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a video about pricing your work - by time  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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An interesting video for those of us who work with our hands.



All I can think when watching this is the line from the Stan Rogers song:  "as in the case of the carpenter's mate, your linguistic enlightenment might arrive late, and you could end up getting screwed." So I had to watch it again.


I also think it is missing some very important points about quality.  I price by the quality and use time as a rough judge.  How much time SHOULD it take me to make this if I was efficient?  How much LONGER will this item last than the industrial equivalent?  This is the time I judge by. 
 
Rus Williams
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I like this. I like how straight he is. 50 bucks an hour for a self employed person is peanuts. Gotta pay tax, insurance, holiday pay, sick pay, gotta invest in machinery, tools, vehicles or workspace. Plus advertising, etc etc. Plus, depending on the job, there is a factor of risk. Also it's hard to bill for a 40 hour week, week in week out. Chasing jobs cost time and money.

Once I started taking myself seriously, the market started taking me seriously. Sure I didn't get every job, but getting bad jobs at a poorly paid rate is no fun at all.

Now I make the point about the difference between a quote and an estimate. A quote will always be on the high side because of the risk involved. An estimate depends on what happens when I actually start doing the work and I let the customer know what that can entail. Good, and honest, communication is what I build my business on.
 
r ranson
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Some more thoughts on this.

I think the current trend in self-employment pricing is very focused on the artisan and how much time they put in.  I think that's the wrong focus.  I think a better focus would be the object they are creating not how long it took them.

For example, if I weave cotton towels, it can take me up to 50 hours for 5 towels.  I'm brand spanking new at weaving towels.  Of course, it's going to take longer.  My mentor can weave 5 towels in under 10 hours.  Her towels are fantastic.  They look better than mine, they feel better than mine.  Most important to me, they last longer than mine.  Yet, if we were to focus on how long it took to make them, mine would be five times more expensive than hers. 

At $20 an hour, my towels come in at $200 each (not including materials and commission which brings it to $273).  I would be ashamed to charge that much for a towel that isn't amazing.  Mine are not amazing yet.  But they will be.  I don't know if I could see charging that much for one towel even when they are amazing.  Once I get my skill up there, the time it takes to make towels will go down very quickly.  The quality of the towels will go up.  So my future towels would be worth less than my practice ones?  I don't think that's the right way, but this is what happens when we focus our pricing on the creator as if they were a wage worker (not a skilled artisan).

Instead, what would it look like if we focused the pricing on the product? 

If I wanted to price my towels, I would use how long it SHOULD take me to make them.  2 hours per towel gives me $40 per towel, plus $10 (material) plus 30% (commission if I was selling in a shop).  That gives me $65 per towel as a starting place to think about how much to charge.  To a person in my income bracket, that seems like an expensive towel.  But if I had the money and the item was of sufficient quality, that would be a steel. 

If it takes more time than it 'should', that's my fault and I'm not going to punishing the customer for that.  I'll use it as motivation to improve my process until I can make a towel in under an hour (and still price by how long it 'should' take me).  Most crafts have an approximate time it would take a person of reasonable skill to make.  That's what I use when I say how long it 'should' take me to make it.  If my skill is better and my method more efficient, then I win.  If I'm less efficient than the average, then I loose.  This motivates me to improve.

Then I look at the industrial equivalent.  I can buy a cotton towel of medium quality for $10.  This towel lasts me 1 to 2 years before it get's stained or full of holes.  Let's say 2 years even if in reality it's usually 1.  Would my handwoven towels last 13 years of daily use?  No.  But my mentor's would.  Hers last about 15 to 20 years.  My towels (at a guess) last about 6 to 8.  By this standard, my towels would only be about $30 whereas my mentor's towels would be about $150.  However, who's going to pay $150 for a hand towel?

Well, actually, some people do spend that much on a handwoven hand towel.  But then again, not many people can afford it.  So I take a moment to look at the people who I want to buy my towels.  If I price it too low, then I'm saying that I don't think what I made is of very good quality.  If I price it too high, then not everyone can afford it.   I think, depending on the complexity of the weave, the quality of the finished cloth and the perceived customer base, between $40 to $70 per towel is a very good price to charge.  $40 is on the low side, as there are industrial hand towels for more than that, but $40 gives me the opportunity to reach a wider customer base - which is an important thing for me as it shows them the quality of handmade goods.  As my skill improves, I may increase the price.


In conclusion:  Yes, I think handmade goods are underpriced.

However, pricing the object like we are wage workers is unfair to the customers and artisan alike. 

