- Small Amigurumi (Doll): 1 - 10 hours
- Medium Amigurumi: 6 - 40 hours
- Large Amigurumi: 30 - 240 hours (depending on complexity)
- Hats: 2 - 8 hours
- Small Blankets: 24 - 168 hours
- Large Blankets: 57 - 360 hours
Click here for a currency converter (you may need it later).
Crochet Artists, You Want HOW Much?
Ladies and gentlemen -- artists -- gather 'round, as we are going to discuss that hot-button topic nobody loves: How to price your crocheted goods. Aside from the obvious topics, such as materials cost, we will also be covering the subject of how you refer to your work, yourself, and your customers. It is my endeavor here to touch on all aspects of crochet creation, to enable you to accurately price your items and convey that the price is fair.
How do you, as a crocheter, define yourself? How do you refer to yourself to yourself and to others? Does it matter? Let me assure you it most certainly does! The way in which you perceive yourself affects the way society perceives you. As a crocheter you are an artist. Let that sink into your brain. You are an artist -- and you must start thinking of yourself as one if you expect anyone else to. Every time you start planning your next crochet project, remind yourself, "I am an artist," and say or think it with all the confidence in the world. As you should. Don't believe me? Artisan is defined as "a person skilled in an applied art," and, "a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods." That's you! Do you, for some reason, not think of yourself as an artisan, but more of a "crafter"? Well the definition of craft is "an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill." (Italics mine.) I bet you didn't know that, did you? To be honest I didn't either, until I looked them up for this article. Synonyms for artisan include both master and professional, and synonyms for craft include ability, aptitude, art, artistry, competence, expertness, know-how, and proficiency. Do not all of those things define what we do? How many of you, without thorough training and practice, were able to immediately crochet as soon as you picked up a hook and yarn? What's that? None of you? That's because it is an APPLIED ART -- not everyone is able to do it, and the people that are able to do it need many many hours of training and practice to be able to produce something of a high enough quality to sell.
Why do people expect crochet artists to work for them for free? This is a strange issue, because typically, this wanting work for nothing is most common with intangible work -- digital art, writing, music or sound effects. Factors you have to keep in mind are, for one, the general population has absolutely no idea how much time, effort, and training goes into every piece you make; and really, how could they? They don't know that crochet can't be machine stitched; they don't know that you frogged this project five times before you got it just right; they don't know that you've been crocheting for 10 years, perfecting your skill to produce something as high a quality as you do currently. On top of all that, people are used to going to department stores and buying mass-produced knit items for next to nothing. And mass-produced crochet items? You can rest assured that someone is some far-away land is hard at work in a sweat shop, stitching them up for pennies an hour. Unfortunately, nowadays, people (myself included) really don't know the value of a dollar. The solution? Education.
Never, ever be afraid of kindly educating someone. The honest truth is, they're wrinkling their nose at your prices because they don't know any better. Society has taught them that they deserve everything to be handed to them for next to nothing, so they must be educated if you expect their outlook to change. Another aspect that goes along with educating people is making yourself approachable. Make sure that people know they can ask you questions -- have a sign, look happy and smiling, tell them verbally to ask about your work! Besides the obvious question-and-answer style, there are many subtle ways to educate your clients. Most of it is diction -- how do you refer to your work? Do you ensure that your clients understand that your art is all custom designed? (Even if you are working from a pattern you wrote, you still had to write it initially -- that means it's custom!) Have some client testimonials on display -- you should always send your customers a message asking how they liked your work (whether they loved it or hated it, you will get feedback, which helps you improve and grow as an artist). You could even send out a questionnaire -- if they're happy with their purchase, they will likely be happy to send a response. When you have a booth at an event, how do you transport your work? Do you care it in plastic grocery bags, or nice-looking luggage? Better yet, make a crocheted bag! If you take commissions, are your correspondence messages professional, as they should be? If you want others to take you seriously, you MUST take yourself seriously. If your English is not up-to-par, have an English speaker review and edit it for you -- it only takes a few minutes. How do you display your work? When you take photos, is there a bunch of crap laying around, or in the background? Can you get someone to model a clothing piece or afghan? If you can, you should, it makes a world of difference as to how your art is perceived by the public. Every time you behave in a non-professional manner while representing your business (what, you didn't realize selling your work made you a business?) you devalue your art, you devalue yourself, and you devalue every other crocheter in the world. Yes, it is a big deal. We are not some billionaire's trophy wife with nothing better to do. We are artists trying to survive in this world and feed our children by selling what we specialize in. Just like every other professional and skilled tradesman. How do you view something or someone that has no value? Do you respect that item or that person?
