Wednesday, April 6, 2016


One skein of Corriedale, commercially dyed, carded on a drum carder to make this blend, hand spun and plied.  

What is it worth?   How much do I value the time and expense of making it?

The question of worth versus value is tricky.  It is a question that confronts me all the time - in terms of my hand woven textiles, my teaching and writing.

Some things are easy.  The customer makes an offer - X number of dollars for Y services or products.  All I have to do at that point is figure out if it is worth it to me to provide the service or product for that amount of money.

Other times I have to come up with the figure of what I think I am worth and see if there are any takers.

It becomes especially hard when people's expectations are vastly different from mine.  

I am wrestling with this very thing right now in terms of The Book.  I have already spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars learning this craft - with the workshops I've paid to attend, the samples I've woven, the failures that have taken up time and money simply to be a Learning Experience.

There are the services I will be paying others to do - from the editing to the other creative people who will contribute to the manuscript.  In the end, how will I decide what to charge?  Since it is going to be a book, there is hope that sufficient copies will be sold to add up to covering the out of pocket expenses of producing it (electricity to power the computer, printer ink to print out hard copies to edit - because I'm old school enough that I edit 'best' with a hard copy - the yarn for the woven samples, etc., etc., etc. - the stuff purchasers never even know that go into such an endeavour) not to mention the hours I've already spent and the hundreds of hours more that will go into the writing, designing of the learning examples, the editing (and editing and editing and editing).

There was a conference I attended where a participant was at the registration desk complaining bitterly about the $10 hand out fee she paid for the seminar she had just taken.  The hand out consisted of two sheets of paper, single spaced, both sides, so four densely packed pages of information.  Information that the instructor had spent years researching (I knew the instructor), and compiled as notes for the seminar she was presenting.

All the participant saw was 50 cents worth of paper, not the thousands of hours of research that had gone into the topic and the distillation of the information into hand outs she could take home and reference (there was a bibliography included).

To the participant, she was being 'ripped off' (her words).  She did not see anything beyond the value of the paper she had been given.  To her, the four pages of information had zero value.

So, how do I come up with a price for things like my teaching, writing, weaving?  I don't know.  There is no tried and true formula.  All I can do is come up with a price I think is fair and hope sufficient other people agree - and purchase.  Because even if you think a price is 'fair', it may still be out of your budget.  I am all too aware of limited budgets...sometimes sacrifices have to be made - either giving up something else, or giving up the thing you want.

Everyone has to figure out for themselves if a service or product is worth the price being asked and how much they value it.  


Sandra Rude said...

Information *never* has zero value. Don't they call this "The Information Age?" The complainer should be spanked and sent to bed without supper, just like the child she's imitating!

terri said...

I think the challenging part in "The Information Age" is that people expect to find information online for free. (And people are constantly finding ways to get around paying for info that should be paid for.)

I'll start saving my pennies now so I can afford your book when it comes out :)

Anonymous said...

To that participant, you might have said, “if you know all this stuff then why did you attend?” With a smile of course. ;-)
As a former musician, I understand completely. I had a similar challenge in a volunteer church music group: weighing the 10’s of thousands of dollars and decades of time I had put into music; the thousands of hours practicing, the planning of music, selecting the music appropriate, writing charts, leading rehearsals, finding new music, purchasing new music (hoping to get reimbursed). I finally said I can no longer do this for free. I no longer play. "Now I make music with color and texture." (not sure which weaver said that, perhaps it was Jane Stafford.)
I think tour recent post ch-ch changes’ graphic of an iceberg summarizes quite beautifully what you’re describing. - The tip of the iceberg - We see the final product; the results of many years of experience at honing one’s skills and perfecting one’s craft. Unfortunately, today, many are unaware of the necessary time involved in becoming a real master at anything, let alone the drive, stamina and mindset required – be it music, woodworking, masonry, martial arts or fiber arts. But I do believe in each of those areas, the real masters are always acknowledged and live on. I also believe that Fry will join the likes of Davison, Atwater, Bateman, Strickler, Neilson, Et al. Each leaves their 'footprint'. I'm looking forward to yours. I'd be honored to purchase a copy of your book Laura. “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – L. DaVinci

Tom Z. in IL

Debbie said...

This is one of the most difficult things any artist/maker faces, their worth, how to value their work. I read something the other day I can't remember where or I would acknowledge it. It made me see my work in a different way, it doesn't really apply to a book but individual items I guess. You are not selling your work as a product, people are buying a unique experience, something individual and from the heart, and they are lucky that you are letting them own something you made.
As to books I guess you need to look at what other weavers charge for their books, you are unlikely to get reimbursed for the years of experience and dedication that it takes to write a book.

steelwool said...

