You go into a cute shop on Etsy, or on the net someplace, and you see an item, that you instantly realize, has been done on an embroidery machine. That means there is a design for it, and now you want it.
So now you “copy” their picture, post it in the groups with “NMP where can I find this design” only to learn, it was an exclusive to that creator and isn’t for sale.
Cue tantrums and tears.
“BUT I WANT THAT DESIGN!! *sob*”
Well, you can’t have it. It is that simple. That is an “exclusive” to the shop, or that designer, and the person carrying that item is the one who worked tirelessly with a designer, giving ideas, drawing pictures, testing the design and finally, listing it.
It is a process that can take days, weeks, or even months. And yes, you might have thought of it, but in the end, it was this creator and digitizer that worked together and got in there first. Harsh? Yes. But that is how in some areas of selling, you lock up a market, or at least make sure you are in there first for a while.
Of course, this doesn’t mean much, if you’re that determined, you can of course go and have it copied, losing the respect of your fellow crafters, and gaining the amusement of the person who was smart enough to have it designed for them. You are even risking having designers refuse to work with you on legit projects you have ideas for. And trust me, you really don’t want any of that. Machine embroidery is a small world, word will get out.
So how can you go about getting your own “exclusives” for your shops? Approach your designer of choice. Many of them actually enjoy this kind of work. The designer of my TARDIS bag up there isn’t even a pro digitizer, but she is an incredibly talented one. Whenever I want a bag exclusive, I head to her. (talks are in place for genetalia bags)
Just ask the designer you enjoy most, if they’d work on this with you. You will have to pay for the project, but it usually isn’t too high a cost, and worth it in the end for a fantastic product that only you will be offering. You’re also removing any potential competition from others who bought the same design, because now suddenly, they can’t do that.
Be sure when you talk with your digitizer of choice that you make sure they understand you do not want the design out there for others. But again, keep in mind, the unscrupulous will often “copy” your exclusive, sometimes less than a week after you show off your new work. (this comes under my famous “don’t be a dick” statement, but is often ignored by the dicks)
Along with that, if a certain digitizer is good with certain items, like my girl who rocks with purse designs, go to that designer. Don’t go to someone who does mostly words and phrases for ITH toys. Go to the designer best suited for your design. You won’t regret it.
I personally love exclusives. In my own shop, and in the shops of others. It shows me that free reign on creativity is taking place. And yes, every so often, I’ve been a little bummed I couldn’t also have that design, but I respect both designer and store owner for wanting such a cool item and I’m often willing to buy it from them, showing my support of a seriously cool item.
I had a fairly decent week. I decided to expand my craft business into a more practical side, offering inserts for things done on our embroidery machines, like rattles, and voice boxes, and musical buttons. And so far, so good. I’m very clearly offering something that people need, and I’m giving folks in the group a chance to support small business, which, I’m a huge fan of.
As a small business, we can’t always give you the lowest prices some of the bigger places can, but we make up for it in other ways, you can get to know us personally for one thing. You learn our names, if we have kids, their names, you learn some of our quirks and we may even become at least “net friends”.
I know myself, I don’t even have much desire to compete with the “big guys”. I want to be able to pick out individual items, and work with designers to come up with new and fantastic ways to use those items. The curiosity of my customer as to why for example, I might carry musical coin slots. And what is a designer going to come up with for them? (seriously, that is happening)
The fun of getting to know my customers one on one, especially right now, while they learn to grow with me while I work on building up stock and become a better business for people that started out as my friends.
It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure. And I really can’t wait. I’ve had a few setbacks, but they’ve already been overcome. I’m currently working with Chinese suppliers to get more and more of the parts I know you all need, and even some, that when you see them, you’ll never knew you needed.
I at one point had a goal for my blog, that it was going to be about me, my life in crafting, my business, and occasionally, these posts that discussed how to be a better crafter.
But I’m slowly learning that what people enjoy most from me is these rather tart reminders to not be a dick. And while that’s funny, in a way it really isn’t. It saddens me that I have to discuss basic things that take place between human beings that are in business themselves, or are dealing with small businesses.
