Wisdom Wednesday: Pondering Price

money-questions-198x300“How do I price this job?”

“How would you veterans price this job?”

“What would you charge to do this?”

The questions that are asked may differ,  but the intent behind them is the same,  someone please tell me how to price this stuff.  Make me feel that the price I want to charge is reasonable and correct.   Give me some guidance on how I should be pricing my work.  Let me know that what I do is valuable and worth what I want to ask people to pay for it.

We all know that setting a price for something can be difficult.  The dictionary defines price as “the sum or amount of money or its equivalent for which anything is bought, sold, or offered for sale”  which sounds pretty simple.   You want an embroidered hoodie.  I tell you the hoodie, decorated as you wish,  is $20.  You give me $20,  I give you the hoodie.  An easy transaction, right?

In reality,  it’s anything but easy.   First, you have the fact that decoration work is creative work, and creative work has, historically, been undervalued.  Second,  you have the fact that decoration businesses can range from a one head machine run out of a home to a company with multiple locations and hundreds of heads,  with each business having different income needs and pricing requirements. Third,  you have customers who are looking to get the best value for their money, and may have unrealistic expectations of what your work should cost.  Add in the problem of determining the value of one’s own work, let alone telling other people what you think that value to be,  and you end up with wildly fluctuating price scales,  and good decorators doing quality work who most likely aren’t making nearly what they should.

So, how do we reverse this trend?

Reversing the trend,  in my opinion,  comes down to playing the twin roles of educator and advocate.  Education starts with your company’s customers and,  really, continues anywhere your work is discussed either verbally or in writing.   The goal is to inform your customers and potential customers about what it costs to make the items you make,  cost not only in actual dollars,  but also in time and training.  Your work should always be presented as something done by a skilled craftsperson,  someone who has dedicated time and effort to learning their craft and who should be paid accordingly.     The more the general public understands what goes into the work that is being done,  the more likely it is that they will value the work more,  and expect to pay a higher price for it.

Advocacy also starts at home,  or in your shop,  and extends out to the rest of the world.   Being an advocate for the decoration community means charging a fair price for your work,  charging artificially low prices depresses the rates that all decorators can charge, and also teaches the marketplace to expect quality, painstaking work for mere pennies.   Advocacy also extends to how you talk about what you do.   Emphasize the skills involved and the work it takes to learn the craft.  Speak out when you hear or see people complaining about the price of a decorated garment,  explaining why the cost that is being charged is fair.   Be aware of those who will try to get you to do work for exposure,  as exposure can’t pay the mortgage or keep the lights on.  Make it a point to call out the people who underestimate the value of what we,  as an industry, do,  and keep pushing for the respect,  and the fair pricing structure that the industry deserves.

Pricing is always going to be a controversial issue.  A fair price for you might not seem like a fair price to me; there will always be differences in how things are priced by different decorators,  just as there are differences in where and how individual decorators do their work.   The thing to remember is that a rising tide lifts all boats,  and doing a little pricing research in your market before setting prices can help assure that every decorator gets a fair price for the work that they do.










Wisdom Wednesday: The Work is Art

This WednesMona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouchedday,  I’m going to share a piece of wisdom that just whacked me upside the head.   It’s a small nugget of wise thought that has to do with how we view embroidery or sublimation or, really, any garment decoration work.

If you go to the Louvre and you view the Mona Lisa,  you’re pretty confident you’re viewing a work of art.   Maybe the art on view appeals to you or maybe it doesn’t but,  regardless of individual taste,  most people would agree that the Mona Lisa is a work of art and it is treated and valued (both monetarily and in the public’s esteem) as such.

What we call art is a very subjective thing.  Most decorators,  if asked where their work stood on the spectrum between real art and not art,  would probably veer toward the not art end of the scale.  Every day,  people who work with screen print ink or sublimation ink or thread or rhinestones or vinyl are told that their work is a commodity,  not art.

Most of them probably believe this is so.

They’re wrong.

Every day I talk to decorators or read posts on social media from decorators who are working their hardest to create beautiful things for their customers.  Maybe it’s finding the perfect color and style of garment to enhance the design.   Perhaps it’s mixing five different shades of green ink to find the one that goes down best and is just the right color.  It could be an hour spent on the phone looking for the exact shade of yellow thread to match a customers logo.   Sometimes,  it’s time spent doing research so that an animal head or a truck tire can be digitized as precisely as possible.  It’s work,  and it’s effort and, often,  the only one that will notice is the person going the extra mile.

So,  why go the extra mile?  Customer service is part of it, giving a customer the best product possible is just good business,  but I think there’s more to it than that.   It’s about pride in the work.   It’s about knowing that the skills are there,  and using them to create the best product possible.  It’s the little nagging voice that says “I can do this better” and won’t shut up until better is achieved.  It’s the artist,  who is also a decorator,  following a vision and creating something wonderful that didn’t exist before.   And yes,  for those who wonder,  there can be beauty in a school spirit shirt or a cap for a ball team or a jacket with a corporate logo.   The art isn’t necessarily in the design, although it certainly can be,  it’s in the execution and the care that’s taken in creating the work.   It’s in the skill that allows that work to be done.

They say art, or what makes something art, is in the viewpoint of the beholder,  but it’s also in the attitude with which the work is treated.   The value of the work starts with those who set that value,  so it’s up to decorators to recognize their work for the art it is and value it accordingly.  It’s true that a sweatshirt created for the Jackson High Jackalopes will probably never hang in the Louvre,  but that doesn’t make it any less of an artistic triumph.

The art of your work matters.

Make sure those who purchase it, and those who sell it, value it accordingly.