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Pricing Chainmaille Products

One of the questions that pops frequently with every one is "How do I price my Chainmaille pieces?"  And there's always a plethora of suggestions and formulas people have used to derive a price structure that is applicable to the different materials and difficulty levels of the various materials and weaves.  

When pricing a piece for sale many formulas stick to calculating the cost of labor and materials and what it would cost to make that piece twice over as a means of paying for the materials, labor, and gaining a profit.  Simply put its the hourly rate + cost of materials x 2.  This formula will allow anyone to make a piece for sale and have a profit on top of the cost of the materials and time and there's nothing wrong with it for a hobbyist.  They will just have to work out their hourly rate and they've got their prices.  Boom! Done!

This method worked for me for a long time until I started selling professionally.  I don't have any chainmaille pieces listed on my storefront at the moment because everything is packed for an upcoming move, but I have sold several pieces over the course of twenty two years, many through my online store, and it wasn't until I started developing product lines and attempting to reach a larger audience than what the occasional show would get me that I realized my overhead was going to eat any profit I had been making.  I simply was not charging enough of an hourly rate to cover future costs.

Booth fees, travel, gas, taxes, new equipment, new materials,  payment processor fees, storage, shipping, advertising, the list goes on and on and while I've made cost predictions and calculated what it's going to be a year to run my business I was still coming up short on profit to make doing all of this worthwhile even if I sold everything.

I was stuck thinking my prices are already high, I wouldn't sell anything if I raised them more and no one is going to buy anything at that price, that's irrational.  This problem took me awhile to think through and get comfortable with because of my frame of mind and assumptions about consumers that prevented me from accepting any other reality than "if I raise my prices any more no one would buy anything."

This wasn't the only problem I was facing.  Chainmail is inching its way into the mainstream and one day it will be a household item (I believe).  I've personally seen machine made byzantine, kind of common anymore, and Full Persian bracelets/necklaces in jewelry stores.  This wasn't a custom created piece and the closures were garbage but they were there in all their glittery glory priced way less than anything I would make and sell.  There's also a ton of aluminum european 4-1 chainmail shirts you can find online from all over the place for costumes that are built cheap and sold cheap.

So now I'm stuck with a "cheap competition, prices too low to turn a profit to make the effort worth it, prices are already high no one would pay that much for X item made from chainmail" mindset.  I wanted to quit.  

I couldn't though.  I've been having dreams of weaving rings for years, the ones where you wake up tired from weaving all night thinking you've accomplished a ton of work on a huge inlay when you haven't actually done anything and just dreamt it all.  The other common dream is going to sleep thinking about a certain weave that won't cooperate and solving the problem in my dream....only to forget what the solution was when I woke up.    

I'd been weaving chainmail substantially for 22 years now with a few breaks here and there but the bulk of my free time was spent weaving.  Quitting now was not an option as I had a metric ton of rings in the basement waiting to be woven into a project but I had no idea how I was going to solve this problem of increasing business and turning a substantial enough profit to make my efforts worth my time.

It was then that I began thinking about the items I had sold.  I've always done fairly well at attracting customers to a booth and making a few hundred dollars a day in sales.  Custom orders were frequent enough to keep me busy if not inundated with orders and saturated with money.  From thinking about the items I had sold I began thinking about the customers I had sold to.  Some of them didn't like my prices because they were too high and bought a cheap bracelet.  Some loved my prices, and bought a lot of items.  And some loved my prices, loved my items, and overpaid saying I was undercharging for the amount of work I was putting into my pieces. 

There it was.  The solution to my problem.  My issue wasn't competition, I can make a ton of items of much higher quality than what machine manufacturing is capable of today.  It wasn't pricing, I could sell most of the stuff I made even at my high prices, and it wasn't the items I was making as I know they sell already.  My problem was that I wasn't attracting enough of the right type of customer who would overpay me for what I was making!  That's what I needed more of...A lot more of.

There are people who will buy cheaply made items for the rest of their lives because they're frugal.  These aren't my customers.  There are people who will spend good money on quality products because they value the effort put into each piece, but they only ever buy one or two items.  The customers I want are people who spend good money, buy a lot of stuff, and don't care about the price because they love what I do.  That's the kind of customer I need to find.  

Finding these kinds of customer alleviated my issue of raising my prices.  Prices I had assumed were too high.  Turns out I wasn't charging enough and it wasn't based off of some formula alone I was charging what I was worth to people who loved what I do.  I didn't feel like I had to price something low because I thought no one would pay the price I thought it was worth.  I was wrong.  I was undercharging the wrong customers the whole time.  

Don't base your pricing just on a formula alone, take some time finding the right customers who are more than willing to give you their money for your time and effort in creating the beautiful pieces I've seen you guys make!


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