There has been an issue that for a while now, has been my personal bug bear. After commenting on the same issue this morning on Facebook, I felt inspired to write this post.
In my opinion running your own business is a crazy life. You have to fulfil so many roles you often feel like a circus act rather than your own boss. In my own experience I have to be admin, artist, maker, problem solver, health and safety, accountant, PR guru, journalist, post mistress and customer services but to name a few. That’s not to mention the cleaner, cook, char lady, butler, dog groomer & walker and husband wrangler roles that I have to fulfil just to keep my household running the way I like it. If I was to get paid for those jobs individually I suspect I would only have to do a couple of weeks work before I retired. But I choose to run my own business.
I am a jewellery designer and maker. Yes, there are plenty of high street stores that sell jewellery, but for each piece of jewellery that is being sold right now, there are hundreds if not thousands of identical counterparts in the UK or even the world. Speaking from a woman’s point of view, how would you feel if you spent hours getting ready for a night out, chose the perfect outfit, had your hair and make up done, had the whole nine yards done to make yourself feel really special only to walk in the club to find someone with the same outfit hair and makeup? Gutted I bet, so why would you feel any different if your partner chose the ideal piece of jewellery for you as a gift only to find your best friend with the same identical item the next day?
That is where my (or crafters like me) services’ come in. Every piece that we make is a one off. Even if a piece of jewellery is replicated it will never be identical. If you brought a one off designer dress you would expect to pay a decent amount of money for it, so why as a designer and maker should I be expected not to charge for my bespoke pieces?
A high street chain store can churn out thousands of pieces an hour. Often I’m lucky if I can manage one because instead of a production line with lots of people doing different jobs to complete the piece there is just me doing all the jobs. This scenario means that the high street chain can charge £x for a piece of jewellery whereas my piece could be £3x for a similar piece. Also, although some stores offer excellent customer service, that person is there to work to earn a living, my business is my life so in my experience small artisans often give that extra bit just to make sure that the customer service part of the transaction is remembered.
It always annoys me when people assume because I am self employed I sit on my bum all day doing nothing except occasionally logging on to the computer. I wish that was all I had to, perhaps this is where the misconception comes from that hand made must be cheap to buy?
Since my career as maker has begun I have had people say but it’s just a …. (enter piece of jewellery here) …. I can buy that cheaper from …. (well known high street chain) ….. My response is no you can’t. For one thing my designs are my own, therefore you won’t be able to buy it elsewhere unless there is a copyright issue. Secondly, I ask that individual if they would be happy to work for less than minimum wage? When I make some of my pieces, I do. For example the pieces I did for my degree show took me over 20 hours each to make, if I was to charge by the hour for them plus materials, those pieces would be a ridiculous amount of money and sadly I’m not famous enough to charge those kinds of prices (yet)!
I make because it is something that I love to do. The fact that I can share it with others is even better. When you are buying something hand made and worrying about the price, just think on, often that person has put a lot of effort both physically and emotionally into making that product for little financial gain, surely they deserve to be paid a small amount of money for it?