And today, I got handed a topic that horrified and angered me. And I was trying to avoid this type of post so soon after You Want How Much?? and Don’t Be a Dick (part one obviously). Seriously, I was going to do a nice pretty post on some Russian caps I’m working on for a SCA member. But nope. Some people had to ruin it.
So the topic? Sharing. And no, I don’t mean sharing a cookie, or a meal, I’m once again, back into the world of machine embroidery, and the designs many of us buy to use with our machines. (seriously, the designs on our machines are boring)
Sharing is when someone who has paid for a design, either gives it to someone else, or sells a machine with the designs they have paid for, and keeps additional copies for themselves. I’m not speaking about the folks who entirely get out of machine embroidery, and sell everything and gives the designs and never buys or touches designs again. I’m talking about the people who throw in thousands of paid designs to “sweeten the deal”.
First? You’re an asshole. And I refuse to sugar coat that. How effing dare you? Do you enjoy stealing? Because that’s what you are doing. You’re not “sharing”, you’re being an accomplice in thievery. You aren’t being nice, you aren’t generous, you’re a thief.
And just know, some designers actually feel you shouldn’t transfer designs at all. Period. End of story. And they have it in their terms (you should read them sometime, just sayin’) so think carefully, read the TOS on a designer, because many, really don’t want you sharing, or selling (why should you make a profit twice anyhow?) and in many ways, I agree with them 100%, you’re not only stealing once by using and making items you sell with the designs, but then you’re stealing twice by giving someone else the ability to make more money off these designs.
And if you’ve done this and not thought of it as stealing, rethink. If you go up to a website, such as Urban Threads, buy a bunch of designs, then turn around and send the files to a friend with an embroidery machine, you’ve now stolen money from Urban Threads. Who yes, they are bigger than some designers out there, but they are still people. They are a team of creative designers, who all work their asses off so that people can have awesome designs.
Now let’s say you head up to A Creative Medley. You buy a bunch of designs, and share them to the same girlfriend. You know what? You’ve just stolen from a mom with kids, who is running her business single handed, who not only spends time creating creative designs for your machine, but raises her kids, takes care of her man, cleans her house, AND also runs her own small embroidery business with her machine. You’ve just taken money from her that could pay for ballet lessons, groceries, not to mention, the software she has to pay for to even design these designs you enjoy so much.
Don’t share free either. Share the links. The reasons designers offer freebies is to get traffic and possible customers to their sites. When you bypass this, you’ve lost that designer a customer. Way to go.
I woke up this morning, to a note in a group, that a rather large designer, well known in the embroidery world had killed her bandwidth on Dropbox. This confused me until I learned this.
Some assholes, and misguided jerks, with the morals of an alley cat, no, wait, I take that back, at least the alley cat cleans it’s own fur, so, my apology to alley cats, shared the Dropbox link of designs that others had PURCHASED, and PAID FOR, legitimately.
This designer had run a sale yesterday. A cumlative sale. People bought designs for about 4 hours, and at the end of the sale, anyone who purchased, received all the designs that had been purchased that day. An amazing deal, and incredibly generous of this designer.
And why did she do this? She has a bad furnace, she has unexpected medical and legal bills. She is a generous and kind person on her worst day, yet she threw open this sale out of need. And some selfish jerks shared her link, making it that much less money she would get for her furnace, her legal bills, and worse, her medical bills.
And now the understanding is this low life posted this link in a GROUP.
May all your needles shatter.
Develop a conscience. Do not be slimey. Do not share designs you’ve paid for. Do not share FREE designs. Do not share download links!!
DON’T BE A DICK!!
How many times at a craft show have you heard this? If you’re me, fairly often.
You need to learn to ignore it. After seeing some of the prices I’ve seen in the embroidery and crafting groups I’m in, it’s no wonder people feel guilty. The public is out there wanting Walmart prices and making you feel like shit if you don’t give them those prices.
Well, stop it. You are a skilled worker. You aren’t offering fries with that handmade item. And they need to grasp that.
But so do you. And this is mainly directed at those who sew, or use embroidery machines, since that is generally my medium of choice in my work. But really, anyone doing handmade, this goes for you too, so pay attention!!
