The Lampshade Lady Blog

Decorative Hand-Crafted Lampshades

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On Pricing our Work or perhaps, did we make a profit?

         Pricing our craft/art work...this is a question I have been asked lately.
        Is lampshade making a profitable business? another question asked.

            These are 2 questions I have been answering lately. My answer is never quite clear and most likely usually sort of vague. There are so many variables to both these questions. I have found pricing to be on of the hardest of all questions in my early years.
            WHEN do we get the confidence to charge the price we should really get for our work??? It took me years to have the courage to really get the $$$ for my lampshades. Really, YEARS... Granted, I live in a rural area, but that said, it is an area with relative wealth in nearby towns. Always a good early years I made many a trek down to the gold coast in Conn.
            Money was loose and the wives we all too happy to spend and spend to deck their homes. I always remember a particular customer at one show; I had to tell her she'd bought enough.... can you imagine... I must have been stupid. But it was the time of great excess and 13 lampshades was enough.... I love my Conn. customers; they were my perfect customer demographics and many had 2nd homes in Vermont. The good part was that they thought my prices were CHEAP... and my Vermont customers thought my prices were expensive. But all in all I thought the prices were fair.
                               HOW DO I PRICE MY WORK????  or yours   ???
           I consider the price of my materials + my time (free, not...anymore) + expenses= lampshade
When I find my choice vintage fabrics I need to consider if I am able to make a profit. I know.... that IS the point, but at times I don't. Once in a blue moon I find a fabric or embroidery that is dynamite and damn expensive, but being the fabric lover I HAVE TO BUY IT.  Sometimes it's more than a blue moon, but what the heck: it was pure joy to work with. Think of it, would you rather work with some cruddy fabric from the chain fabric store down at the mall or a beautiful piece of linen or vintage fabric.
        I'm just thinking of the red, white and blue stars fabric.... gives me goose bumps to think of the terrible quality and needless to say terrible job on my part. I didn't laminate well, looked all too patriotic. Lets see, where am I going here. I guess what I am trying to say is that we all work harder on things we love. In my business I strive to  go BEYOND just good. I usually try for that place just over the top. Why would I make lampshades that you could buy in a lighting store. I can't compete price wise with China or India. SO, do something they DO NOT DO and do it BETTER. Somewhat brilliantly I figured this out very early in my lampshade making. I worked in The Store in Waitsfield, VT. My boss, friend and owner of the shop,Jackie Rose always said if she had unique products that were hard to find and really special, customers would buy them no matter what the cost; if the LOVED them, they HAD to have them. This was pretty valuable advise for a 21 year old, just college graduate that had no idea where the heck she was headed, BUT I heard it and remembered it.
          This brings me back to pricing and GOOD or GREAT DESIGN. Are we designing something super great or just so so. Yes, sometimes I hit so so, but I shoot for GREAT.... and the GREAT work can be priced accordingly. Not sure this was helpful, but I think you get my drift.
          The question of profit. I'm sure my successful businessman dad is squirming in his seat now, but even he knows there are LOST that the word? I think so. I think of a few things in my shop that are over the top awesome and are just about break even on profit. When I find fabrics I need to consider how many shades can be made out of the piece of fabric. Usually vintage fabric is found in odd lots, maybe a small piece 24" x 30", not too big, but maybe I can make 3 small shades out of it. Sometimes I'll find a whole vintage curtain panel, that can be a better deal. My other favorites are a vintage crewel piece, I will have to round up other fabrics to match or also vintage needlepoints. Vintage Needlepoints are relatively expensive to buy... so I need to make a shade that is more expensive, ie a more complex frame that will garner a higher price.My other favorites are vintage French fabrics are usually small, choice cotton treasures.
            Today I was on a designing roll, which is my MOST favorite kind of day. I'd pulled a bunch of fabrics and embroideries off the shelf a few days ago; they were to be my next projects. It is fun to design. I love to design, if everyday could be a designing day, I'd be happy as a clam. My day flew by... FAST, FAST. I was steaming along, making great shades.... a very good day. I probably put 4-5 shades together today and finished a few of them and prepped a few more,  5 pm arrived before I knew it. So basically today was a profitable day or at least if I sell all the great stuff I made today. And I think everything I made today will sell in the next month or 2.
           Both of these 2 issues are ones that  all creative people need to grapple with. With time and practice we find our target audience and what the market will bare. The times we are currently living in make us all try a little harder to please our customers and make the sale.

P.S. May you find that customer that you need to tell her that she has bought enough!!! and I hope I find her again....

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