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Have you ever considered the real cost of not paying yourself? It can be sooo easy to short-change yourself when you are starting an online business, but it is so incredibly important to pay yourself from your business. Here’s why.
Selling products and handmade items online is so doable today. Scroll through Instagram and every other person is showing gorgeous images of their embroideries, wall hangings, workbooks, and hand-lettered prints. But some creatives who are just starting out undercharge their worth and don’t realize the real cost of not paying yourself.
A few weeks ago, I had someone ask me why I was charging for a printable. It wasn’t asked in a mean way, but it did get me to thinking.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are some major reasons why we need to regularly offer resources at a cost. There is a bit of background to this thought process which I’ll lay out for you below.
First of all, this concept of charging for services is directed at creatives who are interested in making money now or down the road from their blogs or social media accounts. There is nothing icky or evil in wanting to do something like this, just like there’s nothing icky about babysitting so you’ll have some extra money.
Where it gets tricky is most of us have been trained to think everything on the internet is free. We forget that there’s a human being on the other end of the “free printable/ecourse/workbook/etc.” who took the time to organize their thoughts and put it into a format that would be accessible for their readers.
I am a big believer in the fact that you DO need free products and should offer them regularly. How will potential buyers trust you if they don’t know what your writing style is and what you have to offer?
I rarely buy something out of the blue from someone online; usually, I’ve followed their blog or business, enjoyed free content, and then made the jump to purchase from them. So, definitely give your readers free content and make it interesting and helpful to their needs. And by the way, free content includes blog posts.
I need to digress a tiny bit here just in case you’re not a small business owner or creative who wants to earn a living (even a small one) via the internet. You might be thinking you’re being ripped off by being asked to pay for something online.
Maybe you really do think everything on the internet should be free, but here’s the catch. Someone has to pay for it. That blog that you read every week because it gives you great frugal tips and ideas has a blogger on the other side of it who pays for yearly hosting fees, a domain name (the blog’s url), her mailing list provider, and many other little items that add up. She may offer you the free printable but she had to buy her computer and the software (most likely) to make it. So, although things on the internet look free, they’re not.
Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving away free, quality content. I’m a big fan of that. But I do think there is also room for us to regularly charge for additional content as well. With that big intro aside, let’s get to the real stuff.
The Real Cost of Not Paying Yourself
- You’re cheating yourself. Plain and simple. You have to pay your hosting, domain, and other fees every month, and if your blog isn’t helping you recoup those costs through product sales, then you’re hurting yourself in the long run.How long can you go on working for free? You only have a certain number of hours in a day to work on your blog and business. Yes, make wonderful and free stuff that delights your audience, but also provide products and resources that cost money so you can make this work.
Working for free isn’t sustainable in the long run. The money for your DIY, craft, recipe ingredients, etc. should all be coming from your blog and business. The business brings in money and you buy supplies (of course, after paying taxes and bottom line costs.) By the way, your products don’t have to cost hundreds of dollars in order for you to break even (or even earn some income each month); most of my products are under $50.
- You’re doing other makers a disservice. There are many creative women out there who are working really hard to create quality resources and products for their readers and customers. They love what they do but they need to make a living too; nothing wrong with that.
Their problem is when YOU drastically undercharge or offer the same thing for free. I’ve seen amazing embroideries on Etsy that obviously took time to make that are so incredibly cheap I’ve had to do a double take. As a consumer, you might think, “YES! What a deal!” but for the maker, not only is she hurting her fellow makers who are charging more but she’s hurting herself because her business plan is completely unsustainable.
Many times when we sit down and calculate how many hours it took to make an item plus the resources used in making it we find that we should be charging way more than we do. (Of course, you need to check the market and not charge exorbitant prices too.) I remember back in the day when I hand-embroidered baby clothes and thought I was going to sell them for $4.00 each.
I enjoyed making them and thought it was a great price. It was, except at that price I was barely breaking even with buying the plain clothing and embroidery floss, not to mention I would be working for free. A friend kindly told me to more than double my price and I was shocked when people bought them at that price. I still wasn’t making the best hourly salary but at least I could buy my supplies, make a little money for myself and not end up extremely frustrated.
- You set your customers up. Now, what do I mean by this? Well, since I’ve done this more times than I can count (guilty!), I’ll tell you. When you constantly under-price your products (and yourself), your customers begin to expect that none of your products will cost very much.And when you have the “nerve” to finally start making enough money to buy yourself an Americano every once in a while, you’ll hear from those customers. It’s hard and painful, and I don’t want you to have to go through that, so price your items properly and you won’t have to go through that pain, okay?
It’s really difficult when you’ve put a lot of work into your products, and you get complaints that they’re too expensive. Good heavens, if only they could see all the hours you were up all night sewing your sweet little products. It makes a maker want to cry.
- You might be keeping yourself from bigger (and better) things.
Being an entrepreneur and creative business owner is not for the faint-hearted. You might have started this because you love to make things . . . what am I saying? You probably still love to make things and always will, but if you’re not charging for your services (or charging enough), you’re going to start to get that creeping question of, “Why am I killing myself for this?”
And as that question begins to grow, it’s likely that you’ll pull back a little. Why push yourself into new territory when you’re struggling to pay the bills as it is? You’ll find yourself looking for the easy button, the ‘just-get-by’ button that so many people have chosen in life. Let’s not do that, okay?
You guys. This post has been on my heart for a while because this is a problem that is constantly shared in the various groups I’m a part of and it breaks my heart.
I’m proud so many women are following their creative passions and sharing them with others. I think it’s a very brave and beautiful thing.[ctt title=”It’s not a crime or a sign of being ‘less than’ a real artist if you charge for your products. It’s Brave.” tweet=”It’s not a crime or a sign of being ‘less than’ a real artist if you charge for your products. It’s Brave. via @jenniemoraitis” coverup=”jaoLH”]
So get out there, make your things, and then . . .offer it for a reasonable price. You’ve got this!
This is super helpful, and definitely something I’ll need to look back on when I start monetizing. I really would like to do it like now, but I don’t want to do it with the blog I have now. So I guess I’m waiting until I can switch to self-hosted before I monetize. Plus, it’s a little scary. I know having a small business is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s made me doubt before, whether I should actually go down that road, but I truly do believe I’ve got it in me. I just have to take that plunge, and trust that it will all work out to the glory of God! And you are going to be (and are already) a huge help with this blogging stuff!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Maggie. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and encouragement!
You’re welcome, Julie! 🙂 Thanks for your sweet comment. (Your cookies look AMAZING!)
Great advice Jennie! I’m looking at starting an Etsy shop this summer and am trying to figure out what to charge for my work. This is a good reminder of the important of not undervaluing our work. Thanks!
Thanks so much for your comment, Heather! 🙂 🙂 And that’s awesome about you possibly opening up an Etsy shop–let me know when you do that b/c I’d love to see it. 🙂 Definitely check out taraswiger.com for her podcasts and advice to makers of handmade items. She has great advice for marketing, etc. 🙂 Have an GREAT week! 🙂
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