How to charge for my work

I’m sure there are other posts here with tips for how to price your work, and if so, please feel free to let me know, but here goes.
I have been getting more and more involved in woodworking for the past year or so now. I grew up with a father who did carpentry work on the side and a grandfather that was a craft show guy. I was always interested in woodworking but never really had the time, or space, to do anything. I decided that pulling all of my tools out a small 6x8 foot building, working in the yard, and putting everything back just wouldn’t cut it. I ended up building myself, with no real know-how and with limited help from my father, a 12x16 building in my back yard. I know it seems small, and it is, but it’s the size I wanted.
After making several projects for my fiance, I decided to get a small, inexpensive laser engraver. I went with a $200 Eleksmaker A3. Just a little 2.5w diode laser, but hey, it was a great learning experience. I made several small projects using it, and honestly, they all turned out pretty nice considering it wasn’t the greatest laser.
The real trouble came when it was time to price items…and that is still my problem. Here’s one example. I made someone four 8x10, roughly 3/8" thick signs. They were rough cut red oak that was given to me, so I didn’t really have any cost in materials. However, I did have quite a bit of time in milling them down, sanding, routing the edges, oiling them, THEN doing the engrave design and actual engrave work. Each sign took about 2 hours to fully engrave everything. Now this person was a friend, so I didn’t want to charge too much, so I asked if $25 each would work, and he was good with that number. I have since been told that that price was too low. I made a couple other smaller signs with materials that I actually purchased from big box arts and crafts stores. One sign I remember paying around $5 for a pretty large sign and sold it for $35. I made enough projects on the Eleksmaker to pay for it, and then some, but I still need better advice in pricing items. I basically have just been making sure that I cover the cost of materials, but I’m not factoring in any time really…and I know that’s a no no if I ever want to turn my “business” into a legit actual side hustle.

I just ordered my Glowforge Basic, and it should be getting delivered by this weekend. I’m going to have to start pricing items better to pay off the laser in a reasonable amount of time. I’m by no means a professional wood worker, but I’m better than a lot of people I’ve seen in my area. I’m also the only person that I’m aware of in my area with any sort of laser, and soon to have a Glowforge. Any advise would be great, so thanks in advance. Also, I’m not sure if I can post a link or not, so if it is against any rules, just let me know and I’ll take it down, but here is a link to my “business” page on Facebook. Thank you all and happy forging!

Niemer Design Co @ www.facebook.com/rndesignco

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The biggest Issue I can foresee is that unless the shop is heated and air-conditioned and particularly with a basic the temperatures it will operate at will leave you with little working time. This issue I gather is not the case with solid lasers but the Glowforge needs to operate at temps the would be low/comfortable to live in. The exhaust needs to go outside or be filtered but the machine will likely have to live inside where you live.

Previously:

https://community.glowforge.com/search?context=topic&context_id=40364&q=Pricing%20work&skip_context=true

https://community.glowforge.com/search?context=topic&context_id=40364&q=Pricing%20&skip_context=true

https://community.glowforge.com/search?context=topic&context_id=40364&q=How%20much%20to%20charge&skip_context=true

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Oh my Glowforge will live in my house. I’m not leaving a nearly $3000 machine outside haha

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It’s theoretically possible, but you’re not. You may be the only person with a laser looking for small work like you’ve described.

I’m assuming you’ve read the threads evansd2 linked.

Is your goal to pay for the laser while having fun? Or to turn it into your primary source of income? For the former, I would think craft shows, word of mouth and marketing yourself to local retail establishments (think signs). Your time isn’t terribly valuable here, because you’re doing what you’d be doing anyway. For the latter, pick a number, like say $75/hour plus raw material costs and do the math. That hourly rate includes design time, marketing time, time to do the books and of course the actual making part. You’ll quickly see you have to find the sweet niche between the very low volume/high price of a gallery artist and the high volume/low price of an overseas manufacturer. You don’t need to start at that number for the latter, but you need to see a path that will eventually lead you there.

