Are you wondering how to price custom, one-off designs for a single customer?
Maybe you’ve got a fan who loves your work, but they don’t want to buy anything premade you already have in your shop, and instead, they’ve emailed you to ask if you could make them something unique and just for them?
This is the post where I’ll share with you how to price custom handmade products.
Hi! My name is Mei and I help makers, artists and designers make a consistent income from selling their handmade products online.
If you’re new to my page, just to give you some back story, I’ve been selling my own handmade jewelry at Tiny Hands since 2006.
I still run this business to this day and you can bet I’ve gotten countless emails and requests from people asking me to make them custom jewelry that I didn’t already have in my shop.
If you have received an email like that, what needs to happen next is usually getting more info and specs on what exactly they’re looking for, followed by giving them a quote.
But how much do you charge them? How do you even begin to quote them for something you’ve never made before?
In this post, I want to share with you two ways that I price my custom handmade products.
My business is primarily made up of designs that I call reproducible designs. I design them once and I can make them over and over again.
So when I say custom made products, these are designs that I make special for customers who request them. It’s just me making one of that design and it doesn’t usually end up in my shop to become a reproducible design because the design request was for something that doesn’t really fit with the rest of my brand.
In the past, I’ve been asked to make things like Hello Kitty or video game objects like the Companion Cube from the video game, Portal. Those aren’t food and my brand is all about food, so it just doesn’t have a place in my shop.
If it was a custom product that is a food-based design, sometimes it’s not something I predict as being a design that will do very well in my shop. For example, I was once asked to make asparagus and while I personally love asparagus, my audience generally comes to me for sweet dessert-like designs and healthy food isn’t something they’re really interested in.
Pricing Method #1
The original way I used to price my custom products is how I’m assuming you price your custom designs. I use my handmade product pricing formula as a base but with a lot of tweaks.
If you want a low down on how the pricing formula generally works, there’s a link to go watch a video all about that.
So when it comes to me and my craft, I have to spend a lot of time designing products. Making the actual product isn’t very time-consuming.
I can make 30 cupcake charms in about six hours. But designing that cupcake to begin with, took me weeks to get right.
When it comes to polymer clay, which is my primary medium and it’s what my charms are made out of, I don’t paint my charms. I mix colors from different colored clay. If you’ve worked with clay you know that the colors before you cure them and after they come out of the oven can look very different.
Without going too deeply into it, a lot of time goes into testing colors. That takes up most of my time when I design new things.
Then, of course, there’s testing textures and finally, sculpting the actual charm so that it looks like the real thing as much as possible.
The difference with how much custom made products end up being priced for me with the formula, is I have to add in like at least 10-20 hours of labor that goes into making JUST one new design.
If I’m making one of my reproducible designs, I don’t add in the time I spent to design it. That time alone makes the cost for that custom product end up being anywhere between $100 and $200 if I’m using a $10 per hour hourly rate.
When I use my pricing formula, I have to make some adjustments. I don’t mark it up twice, if I give it any mark up at all. If you can imagine, no one is going to pay $200 or more for an asparagus charm necklace made out of clay.
What I usually end up doing is using a really low labor rate, lower even than $10 and I don’t mark up. This makes the product being somewhat affordable for the customer, and I still get paid something for my time.
As you can see, this is a severely broken system and there’s no way I’m getting paid what my time is worth using this formula.
Pricing Method #2
These days, I’ve stopped doing custom designs for one-off customers. I do, however, still consider them when it’s for a larger order.
Instead, I’ve enforced a requirement that the customer orders a minimum of 100 pieces of that design.
Obviously this is going to turn away regular customers who just want one of the design, but it definitely is a better system for protecting my time.
I’ve successfully had many fun custom projects using this system.
This minimum order amount for custom designs attracts the right kinds of customers to me.
In my experience, it’s usually an actual brick and mortar store or an influencer who wants to sell products to her audience but doesn’t want to actually manufacture the product in house.
Or like once, I had a shop owner who sells all things bee-related. I made her a scented honeycomb necklace.
Another time I made a sewing machine and a spool of thread for a crafting supplies company for them to sell directly on their site.
When I do my pricing this way, I’m still using my formula as the base for my calculations, but this time, I don’t charge the buyer for my design time.
Here’s why I do this.
Over a spread of 100 pieces, the design time spent per piece is ultimately not a lot of time, so it doesn’t cost that much.
It’s definitely more worth it to me.
In an order like this, I can easily make $1400-$2000.
At that point, I don’t feel resentful spending more time making sure the product is really good.
One time, I made some custom necklaces for I Has Cupquake. This is a YouTube channel run by Tiffany Garcia and she has like over 6.6 million subscribers. She wanted two different necklaces, one hundred pieces each.
She had some specific requests (like she wanted to make a choker, but it was difficult to find the right size) so I got some samples online.
I even went to the Fashion District here in Los Angeles where you can get a lot of stuff at wholesale prices and we had multiple iterations of the charm I made for them.
The point is, when you’re getting paid appropriately, you’re willing to do the work required, and more than that, you would even go above and beyond and everyone’s happier because of this.
Now, this is what works for my polymer clay business. I would imagine your processes might be quite different if you’re a seamstress or a clothing designer and you made custom wedding dresses. Or if you’re a painter and you were asked to make a custom piece of art.
I’m also aware that some businesses out there are composed of primarily custom work that’s super time consuming and laborious and maybe you can’t sell reproducible products like me.
You probably have different systems and ways to price your products.
I’d love to hear in the comments how you do it in your business! There’s not a lot of information out there that talks about this and I’m hoping this post and you guys can help share your knowledge to help other people who are interested to make custom work.