I would much rather see a pricing that is based on the quality of the object.  I think this would help to train customers to understand that an artisan is not a factory worker.  It also helps the creator to constantly improve their skill, method and cost of materials.  Charging by time does not. 



 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I do all of the harvesting on my farm by hand. I try to pay attention to how much labor is required to grow and harvest each crop. Often times, I find myself amazed at how inexpensively the industrialized mega-corporations can grow food. Other times, I find myself amazed at how much they charge for things that are so simple to grow and easy to harvest.

It really helped me as a farmer when I stopped paying attention to how things are priced at the grocery store, and started pricing things based on how much labor it takes me to grow the crop. Raspberries have to be picked one at a time, and bring in less than 2 cents per fruit. Zucchini are also picked one at a time, but bring 50 cents per fruit. Winter squash are picked one at a time, but bring in $2 to $4 per fruit. The berries are highly perishable. They barely make it to market the next day if picked in late evening. Zucchini can be picked in the morning the day before market. Winter squash can be picked weeks ahead of time. So if I have to make a choice between picking a truck full of winter squash, or a flat of raspberries, I typically choose to pick the squash, because my hourly return-on-labor  is higher.

Often times, the fruits and vegetables that I grow are not even the same product as sold by the grocery stores. My muskmelons are soft, fully-ripe, sweet, and highly aromatic. They bear little resemblance to the hard, crunchy, tasteless, bland cantaloupes that the grocery store carries. Same thing with strawberries. I used to worry about asking 3X grocery store prices for strawberries, but I gave up that notion after realizing that they are not the same product.

On the other hand, yellow mustard spice is super easy to grow and harvest by hand. I would be embarrassed to ask grocery store prices for something that is so easy for me as a farmer.

Yellow Mustard Spice






 
r ranson
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Some more thoughts.

With farmers like Joseph, how much time each crop takes is a good starting point.  But maybe that's all it is.

When Joseph sells produce, he's sharing generations of land improvements and info structure.  Generations of knowledge.  Years of plant breeding - of creating the impossible.  By extension, he's providing inspiration for others to follow his example.  He's educating the customer about all sorts of things, most importantly that food can taste GOOD!  If we look at how long it takes him to pick each fruit, we neglect these more important aspects.  What else, other than time, could we use to generate a price for these products? 

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Sometimes I like to have fun with my plant breeding...



The asking price for this tomato didn't come anywhere near paying for the labor involved in developing it.

I am still eating food from plants that were first planted by my great-great-great grandmother and her peers. I approach my plant breeding with that history in mind. I share seeds widely with my community. When I'm in my old(er) age, my community will be feeding me, and my children, and grand-children. What I am saying? My community is already feeding us.

There is one guy that comes to market every week and gives me a dollar: Whether or not he buys anything. I feel honored every time.
 
Nolan Zemanski
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I don't feel like this is truly permaculture. Permaculture should be something that's accessible to all if its what the teacher in this instance believes in. Shouldn't we be trying to spread our knowledge, that is supposedly what is going to save the world, as best we can and with permaculture principles built into the method of spreading it?
Doesn't it make more sense to make our work donation based? The people that are going to attend are most likely people that would also be putting their money towards good causes and therefore it shouldn't matter as much that their money ends up in your hands or theirs. We all have ideals we want to achieve. The ideal world would be one in which everyone was alright with others taking advantage of them. Although this shouldn't even be considered others taking advantage of another. This should be simply spreading the truth by all means necessary. There are people that are sacrificing their comfort for all of us that would have to spend a half-years worth of savings just to buy one of this guy's wine glass holders. I personally had a fortunate/unfortunate event in my life that led to a bit of financial security. But I'm still very mindful about how I spend, and sometimes the price of something is what deters me from spending--not because it is something I can't afford, but more because it seems like something that is not available for everyone, something that is not sustainable.
 
Ryan Barrett
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

On the other hand, yellow mustard spice is super easy to grow and harvest by hand. I would be embarrassed to ask grocery store prices for something that is so easy for me as a farmer.



I think it sounds like a good way to make up the lost wages on the other crops.
(I sure hope you sell a few of those tomatoes one day. )
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Nolan Zemanski wrote:I don't feel like this is truly permaculture. Permaculture should be something that's accessible to all if its what the teacher in this instance believes in. Shouldn't we be trying to spread our knowledge, that is supposedly what is going to save the world, as best we can and with permaculture principles built into the method of spreading it?
Doesn't it make more sense to make our work donation based? The people that are going to attend are most likely people that would also be putting their money towards good causes and therefore it shouldn't matter as much that their money ends up in your hands or theirs.

