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Ten things you shouldn’t say when pricing handmade items

26 Jan

PLEASE NOTE – comments are now off on this post. Should you wish to comment or to see the updated post, please go here – http://www.lifesbigcanvas.co.uk/ten-things-you-shouldnt-say-when-pricing-handmade-items/

 

I’ve been giving advice this week on pricing handmade items for selling. Not on purpose, just because it’s cropped up a couple of times. Working in a shop where people sell handmade items means it’s something which is bound to come up.

When I started selling handmade items, advice was thin on the ground. I tried reading some things online, but never really had someone to talk to in person. I also didn’t realise that my lack of knowledge was holding back my business, because people were bitching about me not being able to price properly behind my back, instead of just telling me what I was doing wrong, and I was missing opportunities.

This is why when I now see people underpricing their work, I tell them, and hopefully not in a patronising way, but because underpricing is undervaluing your own skill. To me, it’s not a big deal to say to someone their items are too cheap, and to help them work out the real price. It shouldn’t be a mystery, or a closely guarded secret! There are some things I’ve learned that I won’t share, due to the amount of time it took to research or learn, but pricing correctly isn’t one. Everyone pricing correctly helps EVERYONE, not just you – it helps the shops you sell in, other crafters and yourself. There can be bitchiness and backstabbing in the handmade community – undercutting your colleagues doesn’t go unnoticed, and people talk.

There are certain things which crop up every time I advise people on their prices – so to help you all out, here are the things I most often have to say to people.

1. I don’t think people will pay that

Number one on the list, and for good reason. You should never second guess your customer – you’re already making a leap guessing what they might want to buy in the first place, don’t try to guess their budget as well.

You should always work out how much you should charge, and then charge it. If no one buys it, try another outlet. Only after a few months, and/or a few different selling opportunities can you rightfully say, ‘this isn’t going to sell at this price, I need to put it on sale’.

2. I worked out how much I should charge and it was a ridiculous price, so I made it lower

Firstly, well done for working out the price! That’s one hurdle over.  However, charging a lower price means working out how much to charge was a waste of your time. I’m not trying to mean, I’m trying to make you value your time.

3.  I made it ages ago so I just want it out of the house

This came up yesterday – someone I know brought something into a shop near mine, and had marked it at far too low a price. I asked her why, and she said, ‘oh I made it ages ago’. My answer was, and always will be that that doesn’t matter.

If you’re taking something to a new stockist, their customer base don’t know you made it ages ago, or are sick of the sight of it. It might be the first thing they’ve ever seen of yours, they’ll fall in love with it… but then they have a fixed vision of what your prices are, and you’ve shot yourself in the foot. You can’t then explain to them that you made it ages ago, and your newer items are more expensive – to them, it was NEW and that’s how your items are priced.

I can sympathise with this in one instance – if you don’t have much storage space, you might be tempted to reduce your items to clearance prices too soon just because you’re running out of space. If this is happening to you, then try offering your items at lower than wholesale prices to your regular successful ‘sale or return’ stockists – they might jump at the chance to have your items in their shop at a higher mark-up.

4. My friend says this is the price they would pay

Asking friends how much they’d pay is a good idea – as long as you also work it out properly. Also, if you ask ten friends how much they’d pay, don’t just go for the lowest price. It’s a good idea to go somewhere in the middle as long as this is still the price you should be charging (or thereabouts). For example,  if you work out you should be charging £10, and your friends suggest prices ranging from £5 to £15, then the middle price of £10 is perfect – however, if your friends suggest £5-£10, then go for £10, don’t go down to £7.50.

5. I feel like I’m ripping people off if I charge more

A contentious issue, but think about it – if you get a tradesman fixing something in your house, you pay him, because that’s what he charges, and that’s what he’s worth. He doesn’t think, ‘hmm am I worth that though? She might be expecting to pay less.’ He gives you the quote, and you say yes or no.

This is exactly what you are doing by putting a price on your item.

