The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions

This contributor post was written by Tiffany Moore.

Let’s talk about money…yay!

Pricing is no fun. Trying to put a dollar amount on your creative product is never easy. But in terms of business, pricing is critical. (If you’re trying to sell things as a creative hobby, it might be a different story, but please, out of respect for those of us who are trying to do this as a business, know that how you price your “hobby” affects the people whose work is their livelihood.)

When I was working retail, I got a piece of advice from my manager that has been one of the biggest business lessons I’ve ever learned: “Don’t make assumptions about what other people can afford based on where you are in your own life.” It seems so simple, yet, I remind myself of this all the time. I cannot put my own judgements on what other people can afford.

To take that to the next level: I cannot set my prices based on what I, my family, or my friends can afford.

As an artist, a designer, or crafter, it is not your job to determine what people can afford to pay. It is not your job to make sure that your best friend can afford one of your prints. It is not your job to make sure that you don’t make someone feel bad because they don’t have the money to purchase something you’re selling.

It is your job to make high-quality work. It is your job to get paid well for your time and your materials. It is your job to earn a living from your craft.

If you consistently hear, “Id love that, but I cant afford it right now,” that doesnt mean that your prices are too high. It means that youre marketing to the wrong people. But that’s material for another post?

Your turn: how have you learned to get out of your own way in terms of pricing? What boundaries have you had to push past to ask for what you’re really worth in your business?

*image via Fresh Words Market: My Worth Will Not Be Dictated by a Number

Tiffany Moore, co-founder of Teahouse Studio is an artist, life coach, change agent and magic maker. She helps creatives live their happiest, most sparkly lives (starting NOW) and thinks that everyone in the world is beautiful, including you.

61 comments | Click here to reply

Not only should you not be concerned with what people can afford. You should also not be concerned with what value you personally as well as others in your life personally place on things.

For instance, I might be willing to drop 200$ on a good pair of jeans, but someone else might think I’m crazy and wasting money…even if they can afford that 200$ more than I.

How much you are willing to spend on something similar to what you make should never be part of the equation. I see that SO many times where someone says ‘well, I’d never pay that for it!’. Drives me insane…:)

There are markets for nearly every price point in nearly every genre of item. It’s up to us as artisans to find the people in the market price point we want to sell in.


AWESOME article on the @papernstitch blog: The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions

(@smokinghaute_dc) (@smokinghaute_dc)

The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions via @sharethis

(@benconservato) (@benconservato)

The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions
by @papernstitch via @sharethis

3girlsandagoat (@3girlsandagoat)

The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions advice from papernstitch on pricing your art.

(@Laura_C_George) (@Laura_C_George)

The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions via @sharethis

adornyourself (@adornyourself)

This great advice applies even in other businesses as well. I own and operate a custom closet business for which I do all of the design and sales, and I hear this sometimes. My average job, however costs $3400.00 and I know it’s worth every penny. Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!


RT @designcoyote: A good reminder for all makers: “The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions” #design #pricing

Kat McBride (@Kat_McBride)

The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions via @sharethis

(@AnneBetenson) (@AnneBetenson)

A good reminder for all makers: “The FIrst Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions” #design #pricing

(@designcoyote) (@designcoyote)

The First Rule of Pricing: Make No Assumptions Great short read for any self-employed artist, crafter, designer!

(@neawear) (@neawear)

Good advice for pricing artwork

Abby Leigh Johnson (@AbbyLeighJ)

Love this. RT @thevedahouse A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //

kelly ann mount (@hellokellyann)

a must read! “@thevedahouse: A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //â€

Jennifer Hagler (@AMERRYMISHAP)

RT @thevedahouse: A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //

Miss Potter (@hellomisspotter)

very true!! i definitely had a learning curve in this area. after a long while of undervaluing myself and basically giving away my products/services … i decided to shift gears and change my target market and hold my price high. it’s turned a couple people away, but still i’d rather have my dignity and self-worth than worry about what others can afford. i’m worth it!

joanne garcia

yes! @tiffanycmoore rocks! 🙂 RT @thevedahouse a great article about freelance pricing + respecting the industry //

Amy Moore (@strataflora)

RT @thevedahouse: A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //

Krissy Fernandez (@JUNKandPO)

RT @thevedahouse: A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //

Jessica June Packard (@jessicajpackard)

this is SO good! RT @thevedahouse A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //

breanna rose (@moxee_)

A really great article about freelance pricing and respecting the industry //

Cassie (@thevedahouse)

This is a very interesting article for self employed creatives. I am pretty sure I am not alone in pricing my…

Brilliant Beads (@BrilliantBling)

For the pro beaders, here’s an important pricing tip that doesn’t involve fancy formulas.

Morti (@Mortira)

Thank you for all who contributed to this post. Most timely as I am about to start taking my creations to a Market. Pricing IS the hardest part and is the reason I have been too chicken to put a lot of my stuff online. ahhhh fear of the rejection! We can’t let fear hold us back, can we?

