"Pricing Your Craftwork," James Dillehay

Pros: Wonderful advice on realistically running a crafting business and pricing your work accordingly
Cons: Ignores online possibilities entirely
Rating: 4 out of 5


One thing that so many crafters struggle with is the issue of how to price their work. I read a ton of online advice, and eventually decided to purchase James Dillehay’s The Basic Guide to Pricing Your Craftwork to get another perspective on the issue. Everyone wants an easy formula they can plug a few numbers into, and I did find one that I think works fairly well for me (i.e., it matches up well with my own expenses and such), but a simple formula can’t account for everything—not even close.

Here’s the problem. Not only do you have a lot of ‘invisible expenses’ associated with your crafting that are going to be different for you than they are for another crafter, but your prices will often be different based on the medium in which you’re selling and sometimes even based on factors like how you package or describe your items! And thankfully, these are the issues that Mr. Dillehay covers.

Mr. Dillehay’s advice is aimed squarely at handcrafters, which means he’s able to recommend courses of action that might be contrary to more general advice. For example, while it’s common in many stores to price just under a dollar amount ($.99 or $.95 amounts), you don’t want to do that with handcrafted items. When people shop for handicrafts they aren’t usually looking for flea-market bargains, unless you’re talking about a category of crafts he refers to as “country crafts.” Instead, buyers of these items care more about quality and are willing to pay for it. That sort of price can actually leave them thinking your goods are cheap and low-quality; pricing at an even dollar amount is more attractive to the buyer in this case! Similarly, talking up the uniqueness of your methods or materials and raising your prices might increase your sales, even though common wisdom says that if sales are slow you should lower your prices.

Many beginning crafters are reluctant to put a decent price on their goods. They feel that they or their products aren’t good enough, or that people won’t be willing to pay that kind of price. They look at the price tag on the materials they used and think they shouldn’t mark things up much beyond that. The problem is, there are many costs associated with crafting work that aren’t taken into account by that, and you could find yourself losing money without even realizing it. Dillehay makes certain that you know how to take all of those invisible expenses into account when pricing your goods.

Then, he goes on to talk about pricing for different markets. You might be able to price higher at a craft fair than through a store, for example. He even discusses wholesale pricing that allows you to sell to stores, catalogs, and other outlets while still making a profit. In fact, pretty much the only subject that seems conspicuously absent is any talk of selling online whatsoever.

Because so many factors affect the price of your goods, this book ends up doubling as a mini-guide on running a craft business (although you’ll still want to delve more thoroughly into that as its own topic). It includes a variety of forms for inventories and so on.


Despite the absence of information regarding online pricing, methods and sales—which these days seems like a bit of a large oversight—there’s so much valuable information in here that I highly recommend it to any crafter who’d like to make a profit on her wares.

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4 comments on “"Pricing Your Craftwork," James Dillehay
  1. A close relative of mine creates a specific form of woodworking that’s absolutely beautiful. It’s very labor intensive. Scroll-saw cutting, machine sanding, handsanding, backing, gluing together, and 3 coat varnishing each individual piece. And one item can be made up of over 100 pieces of various woods (usually 4 to 10 different types of woods per item). Needless to say, they take hours upon hours to make, and the woods are often exotic and expensive.

    Sadly, she goes to craft shows with these items and bargain hunters, used to seeing $3 Chinese-made Walmart birdhouses, pick them up violently or allow their kids to rub their sticky hands all over them. They then see prices in the hundreds and get sticker shock. I feel so bad for her when people make very obvious and rude gestures about the prices. Many people have no idea what is involved in making them and don’t appreciate true craftmanship.

    Funny thing is, almost all of her pieces have sold. So I guess my advice is, if anyone makes something really beautiful and really unique, do NOT compromise on price. I’m thinking of building her a website just for her work so that she can tap into a much larger market. I’m not sure about shipping costs or if people would purchase larger ticket craft items online, but it’s worth a shot. If her work gets known, she might not even have to go to craft shows anymore. I notice you use etsy, something I’m not at all familiar with. I’ll definitely look into that. I hope I haven’t bored everyone with this long comment. Take care and good luck with your shop as well, I’m about to browse through it right now!

  2. heather says:

    Dillehay does make the point in this book that if you make high-end crafts, there are some crafts shows it’s probably not worth going to, because there are “country crafts” shows where people are accustomed to small, inexpensive items. If you instead went to, for example, the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival, you’d see plenty of high-end stuff with appropriately high prices. There’s a guy there who sells gorgeous tables made of slabs of redwood. (We hope to someday be able to afford a dining room table of his.) Few people bat an eye because the high level of workmanship and high prices are expected there. I recommend you check out this book…it makes some great suggestions as to how to find the right audience for your work.

    Places like etsy could definitely give you another audience. You still have to find a way to market to the right people, but there’s actually quite a lot of high-end stuff on the site, so IMO people won’t be as shocked to find that there.

  3. Good info Heather, thanks. I’ll check out the Maryland Renaissance Festival and pass along the info. The local events in our area are all smaller craft shows. A couple of them even have a raffle giveaway where they make each vendor “donate” a piece for exposure. That’s fine for a $5 item, but for a $100+ piece, it’s not worth it, especially when there’s only 100 people or so there. Some of the other vendors suggested higher end shows also like in the NY area. When gas prices went crazy, a lot of them stopped traveling, but it’s looking now like they could be back at it next season.

  4. I just wanted to write and thank you for the review of my book on how to price your crafts. Your comments about online pricing will not go ignored. I am working on a revised edition of this book to include online pricing strategies — the first edition came out just before the internet became a major influence. In the new edition, I will be showing how to research the online marketplace you are selling your crafts in and why that’s so important. Thanks again for writing about the book!

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  1. […] done laughing uncontrollably), here’s yesterday’s book review: James Dillehay’s Pricing Your Craftwork. I should have another review up tomorrow. In the meantime, we now have a total of 30 items up at […]

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