How to price your products as a ceramic artist

James Pagni

When it comes to making something to sell, you have to have the prices down. You will want to have the price that it costs to make it and then you will want to add some profit on top. To put this in perspective, you need to consider who you will be selling to. Of course you have your retail customers who will be paying full price. Then you have your wholesale buyers who are shops that sell to the retail customer. Lastly, and you don't need to consider this one if you don't want to get into larger manufacturing, but it is the distributors who sell to the shops (25% distributor discount but larger orders sold quicker).
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So when making your products you need to think about the time that it takes to get things setup. That might be as simple as where you drive to buy your clay and if you have to batch it up. If you mixing it then that is more time for you to add on to the price of the slip. From the time you start making a particular item, time how much hands on time you are putting into it. When it's drying or in the kiln don't count that since you aren't actually working on it. But even if you are walking pieces to the kiln or loading the kiln, you need to count all that time and break it down between all the pieces. I had 10 pieces and it took 1 minute to walk to the kiln so each piece is about an extra 12 seconds of work for round trip, you get it? After you record the hands on time, you will want to think about how much you charge hourly. Now this is all on you. After doing this for 5 years, I charge a pretty penny. For someone beginning out, you want to start lower but better then you've been paid at any job (make it worth while). If you spent 10 minutes total on a piece and you are charging $30 an hour, then you would divide the $30 by 60 minutes to equal $5 for that piece.
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Once you start using your clay for your wares, how much does each piece weigh? Now how much does it cost per pound for that clay? See where I am going? You have to track how much money in materials is going into this item, that includes glaze, wax resist, electricity or gas for the kiln, bubble wrap, and there are a few other things we will get into. If you have 100 items in the kiln and it cost $10 to fire the kiln, then each pieces costs ten cents more. Do the cost recording work once and then you will be done with it from there on out.
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Now that you have the price for labor and for materials, you can have a base line cost of what it takes to make the product. The thing is, that might be enough for you to keep making that product, yet that doesn't take care of anything else for your business. This is where you will want to markup that cost of production. Simply add profit to that cost. A decent starting point would 20% up to around 60% for the higher end or for when working with distributors. This profit is to help your business grow and cover some of those expenses for social media, broken pieces, or the handful of other small things you forget to account for. So if materials are $1 and labor is $5, then you have $6 for that base price and now we will add the profit. So multiply 6 by .25 (25%) and that will equal 1.5, so that total with profit would be $7.50 to then sell your product to a wholesale shop.
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Lets remember that retail markup is 2 to 3 times. So that shop that paid $7.50 will more then likely mark it up to be sold for $20 to an end user. Same concept works for if you are selling online. You can also see how it might be more enticing to buy a product premade and then mark it up without having to do much work. So maybe think about that as well before you work to hard trying to find the right price. Because at the end of the day you need to remember that you are competing with existing products. For ceramic pipes we would be competing against glass pipes that are already well established and cheap enough. So your going to have a bit of a price fight either against yourself to compete better or with those who you sell to because it is priced to high. Over time you will find your sweet spot. With pipes it is $5 to $10 range when selling to shops.
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This has covered a general overview of how to price you products for sale. You will need to gain experience selling to test your prices and see how things perform. Often when selling to shops early on, you will be selling for less then you want but you have to get your products on the shelves to show the buyer that they can be sold. It will be a long journey and we hope this helped get you going. Stay strong and sell on.
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