You are saying ‘this is how much this costs’, and then the customer can say yes or no. You don’t have to justify it in any way – he isn’t telling you how much it costs him to keep his tools serviced and his certificates in order, so why do you start telling people why your item is cost as it is? Sure, tell people it’s a one-off, there’s only 5 ever made, or whatever makes that item SPECIAL, but you don’t have to tell them how much it costs you to hire a table at the craft fair you’re selling at to justify the price (I’ve actually overheard this happening).

6. It didn’t take me that long to make

Good for you – that’s probably because you’ve practised a lot, and been doing it a long time. Did you get paid for all that practice? No? Well now is when you DO. If I was to make a dress it would take me at least a couple of days, because I’m shit at sewing – I’m happy to pay someone £20 an hour to do it for me, cause I know it won’t take them much longer than two hours, and they know what they’re doing.

*edit to add*

I know most dresses take longer than two hours to make and dressmakers should be paid more than £20 an hour. I have a friend who makes clothes for me, and it takes her a couple of hours and I give her £20 an hour. I never expected this post to be spread so far and wide, and I really was talking about a particular situation I am in, not all dressmakers!If you re-read my sentence, I am talking about someone I personally pay £20 an hour, and it only takes her a couple of hours. I am not intending to undervalue dressmakers!

7. I just enjoy making it, I don’t care how much I get for it

That’s excellent, you have a hobby which people want to buy from you. However, if there are people who make a living doing what you do as a hobby, please charge the same as they do. I know that sounds mean, I really know it does, and I can’t think of a good metaphor.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you have a friend who is a hairdresser, and you’ve decided to take up as a hobby cutting hair. You keep your regular job, but on the side you cut hair, and you charge less than your hairdresser friend. It doesn’t matter because it’s your hobby, you enjoy it, and anything you get is good enough – but your friend who does it for a living is being put out of work by your hobby because she has to charge less as the value of hairdressing becomes diluted by people doing it at home. She has paid for training to do what she does, and years of practice to be as good as she is, but people will still question why she charges what she does when you are charging less. She also hasn’t got another income to supplement her hairdressing, this is her whole career.

This may sound extreme, and as I say, I couldn’t think of a decent metaphor. However, I will use scrabble tile necklaces as an example, as I don’t make them any more, and this never happened. I use to charge £10, as I’d worked out this was the price they needed to be – if someone then came along, who made them as a hobby, and sold them for £6, it would impact on my sales. The price would still cover their costs (I would be wholesaling them at £5 after all, so I have to know my costs are covered at that price) so they think they’re being fair, but as mine are £10, people wonder why I seem to be ripping them off.

Which brings us to…

8. *person A* sells it for £x

You shouldn’t use someone else’s price as comparison, unless you’re selling like for like at the same price. You should never think ‘I’m not as good as person A so I need to sell it for less’. If it is the same thing, you must sell it at the same price.I learnt this the hard way – I made an item at the start of my selling life, and sold them for £2, because I thought this was the right price. I found out someone else was selling the same thing for £5, and instead of thinking I should put the price up, I thought, ‘but I’m not as good as them, I should keep the price where it is’. The person who made this same item found out, and thought I was undercutting them on purpose, when I was actually thinking they were better than me. I was undervaluing myself, but hurting someone who I respected in the process.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I feel I should – You should never sell it at £2 on purpose because person A sells it at £5 and you want to steal their customers.

9. It’s OK for you, people will pay more for one of your items

I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks I can charge more simply because I made it, but I have had someone say this to me. All I can say is this – a name can carry weight when pricing something, otherwise designer clothes wouldn’t exist, but there aren’t many crafters who can charge more just because they’ve made it. BELIEVE ME.

10. The materials were just hanging around

Therefore the material cost is nothing, and making your price far too low? WRONG! The material cost is not how much the material cost you this time – it’s how much it will cost you to replace it.

So if you make, for example, a cushion from a piece of fabric someone gave you, it doesn’t mean you don’t add in the cost of the fabric – it means you add in the cost of replacing that fabric. This is hard to get your head round, but I have learnt this from pricing making stock out of donated and recycled items. For example, I might get given a lot of books by someone for nothing to make vases out of, but I always factor in the cost of having to buy a book – usually it’s just as if I bought a cheap one from a charity shop for a quid – but you can see the parallel I hope. Just because that fabric was hanging around, you can’t charge £5 less for a cushion, or next time your customer will wonder why this cushion is £5 more expensive than the last one.

