What is my hard work really worth?
October 9, 2008 12:28 PM   Subscribe

How much should I charge for a baby blanket I crocheted for an acquaintance?

I was recently commissioned to crochet a baby blanket for a girl I know through work (we do not work together). She offered (naturally) to pay me for it, and suggested she provide a gift card to Micheal's to purchase the yarn. I told her I would buy the yarn and have her reimburse me for that. We did not talk about specific pricing. I am almost done with the project. The yarn was inexpensive ($5 per ball, 4 balls total) and I won't use all of it on this project. I estimate that my total time spent will be about 15 hours. I've never sold my crafts before. What's a reasonable price to ask? Bonus points for suggestions about how to approach the conversation.
P.S. The purchaser has already seen my progress so far, and is really impressed and pleased (yay me!) but we still didn't talk about a price.
posted by purpletangerine to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: $30-$40 seems to be what most of them go for on etsy.
posted by Ostara at 12:42 PM on October 9, 2008

Best answer: Why not scope out what people are charging for similar items on Etsy?

Here's a search for 'crochet baby blanket'.

Search for similar items and submit that as justification for the price that you're charging.
posted by unixrat at 12:44 PM on October 9, 2008

How about you just tell her the price of the materials and ask her to reimburse you for that and add whatever she thinks your 15 hours of labor were worth? My guess is that she will pay you well. I doubt most people could pay you less than $10/hr in good conscience considering babysitters seem to get that kind of jack, and you could possibly get more. It is, after all, a work of art.
posted by fusinski at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2008

Response by poster: Wow! I didn't even think about looking on etsy. Of course the best strategy would be to look for similar items online and how they are priced! Now I feel stupid for wasting my question. Ah well, at least it led me in the right direction. Thanks guys.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:53 PM on October 9, 2008

Best answer: Mrs L (who crochets and knits a lot and enjoys it) suggests as follows:

Yarn cost: $15; labor is 2 1/2 x cost of yarn = 37.50; grand total = $52.50.

If you are uncomfortable charging her this, then deduct 40% of your labor = $22.50, plus yarn $15 = $37.50.

Mrs L does this for her jewelry business and finds it works a treat.

She suggests you present a written itemized bill (showing the discount) to your customer to keep it business-like.
posted by lungtaworld at 12:56 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

wow. $30 for 15 hours of work? that's $2 an hour and REALLY undervalued.

i understand the difficulty of pricing handmade items, and i also understand selling things to friends, and all the issues that brings up.

the problem is, people never want to pay for "labor" they think they just have to cover materials, which means you get no profit. which is lame.

personally, as a knitter, i would charge no less than $200 for a baby blanket (including materials unless it was a super expensive yarn, than i'd charge more). that is HOURS AND HOURS of your time and labor.

however, since your friend will unlikely grok that a handmade baby blanket is worth $200, and since she will see the $30 prices on etsy, she will think you're trying to scam her. which means to preserve good feelings, you probably need to charge her no more than $50.

which brings us to the fact that you should ALWAYSALWAYSALWAYS negotiate a price first. ALWAYS. especially with friends.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:58 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

Make sure you look at the sizes and complexity of the blankets on Etsy. Some of them are small and simple at $35 and others are more labor-intensive at $50+.
posted by barnone at 1:00 PM on October 9, 2008

Best answer: This is a topic of much debate among crocheters and knitters, and probably other crafters - if you are a member of Ravelry, you will find a ton of discussion on this very subject. Handmade clothes and blankets often cost a lot more in terms of materials and labor than the price tag of a similar object in a department store. Even at NC minimum wage ($6.55/hr), your labor cost alone is $98.25.

My knitter/crocheter friend and I whine about this very issue all the time, in fact - it's common to have someone say "hey, I'll pay you $25 if you make me this scarf" when the yarn alone costs $40. I've said, half-jokingly, that we should draft an order form involving an estimate of material/design/labor costs, and give it to anyone soliciting our needlework, and see if anyone bites after that.

Searching for baby blankets or afghans on Etsy might give you an idea of the general going price for handcrafted blankets, though, again, there is a lot of debate on pricing and I've heard complaints that Etsy sellers often have to set their prices much lower than is fair in order to be competitive.