Sure in theory. But we live in a world with expenses. All the social capital in the world won't pay your debts. Even if you get everything paid off, there's still taxes and repairs to be made, and investments to be made into further progress.

Capital is the energy used to drive progress, so profit is a good thing so long as it isn't obtained by Extraction.
 
Mike Hoag
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Thanks for sharing, helpful video and thread.

Many of the tasks I do have to be measured by the hour. I use a flexible scale for the various tasks I end up doing on a diverse homestead operation, with minimum rate of $30/hour. Many things pay a much higher rate, but if they don't pay at least that, then they're not worth my time. My target average is $50/hour.  Plus, I don't like managing volunteers or employees, so I'd want to pay myself a much higher "managerial rate" for that kind of work. $100/hour might be worth it. Many farms I've worked on, the farmers essentially fall into being managers but pay themselves $5/hour (or less) for doing managerial work and pay their employees three times that for walking around poorly zoned farms half the day. And I count every hour.

Doing that kind of math means we've evolved toward a lucrative living with the land as we gradually put more energy into efforts with a better ROI and cut out activities that never paid for themselves. It's also meant I spend more of my time doing stuff I actually like, rather than stuff I don't like. Follow the money and really quickly you figure out what's a viable full time living (or what meets your own needs) and what's hobby farming.

Not only does valuing my work that way help me obtain a yield and keep the good work going, but i've also found it makes my Permaculture activism more effective, as I focus more on products and services that people actually want enough to pay for, instead of what my inner hippie THINKS they should be donating money to support. 
 
r ranson
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Nolan Zemanski wrote:I don't feel like this is truly permaculture. Permaculture should be something that's accessible to all if its what the teacher in this instance believes in. Shouldn't we be trying to spread our knowledge, that is supposedly what is going to save the world, as best we can and with permaculture principles built into the method of spreading it?
Doesn't it make more sense to make our work donation based? The people that are going to attend are most likely people that would also be putting their money towards good causes and therefore it shouldn't matter as much that their money ends up in your hands or theirs. We all have ideals we want to achieve. The ideal world would be one in which everyone was alright with others taking advantage of them. Although this shouldn't even be considered others taking advantage of another. This should be simply spreading the truth by all means necessary. There are people that are sacrificing their comfort for all of us that would have to spend a half-years worth of savings just to buy one of this guy's wine glass holders. I personally had a fortunate/unfortunate event in my life that led to a bit of financial security. But I'm still very mindful about how I spend, and sometimes the price of something is what deters me from spending--not because it is something I can't afford, but more because it seems like something that is not available for everyone, something that is not sustainable.


I think this is a wonderful way to look at things and I agree with you, this video is not permaculture.  That's why I posted it because I disagree so strongly with his idea of transforming artisans into slave wage workers. 

With my garden and my pension, I have just enough food to feel comfortable.  I rely heavily on my other income for luxuries like clothing.  It would be lovely to give everything away to charity like most of the other craftspeople in my circle.  But sorry, I HAVE to charge for my creations.    My health prevents me from holding down a wage job but I've taken the opportunity to improve my skills and make things when I can. 

Yes, I suppose it does influence me when I price my items.  It makes me price lower than I is ideal because I empathize with people who cannot afford quality.  By being forced to buy low quality they have to spend more money on the same goods than higher income brackets.  To me, this is intolerable.  But if I price too low, no one buys it because they feel the price reflects the quality.  It's hard to find a middle ground.

For me, I feel that social responsibility is a huge element to any pricing.  I would love it if people could consider this.

I remember a bit on Fukuoka's book One Straw Revolution where he was furious to learn that people were putting a high price tag on his oranges because they were organic.  He refused to sell to that shop anymore because his oranages took less effort, less expense, less environmental impact to make - therefore he required that his oranges cost less to buy than regular oranges. 

I don't know Joseph's situation, but in my ideal view, he is charging the true price of mustard seed.  If he charged the going rate to make up for other losses then that wouldn't teach the customers the true value of things.  If he charges what they actually cost him to make, then maybe it will influence the greater marketplace and all over the world, people will stop gouging for mustard seeds.  One tiny spice, I know, but a huge step in the right direction. 

I wonder, as crafspeople, maybe that's what's most important.  Teaching our customers the true value of things. 

 
Nolan Zemanski
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
Nolan Zemanski wrote:I don't feel like this is truly permaculture. Permaculture should be something that's accessible to all if its what the teacher in this instance believes in. Shouldn't we be trying to spread our knowledge, that is supposedly what is going to save the world, as best we can and with permaculture principles built into the method of spreading it?
Doesn't it make more sense to make our work donation based? The people that are going to attend are most likely people that would also be putting their money towards good causes and therefore it shouldn't matter as much that their money ends up in your hands or theirs.