So what do you all think? I know how difficult it is to value yourself, and how much easier it is to see someone else’s stock and see that they’re undervaluing themselves, so maybe if we all watch out for each other, and make each other feel good we can create an even nicer handmade/crafting family.

Thank you for reading this far. I am so happy that something I wrote last year has become useful. I now blog on my main website
so you can find even more stuff over there.

I feel I have to answer criticism that I have not made thousands of sales and therefore I shouldn’t be regarding myself as an expert.

Not once have I ever said I’m an expert. On anything. This is my experiences from owning a shop, working in other shops, and running a website selling items. My Folksy and Etsy sales might together number less than 300 (thanks for adding it up for me), but neither of those sites are my main sources of income. I have sold in shops for 5 years, on my own website for 4 years, and had my own shop selling other people’s items for 3 years. If I thought I knew everything, I would be an incredibly dull person.

This guide is meant as a way to make crafters value themselves, not to tell you how to price. There are loads of pricing guides out there, written by people more ‘successful’ than me. I highly recommend you read one of those. My whole life is about making people value their time, not telling them that I am the pinnacle of success and you should do what I do. I hope that helps some of you who have been annoyed with me.

Further edit – I’m very flattered to be asked if you can reproduce this blog. If you’d like to print this out for your craft group, that is absolutely fine. If you want to quote me anywhere else, I’d appreciate being quoted and referenced, rather than you changing the words slightly and then not referencing me. Thanks!

Photograph credit -Poppy Thorn (alt model) and Miss Affleck (photography)

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How not to piss off other creative people

8 Dec

I’ve been chatting online with other makers and creatives about what annoys us about our jobs. I’d never do a blogpost on how annoying customers can be, because that’s unprofessional and unfair, and there are lots of blogs on how difficult pricing is and how irritating it is to turn up at a craft fair and find an Avon lady.

But what I did decide to do was write a blog about what crafters/creatives/makers do to annoy each other. Once I asked the question I was inundated with things our colleagues do that annoy us – so I’ll list them here. Be aware, some of them will probably contradict each other, because this isn’t a list from just one person. It should also be yet another reminder that there isn’t just one correct opinion on anything. Some points are longer than others – generally the ones I have an interest in, or have seen more of. The rest I’ve expanded on with information given by the person who nominated the grievance, meaning they might be incredibly short.

Finally, we really couldn’t decide what to call ourselves. Some see ‘crafter’ as a badge of honour, whilst others see it as an insult. So for ease, in this blogpost, I’ll be using the term MAKER.

1. Nicking each other’s ideas/accusing someone of nicking your ideas

I’ve put this as number one, even though this isn’t even in order, because it is the singlest scummiest thing to do, and I think other makers think the same, because it was the most mentioned thing.

I wrote a blog about this recently, but small businesses stealing from each other (in my opinion) is much worse than a big business stealing from a small business. Big businesses have design departments – they pay people to come up with designs, and often it’s those people who are to blame for googling and stealing images. Urban Outfitters, for example – yes, they should check the design isn’t stolen, but they’re massive companies, and they drop the ball now and again.

A small company however – that’s usually ONE person working alone, stealing an idea from someone they follow on social media. You might see an Instagram of someone who makes shoes with cat ears and think, ‘ah cute! I can see how they’ve made those’ – it’s then a scummy step to think, ‘I can see how it’s made, so I could do that, (maybe charge a little less) and make some money (while also plagiarising the rest of the shop while I’m at it)’.

I also had flak for naming and shaming the company in my last post – apparently I shouldn’t have called them on their scumminess. If it had been my work, I would have followed Kim’s advice – as it was it suited the subject I was writing about to name that person. In the interests of a full and fair post though, I will tell you that calling out people who steal can piss off other makers, and not just the one who has done the stealing.

2. Boasting about how many sales you’ve had/how busy you are

“Just posted out 95 orders!”

“Wow, can’t keep up with making these guys!”

“Panicking about getting all the orders I have made in time!”