You are worth your prices. You are entitled to make the money you ask for your item. Stop trying to make the customer happy over EVERYTHING. Pricing isn’t about the customer. Pricing is about YOU as the creator and owner of this item.
Making the customer happy involves fabric choices, your quality of work, and your interaction with them being pleasant. It has nothing to do with your wages. If you worked at a “real job” would you run around telling people how much you earn per hour? Probably not. But your boss, coworkers and friends and family would assume you earn it since you get a paycheck. So how is crafting any different? You’ve earned your wages, now it is up to the customer to pay you.
So how do you price? This is actually a tough question to answer. Etsy gives a decent pricing formula,
Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail
which is a good starting place, but it isn’t set in stone. You should use it to come to a price to start with. But a lot of pricing is about instinct, and the willingness to take a loss in one place and a gain in another.
Good example is felties, one of the scandals in the embroidery world is people selling these for 40 cents each. Now, felt is 20 cents a sheet, even at wholesale, you won’t find it much under 14 cents. So right there, you’ve got 20 cents and that in a 5×7 machine will make 6-8 felties. Then you’ve got the cost of the design, say $3.50 for that and you might make it 20 times. Just the design alone, you’re paying 35 cents per sheet to make 8 felties. Now convince me of your profit.
This isn’t to say you should be charging $1 each for felties (except those blasted evil multilayer 90 color changes ones) , but the only way 40 cents each can pay for itself is if the customer orders 100 at a time. And even then, you’re making yourself more work than profit.
For one simple reason. Where’s your hourly wage in this? So many skip the idea of “paying themselves”. And you shouldn’t. It is part of your costs. And it isn’t set in stone either. I charge $25 an hour for sewing work, $12 for complicated embroidery work, and $10 for items done in bulk like masks and felties.
So be flexible with paying yourself. I realize to embroidery folks that you just push a button, but you’re doing more than that. You know what button to push most importantly. You know where to get the designs. You understand how fabric works. And you’re the one who fixes your machine when you have basic problems like bird nesting or snapped threads. That makes you a trained employee and worth far more than minimum wage. $12 per hour. Minimum. Please.
One of the things I see a lot in embroidery groups is “how much do I charge per stitch?”. You don’t. That method of pricing is for big multi needle machines and industrial embroidery on things like shirts, or bag. It isn’t for the home worker with a single or multi needle. Charge by materials and labor. Not by the stitch.
And charge by demand! Don’t be afraid to use a fad to your advantage! I’m going to use the still popular example of the bunny currently making the rounds of the groups.
The design isn’t cheap, $10.99 and this particular seller does no sales. But this rabbit is so hot right now that every other post in 4 embroidery groups is about this rabbit. Take advantage of that! Customize, add special designs to the stomach, and charge $35 each for the 5×7 and more for larger! PEOPLE WILL PAY IT. When the fad is over, and Easter has passed, lower the price to $25.
“Well, I wouldn’t pay that“.
No. You wouldn’t. Why? Because you aren’t your customer. You can make this. They cannot. They do not have the skill, the patience, or the machinery and tools to make this item. You do. Take advantage of that fact.
“But no one locally will pay that”.
You’re thinking like a customer again. You are not your customer. You do not know for a fact locals won’t pay this. You think this because you’ve had a few friends, or family, or a few locals who want Walmart prices have sneeringly told you that they wouldn’t pay that.
It isn’t up to the customer to tell you what they’ll pay. It is up to you to tell the customer what they’ll pay. And this takes education. If you do shows, take your machine with you. Have an older child, or a friend help you at your table while you work away using your machine.
Society is very detached from how things are made. They see the results, and not the work. And years of big box shopping have given them the idea that making things is cheap and everyone who makes things only gets 10 cents an hour. They don’t see the burnt fingers from glue guns, the sewing injuries from trying to work quickly, or the tears when your machine manages to knot itself up again. You’re dehumanized into a machine yourself, who churns out felties for 40 cents each.