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Here’s another good thread (perhaps I’m a little biased…)

(although I see that you have read that thread too…)

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My goal is the make enough to pay for the forge, and still make a little side money. I’m not naive enough to try to make this my primary income source. Word of mouth has already gotten me work making small stuff for people in my area, and my Facebook page keeps getting more and more likes, which is awesome. Once I actually get my GF and learn the system, I’m going to be able to batch out smaller products in order to get around to craft shows and fairs and things.

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Oh yeah, read that one for sure. Lots of useful information there that I will keep in mind

Honestly, I think it’s naive to think that it couldn’t be your primary income source if you wanted it to be.

I think the problem with “How to Charge for my work” is that it means different things to different people. If it’s a business, you need to appropriately charge for your time. If it’s a hobby, sure, charge for materials and a bit of machine time and add on a few extra dollars. @caribis2 is right. The formula is the same regardless… all that changes is your hourly rate.

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I would for this to be a full time thing at some point, but working full time kills a lot of my productivity time…

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If you’d like it to eventually be your soul income, charging “hobby rate” will never get you there. However, charging “Full Time Business Rate” will allow transition from employment to self employment without the hobbyist struggle.

In fact, because you are employed full time, your other time is at a premium. Maybe you’re tired from work, or have family obligations, etc. Adding a side business to that means you’ve got to maximize that time and charge as much as you can, not discount and devalue it to compete with trust fund kids or hobbyists that have someone else as sole provider in their home.

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Well said.

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Very true, I never thought about the fact that my time after work is more valuable than when off work. I don’t expect to just start right out with full time business rate, as it’s going to take me time to learn the Glowforge and then start making things that people will want to buy. Eventually, one day I may be able to make this a viable business. Here’s hoping!

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I like pricing discussions. Or maybe playing devils advocate. Hmm.

A few random thoughts:

Just because your free time in this sense may be more valuable, doesn’t necessarily mean you work is more valuable.

Likewise, even if doing it full time and trying to pay all the bills doing it full time, again, doesn’t necessarily mean your work is more valuable.

Just because the master woodworker can do in 20 hours what I can do in 40 hours doesn’t mean my finished product should be more expensive than theirs.

Just because that other laser can engrave faster than mine doesn’t mean my engrave is worth more because it took longer.

And so on :slight_smile:

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It’s a weird, weird world full of coat hangers which are apparently the most controversial craft item these days.

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However, I would counter that since time is one of the most valuable resources to any of us (or anyone for that matter), and no one is forcing you to make anything for sale, each individual should choose to price as they desire, keeping in mind that (in most cases) the higher the price, the less you will sell (and therefore, the less you will have to work for a given dollar).

From a purely economic standpoint (and that never fully aligns with reality, of course), each person should consider at what price they are willing to sacrifice one (or more) hour(s) of their time, and add that to the cost of materials and depreciation on his or her 'Forge. That should always be the STARTING POINT.

From there, if you believe that a customer will value what you can produce MORE than what that price is, feel free to price above it. If the customer still values it and purchases from you, that’s good for both.

If they choose not to purchase at that price, you can enjoy your free time to do whatever you wish, or to be creative and come up with new ideas, designs, etc. You may also choose to negotiate or lower your price.

Just a few more thoughts to throw in the mix.

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Make a little spreadsheet for yourself:

  1. decide on a fair hourly wage for yourself
  2. figure out an hourly cost to run GF you’re happy with (tube, filters, electricity, etc plus the GF itself)
  3. factor in project materials

Play with those numbers until you get a project total that seems appropriate to you.

Find the closest product someone else is selling and compare your price to that one. (Or call up a laser shop and have them quote you similar project)

You’ll start to get a feel for fair market pricing then.

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Didn’t say that my work was more valuable when I’m home after work. I just agreed that my time, to me, was more valuable. So if I’m going to make something custom for someone when I get home from work, which is later in the evening now than it used to be, then I’m probably going to charge them a little extra. If I’m just batching out a bunch of “smalls” that are a base for something else, like blanks or whatever, then I’m not going to add any additional fee to them

This is my philosophy, and not just with GF related things. I do the same with my freelance writing. I charge more and take on less work rather than charge less with more work. It’s a balancing act, but certainly worthwhile.

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