How do you refer to yourself? You are an artist. Remember, by definition, a "crafter" is someone who is skilled at producing an applied art. If you have sold something before, guess what -- you can now call yourself a professional! Where does that bring us? Well, based on the facts, you are a professional artist (or tradesman, if you prefer). Wear that title with pride! Do not back down! People will surely scoff at the idea of crocheters being artists; but remember what you've learned here: by definition and by facts you are a professional artist and don't you forget it! If people want work from you, they are going to have to pay what you are worth. You are a professional now, and you do not work for free. If you decide to be generous and donate your work to a worthy cause or make something beautiful for your best friend or appreciative relative that's one thing, but giving your work away is not okay. Remember -- accepting less than what your art is worth is the same as working for free.
How do you refer to other crocheters? I know they're competition, but you must not devalue their work to others. I understand that, as with every industry, there are people out there charging too much for their work because they are not very good at it. The only real and fair way to combat this is by assuring people of your high quality and high standards that you hold your work to. If you must, perhaps you could comment on the fact that whoever crocheted the piece is not as experienced as you are. That way you're not belittling their work, you are simply saying that you have more experience. For example, I have made amigurumi where I have sewn an ear a little off from where it should have gone. I can tell, but most people can't and they tell me it looks fine. Despite that ear being slightly off, I know that it is sewn securely and that that plush is not going to fall apart. I can confidently say that the yarn will rip before a seam comes un-done. I also know that no stuffing is showing through (and if there is, I can confidently say that I made every attempt I could for that to not be the case, but sometimes it just can't be helped, which is true). I have spoken to a yarn shop owner who completely devalued a woman's work. I was shocked! The work was crocheted baby blankets, made with a textured stitch (like a griddle stitch/pattern), and the woman was only asking 50 dollars a piece. Not only was she underselling because she was afraid they wouldn't sell, but then the shop owner was devaluing them herself! Never EVER allow yourself to do that if you have any respect for your art and profession. The fact of the matter is, when you devalue the work of your fellow crocheters, you devalue yourself.
How do you refer to your consumers? Client is defined as "a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc." Notice how the professions listed are all types of work that require much training and practice. Because you are producing a specialized item, usually custom in nature, it only makes sense to refer to your customers as "clients" (especially if you offer commissions). Do you make them feel special? This concept may sound stupid or silly on paper, but the truth is, people like to feel special. They will not admit this, and you should not make it obvious that that is what you are doing, but you must convey that by purchasing your work they are part of a special group of people who are graced with the honor of owning your art work. Don't laugh! That is how you make people understand the work that goes into your trade.
Now the exciting part -- the numbers! First of all, you need to keep in mind that the people trying to underpay you are the same people who are instantly offended or angered at the thought of working for free for someone else. What things should your final price include? Let's start with materials (keep in mind, I'm covering a wide range of project types here): yarn (obviously), stuffing, pellets, thread, eyes, buttons, beads, felt, fabric/lining, wire, chenille stems (pipe cleaners), glue, handles and metal findings/notions (for bags or something), paint, key rings. Do you block your pieces? There's water and soap that go into that, and you should charge for it. You had to pay to get it yourself, right? A side note about material costs: It doesn't matter if you got it on sale, on clearance, as compensation, or even for free -- whatever its full, retail price is is what you charge. Why? Because if you need to get more of it you will be paying full price that time. "But the yarn was just sitting in my stash," you say. That doesn't matter. In order to replenish your supply of said yarn (or other consumable) you will, at some point, be paying full price for it. In terms of spending and revenue, if you did not sell it for its full market retail value, you cannot buy another without it being a loss of money.
Now the tough part: how much do you charge for your time? This goes hand-in-hand with how skilled you are. Stephen Silver, a professional animation cartoonist (he designed the character design style for Kim Possible and the Clerks animated series), when responding to someone saying that it will only take him 10 minutes to finish a piece of work, made the comment, "The reality is, it's taken me forty years and ten minutes to do because of all my experience." This is really something to think about, because he's right -- the time in which it takes you to finish a project is directly related to how much training, practice, and experience you have. Another factor you need to think about is speculative work, especially if you're writing your own patterns. Speculative work is basically the technical term for brainstorming; for example, the rough draft of an essay or article would be speculative work. I like to think of writers who are hired to write for a television show (especially a sketch/skit show). The writers all sit in a room and bounce ideas off each other until they come up with something they can all agree is best. They get paid for that -- why shouldn't you?
Your speculative work, as a crocheter, is the time you spend planning your project. Depending on the project, you might write some things down, but you probably do most of it in your head (unless you are actually designing an entire project, such as an amigurumi). You decide what colors go well together (maybe even making a practice swatch), what fiber to use, what brand and store has the yarn you need for the best price, what stitches to use, making a gauge swatch if you are following someone else's pattern.
Time, time, time -- speculative work, driving to the store to purchase yarn, finding and actually purchasing the yarn, driving back home, stitching the project, sewing it together, creating other non-yarn parts, blocking, finding someone to model the item (yes, calling your family member into the room counts), photographing the pieces, making any needed adjustments to that photo, listing it online somewhere, writing a description for the item. All of the things I have just listed are part of the creation of the item. Big corporations have different people working in different stages of production -- photographers, copy writers, website designers and developers, et cetera. Each of those people get paid for their respective professions.