Well, time to stop that. You are a person, and you are a creative one. Some of your customers will never understand that and will constantly try to get your pricing down (I find sitting them in front of the machine and asking them to make me something tends to cure the worst among friends and family). Don’t worry, these “customers” will fall aside, making room for people who truly appreciate your efforts and will pay you what you are worth.
One thing I’ve learned since starting machine embroidery, it is not a cheap “hobby”, and it is even less cheap to run as a business.
Machines can run into the thousands, as can threads, I’m not kidding, look up Sulky color sets sometime. You’ll pass out that people spend that on thread.
Then you’ve got things like stabilizers, several different kinds for several different projects, tear and cut aways for t-shirts, and water soluble for lace. And if you’re one of those people who insists on using the overpriced dealers, or box stores like Joann fabric, you’re automatically spending too much. And if you’re using bulk suppliers such as World Weidner, chances are still good you’re spending an easy $100 or more to make sure you’ve got enough supplies.
I’ve already lectured people about pricing too low. And our supply costs is one reason why when you price so low, you’re hurting the rest of us just as much as yourself. You can’t possibly making up these thousands of dollars you’re investing into machines and supplies. Cheaper suppliers means you are at least saving money there, and acting like an actual business by getting the most bang for your buck, but there’s a damaging side of that as well, and I’m probably going to tick some people off in a minute here.
Embroidery designers, especially the small timer ones often seen in the Facebook embroidery groups are business people. But they are also WAHMs or retired folks who are doing the same thing you are, trying to make some money for bills, or to pay for a larger machine, or you name it, they’re doing what you do, using a skill to make people happy, and to make a few dollars.
Have you tried digitizing software? I’m pretty computer savvy and it throws me entirely. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can do letters, and merge, but compared to designers who spend hours, or days creating a feltie, or an in the hoop zipper bag, or a stuffed toy, I’m a hack and I know it.
Looked at the cost of this software? Even the basic stuff that is the best to use for creation, and I’m not talking basic stuff that only re-sizes or does a few monograms either. I’m talking about the serious shit that some of these designers have paid anywhere from $500 to literally thousands of dollars for. Are you willing to do that? If no, then why begrudge them making the software pay for itself?
So I cut the designers some slack on pricing. After having been in contact with designers since I got my first machine last January, I’ve had a year of getting to know some of these women. And let me tell you, I’ve been impressed, awed, inspired, and incredibly grateful there are people out there, male and female, who make my business look that much better.
So when I see people begging for coupon codes, or telling a designer that their design is too expensive, and when I look, it is a feltie design for $3.50, I’m insulted and angered on the designers behalf.
I’m sorry you don’t want to pay $3.50 for that feltie design that you have to pay for once and then make thousands of times and then charge 40 cents per feltie, undercutting all of us in the same business. Make sure that you post in the groups about you can’t possibly make a profit when designs are so expensive.
You are honestly your own worst enemy. Of course it is expensive when you are so worried about cutting out the other sellers that you’re cutting your own throat. My sympathy for you is nil.
How about you spend a few hours in front of the computer, learning the software, which, I’ve had designers who have done this for years tell me is a daily learning process, because software constantly changes, oh, and make sure if you do this yourself, get auto digitizing software so that you deliver to the public crappy stitch outs that people can tell you are WONDERFUL while anyone who actually knows what they are doing can avoid you like the plague.
What’s that you say? You don’t want to waste your education learning to digitize? Well then, suck it up buttercup. Those designs aren’t cheap, and they shouldn’t be. These people have skills you don’t have, and probably don’t want to learn. They are no different than an architect or programmer, using a computer and some fantastic skills to create a product that you can replicate, over and over, literally, thousands of times. I can use CAD software, my own skill, and the folks who whip through Embird leave me slack jawed and in awe.
So break it down. A Creative Medley has a very cute kawaii apple feltie.
Wow, it’s $4, Yes, I get it, that’s a lot. In this house, it’s a loaf of bread and some cheese. I get that, trust me.
But now let’s figure out what we get for $4.
A cute apple, that we can now make a few thousand times, 4 at a time, or many more depending on our machine, if you have a multi needle with a giant hoop, you could be making 40 at a time.
