you have the right to be reasonably compensated.

linda@891 wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 9:58 AM

I have a problem with any formula that doesn't take into account a wholesale price, before establishing a retail price.  Most of my pieces are sold through shops, and much as I'd like to have lower prices in my Artfire shop, I cannot undersell my shops and expect to continue in business.  I felt this way even before I had the retail shops to contend with.  In general I feel that web based jewelry businesses severly under price their products. What would you do if someone wanted to buy your pieces at wholesale for sale in their shop? I think that you might find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  Have a great day and thanx for attacking a problem that needs solving.

LindaSudimack.artfire.com

Wendy Lucka wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 10:06 AM

It's kind of funny, I get told on occasion that my prices are too high but, I am always repairing someone elses work!

Anna@264 wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 10:44 AM

Hello Jennifer,

I used to struggled with pricing my work.  But you are absolutely right about getting paid for your time.   I work  full time and figure my time accordinly.  If someone likes what you have designed they will pay your price.  When asked "how much for this piece?" Be confident and state your price.  

What I found is: Always make two.  The first one is your trial/show piece.  The second one is your piece for pricing, figuring out your time and the final price.

Anna

Kelly@127 wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 11:20 AM

I recommend that with any criticism, you consider the critic and whether or not their opinion matters to you. When I read the comment from Jennifer's critic, the poor grammar and spelling errors caused me to immediately discount that person's opinion as having any merit whatsoever.   If someone wants to criticize me, my work, my pricing or any other attribute, they'd best communicate in a manner that I will take seriously, otherwise I'll assume they are a bored eight year-old with nothing better to do.

Jennifer your price is beautiful and an appropriately priced piece of artwork.  I probably would have opted for a snarky (albeit well-written) response.

star 3 wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 11:34 AM

I used to sell bathroom tissue and we would get wisecracks for that as well. I saw your jewelry. It was not overpriced. I agree some people are in a Walmart mentality. They are looking for the bargain they will never find. If you sell an item less than it is worth you cheapen your item and yourself. The items most artist sell are one of a kind. Everyone wants to feel special so we purchase items no one else have. Thanks for the article and the tips. By the way great jewelry.

horselove wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 11:38 AM

Thanks for the article Jennifer! I would like to sell things like jewlery some day too and I'm always thinking about how I'll price them when I do. This article really helps me.

By the way, I checked out your Etsy shop and the things you make are gorgeous and look like excellent quality. You deserve every last cent of the prices you charge for them!

Anna_Gray wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 4:07 PM

The beginning of the article gives us an excellent example of Etsy shoppers' mentality. We have 4 online stores (1 of them on Etsy). We price our work like this: (cost of materials+$20 per hour salary+overhead) x 3 = retail price. same x 2 = wholesale price.

I think you can be proud of receiving such message. It demonstrates what a big interest people have in your work. It also demonstrates an unskillful attempt to bargain about the price. I would have replied like this "Thank you very much for your interest in my work. This necklace took me N hours to complete and features best quality materials available on the market. If you would like to purchase it, I can give you $10 discount, no more. Please, kindly reply."

How did you reply to this person?

Best,

Anna Gray, Gray's Crafts LLC

Choctawkeith wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 9:13 PM

I appreciate your article on beadwork pricing.  My prices take into account that my designs are original and every piece is unique.  I use quality materials and make my jewelry to last a lifetime and beyond.

I see inexpensive jewelry made by the hundreds in foreign countries using inferior materials which sell for more than it is worth at Wal-Mart.  If that is what the customer wants that is where they should shop.

If you want a unique piece of wearable art, buy from a dedicated artist who takes price in their creations.

Choctaw Keith

carolynnau wrote
on Dec 4, 2011 8:03 AM

Great article. You didn't mention the huge amount of time spent selecting the beadsand findings. I spend at least an hour a week ordering supplies online and go to a local bead show every couple of months, i spend a full day every time, sometimes going back again another day. yes, I am sooo lucky the International Bead show comes to DC area 4-4 times a year.

The other thing I find interesting is that some of the people who complain about the price are coaches, therapists, professionals etc who I know bill their time at $100 or more an hour,and yet a necklace for $150-$200 that they will wear for years is too expensive?? Really? I've nicely pointed this out a few times, but did it by just saying, "I agree it's a bit of an investment, but think about it how many hours of your time does this represent? Gee 2 hours, that doesn't seem so bad."

jpastore wrote
on Dec 5, 2011 7:15 AM

Thank you for sharing your pricing guide. I just recently began trying to sell my jewelry at craft shows. I've made some easier items such as earrings and wire necklaces but also enjoy making more time consuming pieces such as chain maille bracelets and beaded embroidery jewelry. I want to account for the many hours that i spend making these pieces, but I'm not sure how to.  Some of these pieces take 10 or more hours to make. I've read in other articles that It's not ok to charge more for an item that took more time to make. Any advice that you have would be great. Thanks

Julie

jpastore wrote
on Dec 5, 2011 7:15 AM

Thank you for sharing your pricing guide. I just recently began trying to sell my jewelry at craft shows. I've made some easier items such as earrings and wire necklaces but also enjoy making more time consuming pieces such as chain maille bracelets and beaded embroidery jewelry. I want to account for the many hours that i spend making these pieces, but I'm not sure how to.  Some of these pieces take 10 or more hours to make. I've read in other articles that It's not ok to charge more for an item that took more time to make. Any advice that you have would be great. Thanks

Julie

LindaK@61 wrote
on Dec 6, 2011 11:46 PM

Thanks Jennifer for the encouragement. You've given me food for thought.

With all the economic situation going on all over the world and everyone trying to get "a bargin" it's really hard to put a real value on a piece of work, especially if it takes me 5-6 hours work.  Sometimes, a simple neckalce that take me only a little time with a little effort (but there's no real pleasure or challenge in making it), and has no appeal to me , people are willing to pay for - go figure.

CaycaC wrote
on Jan 1, 2012 5:32 AM

Thank you for this article.

I come from a country in which quantity is unfortunately far more important than quality. It happens to me that someone asks me to make a particular piece for them, but they give up after I tell them the price. They expect a OOAK Czech glass beadwoven piece to cost as much as a mass-produced low-quality plastic trinket you can buy on a flea market.

Pricing formulas can't be applied to the craft market in a country that has been suffering poverty for the last 20 or more years. I can't get the same price here as I would in USA or EU, so I follow the simple rule - I charge as much as I would be willing to pay for that piece. And somehow it works.

Amy Van Heel wrote
on Feb 22, 2013 4:17 PM

How do you know how much is the cost of materials if you buy materials it a glass bead kit? Do I put the cost of what I spend for each bead kit and wire I buy?