How do I price my beaded jewellery?

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How do I price my beaded jewellery? If someone asks you to make a piece of beadwork for them, this could be your first order, even if they are your best friend and it was just a casual request over a coffee and a chat. If you’re making it as a gift, there’s no problem, but if they offer to pay for the item, how do you decide what to charge?

Well the formula is easy: materials cost + labour cost + overheads

First make a list of the materials that the piece needs. How many beads, what types and what colours. Does it need a clasp or any other findings? What kind of stringing material and how much?

Now you have your list, you need to get prices for each item. If you’re buying everything new, then you’ll have the cost on your bill. If you’re using materials you have in stock, then you’ll need to track down where you bought them and how much you paid. Mostly the price and quantity will be on the pack in which your materials are stored, but if you have transferred them into some other kind of purpose-made storage, you may have a bit of searching to do. I buy a lot of my materials online and I have a few favourite bead shops, so if I can’t find the price on the packet, I will have a fair idea of where I bought it and I just check the website for pricing. If this is all a bit too much, at worst you can take an educated guess on your materials cost, particularly if this piece is really just a favour for a friend and you’re not too worried about making sure you are paid properly.

Right, now you have a materials cost, you need a labour cost. How long will it take you to make the piece? That’s the easy bit. The hard part is deciding how much you are going to charge for your time. In some countries, there is a set minimum wage and legally nobody should be working for less than this. However, the minimum wage is for basic unskilled labour, but beading is a skilled craft, so does that mean you should charge more for your time? How much more? Is there another job to which you can compare this work and if so, how much would you earn per hour doing that job? In technical speak, this is a ‘benchmark’ and may be useful to know to justify your labour wage. Going to the other extreme, you are working for yourself, this may be just a hobby, so perhaps you don’t want to be paid for your time, or this payment is just a token. There’s nothing to stop you from giving your time for free or for very little money.

Personally, I think time is a valuable commodity, especially in the modern world where there are so many demands upon it. If you have decided to set up a business, however informally, you should be charging a sensible rate for your time because this is a real business cost. If you are doing a favour for a friend, then the time you give to it may well be the gift of friendship, but just be very clear about what you are doing and what you hope to achieve.

Finally, you may or may not want to include a percentage to cover overheads. Again, if you are running a business, you will be using a space, even if it is in your own home, so that would cost rent, heating, lighting. You will also be telling people that you are selling your work, so the costs of doing that (it can be printing business cards, paying for an advert or paying for a website) need to be covered somehow. The best way is to spread that across all your sales. As with labour costs, the amount you allocate to overheads is hard to determine and quite personal. In a retail shop, they will mark up the basic cost of the goods (materials plus labour) by 200% – 250% to cover their overheads and provide some profit. In the craft world, it tends to be more like an allocation of 25%-50% for overheads.

At the end of the day, if you sit down and make a list of everything outlined above, putting your ideal figures against it, see what price comes out. This is the ‘sanity check’. If you’re looking at several hundred pounds for a simple strung bracelet with very ordinary beads, then you will need to adjust something! Maybe take a look at your labour cost – either choose a lower rate or perhaps allocate fewer hours to the project. Check what overheads you are charging – can you reasonably justify them? If you feel your price is reasonable and you can justify it, then stick with it. Let the market test it. If the market is your friend then check whether they are happy to pay that price. If the market is a local craft fair then take your stock along and see what happens! You may first want to check the advice on selling at craft fairs though…

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