Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What is your time worth?

I was doing the hand finishing on one of my craft show pieces at work yesterday (baby dress in a tiny floral corduroy with 2 kinds of trim and a lace collar). A co-worker (with a small child) stopped past to look and asked if I was selling it. I said that I would be, once I finished enough pieces to submit to the craft show.

She asked if I'd set my prices yet. I'm pretty much there, but I don't like discussing it with co-workers unless we're actually negotiating over me doing some sewing for them, which rarely happens. I said that I hadn't.

She closed her eyes and thought. "I'd pay $15 for that. Maybe even $18. It's really cute."

This from a woman who keeps telling me I should quit my job and sew for a living.

I point this out. I tell her that the dress took about 2 hours to complete, including the hand sewing, and that there were costs for fabric, trim, thread, and wear and tear on my machine. And, most importantly, my time.

"I'd be making less than minimum wage if I asked $18 for this dress," I told her.

"But I can get the same thing at Gymboree on clearance for $10," she said.

And there you have it, folks. Why most of us who sew constantly, think about it obsessively, and work a non-creative 9:00 - 5:00 job will NEVER sew for a living.

30 comments:

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Now ain't that the truth! I'm surprised that you didn't tell her to hurry on over to Gymboree and pick up another cheapass piece of crap and put on her child! Geeze this kinda comment always manages to p*ss me off!

And you are right...this is why I have a day job!

Andrea said...

LOL, I could not have said it better than Carolyn!

shams said...

Ding ding ding! I am often asked if I will sell my sewing and the answer is always NO NO NO. I earn much better money as a tech writer.

kbenco said...

Boo hiss to people who think that a one off hand made item is the same as a rubbishy, or even non rubbishy mass produced item - and comparing it to an on sale (ie, it didn't sell)item! That is adding insult to injury. The worst thing is that she probably thought she was giving a compliment.

Rose said...

Do you think she was secretly hoping you would *give* it to her?

She sounds like she's completely out of touch!

Rose in SV

Barbara said...

Oh, I've been there, too!
What I ask them now is to consider the difference between a factory made box of cookies and a homemade pie. Can't they see the difference?

Marie-Noƫlle said...

Grrrr!!!!!!!!!!!

Sewtellme said...

I don't even know what to say to such foolishness so I'll just settle on "who asked you?"

Janine said...

Non-sewists - just do not get it at all. I bet if you offered to pay her $9.00 an hour for her job she would be aghast. Unfortunately I find this in my day job as well -clients always trying to beat you down on your prices and just not understanding running a business costs - my employees and landlord do not offer their services for nothing and I need to pay my bills as well !

Ruth said...

I have done some sewing for a couple of friends lately but I have refused to be paid for it because that will set my rate at what? A few dollars an hour? And i'll get known for being willing to work for peanuts. So instead I did it as a "present", and in fact each of them gave me a "present" in return. So our friendship remains intact. But if anyone asks at any time I am free to say "sorry, no time right now (while I go on with my own sewing!), got deadlines for my real job....."

Elaray said...

AMEN!

Annec said...

Oh my... I would have found it difficult to bite my tongue re that kind of comment.... A wonderful friend from high school designed and made my wedding dress and now that I REALLY understNd what this involves I want to send her a second...and third cheque ...

Little Hunting Creek said...

But she can't get the SAME thing - she can only get a cheap factory-made facsimile made by sweatshop labor.Handmade clothes are like couture and fine wine, and not everyone is educated enough to appreciate them. That's what I tell the I-can-get-it-cheaper people - "you wouldn't understand."

Becky said...

Well-said on all counts. This is why I generally don't sew to sell, though I usually tell people it's so my hobby will stay just a fun hobby. I am sewing a bag for a friend currently that she's paying me to make....but that's because she actually gets it. She asked me what a bag like that would probably go for, I gave her the minimum amount I could think of, and she wrote me a check that effectively doubled it!

Toby Wollin said...

You were very kind to this woman. When I get comments like that, my response really IS, "Then you should really go to xxx and buy it -- and please remember while you are doing that -- the 12- year old kid who was basically chained to a sewing machine in China, Cambodia or Vietnam and made clothing for YOUR child actually made about 10 cents for their entire day of work, and had to sleep on a dirt floor.

sewingkm said...