Julie Shinnick

[…] This contributor post was written by Tiffany Moore and is a follow-up to her earlier post, The First Rule of Pricing. […]

The Second Rule of Pricing: Keep it Sustainable | papernstitch

I’m so glad I was catching up on blog posts I follow and ran across your thoughtfull article. You’ve set my thoughts turning and I’ll be reevaulating if I’m under valuing my work.

Thanks, Kim


Thank you! This article has given me much to think about…
I started a small sewing business (Sissy Sue) last October, hoping to provide lovely, durable and affordable products. I totally thought about myself, what I could afford, when pricing (and, because of a good friend’s advice, added 5€ to everything…and i’m still about 5€ below prices in other stores…not on etsy or dawanda; here the websites have so much competition, prices can be driven pretty low).
Lots to consider, as I seek to establish this small business. I’d be very interested in follow up articles about target groups/marketing. Keep up the good work!


I really enjoyed your article! lots to think about there. Having sold my web design and graphics “expertise” over the years, I have to admit I still have a hard time putting a value on my work. There’s one lady who’s website I created and still host who is getting my time for free that probably shouldn’t. Even if all I’m doing is uploading images to her photo gallery for her. I’m a huge softy and I know it.

If there was a how-to guide on how to decide what your work is worth I’d read it! But when push comes to shove, I look at other artists who do similar work to give me an idea of value in the market now. Then you have to take into account how long they’ve been doing what they do and how much of that value is due to building a name/career in that genre or medium. It’s so difficult to decide!


I’ve been thinking about pricing a lot recently, so this a very timely post. I know I need to make some changes, but it’s hard! I know it will be worth it, because my time is valuable and until I understand that, I can’t expect anyone else to either.

Natalie @ NS Pottery

great post! I’ve read so much about this and pretty much every article confirms what you’ve said. I’ve learned to put the proper worth on my goods because I KNOW THE KIND OF EFFORT AND ATTENTION I put into the things I make. I am confident that I am puttign out a product that is of high quality and worksmanship and that is original. I now have years of experience in designing and making quilts, etc., and I consider it my expertise. That experience and knowledge and my time (because it is valuable) is factored into my prices.

When the right cotumer has come along and found what they were looking for, there was no question about prices and shipping costs. They found what they wanted and paid for it.

By the same token, and along the way, I have learned to respect others in their field and expertise and am willing to pay for that experience.

cinzia allocca

[…] Running an indie business?  Make no assumptions. […]

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this is one of those articles where the comments become part of the article itself…this has all been so enlightening!! I had never been able to put into words what holds me back from giving my art (abstract oil paintings and a new 2012 calendar) the price it deserves but it is the ‘ASSUMPTION’…i’m turning your ideas into quotes that i’ll put up on my inspiration board to guide me through my difficult pricing dilema…thank you and I’ll keep an eye out for your very useful tips


@Theresa, I think you make a great point here, thanks for bringing this up. I don’t think that it has to be the case that everyone’s target market is limited to people who can only afford luxury items. In economic times such as these, the focus tends to be on the what we can’t afford, how times are hard, etc. and as a business owner, it’s VERY easy to let those trends influence your pricing.

I’m not proposing that you price everything sky-high, but that you think objectively about your prices so that your business can be sustainable. And that you treat yourself fairly first, as the business owner and creator, instead of just being influenced by your immediate circle.

In addition, if your main goal is to make things that the people around you can afford (and if they have limitations on what they can afford) how can you shift your product to make it more affordable for both you and them?

To everyone, I am LOVING the collective wisdom of this group and the many points thta have been brought up around pricing. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts so openly and honestly as you discuss both your struggles AND what’s worked for you!


For me I think that part of the issue is that a lot of people just make things that can be easily bought cheaply in shops. To give an example I was at a fair over Christmas where a seller had fabric purses and wallets. They were nice but nothing really ‘wow’ about them. I’ve seen similar in every high street chain store.

Another fair had a seller making purses and pouches of all different sizes out of waterproof fabric. To me I would gladly pay for something that to me is useful. For me it was a gift for my sister who is going travelling and needs waterproof bags. So useful, beautiful and handmade all in one go.

So if you are making something like a purse or wallet that is easily available then something has to be special about it : custom embroidery, personalised with your dad’s initials, made of rare Japanese fabrics) rather than just made out of an old curtain.

I think Coco Chanel puts it well with “in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”.


My trouble with this is everyones target market is going to be those people with the kind of expendable income for luxury items. If I, my friends and family can’t afford my work then who exactly am I doing this for? Im limiting access to my work to the same people who always have access to the best. I want people like myself to have access to my work and as such price it accordingly which leads to more customers. That doesnt mean I undervalue myself or my work and I make sure that costs are covered. As a business owner, I do have to consider what my customers are willing to pay for my items because it could take me 3 days of constant work to make one pair of earring but there is only so much people are willing to pay for that regardless of the care and attention and quality of materials that go into it.