You might wonder what’s wrong with updating with this. Well nothing, really… but if you’re at home having a break from making stuff and having a bad day for sales, and then it can make you feel like shit. Consider it as a customer, and you might think, ‘well, if you’ve had so many orders, you don’t need another one’.

There’s a fine line between a good promotional tweet using this basic premise. You might want to make sure customers know you’re running low on something so they can order it before it runs out, and really there’s nothing wrong with a tweet saying you’ve had a lot of orders – just think carefully about your wording, and imagine reading it as a maker having a bad week for sales.

Most importantly, whatever you do, don’t lie about how busy you are to appear to be doing better than you are – don’t tell someone at a fair that you haven’t had any sales, and then tweet about how you sold out of everything.

3. Going on and on about where your stuff has been featured, or who wears it

It’s exciting being featured somewhere, and even more amazing someone famous bought something you made! Please tell me about it, and I’ll be very happy for you. However, don’t dine out on it for too long, or you start to look a bit silly. Corinne Bailey Rae bought one of my necklaces once – she was lovely, and was at an event at our shop where she sang. If I’d found a photo of her wearing the necklace, I’d have smiled and shared it. However, I don’t feel like I can mention it much because it surely won’t make any difference as to whether someone will buy a necklace, and it might put someone who doesn’t like her off. I’ve never bought anything because someone famous wore it – I’m sure some people do, but are they really looking for handcrafted stuff?

4. Not charging enough

This has been well covered here so I don’t think we need to dwell any more on it. But basically when you’re pricing, check your competitors who are making similar items, and make it THE SAME price, not cheaper. Makers really hate being undercut.

5. Charging too much

Conversely, if the difference is more than 10%, you should check WHY the items is so much more expensive than yours. It may be that this item is made in a different way to yours, the maker has more training, or a number of other reasons. For example, you decide to make a corset (chosen because it is a skilled and difficult thing to make, of which I have no experience) – you use plastic bones and machine stitch it. You work out a cost, and look online to find people charging more than double. This doesn’t necesarily mean you’re underpricing yourself – the other corset makers may be trained, they may be using real bone, they may be handstitching, their fabric may be real silk whereas yours is synthetic. There’s a reason some people charge what they do – it’s not you undervaluing yourself every time, and nothing makes makers more angry than you equating a piece of hobby making to something they have trained long and hard to do. Which brings us to…

6. Doing it to make money, not for the love of making, see also jumping onto every bandwagon going

I feel slightly defensive about this one, because I am guilty of it. Some makers make a bit of everything, and it’s purely because they just love making things. Unfortunately this has a tendency to piss off other makers because you might start making something which is their sole item. Not having a ‘speciality’ can be seen as being a ‘jack of all trades’.

However, I’ve definitely come across people who I think are more guilty than me of this, so let’s try to be objective – even though I’m going to use an actual example, I won’t name them. You start off drawing, and you make your drawings into greeting cards. You then see someone who makes their drawings into jewellery, so you ask how it’s done, and you start doing this too. This, I’m sure, will be seen as ‘normal’ by most people, and it makes sense to what you already make. You then decide you’re going to start making head dresses out of flowers because someone has told you they will sell well. A friend of yours who makes head pieces is upset, understandably, because they have trained as a milliner and this is the first time you’ve shown any interest in making head pieces. (You also start selling these head pieces cheaper than theirs, because you haven’t had any training) – has this crossed a line? I certanly believe it has, and I’d like to think most other makers would also agree.

This is partly why I love doing blogposts like this – it’s made me try and focus my spread and from now I’m going to make sure everything I make includes paper in some way.

7. Overly cutesy name/referring to yourself in the third person

“The Button Princess has been busy today, making lovely things for you to buy!”

Whilst this annoys some makers, it can actually work with your branding, so it’s just something to keep an eye on. I personally don’t find it as offensive as some people who emailed me, so I guess it depends what circles you run in.

8. Complaining about how hard it is/how few sales you have

Sometimes things as a maker are hard – but save it for your personal profile on Facebook. Don’t put it on your business page. Your customers don’t want to think you hate every minute of making things for them to buy! They want to know you make it with love, especially for them. Plus, do you really want pity sales?

