Making money w the GF: how do these people do it?

I have done a whole bunch of acrylic place cards/name settings and a family friend who’s a party planner asked me to do some for her. She told me that she has bought these many times before on etsy, from a seller in Bulgaria (I’m in Canada) and she pays between 1.30 and 2.35 Canadian dollars per name! I have seen the quality of these pieces and they are really nice.
She mentioned that the inconvenience of buying them from Bulgaria is the waiting (not the shipping cost: that’s between 9 and 20 CAD or so). and since there are always last minute names to add to the guest list, she would like to find a local source.

looking around etsy, local Canadian makers charge 5-6 CAD per name. even then,material cost, etsy’s cut, machine depreciation, time, etc., is it even worth the hassle?

Usually I wouln’t focus on what others decide to work for and just offer what I think I am worth. but if the actual end product I can make is no better in any way, can I honestly feel comfortable charging more than them?
wonder what everyone’s experience is.

here’s one of their links:


Convenience and fast turn-around is worth money. If she wants high-quality, fast and local, she can pay more.

Quality, price, and speed are the three major factors here. You can only compete on two of the three. So which factor is she willing to compromise on?


Yes. You can charge whatever you’d like and whatever you feel your time is worth. They can decide if it’s worthwhile to purchase. If you feel like you want to compete for this project, price accordingly. And if it’s the sort of project you aren’t super excited for, price what you’d like to make. Either they’ll decline (win!) or they pay it (win!). This is actually my approach to freelancing and it keeps my plate mostly full of projects I enjoy with a few tedious tasks that are giving me bonus $.


That’s something lots of folks never learn. We can’t (& probably shouldn’t want to) compete with the lowest cost provider of almost anything. Even if their quality is top-notch. They have other expense factors (like the Bulgarians may get their acrylic as cast-offs, labor & electricity are cheap, etc). You can’t work at a loss and probably shouldn’t be working for just a few dollars an hour here if you really want to be in business.

There are simply some things I cannot make for the price others are willing to sell. That just means I’m not going to be selling to the people who value price more than anything else. No loss to me as I wouldn’t be making any money at the rates other people are willing to charge sometimes. In your words - Win!


Also, if you spend all your time making the low-income products, you don’t leave yourself time for the bigger ones. I know a businesswoman who describes that as being in one of those money booths… you can scramble to catch all of the one dollar bills, or you can relax a bit and focus on just grabbing the $100s.


“The problem with racing to the bottom is that you might win … or, worse, come in second.”

(Anonymously quoting another forum member from his day gig here.)


A perfect example of racing to the bottom was the Moly spray that was posted here a couple of times.

You do you, is my thought on the matter.

If your service isn’t worth the money, you won’t have business (especially repeat business) and you need to reconsider what you are offering. If you aren’t making money from selling a product, you also need to reconsider your approach.

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this. keep this graphic on hand, use it when appropriate.


i have similar conversations with my brother in law, who runs his own IT consulting business. do you want to work 60 hrs a week for $20/hr for 30 PITA residential customers who try to guilt you down in price (“this is my grocery money” or “it only took you 10 minutes to fix that, why am i paying for an hour just because you drove out here?”) or do you want to work 40 hrs a week for $30/hr for 10 business customers and make the same amount of money? cheap customers are bad customers. if they don’t value your time/work, they’re not worth working for. you’re not looking for the most people willing to hire you, you’re looking for the best bang for your buck customers, the ones who’ll pay you appropriately without killing yourself for it.

you may need some of those “bad” customers at first when you get started, but they should be the first people you jettison when you have better customers. they’re just not worth it.


Don’t forget to keep in mind cost of living. Minimum wage in Bulgaria is approx the equivalent of $300/month. Minimum wage in California is 5.3X more than that. (Going with an approximation of $1600/month, 40X5X4X$10).

Let’s say you made 2X minimum wage at $20/hr… that’s $3200 month here… the equivalent of $600 month there.

So… they can do things for cheaper… because they still feel like they are raking in the bucks.