Sure in theory. But we live in a world with expenses. All the social capital in the world won't pay your debts. Even if you get everything paid off, there's still taxes and repairs to be made, and investments to be made into further progress.

Capital is the energy used to drive progress, so profit is a good thing so long as it isn't obtained by Extraction.


True.
Then hopefully we can reach a point in which our customers understand this and pay what they can. So by being a pioneering example and explaining the work that goes into your product maybe we could achieve this. That would of course take a lot on your part, but by following this guy's method you're only feeding the ideology of the world with high expenses/taxes, etc.
 
Nolan Zemanski
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R Ranson wrote:
With my garden and my pension, I have just enough food to feel comfortable.  I rely heavily on my other income for luxuries like clothing... to the point where I'm now cutting up my drapes because I need a new jacket... it's drapes or jacket, not both.  This gives you some idea where my income bracket is.  It would be lovely to give everything away to charity like most of the other craftspeople in my circle.  But sorry, I HAVE to charge for my creations.  I depend on it for the luxuries like salt and (if I can afford it next spring) sweet potato starts.  My health prevents me from holding down a wage job but I've taken the opportunity to improve my skills and make things when I can.


I think that makes sense and I guess my statement was a bit general. It should entirely depend on your situation.

R Ranson wrote: For me, I feel that social responsibility is a huge element to any pricing.  I would love it if people could consider this.

I remember a bit on Fukuoka's book One Straw Revolution where he was furious to learn that people were putting a high price tag on his oranges because they were organic.  He refused to sell to that shop anymore because his oranages took less effort, less expense, less environmental impact to make - therefore they should cost less to buy than regular oranges.
  

This is great.

R Ranson wrote: I don't know Joseph's situation, but in my ideal view, he is charging the true price of mustard seed.  If he charged the going rate to make up for other losses then that wouldn't teach the customers the true value of things.  If he charges what they actually cost him to make, then maybe it will influence the greater marketplace and all over the world, people will stop gouging for mustard seeds.  One tiny spice, I know, but a huge step in the right direction. 

I wonder, as crafspeople, maybe that's what's most important.  Teaching our customers the true value of things.


Maybe, and maybe we teach them not by charging so much to begin with, but by educating about them how much work goes into the product and why corporations can charge so little. Hopefully this will influence them and you can work out a price thats fair based off your work, your needs, and their situation and needs. But maybe that's too complicated unless you have a decent relationship with this person already, or have something written out that you can hand out to customers.
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Hans Quistorff
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Insurance companies consider $20 for 15 minutes of the therapy I do a reasonable price. My skill level and experience means I can often achieve in 15 minutes what takes an hour by others but that is hard for them to judge. Most of my clients are on limited income and insurance will not pay for my service. So my pricing speech starts with the above and concludes with: I require payment for at least the first 15 minutes but I will give you as much time as is needed. You can pay for as many 15 minutes segments as fits your budget. 50% pay $20,  40% pay more, 10% pay $80/hour because they know they can work an extra 2 hours at $40/hour to pay for it because they don't hurt..
 
r ranson
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Maybe, and maybe we teach them not by charging so much to begin with, but by educating about them how much work goes into the product and why corporations can charge so little. Hopefully this will influence them and you can work out a price thats fair based off your work, your needs, and their situation and needs. But maybe that's too complicated unless you have a decent relationship with this person already, or have something written out that you can hand out to customers.  


I think by charging less, we tell the world we are no better than the big industry.  I would like to see the price reflect the quality.

I've given away things before based on income.  I've priced things based on income.  Every time, my creations are treated with disrespect.  What's worse the person comes back demanding more, for free.  To add insult to injury, they don't even bring their own bag.  I'm done with that kind of nonsense.  I will gladly teach them how to make their own, but I think what I make would do better to have a price tag to reflect the quality of the item.  I think that's the only way we can teach the customer what something is really worth. 

I've seen people on my income level pay top dollar for something because they know 1) how good a quality it is and 2) that it will save them money in the long term.  These people live a much higher standard of living than my other low-income friends, on far less income.  They are a lot like Gert in this story.



But I also want there to be a social aspect to creating goods.  I spend my free time teaching people how to make what I make, free of charge.  I spend my hours when I'm not well enough to create on forums like this adding content that helps (I hope) inspire and inform others of exciting things they can  try.

Every time I hear someone say that handmade goods should cost less, I encourage them to produce the same goods at the same quality and charge less for them.  That's the only way things are going to change.  You see something in the world that you feel is not right, and you go out and make it better.


