“The Price for Handwork” is copyright 2011 by Suzann Thompson. You are welcome to print this essay and keep it somewhere that it will lend you moral support, or give it to people who ask you to make things for them.
“You like to crochet. Will you make me an afghan?” says a co-worker. “Can you make me a quilt to match the new paint in my bedroom?” asks a relative.
You may be one of those rare people, who makes things for others out of pure love for the craft or love for your fellow beings. That is great. Your friends are lucky.
However, when someone asks you to make something and you feel the slightest hesitation at spending your valuable time making a project for someone else, you really must charge for your time. Otherwise, you will come to resent the person you’re making it for, and the project will become like a millstone around your neck.
After long experience, I respectfully decline casual requests to “knit me a sweater.” I say something like, “I prefer to work on my own projects.” In other words: “No.” “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer.
Money for Time
Your potential client is persistent. She really wants that afghan. “Pleeeeeeeeease? I’ll pay for the yarn,” she offers.
You’re tempted to do the project, but how do you charge for handwork?
No matter what, your client should buy all materials and patterns. If necessary, give her advice about the quality of materials or where she can find the best prices.
You should charge by the hour for your labor, preferably at least minimum wage, which in the U. S. in 2011 is $7.25 per hour. If you are highly-skilled and quick, you should charge more
I sense crafters thinking, “People won’t pay that kind of money for handwork.” Maybe not, but do you really want to work for someone who thinks your time is worth less than the minimum legal wage paid in United States?
For reasons of your own, you may decide to accept less than the minimum hourly wage. That’s up to you.
Whatever wage you settle on for yourself, you must estimate how long it will take you to make a certain project. Remember to include swatching and finishing.
You tell your co-worker, “The afghan you want me to crochet will probably take me no more than 30 hours. So 30 hours times my rate of $8 per hour will come to as much as $240.00 for the labor. That’s in addition to the price of the yarn.”
Whoa, your co-worker thinks. “I can get a really pretty afghan at Pottery Barn for less than that!” she says.
“You sure can,” you say, very kindly, as you smile and look your co-worker in the eye. That’s all you have to say. You don’t have to defend your position. After all she’s the one who’s asking.
Money for Time =
Your hourly wage × Estimated hours needed to complete the project
Client buys supplies and pattern.
Time for Time
Let’s pretend your potential client truly doesn’t realize the amount of time that goes into handwork.
When you tell him the cost of your time and how many hours you will be working on the project, he says, “Oh. I didn’t realize it took that long. I can’t afford that kind of money.”
“We may be able to work something out,” you say, “but you’ll still have to buy the materials and the pattern.”
He brightens up.
You say, “How about trading time for time?”
Intrigued, your client says, “What do you mean?”
“Well,” you say, “when I’m crocheting, my yard work doesn’t get done. Could we get together on the weekend, and I’ll crochet while you mow and rake my lawn?”
“You wouldn’t want me to do that,” he says. “Lawnmowers have a habit of breaking whenever I’m around.”
“How about cleaning out my garage?” you say. “Or running errands for me? Do you have any ideas about how we could trade time for time?”
Your client may be glad to work in your yard or do 25 hours’ worth of cooking for you. Or he might have some other skill you would be glad to trade for, like house-painting or sewing or editing or installing bathroom tile. (Naturally, you should buy house-paint, fabric and patterns, or bathroom tile and supplies.)
The important thing is that the trade is exactly time for time. If possible, the two of you should work at the same time, so your client sees what actually goes into the project. Your duty is to work well and efficiently. Your client should do the same for you. Whatever you decide, write it down and make copies for yourself and your client.
Time for Time =
The hours you put into the project = The hours the client works for you
Client buys supplies and pattern. You buy whatever supplies the client needs to complete the agreed-upon job for you.
You will run across people who insist that you should work cheap or free. Their reasoning? “You LIKE to crochet!” (Or quilt or make stained-glass panels or whatever your craft is.)
You say with a smile, “Yes, I do. So you can pay my hourly rate, or we can work for each other. Which to you prefer?”
While they’re thinking this over, remember: however you decide to say it, you can always say… “No.”