What it means to ask a crafter for a discount

Have you ever asked for a discount on something handmade at an art show? People don’t often ask for discounts in big name stores but will ask crafters for one. Here is why you shouldn’t.

I want you to do me a favor. Think about your favorite store. Maybe it’s a big national chain or a small local shop. It can be a place you shop at all the time or just on special occasions. Now I want you to imagine that you found something you really wanted, but it is a little more than you wanted to spend. What do you do?  Maybe you sigh to yourself before placing the item back on the shelf or rack, acknowledging that as much as you want it, you can’t justify buying it right now. Perhaps you decide if the store has a sale soon you will buy it then or save up to buy it later. Maybe you are so enamored with this item–I mean, it’s perfect!–that you decide to treat yourself and buy it right now. (We do, after all, deserve a periodic indulgence!)

Or perhaps you decided to be really bold and bring the item to the cash register and asked for a 30% discount. And hey, while you’re at it, why not bring up a few items and ask if you purchase that first item at the regular price and ask if you could get the other items at half price?

Wait, you don’t do that?

Most of us wouldn’t imagine walking into a store and requesting a large discount. At least, not here in the U.S. where that’s not really part of the shopping culture. (And hey, if you do, then you, my friend, have much bigger cajones than I!)

Yet it happens quite frequently with makers. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from fellow crafters of people requesting discounts or BOGO-type deals at shows and on Etsy. It’s happened to me, both in person and online.

[Tweet “If you ask for a discount on something #handmade, would you do that in a large store?”]

Listen, I get it. Handmade things are expensive (or at least, they should be). If I didn’t make my jewelry, I can pretty much guarantee that I would not be able to afford about half of what I make. Do you know what the materials cost is for my chunky Byzantine bracelet, one of my favorite pieces and one of the few items that I do own? (It was a treat to myself after Eve was born.)

large byzantine with heart charm

About $50. (That’s a big reason why I don’t own too many pieces that I made!) For each one of these bracelets I make I’m already out $50. So if the bracelet costs $230, that already brings me down to $180 in what I would bring in. But that $180 hasn’t factored in the time it costs for me to order the supplies, make that bracelet, to ship it and package it, to take photos of it, to list it on Etsy, and to market it. And if I sell it in a store, than typically I only get 50% of the price of the item. If it’s something that involves some metalsmithing, then I also have to factor what it costs for me to be in the studio (I pay each time I go in). Plus there’s also the cost of my tools to make it and the time I have spent perfecting my craft, and so many things I have not factored in.

Like so many other makers who you meet at a craft fair or stumble across on Etsy (if they are legitimately making handmade items, but that’s a whole other post right there) we are one-person shows or a very small team of people working hard to bring you the best possible product we can. We pour our blood, sweat and tears (sometimes literally) into what we do. We do it because we love it. We are passionate about our craft and want to share a piece of ourselves with others.

[Tweet “Makers are passionate about their craft and want to share it, but they also need to get paid!”]

But we still need to get paid for our time. And quite honestly, most of us are guilty of undercharging for what we make. It is the number one thing I have struggled with since opening my Etsy shop. Believe me, I wish I could charge less. When I first started making jewelry, I had this grand idea of making beautiful and affordable jewelry. And I do have some pieces that I feel are affordable for many people (even me!) like my mobius spiral pendant necklaces and earrings.

Linkouture sterling silver and freswater pearl earrings

In reality, I have to charge more for many of my pieces because I don’t want to lose money on what I make. That would just be foolish and it wouldn’t take very long before I had to close my business. And what good would that do anyone?

[Tweet “When asking for a discount on something #handmade, how does it affect the maker’s livelihood?”]

But hey, don’t I sometimes do sales and giveaways? Yes I do, but if you notice, they are not that often (and actually, with less frequency than I used to do them). But I decide when to do them and how much of a discount to give, taking into consideration what that means for my bottom line. They do help increase sales, especially around the holidays, but they also mean less money I am paying myself. So it’s tricky.

I know, fabulous readers, that many of you get it. Many of you are small business owners yourself and understand what it entails to make a living doing it. I’m sure many of you even struggle with your pricing. What I ask of you is to help others to understand. Share this post, or if you see someone you know trying to score a good deal at a craft fair, let them know what that means for the maker.