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Judith Browning
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Couldn't resist adding this...kind of where I'm at on the subject

MONEY TIME

Supposedly, time is money:
money will buy you time
assuming you have money

to spend, as well as time
to wait while your money
grows. However, time

spent waiting can be like money
misspent---it's often time
wasted, even if money

is made, a kind of time
not worth spending, so money
isn't necessarily time.

Maybe time is money
if you make with your time
something else that makes money,

though most of the time
it's not your money
you've made with your time.

And money isn't even money,
necessarily, in a time
like this, when money

loses value and time
is misspent losing money.
And time isn't even time,

necessarily, if it's lost money
on which you're wasting time,
nor is money really money

if it's wasted on wasted time.
Still, sometimes, time is money,
but only if you have money and time.

Craig Morgan Teicher
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Wow, hot topic!  Emotions running high!

I like the video as a starting place.  I think he is encouraging people to pay themselves a living wage, if the products they produce appeal to the market where they take them.

I would not want his wine thing, nor do I know anyone who would.  I have participated in many a craft show, and have thought about pricing, and what the market will bear, and looked at what others are bringing, so I have spent some time with these challenges.

What goes in to the pricing is not as simple as the video, but it's a starting place.  What R says about her towels is important.  I think if I were Joseph, I might charge a bit more for the mustard seed, but each of us knows most about our own products, markets and financial situations.

I make soap, and I live near enough to  a very affluent area (Aspen Colorado) to have sold in their market place.  I know that if I change the wrapping (my soap is wrapped in newsprint with a label wrapped around and glued to itself) just a little bit, I could sell the same bar of soap for 5 times the amount, to a particular category of buyer.  That category being the person who values being able to afford what most people cannot.  I never did this because I really could not wrap my head around it, nor play the mind game that would accompany making the pitch to the person who values exclusivity, and how that suits their self image.

I have sold tie dye, hand woven rugs, wooden bath toys, soap dishes, what ever I thought might make a few more sales, because the booth costs the same and with a low priced item, it takes a lot of sales to make the whole thing worth my time.


I know many a crafts person who make what they call "pot boilers".  Things they have no particular feeling for, but as another thing to sell.  I guess there is a place for that, but not in my world.  I like to love what I make, and make it to be enjoyed by the buyer.  I am lucky to have stumbled upon soap, because people always need more.  I never compromised quality of soap nor the experience of using it to get a better "price point".  I don't spend much on packaging.  All the cost to produce goes in to the quality of the product.

One thing I don't think would fit my sense of fair play is to go to a donation basis, letting people decide what to pay me, because they have no sense of what goes into the creation of my products.

I rent spare rooms to travelers, I make work exchange agreements with "wwoofer" type travelers.  I like direct commerce, and try to stay withing the local laws governing such.  Work exchange creates a situation where others get to give what they think is fair, and it has been my experience that there are plenty of people who just want as much as they can get, for as little as they can give.  No thanks.

I like to establish and maintain a relationship of trust with my buyers- especially those who buy my cheese, and other dairy products.  They have to trust me to charge a fair price for what I do.  That price needs to keep me in business, so they can continue to get their cheese (and soap, etc) from me.  I have to trust them to know what they can afford, and what they can't afford, and not make it my responsibility to have everyone get my products if they want them.  I think if I leave it up to them, it encourages them to look for what they can do to get more money to afford the things they would like to buy, and when I let that be their responsibility, I think that fosters self confidence and high self esteem.  I don't think anyone needs to assume they have a right to have what ever they want.  I think it is entirely possible to want more than is good for us to have. 

 
Ty Morrison
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I am thinking through this one...what if you have a service, not a product (oh, I don't know, Architect or ...Permaculture Designer)? 

Traditionally, design professions have worked on a 'fee basis', frequently: hourly, not to exceed, or lump sum, phases.  Many folks are dedicated to cutting the 'design fees' out of a project by doing it themselves.  That is fine: it usually shows.  The designer's fees are based in part on their previous work experience and ability to 'read' and 'listen' or 'see' the problem, kind of like a healer.  This usually leads to the young, newbie, being far less initial cost to the client than the experienced professional.

As an experienced, professional Architect, I can demand and justify a high fee based on a proven track record of successful projects with happy clients.  As an emerging Permaculture Designer, I am a big gamble.  I have initiated a sliding scale, primarily based on what clients think they can pay.  I started at: one goat (I had ten at the time).  I have done about a dozen designs for things Permaculture-y and now have a list of clients, some interesting design solutions and five goats.

There are many conclusions that one could reach at this point, many have to do with abandoning the venture.

