My wife thinks I am not charging enough!

Just wanted to get some opinions on pricing a job I did. Customer brought in hardware and a panel (16x36) they bought from Lowes. Wanted me to turn it into a serving platter. My preliminary work involved showing customer a couple different radiuses for the corners and 3 different Rubio samples. Physical work involved cutting radius on the corners, round over all edges, sanding, finishing, and installing hardware (which needed countersink for bolts on underside of platter). I would safely say I have around 2 hrs of total time in the project and 5 buck in the bolts for the hardware. I was going to charge $75 my wife thinks $120. Any thoughts? Also, woodworking is just a hobby with the occasional sell or request.

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You wife is right (the secret to maintaining a positive DHQ (Domestic Harmony Quotient) is just accepting that as a basic premise of home life).

Basically you want to set a perceived value for the work which will allow some other person to make a living at it — anything else devalues the work and makes that impossible.

That said, a work-around is to set the price high, but then say, “you’re getting the buddy discount”.

For a bit of a previous discussion on this see:

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I spent $80 on flowers for Mother’s Day and those won’t last a week. That board is gonna last a while.

I often pay $100 to get my grass cut and it takes the guy 2 hours.

And yet people think stuff like this should be free.

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My wife says your wife is correct.
She runs a longarm quilting business and struggles with the same issues.

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We always compromise and do it her way.

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I own a custom carpentry business that specializes in high quality custom stuff. Our shop rate is $120/hr so that would have been no less than $240 for us to do it. We get a ton of calls from people that want small things like that and they usually are blown away at how much it costs.

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You are asking the age old question. How much is too much. The pricing depends on the audience. If you are selling at a farmers market or flea market the average amount of money people will spend is small. If you are selling at craft shows you can get more because people came there to buy craft stuff and not cabbage.

If selling online like with etsy or some other site the price is competing with thousands of others selling similar products. So on the online you have something unique or of really high quality. On an online people cannot pick up your product or feel what it is. Where at a live show people can actually see the actual product and can feel it and admire it. Online all they see if a picture so you had better have good quality pictures, lighting and placement.

So if you were to see at a craft show and you wanted to make $100.00 should you have one item for $100.00 or 10 $10.00 items. The $10.00 items are like to sell better than $100.00 item but much like Las Vegas you only have catch one whale to get your sales goal for the day. The truth is you might only sell 5 of your $10.00 items or maybe none of the $100.00 items.

So you have to consider the market place you are selling and pick unique items. I participated in a craft show back at Thanksgiving. The show was mostly women’s clothes, food and kitchen wares. I had my woodworking items and sold almost nothing. I broke even with the table rental but had to sit there for 2.5 days. That particular show was just not the market for the people attending. There was a person selling lasered cutting boards that were made very inexpensively and he made a lot of sales. So again it is about your target audience. Are you targeting the right people at the market you are in.

Here is a picture of my booth and you can see I had a good variety of things.

Some of the things were cut on my Shapeoko and some were turned or flat work. The best seller of the days was down in from and were little catchall trays.

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Something to consider:

In pricing a job also consider what it would be if sold in a shop /gallery. They will typically want 50% of the selling price. If you sell in a shop/gallery you should not sell the same item for less from your shop. Therefore if you can not cover your costs+ at 50% selling price, its too cheap.

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My intentions/expectations of using the CNC machine was to play, not make money. I have never been a business type.

I do witness the interactions between one person businesses and the public, due to friends businesses and my wife’s operation.

If the product/service is NEEDED by customer the price seems easier for the customer to understand.
If the product is artistic related, the value perception is very different.

I have wondered where the balance is where a DYI person fills the void between what a real business see’s a too time consuming to bid for the money.

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If you’re not undercutting someone trying to earn a living and if you enjoy the process then do it and at least cover your costs.

Some like the artistic process and can spend excessive hours/days deliberating over a design, time that can not be charged but without it there would be no joy for the maker.

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I have been following this discussion with interest. The consumer legislation in the US will be different from the UK. Consumer laws in the UK favour the consumer not the vendor. If stuff is sold, then it must be of merchantable quality and where it is deemed not to be, the consumer always gets their money back.