I did custom sewing for a select number of clients while my kids were in grade school then branched out into bridal and bridesmaid gowns where clients were willing to pay a decent rate. But I grew tired of the weekend fittings for out-of-town bridesmaids. Going back to office work was the best solution for me and now I sew only for myself and family. I'll be retiring next year and...reminder to self...don't get "trapped" into sewing for others again. Non sewers just don't value our skill.

Seraphinalina said...

People just do not understand. I have made lingerie gifts for my university friends as they have got married. I do it because they are special to me and I enjoy the process. Each time I'm told that I should sell it. And I restate that it wouldn't sell at the prices I need to set to equal what I earn at work. It just won't.

But then there are people like my mom who do sell for a living and have no value for their time. She charges $5 an hour (less than half of minimum wage in Ontario, Canada) for custom work and half the time she doesn't put down the right number of hours because she feels it totalled up to too much. It makes my head hurt when she does that.

Tanit-Isis said...

ARGH! These are my head-desk moments. And why anytime anyone who isn't a close friend asks me about sewing, I give out the "worth of my time" line.

Bleh.

Andrea said...

You know we've had this discussion many times. It's terrible that there are people out there that just don't get it. What we do is almost priceless. When they can write a check for that, we can do business.

Tia Dia said...

Haven't we all run up against this one? I'm dealing with a situation right now about this. It's so annoying. So many comments here to which I say, AMEN!! The child labour reference is particularly a hot topic in my house, as all my DD's are looking at "what kind of world do you want" in their social studies classes. As my DH says, who has his own construction business (another work-for-nothing-so-the-client-gets-the-lowest-price industry), "I have my price. If you don't like it, get someone else to do the job."

fabricateandmira said...

As all have said in many ways - what an insult.

MySummerTouch said...

First, she won't get the same thing at Gymboree
2nd, did she get what you have said about mimimum wage?
3rd, you probably should have sum up all your costs (fabric, notion, your NORMAL hour rate etc) and said that you are willing to sell this dress for THIS sum, so she should think about the PRICE of HANDWORK!

Clio said...

SIGH! So true. It's hard to find people who really appreciate the value of something well made by hand.

Nancy K said...

A friend suggested that I sell my sewing to a local store specializing in hand crafted items, clothing included. I laughed and said no one would pay me for my time, at least not even close to minimum wage. The store lasted not even a year.

Sue in MN said...

I make custom belly dance wear for my daughters & ballroom/old time dancewear for the three of us. Whenever anyone asks why I don't market my work, I ask whether they would pay $150 for a custom skirt or top. The answer is "Of course not! I can buy one for half that." My response is always that customers would have to pay me a reasonable wage for my time. Those who "Get it" reply that it must be wonderful to be able to get a perfect design, fabric & fit. Those who don't look puzzled & ask why we don't "just buy it?"

Summer Flies said...

I'm with Toby! I am a cheapskate but when I see KMart here selling jeans for $10 I nearly cry. Not because they are "cheap" or "bad quality" both of which they are,but because I know how long it takes to make a pair of jeans and how much even the worst denim is to buy so I think (and tell anyone I can) that by buying cheap clothing (really any clothing made in cheaper countries) someone still makes it and gets nothing for making it. This is our disposable society ...
Your colleague does not deserve your hand made dress.

cidell said...

I have nothing to add except, mmmmmhmmmmmm. People do not understand.

badmomgoodmom said...

I sewed for coworkers' children this weekend and nothing for me. :(

But, one coworker offered to pay me. I asked her if she could afford two hours of my time (she keeps our confidential salary info).

Her face fell. I told her that I do it out of friendship or not at all. But next month, I hope to receive one of her fantastic sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving.

I do this because she knows and appreciates quality, but she has 3 kids to raise and has to prioritize her spending.

Next up, I am making a toddler-sized dashiki for her youngest. Cute, cute, cute!

salmon53 said...

Yes, Ma'am - 10 years running an at-home sewing business and when customers would show up at my studio and want me to copy what they saw at Target, (back then it was Clover), I'd want to scream...day jobs provide steady income so that we can support our 'addiction," don't they?

Anonymous said...

Here's something that might get through to some people :Do you get your hair done by a stylist and colored? Why not do that at home ? Do you fix your own car and computer with all the whozits and whatzits or have a mechanic/technician take care of it?
Jennifer aka Bookwyrmsmith