That is not acceptable to me, so I will keep at it, hoping that one day, I will finally meet the right client and wind up with a herd of goats.  In the interim, I continue to learn (experience) what works (plant seeds and enjoy the harvest) and what doesn't (placing monetary value on what I 'feel' I need to do).

Face it: making a living with the land and its' bounty requires a different set of values altogether than a commercially based society holds in high esteem.

Or..why do we have house cats and daylight savings time?
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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What I like most, is making something, using my skills as good as I can, using the best materials I can get and then giving it as a present to the person I made it for. The value of the product mirrors the amount I value that person. Of course it isn't possible to make a living as an artist or artisan that way. The world we live in is so very imperfect.

The 'consumer' nowadays has so little notion of the real value of things. The prices of industrial products most people buy have nothing to do with the real costs ... 
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:What I like most, is making something, using my skills as good as I can, using the best materials I can get and then giving it as a present to the person I made it for. The value of the product mirrors the amount I value that person. Of course it isn't possible to make a living as an artist or artisan that way. The world we live in is so very imperfect.

The 'consumer' nowadays has so little notion of the real value of things. The prices of industrial products most people buy have nothing to do with the real costs ... 


What I like most, is making something, using my skills as good as I can, using the best materials I can get and then giving it as a present to the person I made it for. The value of the product mirrors the amount I value that person. Of course it isn't possible to make a living as an artist or artisan that way. The world we live in is so very imperfect.

The 'consumer' nowadays has so little notion of the real value of things. The prices of industrial products most people buy have nothing to do with the real costs ... 

So true, and not just industrial products.  The commodities market allows gamers* (other wise known as investors and stock traders and selling short, etc)  to control the prices of food anywhere in the world, thus creating hunger when there is food and poverty even when one has grown a valuable crop.  These are the reasons I am against subsidies and crop insurance in the US.  I don't know if they even have them elsewhere, but it is a way to manipulate things that is independent of the true cost of producing the crop or product.

When people don't really understand the cost of production, and there are price subsidies and price fixing and there are commodities traders, then we really are at a loss, and maybe it is another situation that foretells disaster, as in, "when a population loses control of their food and water supplies, then that population is no longer free".   And that population can be easily manipulated because of their dependency, as in that population can be easily convinced to go to war over resources such as oil, since our way of life depends on it, and even more so to fight for access to food.
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r ranson
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A general theme I'm picking up is that educating the public of the true value of our product (be it design, food, clothing, soap... ) is a big part of selling things.

What if we offered teaching or coaching for free?

For example, if someone wants me to transform a bag of smelly wool into a sweater, I offer to teach them for free how to do it themselves. 
If, after the first lesson, they make an effort to keep practicing at home, then they get a second lesson.  But they have to put the effort in.  If they show a willingness to do the work, I'll talk them through every step.

Maybe it's helpful to teach someone how to make the things we do. Most of the knowledge is already available, but it's hard to figure out where to start as there is just so much information.  Perhaps a professional could do something as simple as create a reading list to get people started?  Or maybe participate in an active forum to guide people towards useful resources?  Joseph, for example, he shares his experiences with tomatoes and other plant breeding products.  He volunteers his time on this forum to help beginners like myself.  By reading his writing here, we can see just how much is involved in growing his produce.  There is so much more value there than how many fruit he can pick per minute. 

Maybe it's in the professional's/artisan's/farmer's best interest to help the public people learn.  Maybe they will learn and be great, or maybe they will learn enough about the product/service/whathaveyou to understand why the prices appear so high. 
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Well said, R.

What I get our of what you have said is the value of elders in any community.  Not necessarily by age, though advanced age brings a valuable perspective often ignored in the industrialized nations.  But a person by the age of 30, or 15, or 55 or beyond, depending on the circumstances, can be knowledgeable enough that the knowledge and experience they have gained is valuable, and they may be good mentors to assist in the process of others gaining competence.

I would support  the idea that this too a person could pay for, or recognized the value of through one means of exchange or another.

 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:...
So true, and not just industrial products.  The commodities market allows gamers* (other wise known as investors and stock traders and selling short, etc)  to control the prices of food anywhere in the world, thus creating hunger when there is food and poverty even when one has grown a valuable crop.  These are the reasons I am against subsidies and crop insurance in the US.  I don't know if they even have them elsewhere, but it is a way to manipulate things that is independent of the true cost of producing the crop or product.

When people don't really understand the cost of production, and there are price subsidies and price fixing and there are commodities traders, then we really are at a loss, and maybe it is another situation that foretells disaster, as in, "when a population loses control of their food and water supplies, then that population is no longer free".   And that population can be easily manipulated because of their dependency, as in that population can be easily convinced to go to war over resources such as oil, since our way of life depends on it, and even more so to fight for access to food.