I made some alphabet blocks for kids and quite a few kids toys, especially those made from wood, is a market area that it is easy to sell stuff. It raises the issue of finishes and if they are not kid friendly and non toxic, the vendor is open to law suit. I had applied very expensive chalk-based paint and complimentary non-toxic varnish, smoothed everything so that all corners and edges could not harm a young child in the target age group (6 months to 5 years).

I had used a maple or walnut hardwood that does not exude oils like pine does and then put each block into ABC sets in undyed linen bags. The time expended and the costs of the items were prohibitive. The consumer legislation is largely avoided if you give the stuff away as presents, without absolving the presenter from giving away dangerous goods.

I got into CNC machining/woodwork/laser engraving as a retirement pursuit and I accept that my hobby interests have several associated costs. It is encouraging to see that @gdon_2003 produced a lot of lovely items and created a business enterprise from his efforts. I think that turning a hobby into a business in the UK would create some pressures to produce stuff, that could impinge on my enjoyment of the hobby.

As it is, I make what I want when I want. I learn a few engineering, woodworking and lasering skills along the way and work on many different materials, without the additional pressure of trying to make it pay. In that respect, I am fortunate and have no banker to satisfy and what I do for a hobby does not concern my wife. My retirement hobby does what was intended for it and it fills my time in an interesting way.

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Shouldn’t the discussion about pricing come before you carried out the work? In this situation it is a bit awkward as the customer owns the material and you own the labour. There wasn’t an option for the customer to comment or change their mind beforehand.

For $120 the customer could have purchased the required hand tools to do the work themselves for the tasks you described on this particular project. The reason I own a cnc, and other tools for that matter, is cause it was cheaper for me to purchase tools then it was to pay someone else to do the work for me, plus I now have the tools for the next project.

As this is a cnc forum you could consider upselling such as adding a small engraving in the corner. Doing work the customer can’t replicate themselves is where you can charge higher.

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Don’t compromise with your wife … bring her into the design and marketing process from the beginning.

For this project, you’re stuck with “here’s what it would cost at market value, but here’s your buddy discount.”

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I sell my cutting boards for $150 and up… i don’t sell a lot of them, but that’s fine, i have no desire to compete in the sub-$100 cheap market. They aren’t worth my time otherwise. I still have no clue how people are making cutting boards for $50.

At a minimum figure out your materials + labor + time and just make sure you are covering your costs.

I made my daughter’s mother (Co-Parenting for the win) a dice vault for Mother’s Day. Something similar to what Wyrmwood makes. One of the players in her D&D group asked how much for me to make one for them. They were shocked when I said $120. The sanding alone takes at least an hour to get in all the nooks and crannies. Wyrmwood mass produces these things and they charge like $90 dollars for their cheapest one.

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I mentioned earlier on this post that a craft show I went to had a man that made mostly lasered cutting boards. The materials were cheap with no exotics and mostly poplar and other low end woods. He mass produced them and went to craft shows all the time. Economy of scale is the only to lower production costs. Making one at a time will never be able to compete one at a time. Now if you make 50 at a time and you batch your work then you can stream line and watch your costs and especially material costs. Most people underestimate their own labor costs. Material is a fixed expense that you can figure out but the number of hours spent designing, setting up and getting the material process is more problematic to keep up with. You can keep your hours in a record but if you goof up or if you make a mistake do your pass that along to the end customer. Well in the long run yes but if you can make a cutting board in an hour for machining, 30 minutes to finish and then let the glue dry you really have 1.5 hours invested but if you got distracted by fixing your kids bike or other honey do’s and it takes longer to finish a cutting board it is sometimes hard to calculate the real labor involved in making a single cutting board. Hopefully you can stream line your production and batch your processes to get a lot of cutting boards ready at once then the economy of scale makes your labor costs go down and if you are buying material in larger batches you might be able to cut that cost.

You never know until you try. Then analyze what you are taking to produce and what money you take in and what the profit margin is. That is a tall order for amateur makers. People always hate bean counters but bean counters make or break a company or endeavor. So besides being a craftsman you have to be a secretary, receptionist, accountant, data entry and chief floor sweeper. That is a lot of hats to wear and that many hats will make your head hurt. Just know that there is more to making money in crafts than making crafts. You have to be chief marketing officer, chief designer, chief Q&A and the one that needs to turn the lights on and then off.