You should be then selling those felties for at least 60 cents each. After all, this is handmade, not a cheap Chinese import. So why are you selling it for 40 cents each? Ah, yes, your competition who you want to drive out with your no profit sales. My bad, I forgot.
You get customer service. You can contact this seller anytime, ask for help, run ideas by her, or even contact her for custom work. And for this same $4, she has to be polite to you when you’re abusing her because you don’t take care of your machine, so this design didn’t stitch out right, or bad mouth her in the groups because $4 is too expensive for a feltie file. After all, you’ve paid for the right to be an asshole.
So for $4, you’re getting more than a file.
So why are you entitled to a coupon now? Why are you bullying that digitizer into holding a sale? I’ve seen big places like Just Peachy have sales, where she does things for 90% off, or places like Urban Threads have sales, but they have them because they are big enough to call the shots. They’ve established themselves. Having a big sale is not going to hurt them, not with the daily traffic they do get. They can ignore requests for sales because they can afford to.
Little digitizers on the other hand, seem fair game for people to be abusive, rude, obnoxious and just plain assholes. It is as if that WAHM or retired person is suddenly no longer worthy of your respect. I’m not sure if this is because the smaller designers are more visible in the groups, so people figure they can treat them like this, or if people with embroidery machines are just spoiled brats with expensive toys. So far spoiled brat is winning.
Knock it off. You are not entitled to a coupon, that designer is not obligated to hold a sale, and you are not forced to buy their items, period. If you feel they are too expensive, wait until THEY offer a sale.
I realize that as Americans, we have to have that “Yankee thrift”. But there’s “thrift” and there’s being a cheap jerk. And so many people cross that line in the embroidery world. I’ve seen downright abusive wall posts from people demanding a coupon code so that they could save $2 on a $3.50 purchase.
Wait for a sale. I’ve yet to see a digitizer who didn’t have a sale every so often, even if it was once a year. Embroidery-Outlet, a favorite place for ITH stuffed plushies, only does one sale a year, near Christmas, when all her designs are $5.00 and she holds it for a month. It is a huge sale and her bandwidth is often killed by eager customers snatching up her entire catalog of designs.
And some designers, don’t do sales at all. Chances are excellent, those designs are worth it. Sonia Showalter, never does sales, and still manages to have plenty of fans of her work who follow her eagerly.
In your cost of handmade, these designs should be part of your pricing formula. If they aren’t, that’s part of your pricing issue. At the very least, take that cost of $4.00 and divide by the possible number of felties you’ll make from this one design. Include that in your cost of materials. Files are a business investment. They are part of your supplies and tools. Treat them with a bit more respect, without them, you’d be using factory installed fonts.
So the next time you want to whine or complain about a design being “too expensive”, stop, and think. And employ Wheaton’s Law and don’t be a dick.
Arrogant. I know. How on earth can your low pricing hurt me?? How dare I!!
Well, let me break it down.
When you are out there, as a crafter, or a creator of handmade items, you represent not just you, but you represent all of your fellow crafters.
As my regular readers know, I don’t just do one craft, I do a few. I also happen to own an embroidery machine. 2 in fact. I was very lucky and got both incredibly cheap and it has helped to expand my business considerably.
I have only been doing this a year, but already, I’ve learned the fun of “ITH”, embroidery projects that are completed entirely in the hoop, with little, or no actual sewing.
Which is great. I often make the joke that I’m just the monkey that flips the switch. The designers out there are amazing and the entire concept of “in the hoop” is crazy to a long term seamstress. I now do stuffed animals, which I never used to do because frankly, they are time consuming.
But no more. The latest craze in the embroidery groups that I help to admin are these cute little bunnies.
So, let me show you how this works.
Fabric $6.25 (plus shipping) for enough to do one rabbit.
Thread, stabilizers, and contrasting fabric, not costing me exactly, but not free either if you accept that I bought them before hand for another project or “just in case” for things like this.
So right there, I’ve put about $16 into this rabbit.
Yet, people are selling these rabbits for $15 each. Or less.