And there's also the point that if you worked on the blanket while you were watching TV or something, does that really count as work? Some say yes, some say no.

However, since you've already made the blanket, and your friend has already agreed to pay, there might not be a huge ton of wiggle room on pricing at this point. She might have assumed she'll be paying $40 total, and might freak out at a $100 blanket. I'd bring this up to her as politely and diplomatically as possible - perhaps say something like "This is my first time crocheting a commission, so I have not priced my work before, and I apologize for not working this out sooner. The materials cost X, and I spent Y hours working on this. Given that, what would you consider a price that is fair to both of us?"

And in the future, give someone an estimate before you start :)
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:02 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

purpletangerine writes "Wow! I didn't even think about looking on etsy. Of course the best strategy would be to look for similar items online and how they are priced!"

Stuff on etsy isn't commissioned; there's added value in being bale to say "I want such-and-such", over and above picking from what happens to be available on etsy.
posted by orthogonality at 1:02 PM on October 9, 2008

Response by poster: Upon review, and looking at Etsy, I think maybe I still need some help. Really what I want to know is what you would feel comfortable paying for an item like this.
Etsy prices range from $15 to $300 (granted most of the higher prices correspond to really, really artistic creations... but not all). Most crafters that I am in touch with seem to value their time pretty high... but consumers are used to underpaying I think. I want to be fair to myself and the purchaser; and I also like the idea of selling future projects.
Thanks lungtaworld for the formula. I think that's a good place to start.
posted by purpletangerine at 1:03 PM on October 9, 2008

No way to know what I'd pay for it, since I can't see or touch it. Keep in mind that very many etsy sellers are simply defraying the cost of materials for their hobbies, placing next to no value on their time.

I'm a woodworker, and have to deal gingerly with this sort of thing all the time. For speculative work that goes into a gallery, I just price it at what I think the market will bear. If that doesn't pay me very well then them's the breaks. Even though this was commissioned, you didn't establish a price so you've got to treat it as a spec piece. In other words, tell your customer what you've got invested in it and let her decide what she's willing to pay. Whatever she offers, say thank you, keep the friendship, and maybe do it differently next time.
posted by jon1270 at 1:22 PM on October 9, 2008

Best answer: Right -- you are in a tough spot because no expectations were set at the start. It's not really clear from your question whether her original offer of buying you a gift card to Michael's for the yarn was intended by her to be full payment for the blanket.

I really think you might be best off telling her the cost of the yarn (minus an estimation of whatever balls you didn't use -- she should pay for a whole ball if you only used half -- them's the lumps) and telling her the number of hours you spent working on the blanket. She will have to balance her embarassment over only paying you $2.00/hour for really lovely work against her actual financial situation; we have no idea whether she is doing great or in dire financial straights. But because some blankets can be had off of Etsy for $30-40, it seems poor form to me to try to float something like a $100 price at her for the first time at this late stage of the game. Now you know for next time. Be sure to take lots of pictures of your finished product once it's complete, so you can show to others who want to hire you for the same thing. (If you do plan on doing this more often, it might be worth it to you to have your first few customers insanely happy with the cost and quality of your product, and raise the price on later customers once you've established yourself, anyway. You probably do NOT want her badmouthing you about price if you might do this again for others in your workplace.)
posted by onlyconnect at 1:55 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

I generally hear that for knitted things you'd start at 3 times the cost of the material.
Crochet might be different... it's definitely faster to create a square foot of fabric, but at the same time crochet tends to use more yarn for that same square foot (I've read 1/3 more yarn). So, maybe it evens out and 3x is a good amount.
posted by simplethings at 2:01 PM on October 9, 2008

I agree that you are in a terrible position of doing the work before negotiating a price. Whenever someone offers to "pay" me to knit something for them, I point to the item I'm working on, tell them how many hours of knitting it has taken me to get where I am, and then look them in the eye (this is the important part, you have to come across as confident in these matters) and say, "My time is worth $25 an hour." Granted, I can crochet a baby blanket much much faster than I can knit one. But ten hours of crocheting is still ten hours of work.