9. Using comic sans (and other fonts) in your branding

Comic Sans is the butt of many jokes involving fonts – if that makes no sense to you, don’t worry. Just don’t use Comic Sans if you want to be taken seriously – that’s really all you need to know.

*EDIT* wow, this really did open a big old can of worms! I received a message from someone anonymous which I’m going to quote.

I will continue to use Comic Sans without a care in the world – I likes it; It’s nice and curvy, clear, easy to read and has been proved to be dyslexia friendly. I used it all the time as a teacher and I won’t be apologising for continuing to use it ALL the time

10. Complaining about a specific customer

If you had a disagreement with a customer, don’t make it public. It just looks unprofessional. Have a moan on your personal profile, if you really need to, but remember to check your privacy settings so that only your friends can see it. Even better, have a whinge in a craft forum.

11. People saying how easy the thing you do is/saying ‘I could do that’

Customers saying this is pretty annoying – other makers saying this, I think, is unforgiveable! Going to someone’s stall and saying ‘Oh, that’s just resin, I’ve used that, it’s easy’ – well, great that you recognised the method, you’re obviously knowledgable on crafting methods, but mastering anything is never ‘easy’. I used to have the pleasure of selling some resin items another company made, and it meant I can always tell the difference between good resin and bad resin, and believe me there’s a chasm.

12. Being self-important/snobbery

Conversely just because you’ve mastered something doesn’t mean you’re ‘better’ than anyone else. Someone got in touch to say they find some people snooty about having their items touched by customers and their children – ‘don’t touch the precious things!’

Personally, I’ve had emails from people about this with regards to Reet Sweet; their slogan of campaigning against ‘crap craft’ refers to (I believe) its designer based neo-craftiness, the fact it’s all handmade and not bought in, and that on the whole the people who sell there are dedicated to their craft and it’s not like a church fete. However, if you apply to something and are rejected, it’s hard not to think it’s because you’re the sort of crap craft they don’t like, and I’ve had to console a few tearful people.

13. Like for a like on facebook/buying followers

Makers are not stupid. We know when you’ve bought followers on Instagram or twitter. We can also see you participating in ‘like for a like’ groups on Facebook. Are your likers all really likers? Or are they just going to ‘unlike’ you when you’ve liked them all back and clogged your newsfeed?

14. People selling unrelated items alongside the things they make

I nearly put this with point 6, but it’s not really the same thing.

I recently saw someone selling dog collars, stained glass and jewellery. They were a lovely person, but their stall just didn’t make sense. I chatted to this person, and she just hadn’t decided what to focus on yet, so was doing her market research by selling everything she makes on her stall, seeing what sells and what people like, and then narrowing things down.

Sometimes however, you come across someone selling, for example, framed prints of their drawings and their drawings printed on cards – but then some purses. I guarantee, after talking to people in shops and at fairs, more often than not that’s a friend of theirs who’s helping them or who they feel sorry for. Just be aware if it looks weird, it might piss off other makers who will equate you with the people in number 6.

15. Setting up a facebook profile instead of a page

Just an absolute no-no. If you are a maker, you MUST understand the difference between profiles and pages. I’m very careful who I befriend on Facebook, because my privacy settings are locked tight. I will like a page, with no issues, but I won’t befriend a profile called something like ‘Settle Artisans Fair’ – I’m not saying this profile are going to be awful, just that once I befriend it, their friends can see everything I do, and they have thousands of friends. It goes against the whole of point 18 later on.

16. Makers who have ‘spotless houses’

A friend said this, and it made me chuckle. Not every maker works in a spotless studio, with everything in its place, no matter what those articles in Mollie Makes would have you believe. I videoed my studio here  if you want to see what mine looks like.

17. Having your facebook post directly to twitter/saying you’re ‘on twitter’ when you aren’t really

This is mine – seriously, if you’re a maker and you don’t like using Twitter, please don’t just set up your facebook page to send everything to Twitter. Having that on twitter is NOT ‘better than having nothing’. This is also not ‘giving in, because you have to be on twitter these days’. This is not ‘being on twitter’ – in my opinion not posting anything on twitter is better than having auto-tweeting from facebook.