I agree Thekla! For me this is the reason to apply the principles of permaculture in my life as much as possible, and to be involved in projects helping more people to know about permaculture. I know 'this world' is 'lost', but I do  not want to be part of that world.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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R Ranson wrote:... What if we offered teaching or coaching for free?

For example, if someone wants me to transform a bag of smelly wool into a sweater, I offer to teach them for free how to do it themselves. 
If, after the first lesson, they make an effort to keep practicing at home, then they get a second lesson.  But they have to put the effort in.  If they show a willingness to do the work, I'll talk them through every step.
...

YES R. this is the best idea!
 
r ranson
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I would like to draw everyone's attention to the thread about 'should all permaculture be free?'
If you want to talk about things being free please go to that thread.  Or if you want to show us an example of what you create to give away and why; then stick around.


Let's keep this thread about pricing our work/creations/produce. 

What do you base your pricing on?  Is time really the best way to judge the value of your creations?
 
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Or what about a model of livelyhood that worked in the nature of our past: Say a really wealthy powerful monarch or duchy.  Evidence shows what can be accomplished when values of the realm supports their living and provides creatives with living and opportunity as long as their works spoke mostly favorable about the people, their customs and their values.  Wait, that was the Renaissance, before the rampant advent and lust for dependence upon technology. 

Back when a goat, was a goat, and Leonardo and Michaelagelo  among others, helped us see a new world with (literally) a new perspective.

That's what I hope Permaculture provides: the spark of something new, based on patterns we observe in nature.
 
r ranson
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Ty Morrison wrote:Or what about a model of livelyhood that worked in the nature of our past: Say a really wealthy powerful monarch or duchy.  Evidence shows what can be accomplished when values of the realm supports their living and provides creatives with living and opportunity as long as their works spoke mostly favorable about the people, their customs and their values.  Wait, that was the Renaissance, before the rampant advent and lust for dependence upon technology. 

Back when a goat, was a goat, and Leonardo and Michaelagelo  among others, helped us see a new world with (literally) a new perspective.

That's what I hope Permaculture provides: the spark of something new, based on patterns we observe in nature.


I like this idea and how well it worked in the past. The people at the top understood that their wealth was dependent on those who did the work.   I would love to see this kind of thing in action again.

Could you give us a concrete example of how you use this to price your creations?  What would it look like? 

One thing to consider is that the people who were wealthy enough to practice this kind of paternalism were not the skilled artisans who made things.  Would this model mean that todays artisans charge more and only cater to the upper crust?

Perhaps a modified version? 
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Wasn't such a rich person called a 'patreon'? Nowadays there is a patreon-system through internet, and there is crowdfunding, and the CSA. It is not the same as one rich person paying you costs for life. I think it is much better, more 'permaculture' if a 'diversity' of like-minded people each donate some money for you. Such a system can help you pay the costs of life, while you are free to create and practice. The people paying through that system do that because they like/love your work, so probably they love to receive one or more of your products. So you are 'giving', but still receiving the needed money.
These systems exist already, but they still need a lot of adjustment to be of real use for artisans in general.
(Sorry, it took effort for me to write this down in good English, because that isn't my mother-tongue).
 
r ranson
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I can see how something like Patreon would be useful for products like podcasts where one creation can be enjoyed by many people.

Perhaps we are confusing art with artisanal crafts. 
Art, like Leonardo's painting or Paul's Podcast, can be enjoyed by many people. 
Artisanal craft is an item made for use, by one or a few people, in their daily life. 

I'm an artisan, not an artist
If I make a towel, it is for drying dishes.  If I make a tool, it's for using.  If I grow a squash, it's for eating.  I like the idea that people recognize my skill and hard work and pay accordingly. 

I don't like the idea of them setting the price because the general public has no idea how to make a towel by hand.  They set the price too high or too low.  They don't set a price that reflects the value of what I created.  If several people pay for the same towel, do I cut it up in tiny bits so each person gets some, or do they just pay me and I give them nothing?  I can't wrap my head around how this paternalist system would help me set a price for my creation. 

The paternal system described a few posts above was for artists
If we are going back to economic systems of the middle ages, artisans made useful items and sold them according to how high a quality that item was, how long it would last, and what materials it was made from.  One person made one thing and sold it to another person who used that thing in their daily life.

This brings us back to the beginning of the conversation: how to artisans price our work?
 
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An excellent video. 