This has gotten me commissioned to make two Christmas Stockings, which are highly sentimental things, and replicas of family patterns. It keeps the "I want a special baby blanket for cheap" crowd off my back.

IF she has any idea what you make at your job (or, maybe easier for her to grasp, what she makes at hers, you might suggest that as a jumping off point for price negotiations. Or you could suggest minimum wage. I am quite clear that the commission work I take on is worth more to me than my hourly wage at my job. That's because my job is time I set aside to be at work. Commissioned stuff eats into my leisure time. Which I don't have in unlimited supply.

When people tell me that $25 an hour is outrageous because I obviously love knitting, my response is that every hour I spend making a project for someone else's home is an hour that I never get back. If they were trying to bargain me down in price, they usually back off after that. If not, then I firmly tell them no.

Because this is all water under the bridge for you, I have to agree that you are stuck hoping for the best. You have not managed expectations, yours or hers, at all.

In the future my suggestion to you (and anyone who happens upon this thread and wants to make any kind of wage with a craft) is please, do not allow yourself to work for $2 an hour. Those of us who charge $25 (or even $10) an hour liken that (secretly or not) to folks who cross union strike lines. Bluntly, it upsets us, because a buyer can always say, "But surely I can find someone who will make this item for nothing." And to that I have to respond, yes, you can. Go do that. And we all lose.

Actually, no we don't all lose. I win because I don't take those jobs and it's more fun knitting that I get to make and keep, or give to people I love (or to charity, I do a lot of knitting for charity).

And as mentioned above, Ravelry is a fantastic resource for all kinds of questions about knitting and crochet. With the caveat to search the forums for this very question, because it has been asked. (And I've answered it in several threads!)
posted by bilabial at 2:55 PM on October 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

Lord, this is why I will never sell my knitting no matter how many times people tell me I should.

Next time, arrange this ahead of time. If I was your (noncrafter, I assume) client, I'd have a screaming cow if I found out you were charging me over a hundred dollars for a blanket and I found this out when it was too late for me to say, "No, sorry, that's too expensive."

Yes, I know it's Important To Charge For Labor, and Your Time Is Worth Money, At Least Minimum Wage, Which Means We Add A Hundred On Just For That Alone, but I highly doubt your noob client is expecting to be told she should pay you $200. Hell, I'm a crafter and I would be taken aback, and I do a lot of knitting. The general population has no idea how much money and time these things are gonna take.

At this point, I think you're gonna have to pick a price that's below what the real business people here will tell you. If you start a business of your own doing this, I would do things differently (at the very least, set this price before you start to work). But in this situation, I would go with what onlyconnect said.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:12 PM on October 9, 2008

labor is 2 1/2 x cost of yarn

I fully respect the time it takes to make handcrafted items, but think using math like the above - the general "3 x material cost" for labor - isn't the strongest way to get the point across, even if crafters have realized over the years that it's actually a pretty good metric. If I was a consumer negotiating a price, I'd definitely at least question where the heck that comes from. Seems to me if you're dealing with someone who doesn't know much about valuing handcrafts and may not fully respect the work, grounding the labor cost in real-life examples (carpenters get $15-25/hour, babysitters $8-12/hour, lawnmowers $10-12, or "I deserve more than minimum wage thank you very much") would be much more useful.
posted by mediareport at 4:54 PM on October 9, 2008

Best answer: Part of the reason people really lowball the idea of paying for labour in stuff like this, is that this is a 'hobby' for you, so it's time you enjoyed spending, right? Right? So I can just give you the cost of the yarn and five bucks for your trouble and not feel at all guilty that I just got all that time for free, right?

That's what they're thinking in their heads.

You have to decide if you, personally, are okay with that mindset. Some people are happy to knit or crochet for little more than their material costs, because it lets them pursue their hobby expense-free. Some people want to make a little profit on a per project basis. Some people want to make a reasonable wage for the time they spent. Which one are you?

Another factor to consider is which one should you be. The existence of people in the first group makes it a lot harder for people in groups 2 and especially 3 to justify reasonable prices for their products, so even if you're willing to join group 1, you might think about the affect that would have on others in your cottage industry.