*EDIT* It’s been pointed out that this shouldn’t really be something that we should worry about pissing off other makers with – it should be about not pissing off anyone with the way we use twitter.

18. Being too personal on your business page

This is the only bit I’m cutting and pasting, because I didn’t want to rewrite it.

Another one that does for me is people who use what should be business pages to give us too much personal information about themselves. Friendly chatty type postings – had a great event today, lovely to meet you all, thanks for buying, etc – is nice and reminds us subtly that it’s an independent business with one person running it. Telling me your life history – mum of 8, crafting since 6 months old, how many pets, where you live, colour of your christmas tree, etc – when all I want is to know more about the things you make is completely different. A business page is that and if I wanted to know about your day to day life, you’d be on my friends list – simples…

What about you? What annoys you about other makers if you are a maker? What don’t you like to see as a customer? I’d love to hear from you!

Intellectual Property and Copyright – are you ripping anyone off?

25 Oct

Tusken Traders on Etsy

This week, Rhianna successfully sued Top Shop for printing a photograph of her on a vest. They paid the photographer for the image, but because Rhianna is a celebrity, even though they were legally in the right, she won the case and will receive millions in compensation. This is because it looked as if they were trying to recreate official merchandise, or that in some way the singer endorsed the shop and/or vest. Yes, even though they bought the photo from the photographer, because it’s of her, she’s still entitled to say how it will be used. It’s called ‘passing off’ and is why a fake designer bag is also illegal.

I shared this blog post about the whole thing, because the tips are useful – it got me chatting with a friend about intellectual property, and how we’ve both been feeling a bit weird about it this week. As she is busier than me, and my thumb is swollen so anything I make is a bit shonky, I decided to do more research and satisfy us both on where the line is drawn, or should be drawn, and who might be on the wrong side of it.

I’m still amazed that anyone believes you can just use any image from the internet for whatever you want – this is discussed in the post I’ve linked to above, but in case you can’t be bothered reading it, just because something is online, doesn’t mean it’s free to use. If you need an image for a blogpost, for example, you should search for royalty free images.

I’m often asked why I won’t print out images myself to make into badges – and it’s because of this exact problem. If someone brings me a print out, I assume they own the right to that image, and if they don’t, it’s not me that’s done it. It’s a narrow line, but one I respect. I will NEVER print out images of a singer, actress, film scene, whatever – any that I do have are taken from recycled books and magazines. If I’m lucky enough to have an image of the singer you want in my box of circles, that’s different.

Or is it? If I use a cut out from a magazine of, say, John Taylor of Duran Duran (as I did last weekend), is that really ok? Is John Taylor going to find Sonia and make her get rid of her badge because he didn’t say I could use it?

Well, I’m not trying to pass off the badge as official merchandise, for a start. Sonia made the badge out of the circle because she liked John as a teenager. I also didn’t print it out, and the photographer got paid, in the 1980s, for the photograph by Smash Hits – they then printed it, I bought the magazine, which is now in pieces. I’m not trying to profit from the image, it was just the one she chose for her badge.

There are people online who make stuff who don’t care as much as me about this. I’m not going to name brands, but there are jewellery makers who print images from films and put them into jewellery – all the time, but especially for Hallowe’en. I’ve lost count of how many Addams Family necklaces I’ve seen on Instagram this week, and I am absolutely sure the copyright for the images belongs to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, because I’ve checked IMDB. If the jewellery maker responsible has been in touch with MGM, I would be immensely surprised.

What about jewellery, and other clothing and accessories for that matter, which is ‘inspired’ by something? This is where things start to become blurred. If you’ve heard of Black Milk Clothing, you might have seen that they made Star Wars ‘inspired’ clothing, which led to a cease and desist order from Lucas Films – luckily for them they had the money to buy the rights, and continue to make the items, and presumably haven’t been so naïve about other ‘inspired’ items such as their Tolkein leggings.

However, not every ‘kitchen’ maker can afford to just buy the rights for a film, so we have to learn how to police ourselves. Most crafters won’t make anything with images from Disney, Lego or Harry Potter, but this ought to follow for every company, and we should give consideration to everything, not just the ones we know have good legal departments.