Is your time not valuable? I know it has to take at least an hour, if not longer to make these rabbits. Is your ability to match fabrics, and your knowledge of how to use this machine not important? Are you putting these out in a sweatshop environment? Is Simon Legree overseeing you?
Why is your rabbit worth so little? You’re making something the customer can’t. Your customer has no machine, and has no knowledge of how to use one even if they did.
And customized? Personalized? Check this rabbit out. Not even HALF as cute as the one you are making, and just the ear has a monogram, and it is $42.
So back to the meat of this post.
How does my pricing hurt you?
Well, when you sell that rabbit for $15, and someone comes to me, or another crafter and says “well, so and so is selling it for $15”. We have two choices. Lower our sale price, lose our profit to gain a sale that we are getting nothing from, or shrug, and have the buyer go to you.
So convince me. How is your $15 price tag benefitting you? How are you making a profit? Where is your hourly wage?
And I’m not speaking of “samples” or “oops” items either. What you sell that item for is your business. You want it out of your house and someone wants it. Who cares if you only get $5 for it. That’s between you and your conscience. No one elses.
But having said that, how can you expect to be taken seriously as a business when your prices are a joke?
If you’re doing this as a “hobby” that’s fine. But please, if you insist on selling online, raise your prices, you obviously don’t need the money, or the work, so think of it as pin money you can use to get a new mini van.
(ETA: This article was apparently timely given recent trends in the embroidery world. So I’ve added a couple of remarks to my OP)
I’ve been having people ask me to do up a 50’s dress, and others wanted to see some Lutterloh in action, so I figured I’d do both at once.
So I had a fast trip to Walmart tonight, and at mine, I’m very lucky. We have aisles of fabric, and I mean, aisles. And often some great bargains. Tonight I ran into this sheer black striped fabric that instantly screamed 50’s vintage to me.
The black stripe is sheer, and was $1.50 a yard and there was a bit over 6 yards. Perfect! I instantly thought of a 50’s cocktail dress and in the Spring 1954 Lutterloh, found this gem.
Now, on the model, the matching cotton skirt is lined with contrast, probably glove satin to match the gloves. I’m going to skip the liner and make the over skirt in the sheer fabric. The dress itself will be in the black cotton. I also picked up some black tulle, so there’s a chance there could be a layer of tulle under the sheer over skirt. Not sure on embroidery just yet, my bigger machine is in the shop, and I’m not sure I want to attack an entire dress with a 4×4 machine, but, we’ll see.
Lutterloh is done at 1/4 scale, and using a special tape measure, and bust and hip measures, you draft your scaled pattern larger, in your size.
These don’t take much to do, and the bodice front was done upside down, so this should be interesting. You have to have at least intermediate sewing knowledge to work with Lutterloh, there are no instructions, so it helps if you’ve worked with patterns. There’s often not even numbers on the pieces saying that you need 2 pieces of something. You have to assume a lot.
This is the bodice front, it took me a minute to realize that the bodice front has a semi crossed front, next I’ll do the back and skirt pieces, I’ll more than likely do the main body of the dress first and I’m debating making the over skirt detachable.
But, that’s it for now, more posts as I progress, life has been a bit insane here as usual, but drafting these goes pretty fast, some hopefully I can have this together next week so I can start on some other dresses I’d like to get done.
So my “TARDIS” did what many costumes tend to do, and it changed personality once I was working on it. So, there is currently no longer a serious focus to a Doctor Who. Steampunk, Moulin Rouge thing, but now, it is what it is, and we’ll see what that is, when it is done. Meanwhile, I do have the back of the bodice done and lined. I have the front, and front sides left, and there is another embroidery design I want first. Actually, I lie, there are four.
The first is this clockwork rose from Urban Threads (may as well admit now, all 4 designs are UT). I want the rose to go on the bodice side front, pretty much like the birdcages, but roses this time.
For the sleeves, I want these cogs, that will be done in more glow in the dark, black, and silver. But I want the entire sleeve covered as if with an all over print. This idea is tentative right now. But for sure, this design will be on the upper arm, either directly on there, or as a patch, because this dress is leaning more towards steampunk airship uniform. It’s not my fault, I swear. But this design will be going over the breast.