There is a country song currently playing that you got to chase your dream because the dream wont chase you back.

This song is a very inspirational song about life.

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Thanks, Guy. You’re absolutely right.

Yes, true. The question concerning how much should I charge is also a tall order. It is frequently not so easy to use a skilled craftsman’s labour and work quality as the comparison and the final arbiter of the place you set your charge. Primarily because comparing skill levels applied, unless you know the trade, is not an easy ask.

It also raises the issue of you asking yourself, “what is my time worth”. The short answer (not flippant) is I am worth whatever I think my time is worth. It may be helpful to remove every other cost element from that equation so that you are only assessing your time. Then determine whether you could be employed as ‘a skilled worker’ within that field. You could then assess the ‘going rate’ for that area of work to see whether you could compete on that level.

Here is an instructive link to a highly skilled person who makes things in wood. They are using sanding techniques and bandsaw techniques that are well within my abilities. However, they are using skills and knowledge that I just do not possess. They are hand-making propellers for airplanes. Culver Props are creating wooden items that must be accurate to a degree my boxes or cutting boards do not require.

The costs charged by Culver Props will not be a reflection of a simple hourly rate which could be copied by a woodworker but they will be based upon the job, its material specifications and the difficulty envisaged. Each prop may require many months in the shop. If you have any spare time watch some of the amazing videos and the obvious committment to making the best wooden propellers that are possible.

This indicates that pricing your time at your desired endpoint has to be at a realistic endpoint for an amateur skill level. When I charged for my professional work done in my own field of expertise, I always charged for what I know and the 50 years I spent acquiring that knowledge. Any CNC/laser work I have charged for is at very low amateur rates (usually free) or just to cover material costs.

So here are some questions I would like for you to ask yourself…

  1. if you were to go into a store is this something that you would normally buy? Or is this something that your wife would normally buy?
  2. You are in an essence questioning the input of your wife, why? What exactly makes you think that our opinions are better than hers?
  3. if I were to tell you that if priced for $150, you will sell one a month and if priced for $75 you would sell two which would be of better value for you? How would you calculate that selling one is likely better value than seeing two for $75?
  4. Have you priced other items like this? They do not have to be exact but what are their prices?

Let me tell something i came across the other day. I make wood flags on my CNC, Walnut Coin Holders, and several other things. While I was pricing my items I noticed two things. 1) people who have like items usually DO NOT have them in stock and ships the next day because 90% of everyone on Etsy is selling to order, and 2) Many people are selling Crap for top dollar. Here is an example, I saw a cutout for a wood flag, it was a blank cutout for a small flag that was done in PLYWOOD and the person is selling them for $50! I can make larger ones out of Pine and sell them for $50 LOL…

The thing that I am trying to tell you is that women are smarter than us man when it comes to buying things and what they are willing to pay for. I think what you did here looks great but I would not buy it but my wife might and so would yours apparently so you should listen to her. If she tells you to see it for $500 then you sell it for $525 so you get out of the habit of underselling yourself. You MUST break that because turning a small hobby into a business will never work if you are underselling yourself.

In business they used to teach us in business school that you should price your goods 4 times the value of what your cost is, that is materials, labor, marketing, shipping etc. UNLESS some of those cost are passed to the customer like shipping usually is.

So these people selling on Etsy/Facebook etc, are either selling junk, not confident they can do better work, selling great work for WAY too cheap, or scamming and I see that often enough.

Listen to your wife, in this case she is smarter than you LOL…

Have a good evening my friend.

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My one-guy wood shop has been around for fifteen years. It is largely a hobby operation. A well-equipped hobby operation, but hobby just the same.

I charge by the project. Someone wants a bookcase, I tell them a number and we either agree or not. Experience tells me I can go with three times materials and get by. How does one charge for glue drying time? Or working two jobs side by each? Most wood jobs are not linear. So I have determined that personalized cnc’d coasters for a bowling team are $15/ea. A tall bookcase starts at $350.

Accounting would have to be different if I were a production shop or full-on custom studio and had a big nut cover. But I’m just a wood shop guy making things to make me happy and people smile. Just the same, folks like to support the effort so I let them.

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