The Business of Beadwork: Pricing Your Beadwork for Sale

How much would you charge for a beaded necklace like this?

This morning, as some of you may know, I received a message on Etsy about a particular piece that I have listed for sale in my shop. It went something like this:

"about your necklace are you seriously charging that much !!! i saw one idetical but with jade and it was only $50 your price is ridicolous besides a kid could make this minus the edging around the pietersite"

My initial thought was, "Um, really?" How did this person think I would reply to this message? Maybe something like this:

"Oh, my goodness! I didn't realize that I was overpricing my work! How helpful of you to drop me such a direct note to let me know that I'm heading down the road to failure because I am charging too much for my handmade work! Would you like me to knock $85 off the price for you? And can I get you some cocoa with that?"

Or possibly:

"You appear to have confused my work with that which is made by child labor in a sweat shop for a dime a day. So sorry."

But snark and sarcasm aside, if you're trying to earn some extra money by selling your finished beadwork, you'll need to know how to price your beadwork appropriately. Underpricing your work can be just as bad as overpricing your work, so it's important to be comfortable with the prices you set.

A Basic Formula For Pricing Your Finished Beadwork

Pricing your beaded jewelry is probably one of the hardest things you will encounter when you start turning your beading into a business. But if you want to make money selling your beaded jewelry, then you have to make sure that you price your work fairly to include at least two things: the cost of your materials and a fee for your time.

Most people will balk when I tell them that they should include a fee for the time they spent creating a piece of beaded jewelry. It doesn't matter if you did it in your spare time or as your full-time occupation. You wouldn't go to work at a job for forty hours every week and then tell your boss not to pay you for the time you spent at the office, right? It's the same with the time that you spend creating beaded jewelry to sell for your business.

The basic formula for pricing your beadwork should be:

1. Your cost of materials + anywhere from 25% to 40% for profit

2. Fee for your time. This can range anywhere from $5 to $20, depending on what you are comfortable with charging, but I encourage new artists to charge at least $8 to $10 an hour for their time.

You can also include any overhead charges that you might pay every year for your business, such as electricity for your studio (if you have one) or insurance. Those who make lampwork glass beads should also factor in the costs of propane and oxygen.

But No One Will Pay THAT Much!

So, you've finished your piece of beaded jewelry for your business, done your math to calculate the price of the finished piece, and . . . you have sticker shock. You've suddenly convinced yourself that no one will pay THAT much for a piece of handmade beaded jewelry.

But remember, you're not trying to sell this piece as a bargain. You're not appealing to the customer who wants to buy her jewelry for pennies at a big-box store or even a department store. You're trying to sell your work to the customer who understands and appreciates handmade jewelry for what it is: a piece of wearable art.

No one says you have to charge the full amount that you calculate based on the formula I showed you. However, I always encourage bead artists to at least include a fee, however small, for their time. If you want to nurture yourself as an artist (and as a businessperson!), you should start thinking of your time and your skills as valuable commodities. The final price of your finished beadwork should reflect that!

When you're pricing your beadwork for sale, you also want to think carefully about underpricing your beadwork. Underpricing (like asking $25 for a peyote-stitched needle case) doesn't help anyone. Underpricing your work can backfire on you, too – to some buyers, a low price signifies inferior quality beads or poor workmanship.

The good news is that there are plenty of venues out there for selling your handmade beadwork at a fair price. It takes a little bit of research and a little bit of planning, but you CAN find people out there who will purchase and love your beadwork.

The Bottom Line

Being in the business of selling your finished beadwork means that if you want to have a successful business, you need to make a profit. How much profit you make it entirely up to you. Take the time to price your work fairly (and seek out the best market for selling handmade beaded jewelry and finished beadwork) and you just might be able to turn your favorite hobby into a profitable side business!

Have you struggled with pricing your beadwork? Share your questions, thoughts and formulas for pricing your beadwork here on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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