I like the Good/Fast/Cheap/Unicorn graphic above. Compete for the business you want, don’t try for market share that isn’t doable.


one thing i will say, if it’s a family friend, just be honest about the cost value for you to do the work.

i have found that working for friends/family can be a particular PITA at times. many people expect “more” from you because you’re a friend and this is a favor, right? not a business relationship. so things can turn out much worse if you have a “bad client” who’s also friends/family. a regular bad client you can walk away from more easily. they don’t just show up at weddings, holidays, birthdays, etc and make your personal life uncomfortable. friends/family are people you need to set very solid boundaries so that neither of you walks away pissed off, if possible.


Nothing to add that is of any significance … just good to see some honest insight and advice.

I can’t figure out what my stuff is worth … so I just give it all away! (But I’m lucky to have retired twice and worrying about extra income is just extra worry I don’t need)



Seems like the best kind of living to me!


hey, we finally sold the first couple of things in nov/dec. my wife made ornaments and sent them to my inlaws who do craft shows (father in law turns pens) and they sold 30 of them for us. we didn’t make much money, but hey, we actually made some :slight_smile:.


I have been very disappointed with the results here in Florida Being pretty disabled, getting out to craft shows or similar would be very hard, Etsy sold one thing, I sold a couple display racks and a leather stamp to folks who had their own shops, but asking and looking the average price these folks are selling stuff is <$10 and none of it their own work. Even the Leather guy mostly sells other stuff for leather, and takes orders and does mostly shows so it took a while to even find him at his shop. I am in for the long try but have not figured it out yet.

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As others said, name your price and stick reasonably to it.

The formula I am using :slight_smile: which may not be right in any sense of the word haha :

Determine how much you want for for a days worth of your time. This one is hard but once you nail down your times self worth it makes things easier. If you’re currently working take what your making a day and double it as a good place to start. Lets say you make $50 a day for this example, so we want to double that to target making $100/day.

Determine how much time a product will take you beginning to end, not the first time you do it but the 100th time.

If someone comes to you and says I need a name made 3 inches tall in a script font, if you never done that before you will take time to learn, once you have done 10 or more you should have a template and therefore less time.

How many could you design in an day ? Divide that into your daily rate above, for this example I will say I am slow and 2 per hour on an 8 hour day. So 16 into $100 or $6.25 per design.

Add your time plus the cost of materials; triple it for retail, double wholesale and singular for cost

In this example we will say the lettering takes a forth of a $10 acrylic sheet. So $2.50 * 3 + $6.25 = $13.75 That would be your retail price, your wholesale price would be $2.50 *2 + $6.25 = $11.25 and finally cost $2.50 + $6.25 or $8.75. [as pointed out below you may want to use 4X instead of 3X for retail price. Also some versions of this include the time in the multiplication, I posted this with how I am starting my pricing and as said above, this may be all wrong]

Of course these are just fudged in numbers and demand may allow you to increase your daily rate which then would increase the price of the product.



I’ll say this - wholesale is really tough with small-run manufacturing capabilities. I do it, and I feel like I’m working for very little when I do, but in the long run, I get more direct sales from it - and I’m ok with that.


Value your time more then, if you feel you are working too much for the gain. The price increase may turn off some buyers, while drawing in new potential clients.

As a consumer when I see someone that will sell something for 80 cent that others are selling for 5 dollars, I instantly think the 80 cent item will break faster or is not going to be backed by the company etc. The old you get what you pay for.

There is a limit though you can price yourself out of the market, its a tough thing to do :smiley:

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I don’t see where you are coming up with the wholesale figures. I don’t know a retailer that would carry a product with those margins.

One problem with your example, other than the idea of making only $100 in a day, is that you aren’t factoring in time sourcing materials, dealing with customers, shipping, marketing, and all the other stuff you need to do in a day.

I think a big part of the equation is that you need to be able to develop a product that can get you to your goal. Not all products are equal in value. Some products don’t have a perceived retail value of the material that they are printed on, some can go for a lot.