If you have not timed yourself while constructing a project, you should. It ensures that you are not over- or under-charging for your completed piece. You only have to time yourself for each type of project once, then you know how long it will take you each time you make that same item. Even if you have to set a timer; say you want to work between 5pm and 7pm. Start at 5 o'clock and set a timer for two hours. Do that every day until your project is finished. That way you will know for sure. Every project is different for every person, but you can at least get an estimate. One lady who makes pony amigurumi that I adore, said her standard sized ponies take her 3 to 4 days; also, she writes all her own patterns. I'm going to assume that she was quite the experienced crocheter before she designed her pony patterns, so let's say her speculative work (pattern planning) took her about 1 hour before even stitching anything. Now let's say it took her 5 days to make that first plushie, since she would need to write it down as she went, pull out parts and re-crochet them. A standard work day in the US is 8 hours -- so 8 hours * 5 days = 40 hours. Now let's say it took her another 2 hours to get the right photo, edit it, write up an appealing description for the piece, and upload/list it somewhere. That brings the total hours to 43 hours. We will be returning to this number later.
How much should you charge per hour? Now that is a tricky question! In the country I live in -- the US -- federal (national) minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, UK minimum wage is £6.19 per hour (if I understood what I was reading), and minimum wage in Australia is $16.37 per hour. That is the absolute minimum companies are legally allowed to pay a person for work. However, you, my fellow artist, are a skilled tradesman! Let's see what some other skilled tradesmen make, at least here in the US (one horrible-to-navigate government website was enough for me). This is the national average hourly rate for various professions for June 2013 (please keep in mind -- national average, so that includes the top-of-the-ladder workers as well as the people just starting out): Cut and sew apparel manufacturing was $18.08 per hour; toy manufacturing was $26.92 per hour; pharmacies and drug stores paid their employees $23.13 per hour; local distance general freight trucking was $20.76 per hour; graphic design was $27.25 per hour; and beauty salon employees earned an average of $16.08 per hour. Ultimately, you can charge whatever you think your time is worth, but your pay rate is what is going to balance out how long it takes you to complete a project. Skilled crocheters who stitch quickly should obviously be making more per hour than a novice who crochets slowly. I live in a depressed area and the cost of living is pretty low compared to other areas of the country, so pay rates around here are pretty low. I probably wouldn't ask more than $10 an hour, even if I think I'm worth more, because that's the kind of pay scale I'm used to. Again, it is up to you, but for the sake of this article, I'm going to use 10 dollars an hour (also, I was making that much from crocheting at one point).
Going back to the previous imaginary pony project, 43 hours * $10 = 430 dollars. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Which is why you need to be able to figure out how many hours you are actually spending on a project. I might say that it has taken me three days to finish a pair of mittens, but I've really only worked on them an hour each day. Let's adjust those hours for the sake of a more realistic figure. The project took 5 days, and let's say she worked on it for only 4 hours each day; so 5 days * 4 hours = 20 hours. Then add the 3 hours of spec work, so 23 hours * $10 = $230 so far, and that's just for your time. Now let's add in the price of materials. Let's say that the one project used a whole skein worth of yarn, so we shall say $4 for the skein, plus a pair of safety eyes ($5/20 eyes represents one package, so it was $0.25 per eye) at $0.50 per pair, plus let's say 2 ounces of stuffing ($5/12 ounces = $0.42 per ounce) for $0.84, and $0.25 for half a sheet worth of felt for the cutie mark or other detail ($0.50 for one sheet of felt). This is assuming she sewed her plush together with yarn. That brings us to $5.59 in materials. Cost of materials plus production time, brings the retail price to $235.59 for the consumer. It is completely up to you if you wish to round that price up or down, or bring it to a more even number like 235 or 240.
Keep in mind that this is going to make even basic blankets or afghans be higher in price than what people are used to paying for such an item. The most important thing is to not back down! The price is the price for all the reasons outlined in this article (which you should explain to your client or customer) and if someone doesn't like it they can go down the road. If you budge on your price, it tells them that you have no confidence in its value. They don't complain to department stores about their prices do they? And the majority of that stuff is made overseas so they can get away with paying the workers practically nothing. Just remember, you need to educate people -- "Yes, that is the price, and this is why."
I sincerely hope that this article has been educational and met all of your expectations. Remember -- be professional, educate people both directly and subtly (make sure they know your work is custom), don't devalue other crocheters, and be firm about your pricing!
- The quote from Stephen Silver came from this video here.
- Special Thanks to , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , for helping me with my survey!!! I really appreciate you all taking the time to answer my questions; it helped A LOT.
- The website I found the current US pay rates is here - the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table B-3a.
- If anyone is interested, I manage a Facebook Page, called The Crochet Club
- If you want to contact me for some reason and aren't on dA or Facebook, my email is bedazzled.shino at gmail dot com