What Are Your Skills Worth?

How do you know what your product is worth in real terms? Do you let your customers call the shots? If you can’t beat them, join them?

I know things are tough right now and everyone wants something for nothing but is your product only worth what someone is willing to pay for it or do you dig your heels in and stick to your price tag no matter how long it takes to make a sale?

Once you’re at the top, to a certain degree, you can dictate your worth, but what if you’re further down the ladder and people aren’t quite falling over themselves to work with you? Is it better to sell for less but be in work or refuse everything but the ticket price? Doesn’t this sound a little bit like the internship dilemma? Surely people will take advantage of you.

For instance, if you are a photographer and you are selling a photography portrait package for £150.00 and noone buys it, do you stick to your price and not get enough work or do you reduce your package and attract more customers. As a designer, if you have made, for example, a dress and your combined materials and the hours you have put in means it is worth £200.00 in real terms but noone will buy it, do you reduce your price? Or do you leave it in the hope that someone will come along who really has to have THAT dress.

If you reduce it, you may lose £50.00 but you sell it instantly. A greater proportion of customers don’t think about how many hours it took to produce something. And if I am honest I will always look for a bargain if I’m out shopping because that’s the situation I currently find myself in.

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Designer at work in the studio (source)

The culture of much clothing production abroad (source)

The culture of much clothing production abroad (source)

As a customer I can see a customers point of view. But that doesn’t really help me as a business. Buyers look at price for physical product not process. Only people who know what goes into manufacture will understand what is involved. But it still doesn’t necessarily mean they are able to pay for the true cost of the product.

Do you think high street customers look at the ‘Made In’ labels when they are looking through the rails? Now, these may not be your customer base. You want to target those who appreciate where you are coming from and have that kind of disposable income but they are thinner on the ground and perhaps even more careful with their money.

If you down price your product, you know you’ve been undercut but it’s still money you wouldn’t have had or may not have had for another 6 months. It’s a tough call. I know that some of the prices I have sold at have been insulting to my abilities as a designer. But equally I was sick of looking at that garment hanging on the rail. If you have old projects kicking around, it’s hard to move on to new ideas when space is at a premium. It’s money sitting there sticking two fingers up to you, and it’s no good as a product on a shelf if you need it sold.

The thing is I am no longer just designing because I love creating. I’m trying to make money. And that is the dilemma of all established creatives who have moved on from ‘portfolio additions’ and now need to earn hard cash to pay bills and keep the business growing. If I don’t sell I can’t invest in new materials and therefore I can’t make new products. You know what you are worth in real terms. You’re not overpricing. But people have budgets and have been tainted by ‘Primark mentality’ because too many customers have lost touch with just how much work goes into what we buy.

Perhaps it’s entirely an economic climate problem, an issue with supply and demand. Maybe all home grown businesses are destined to chase rarer affluent clients forever more or face making bulk products for less. It is seemly part of the entrepreneurs job now to seek these people out and become part of that club, the investment purchaser, customers who buy for longevity. And that is something we rarely do these days. We buy for the moment, not for the future.

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