We've mentioned previously at a few articles about sewing to sell, or selling what you sew, either online in marketplaces like Etsy, or locally at craft fairs. For example, How to get traffic to your Etsy Shop.
In the sewing chat group, people often post pictures of what they've made and make inquiries about what to sell it for. Or just ask for general advice on how to price to sell, based on the cost of materials used etc. Too often the likely selling price is no more than the cost of the materials, so you don't make a profit, or even get compensated for your time.
Sadly some people just don't recognize the value of ‘hand-made' goods these days so you can't always achieve the price you need. Many people still do, however (it's just finding the right venue to sell to them) and there are plenty of people sewing to sell, enjoying their work and making enough money.
Let's look at it all in more detail.
How to price what you sew
Firstly let's think about our expenses as these are often the easiest to identify, although there are often many hidden selling expenses you might not think of initially that need to be taken into account. Throughout these examples, I'll use a bag as a typical project that you might sew to sell. So what are the costs associated with making a bag?
Consumables and materials expenses:
- Fabric – maybe more than one fabric
- Interfacing, fleece, and stabilizers
- Hardware such as handles, locks, bag feet etc
- Other supplies – elastic, trim, solid base materials, zippers
- Your pattern – can be used many times over so split the cost accordingly
Other costs that don't perhaps come immediately to mind but should be considered:
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- Wear and tear on your sewing machine
- Machine needles
- Electricity for your machine, lighting etc as you work
Selling fees – online:
- Listing fees
- Percentage fee when your item sells
- Website expenses if you have one, and newsletter expenses
- Payment gateway expenses, such as PayPal fees
- Postage expenses such as mailing envelopes, tape, business cards, tissue paper
- Fuel to drive your parcels to the post office
Selling fees – craft fairs:
- Cost of your stall
- Fuel driving to the craft fair
- Display expenses – table or display equipment, signage etc
- Bags for your customer's purchases
- Promotional materials – business cards or leaflets
- Phone calls with organizers
Wow, that's a lot of expenses before you've even thought about your time. You MUST take your time into account. When you sew to sell, you are working for yourself albeit informally, so you need to pay yourself a living wage for your time, or what has been the point of all that hard work? Let's think about that next.
Costing for your time
Perhaps you don't consider your sewing time as work, because you enjoy doing it and if you can make a few dollars by selling what you sew, even better. But what if you were spending that time doing something else, an actual paid job. Even if you enjoyed your job, you'd still expect to be paid for the time you spend doing it and you should expect to be paid for your sewing and creating time too if the end product is a product to sell.
Just because you are working from home, in your spare time, or after the kids have gone to bed – that doesn't make your time any less valuable. You may, however, decide that your acceptable hourly rate for flexible hours and working from home is less than you would consider the minimum if you had a regular job, and that's OK too.
In the industrial sewing industry you might be paid two ways:
- Piecework – paid a flat wage depending on the number of garments/items you made that passed quality inspection
- Hourly rate.
So how do you want to ‘pay' yourself for your time when you sew? What hourly rate do you need to make sewing a worthwhile occupation and use of your time if you are doing it as a ‘job'?
Don't forget to include ALL of your time, such as the time needed to buy supplies, photograph and list your items online if applicable, deal with orders admin, package items and drive them to the post office.
How to work out a selling price
For a start, you'll need to take into account the costs of your materials and the other expenses we've talked about above if any of these apply to you. Then consider your hourly wage you want to pay yourself. There are a number of formulas you might work through to see which works best for your personal scenario.
Here are a few of the ways you might work out your selling price (these are all ways suggested by the members of the Sewing Chat Group for how they work out their selling prices):
- Materials cost x a multiple of your choice (2 or 3 times is common)
- Materials cost plus your hourly rate
- A multiple of 1 or 2 above, less for wholesale, more for retail
- See what others are charging for similar items and charge the same if you can make a profit from that price
Which method works for your products depends on whether they are materials and expenses intensive or labor intensive.
What do other sellers say?
I surveyed some sellers who sew things for money and here are their personal methods and suggestions.
Vicky says – “I cost out materials (including thread, zips etc, not just fabric), I then charge £10/hr (working out sewing time when making a few of the same items at the same time which is always quicker) I do not factor in time for photography and listing the item. Sell via Etsy:) I also factor in Etsy/Paypal fees, and charge at cost postage (although I do at times get that wrong!) – personally hate being charged more postage than the postage and packaging materials cost!!
Kelly says – “I sell at few things at Christmas time. I've found that most people aren't willing to pay what a handmade item is worth in time and materials but I have a few holiday items that are quick to make that sell well. I've found that figuring my materials cost and the time I put into something doesn't always result in a competitive price. I research what similar items, both handmade and commercially produced, are selling for and what people are willing to pay for an item, then decide if selling the item for a competitive price is worth my time and the cost of materials and fees before I decide to sell it. My listing prices are based purely on what I've found people are willing to pay for an item and what price will make it worth it to me to make it. That makes my “hourly rate” for myself vary depending on the item. I track the cost of materials and the time it takes me to make items to make sure I'm not making too little to make it worth my time but also to make sure I'm not completely ripping off the customer.”
Gina says – “I started selling on Etsy back in July of last year. I do not use any special formula to come up with cost. The first thing I did, was I went on Etsy and I searched for the product I was intending on selling. After I made this list I evaluated my product and compared my quality to theirs. That gave me a good ‘”range” that I knew I should be in. Next, I created a spreadsheet and began listing out all of my “cost of materials”. On Etsy, you not only have to calculate the costs but also all the Etsy fees.
Once I had this number I then decided on how much I wanted to make in order to make it worth my time. I sew concealed carry purses. It takes me about 15-20 hrs to make a purse. If I paid myself $10.00 and hour, I would not have any sales. I basically came up with a $ amount that would make me happy. An amount that would be worth my while and would motivate me to make another one and another one, without getting burned out. I think it also has a lot to do with the demand of your product. If the demand for your product is high, and there are few sellers on Etsy in your niche, then you might be able to pay yourself a little more. smile emoticon Hope this helps!”
Lauren says – “I started selling long before blogging. And I used to undersell my products and myself. Now, I know that doing that devalues my work, and everyone else's around me. So I try and sell items that I know I can make quickly or cheaply, but that people are still willing to pay a decent price for. I do ‘pay' myself for my time. I charge postage and packing in my post fees, so don't lose any money that way. I also like to price my goods based on what other experts in my field are charging, so that I'm comparative (if possible). I have also begun collecting a passive income selling PDF templates for applique. That helps supplement sales of goods.”
The sewing chat group threads
Check out some of the recent threads on this subject in our sewing chat group. It's a closed group to stop the spammers so you'll need to join us if you haven't already in order to read these discussions:
Further suggested reading
This book begins with the quote: “If you really do put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.” Gets great feedback on Amazon and looks like a very interesting read whether you are interested in selling sewing crafts or any other crafts too.
Sewing for profit. Projects that are great to make to sell. We'll be putting together a round up of sewing projects we think are ideal for sewing to sell, either because they use smaller or more reasonably priced materials, or because they are so darned cute they are always in demand!
Watch out for this next article in our series coming out on 8th July.
What do you think?
Do you sell what you sew? How do you work out your selling prices? Do you make a good living, or just do it to cover the cost of your materials? Let us know in the comments.