If you want to know what I mean, go to Etsy, and search for ‘fifty shades of grey’ – I’ll give you a minute.

I’m sure it’ll look different every day, but today I can see many things with handcuffs, ties, masks, quotes and the actual book cover on them. Are they all violating the copyright of the book? I’m sure you’ll agree with me about the book cover being a breach – but the quotes from the book, terrible as they are, are also under the copyright of the author – and whilst you may argue she’s earned enough from that book, the words are still hers, and stamping them on a piece of metal and clearly advertising it as them being words from the book is surely breaching copyright.

That was a book, and until the film finally comes out, they’re aren’t any photos of the fictional characters. Now let’s try that search with, for arguments sake, Breaking Bad. As it’s a TV show, there are screencaps from the show online, and I chose this particular show because I have a particular love for it, but also a possible problem with something I’ve produced.

I’ve been drawing ‘bromance’ designs and printing them as cards for about a year now, and recently had one design based on Breaking Bad removed from somewhere because of copyright issues. Because it’s a stylised drawing I did myself, I had never considered this before, but now it makes me wonder if I’m breaking copyright rules all over the place. I thought a playful homage which doesn’t use real photographs would be ok – but it’s using someone’s likeness, and, like Rhianna, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul could in theory sue me for making it look like they endorse my greeting cards.

Let’s go back to Etsy – there are 3000 items tagged with Breaking Bad, from t-shirts and greeting cards to prop replicas and jewellery. Some of them are ridiculous, some are genius, and in my eyes, I think I know exactly which are infringements of copyright and which aren’t. The real issue is that most people will see where the line is drawn differently, and I bet every single item is a breach.

This t-shirt it’s clear to see simply cannot be endorsed by Aaron Paul. The cost alone should be enough of a clue, but the fact they have loads of t-shirts with photographs of famous people on them means they probably haven’t given a thought to who owns any of the copyright.

I can guarantee these stitch markers aren’t breaching any copyright – I’m also amazed that the maker managed to find a gas mask charm. This necklace on the other hand uses a photograph of Bryan Cranston in character, which seems unfair to the photographer, actor and the person who wrote the character to be honest.

What about this print? It’s a print of an original drawing, so it should be ok… but it still uses Bryan Cranston’s likeness, so is it a breach?

The trouble is, again, you’re probably going to say, ‘they’ve made enough money with that show, who cares?’ – and I’m inclined to agree. What I have a problem with is small designers being ripped off. We see a lot about big companies stealing independent designs, and I totally agree that needs highlighting. But what concerns me more is when small companies are ripped off by other small companies.

This theft doesn’t seem to be talked about as much. I’ve started writing blogs about 3 different independent companies in the past who I believe are the wrong side of the copyright line, both stealing from big brands and from small companies, and every time I’ve decided not to finish them. It seemed like sour grapes because they made jewellery, and I also couldn’t be sure absolutely everything I made was the right side of the copyright line and didn’t want to seem a hypocrite.

In my experience, someone who isn’t at least a little bit concerned about using a photograph of Bryan Cranston, won’t have any qualms about what they use from ANY source. They might end up using an illustration by one of my friends, or a photograph taken by one of my friends, or a photograph of one of my model friends – and not feel any remorse about it. I’m not suggesting it’s malicious at all, I merely mean I don’t think they’ll have given any consideration to it in the slightest.

I think the point of this blog has become this – just think about intellectual property rights when you’re making items. If you give it even the slightest bit of consideration and decide you’re on the right side of that blurry line, go for it – but I urge you to make sure that if you are using an image you didn’t photograph yourself that you think about the person who did.

ADDENDUM

Someone who would like to remain nameless has asked me to point out a small company who is nicking other small company designs. Funnily enough, it’s someone I nearly wrote a blog about.

This time, I feel I can easily post the links to these two items, because it’s blindingly obvious.

Berkley Illustration on Etsy have a shop full of prints of illustrations of animals with clothes on, including this cheetah one.

Cherry Loco have a shop full of varying designs using items from films and television, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Superman, Minions, Nightmare before Christmas, to name but a few, and she has recently listed this

The fact it’s named ‘leapard (sic)’ is just further proof that Berkley produced the original image.

