Friday, December 23, 2011

Seller Beware...

It's universally accepted that "you get what you pay for", but for the seller it's important to consider that your value as an artist or crafter may be determined by the value (monetary) you put on your wares.  This can make selling your art, which you may become attached to, tricky.  There are plenty of blog posts and articles about the hazards of running a business and pricing but my focus here is business & personal...namely dealing with friends (& family).

It's an ugly beast, it really is, to have to deal with the professionality in a personal setting.  For me personally I've run across the issue several times when people who know me personally expect my good will to extend a bit too far, for them to get astronomical deals, or things to be free for them all the time.  Now don't get me wrong.  There are a number of things I'm fine with doing pro-bono or for charity.  And I appreciate what it means to get such gifts as well as I have had many of them this year alone.  But I understand limits, courtesy, and professionality.  The instances I am talking about exhibit those who either don't or aren't considering them.

Way back in early 2010 (maybe even super late 2009) I had someone talk to me about a custom order.  Now my policy typically is that I don't do any work without payment.  Usually it requires me doing something from scratch, to a certain custom size or design and is likely going to take at least two times the work as anything I have already finished.  I love custom orders because they can be a refreshing challenge, what I don't love about them is the explaining of the details to buyers who may have no idea what real skill and/or work is going into something.  It's a necessary evil for artists and crafters though.  People are used to mass manufactured items that are already made and were likely made by machines or mass labor forces.  These items may be cheaply made, either by companies paying the workforce little, or dividing the labor up so that no one person does much work, or by automatic it's production with machinery.  For the purposes of things that are best produced en masse or are generic this is perfectly fine.  I use many things derived from this method myself.  For example, I go to the store for jeans rather than going to a tailor.

This convenience has done the handcrafter and artist a bit of a disservice (while also helping them by allowing their supplies to be more conveniently and cheaply purchased in some cases) as the public wants it inexpensive and wants it now.  People, if they don't do the craft or art you're doing easily won't understand the effort or skill involved.  The particular piece in question do to it's fine detail work too 48 hours to do...Two full days straight worth of hours.  My asking price in general reflects what it should by, but I am cutting the person a deal because they are a friend and because the estimate I gave them at the outset wasn't anywhere near what it is now.  (However, I've had to revamp my pricing, start including labor, and rework some things.)  Still such a large discount should be appreciated rather than complained about.

But between me and you, it's not even that they couldn't pay the full amount it's worth.  I made an error and I won't penalize them for it.  My issue is that in the entire process I have received no direct communication from them about it.  I have had to bring it up each time - which gets sticky when they start off a conversation with "woe as me things are so tough here, I don't have money for this or that...etc".  I have had this person do me favors before and I've done the same.  But whenever I deal with someone and money is involved (or even just time) I make myself very clear what I can and can't do...and keep them updated.  Which is what it all boils down to.  I'm not getting the courtesy that I deserve as their friend, that I have given and then some and that I give to others.

So seller beware.  It's a tricky road when dealing with friends and family and professionality can easily go by the wayside... many things, sew little thyme for ewe and eye...

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