Sorry, but I agree with the complainer. As a handout it was a rip-off. The speaker could have put the info in a folder ($0.20), a stick pen ($.10) and a couple sheets of blank paper for notes. It would imply she had thought about the needs of the audience. Would I have hesitated as $10.00 as a fee for the seminar, heavens no. A participation fee perhaps or even mentioning a speakers fee would have been ok. At some fiber fests, I would have paid $10.00 to be able to find a place to sit for awhile. If the person had already paid a fee for the seminar however and the "handout fee" was tacked on, I would think there was a problem. Hopefully that was not the only monies going to the speaker with the rest of fees going to the event promoter.

Carol said...

I have felt for many years that the only thing really worth paying for is knowledge; thieves can't take it from you if they break into your house. I've always understood that in paying a handout fee and receiving printed matter I'm really receiving knowledge and that it's the knowledge the presenter felt was most important. What would one expect to get for $10? An original artwork? A handwoven towel? Unreasonable expectation. And, as a writer and editor I directly understand what time and effort are involved in producing 4 pages of pertinent copy (although I would have double-spaced to allow room for notes to be added to the text). Laura, I will pay whatever you ask for the book that distills your experience and knowledge. That, to me, is priceless information that I will use for the rest of my life.

Rachelle said...

I found this writing to be very inspirational. My husband and I are musicians and we give music lessons from our home. Not only do people not place any monetary value in what you do but they also neglect to see that your time has any worth either. So many of our students come up with millions of excuses of why they won't make it (10 minutes prior to the lesson), why they didn't practice, and lack of attention span. It is easy for us to internalize these things as something we are doing wrong, but I know for a fact it is not me. We live in a time where people do not work for themselves so they do not understand time and time management. They cannot fathom that their 30 minute lesson really took an hour to prepare for. Calculating the preparation time plus the lesson time multiplied by the number of students who are no shows can be quite overwhelming, frustrating, and financially crippling.

Another thing I take issue with is something one of your above commenters touched on which was the folder, extra paper, and a pen. If you have never had to do an event, rather it be planning or being featured in it, you cannot fathom the amount of time, effort, and pressure placed on that person. That person does not have the time to seek out fluff for their presentation. They should be spending their energy on behind the scenes things that make the event run smoothly. Fluff can lead to a lot of waste, for instance plan a birthday bash for 100 people, you prepare food, beverages, party favors, rent tables, linen, and the cost of the actual location. Let's say 20% of the invitees are no shows. That is a lot of extra food, favors, tables, and linen that you've paid for and have no use of. Adults must go to seminars prepared to take notes with a notebook and pen and perhaps a recorder. I would have no expectation that someone should do that for me, nor would I want anyone to choose a cheap folder or pen to add to my collection of unnecessary crap in my home. I have found that people who claim that they are financially strapped are really saying that a flat screen, new iPhone, cable, etc are worth living pay check to paycheck for, but knowledge is not worth the sacrifice. The information should be enough, if not, don't pay for it.

To the author: my husband summed it up nicely. Knowing that people are the way they are, place the price that you want to. This will ensure those who want the information will gladly get it while everyone else will not. There will always be the complainer, the broke person, and the grateful ones. Market your book to those who are grateful, the broke person can borrow it, and the complainer (well you know where they can go to get their info.) Cheers to your journey.

Rebecca Mezoff said...

What a great post. I relate to this so directly. I suppose all of us who create and teach do.
Charge what the book is worth... and maybe add 20% more than you think that number is.
One thing that seems to be true in marketing is that if you raise the price, people value it more. Unfortunately in fiber, our clients/students have become used to prices that are far below the sustainable level for those of us who teach (and for our art also!). Lets change that. Charge what it is worth.
Knowledge is what people want but it is true that they have trouble recognizing it when it is right in front of them.
I sell a tapestry weft yarn card set. It is 19 different tapestry yarns that I have purchased, cut into little pieces, attached to cards and then attached an 11 page handout that talks about each of the yarns and how I believe it is best used for tapestry. It costs $18. You wouldn't believe how many people turn their noses up at that price. They don't understand how much knowledge is in those papers and how much they would have to spend to buy one ball of each of those yarns to see what they are like. Drives me nuts!

Anyway, I could go on forever. I think that we as fiber artists do have to start increasing our prices both for teaching and for our products. That is really the best way to gain respect. That teacher had every right to charge $10 for her handout. She probably should have just called the fee something else! (I currently use "materials fee", but even that is dicey if the class we're doing doesn't really use that much yarn... so looking for a better solution myself.)

I can't believe I haven't been reading your blog. Just found it and love it. Thanks!