It seems to me that the theory that someone who will steal images from big businesses will have no problem stealing from small designers holds true, in this case at least. Embarassingly for Folksy, she is a featured seller on the site – I’m not sure how that slipped through the net.

Making things with your hands, independent shop keeping, and pitfalls of both

20 Oct
In my shop, earlier this year

In my shop, earlier this year

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been rethinking things, yet again. My business decisions have meant I’m interracting with yet another sort of person, and encountering more of the old problems coming up again, and some entirely new ones.

I both make and sell my own items, and I used to run a shop selling these items, as well as other items made by other people, or wholesaled from other UK companies. I think, even with my limited success with the shop, I have a good grasp of both sides of this equation.

There’s still a lot of confusion about pricing from people who have just started selling their handmade items. There are tons of great articles – I personally recommend the ones by Kim Lawler and Rowan Grant 

If you’re one of those people who can’t be bothered to read long articles about anything, then use my tip – if I’m asked by anyone if the price of their item is right, I simply ask if they’d be happy if I bought it off them for half the price they’re thinking of selling it at – if they aren’t, it’s priced wrong.

That may sound ridiculous – but it’s a really good rule of thumb! If you’re just starting out, you feel the price of stuff people make is too high and you can make it cheaper. You also think no one is ever going to pay the price which comes out when you do the equations suggested in those two above articles.

When I started out, I was underpricing. It wasn’t on purpose. I was basically selling everything at what is now my wholesale price because I was working out the cost of making it, and then doubling it, or more often than not, just adding a bit of what I considered ‘profit’.

I was asked if I wanted to sell sale or return somewhere, and they were going to take 20% of the final cost. I was totally gobsmacked. How dare they take 20%! I’d done all the making, what had they done?

Now I’ve run a shop like this, I can see that they weren’t taking enough, and that’s probably partly why they aren’t open any more as well. I used to take 40% on sale or return items, and if I was buying anything from people who made their own items, I expected wholesale to be 50% (or less) of the retail price, and most non-handmade items, I expected to only pay a third of the retail price.

There’s a lot involved in running a shop, and wholesaling items is risky for shop owners – it might be good for you as a maker, and I appreciate it’s the best way to run for the maker, but if you refuse to offer sale or return, especially to someone who has never stocked your items, then no matter how successful you are, if they’re a very small shop they probably won’t buy anything from you

Shops operate on different methods – shelf renting, commission, a combination, some ask you to work, some don’t. But the best shops which sell your items will take a decent amount off you (whether it’s a large %, rent, or a combination), and you can trust them for that. If they aren’t taking enough, they won’t have money to advertise, and their shop won’t be frequented, so you won’t sell anything.

As a shop, if you don’t do your sums properly, you’ll be the one doing all the work and not getting anything in return. That shop which only took 20% – if they spend a day in their shop, and only sold one of your items and then have to give 80% to you, they’re going to regret it, and it’ll be their fault – I know this, because I have done this.

Before I realised I wasn’t charging enough, some days I’d be really pissed off that someone else was getting the lion’s share of the takings from the day when I was the one who had spent a whole day sitting in my shop, paying for the card machine, the carrier bags, spending the day on social media imploring people to come and visit me….

So that’s why I started charging 40% – if I opened a shop now, it would be 50%. I know of some gallery shops which charge 75% of the final cost, and this is spoken about in hushed tones because it seems ridiculously high.

But when I changed my shop, I also started wholesaling items which weren’t handmade, and this is when I found out that most shops pay a quarter of the retail price – for everything they sell. This is how they manage to hire people to work behind their counters, to do their advertising, to write copy for them, take photos for them…

In order for small shops to survive they need to realise this – you need to charge enough commission from creative people without ripping yourself off, and without ripping them off.

As for creative people, you need to start charging enough that you can give more commission to these shops to keep them open, so you can keep selling in them. I’ve heard people saying they need to put their prices up in order to accomodate the 10% being charged – in my eyes, this means they really don’t understand pricing, and are surviving on passion.

So if you start stocking your handmade items somewhere which is being run by another creative person, and it seems you’re being ripped off, have a good long think. You’ll probably realise you’re really not.