I like the part where he talks about $500 per day and $1000 per day and working a ten hour day.   Plus he mentioned being an artisan with five years experience.  And then balanced out with supply and demand.

My first concern with this is that there will be some people that have zero experience, but will insist on $1000 per day. 

My second concern is that there are people with five years of experience that will insist on $1000 per day, but nobody wants what they produce.


 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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You're right R. Ranson. Artists and artisans are not the same. But there is a 'grey area' though. When I make a piece of clothing, it's a unique piece, in most cases made for one unique person. It may look very much like the piece of clothing I made for someone else, but it differs in size(s), in colour, maybe even in used materials.
When you make towels, you can weave a long fabric and cut it into several towels. These towels are almost exactly identical.
So the unique piece of clothing is more in the direction of a unique work of art, while the towels are more in the direction of an industrial product. (Sorry I hope I do not offend you and your towels saying that).

Some brainstorming ...
Compare it to a CSA: there is a group of people who donate a certain amount of money every week (or month, or year). In return they receive their weekly bag or box of vegetables and fruits. What they receive changes every week.
If such a group of people pays an artisan an amount every week/month/year, the artisan can go on producing his/her products and the people paying receive one or more (depending on the kind of products) of these products every year. I think in the case of clothing that could be OK. In the case of things that last very long, they do not need one of these every year ...
But I assume a permaculture artisan does not produce only one kind of product (only woven towels) ...
 
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What a great topic! And sorry, I'm going to blather on here.

For me the number one rule is: When you value yourself or the product of your labor, others will see that value too. When I started out farming I thought I had to under-price to be competitive, but it had the opposite effect -- people didn't perceive it as being superior quality even when it was. Even when they knew it and told me so!

I also harvest on my farm completely by hand. In fact 95% of all work is by hand. The issue isn't so much that my production costs are higher because the product is not the same. Just as those towels are far superior to store-bought towels, my produce offers significant value over store-bought produce but costs more to produce and so is priced accordingly.

My pricing method is basically to have a base hourly rate that I know I need to make to cover my costs, a small part of which includes my being able to live. I never use this to calculate pricing, but rather to make sure that my average pricing isn't too low. Then I price based on quality, with an upper limit dictated by how much I have to sell, who else has it, and how quickly it's being sold. So I might -try- to charge $4 for a basket of cherry tomatoes but find I have to drop to $3.50 in order to sell the quantity I have.

In general I charge the maximum price I can for the quality it represents because I need to buffer against those (many!) times when I cannot get the price I need. Certain crops I grow so much better than the other vendors that I can always charge a premium -- sometimes 3x the lowest price in the market. If one week a product is not that good, I lower the price and tell my customers that it's still great, but last week was a little better. This establishes trust and shifts the way customers think about the product of my labor -- no longer is it some absolute pricing they compare with what they see in the store, but rather it's about -my- produce at that moment.

I have to imagine the same is true for many artisans. How do you sell superior soap when someone can buy something pretty decent for 1/3 the cost? Make the conversation about the value that that particular soap offers, not about how soap generally is priced.

Unlike Joseph I am never embarrassed to charge up the wazoo for something that might be very cheap in the store. My produce, even things I wild harvest and did virtually nothing for, is completely different from store-bought anything and takes knowledge, care and thoughtfulness (and overhead!) to get into the hands of consumers. And I have to think in terms of the average because sometimes you just can't get the price you need to break even, so another crop might subsidize it.

R Ranson said "educating the public of the true value of our product (be it design, food, clothing, soap... ) is a big part of selling things". This is incredibly true in my case. When you buy fresh, real produce you are getting a better deal even at twice the price. Why? Spinach loses 90% of it's vitamin C within 48 hours. Green beans lose most of their flavor after 3 days in the fridge. On nutrient loss alone store bought produce is a waste of money. And food waste? My mixed greens will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Try that with your store-bought bag of bleached "salad".

I would love to be thought of as an artisan because I am. I would love to give my produce away because then even more people would enjoy it. Maybe when they start giving land to farmers for free. The reality in the US is that produce in supermarkets is subsidized with our future and is massively under-priced while at the same time it's never been more expensive for small-scale producers to produce.

If I were to price based on that I'd have been out of business before I started.

Some people cannot afford to buy from me. It sucks. I take SNAP/food stamps and whenever someone uses those I really load them up. I donate about 10% of my gross production to food banks. I do everything I can to help people who find it difficult to buy real food, right down to telling them to save the seeds and start their own garden.

But at the end of the day the product of one's labor has costs dictated by all sorts of factors beyond one's control and you need to price in a way that allows you to live and continue to produce what you produce.
 
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