At this point, it's going to be very difficult for you to ask for, say, minimum wage, for your time at this point, because you haven't already discussed this with them, and that's probably well outside the price they had in mind. If you feel really uncomfortable with it, explain the cost of the material and the time it took you and ask them to make you an offer instead. Think about how much you're willing to push back if you don't like the number.

When people hint around asking me to knit them things, I do something very similar to what someone above suggested, just not on paper -- I tell them approximately how long it takes me to design a sweater and prepare for the knitting (swatching, shopping, etc), how much the materials are likely to cost, and how many hours of my knitting time that could be better spent on one of the 12 projects I currently have on needles it will take up. Then I tally all that up based on minimum wage and ballpark it out. It's rarely less than $1000 for an adult sweater and $200 or so for a baby sweater. Oddly enough, no one has ever actually followed through and had me knit them something. Funny that.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:07 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yikes, as a non-knitting, non-crocheting person, I never would have realized it would take that long to make a baby blanket! You're in a tough spot since she offered to buy a gift card...she probably figured she would cover the materials and "throw in a little extra for your time". Just a guess.

But now I feel guilty b/c we received several hand-crocheted blankets from family members for our kiddos, but they never preferred them (b/c their fingers got stuck in them, or maybe they just didn't like the "feel"). I didn't know what to do with them so they've been in vacuum sealed bags.....is there any way I can display them (especially since they don't match) or what else should I do?
posted by texas_blissful at 7:29 PM on October 9, 2008

I want to pop back in to add that I work in a small independent yarn store. The quality of yarn that we carry is better than what you find at chain craft stores, and the cost is higher. So 3x the cost of materials is a very unreliable way to cost out a project. A baby blanket quantity of machine washable yarn at our store could be as little as $20 for an acrylic/nylon or acrylic/wool blend or as much as $80-100 for a "nicer" wool/acrylic blend or 100% superwash wool.

With that range, you're looking at anywhere from $60 to $300 for the exact same labor. And funnily enough, the $300 blanket would be more pleasant to work than the $60 one. (I admit to being a yarn snob. I prefer Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted over Comfort or Encore any day both for color choices and "hand.")

I'd also like to add that part of my reasoning behind pricing items so high is that it gives an extra sense of specialness to the gifts I make of my knitting. This is not to say that I wrap baby booties or comfort afghans with any sort of price tag, literal or metaphorical. But people know that I value my time. So in giving so much of my time it is very obvious that I value the relationship that is (gosh, this is getting anthropological, sorry!) being represented in the gift giving occasion.

Further, my high value of my time extends beyond my knitting. I don't watch television, I take classes that interest me, I hang out with people that I enjoy, and I don't complain about the commitments that I've made because I either know up front what is expected of me, or I bail when the trade off is not in line with the way I want to live my life. This mindset certainly helps me stick to my guns about the knitting for hire stuff.
posted by bilabial at 8:51 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with jenfullmoon. I've never sold a crochet or knit project (now sewing, that's sometimes easier). There's just too much of a disconnect between what people see (the finished product) and the time invested on my part. For example, I'm finishing up a ripple crochet blanket. It will be 6' long (I'm tall, I like long blankets) and has probably used up 16 skeins of Cascade 220 (a nicer wool, 220 yds/ skein). Off the top of my head, it's probably taken 50 hours of work. If I wanted to sell that sucker, I'd have to charge what, at least $700? So I'm giving it away as a gift.
So, if I were you, I would charge the $50 that was favorited, since you didn't have an agreed-on price before, and to keep the peace in your office. Then decide on a rule for any further transactions and be sure to discuss them with the interested buyer before you start major work.
posted by queseyo at 9:02 AM on October 10, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the help. I especially appreciate answers from folks like texas_blissful, who represent the buyer's (or receiver's) perspective. I wasn't expecting this little question to instigate such a discussion (bilabial: please don't be mad at me!). Obviously I know better now how to proceed for future projects, and will just have to see what the buyer thinks is fair for this one.
Thanks again, mefites never fail.
posted by purpletangerine at 8:34 PM on October 10, 2008

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