This is interesting. When I first decided to put some of my beadwoven jewelry pieces up for sale, I did pay attention to how much I could afford to pay for such a piece — which is not much! Rather than causing me to charge lower prices, it actually led me to a higher price range in order to be able to buy the best materials. I.e., the more I get paid for a piece, the more I am able to stock myself with quality materials, which in turn allows me to charge more money due to the quality materials. It’s a little circular but I find that it works for me. I am extremely lucky to have a market, albeit a small one, which consists of women in executive-type positions and environments, who are looking for pieces to match businesswear etc and even go from their day jobs to a dinner out. My customers are definitely willing to pay for quality. Another tip, that helps me “justify” my prices, is that I write a small description that goes with each piece or each sample piece, detailing both the materials as well as the amount of work put in — nothing elaborate, just throwing in phrases such as, “the thousands of hand-stitched beads” etc., or anything that I can say that would make a customer understand the hours and hours of work that can go into an elaborate piece of jewelry. Many people do not even consider how much work goes into things — which is why I feel free to tell them! And then they know they have something special. In such notices, I like to provide a little “story” about the circumstances around each design. I have found that blurbs like that make a customer much more likely to spend the extra bucks for a piece of jewelry — they are buying the story along with the design.
I am not immune to guilt, though! I have a good friend who works at my LBS and she seriously underprices her work. She would never sell anything that wasn’t her own original design, and nevertheless prices things at, say, 35 bucks when I would charge more than twice that — but I am selling my pieces in a very different market. It’s really difficult. Sometimes, the time spent on a piece doesn’t factor in much — I am likely to underprice items that are just strung rather than made with an intricate weave. But I try to think of it this way — the higher profit margin on such projects gives me a chance to spend more time on elaborate pieces. I am a very slow beadweaver in general and if I were to pay myself by the hour…… well then the prices would be absurd. So I like to think it evens out in the end. Just like anyone else, I do the best I can. But I still sometimes end up pricing things sort of arbitrarily. “What the market will bear.” One last comment — before I started selling, I padded some prices even more — in order to offer discounts without losing money on the deal. I give almost everyone a little break, always with a reason – say, being a family friend, or a “fellow artist” discount. Even if an item is very pricey, it seems many women like to focus on “how much money I saved!” rather than how much they actually spent. (I know I do!)
Hmm sorry for rambling; I’ve got some strong views on this subject. Perhaps I should go back to my own writerly roots and do my own article rather than leaving disjointed comments on others’! 😉 If you got this far, I thank you for reading.


Such a great article & every bit if it resonated with me. I have had the ‘ your art is too expensive’ happen to me multiple times. At first I doubted myself & then eventually I realized these people are not my target market.
I cannot price my original art the same as art prints . The people who have bought my art did so because the price was not a factor to them & they liked the fact that they were paying for original art .
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.


Thank you Tiffany,for such a great post! Pricing is such a complicated issue when trying to make a living as an artist. Any constructive thoughts about it are very welcome!

Annamaria Potamiti

Wow…such a great post! Your advise really resonates with me, as I have struggled with pricing my jewelry from day one. I have the formula, but once I have figured out what the price should be for each piece based on the formula, I usually do the mental run down of questions like “is this something I could afford?”, “Can my best friend afford this?” and on & on & on. Often, this leads to some pricing adjustments. Your advise helps tremendously & I will use it as a reminder each time that I price my pieces!!

Thanks so much!


Great post!! I was definitely guilty of under-pricing my handmade bath and body products when I first started because I wanted them to be accessible. But the truth of the matter is that sustainable raw materials cost more, making things in small batches costs more, and actually being able to pay yourself requires you to make hard decisions on pricing. I ended up increasing all my prices about two years ago and I was terrified that I would loose a bunch of customers but instead I received a lot of encouraging emails. It made me realize that people do value my products and are willing to pay more because they like them. I am so thankful that the growing interest in handmade has helped educate consumers about the true VALUE of artisan items.

Alana Rivera

This is an excellent post. I couldn’t agree more. I cringe when I hear people say, well the economy is bad so that’s why I underprice myself…I feel like shaking them and saying no no no! Not everyone is in a bad economy…but if you underprice yourself, it affects all of us and THAT makes for a bad economy!

Deanna C

Omg, this is such timely advice for me! I have a new handmade soap business, and just today I was pricing out organic and sustainable ingredients (palm oil that doesn’t involve rain forest deforestation, fair trade shea butter that supports a woman’s cooperative in Uganda, etc.). I’m a bleeding heart, and I want to make a DIFFERENCE with my products. But I know that if it weren’t for my business, I couldn’t afford the products that I make (at the moment, at least), which makes me feel badly.

Buying the better ingredients isn’t THAT much more expensive, yet it will still mean a slight price increase if I want to pay myself fairly.

I’m going to go for it. 🙂

Andi Luther-Philippe

Great business advice!! I am currently working on streamlining and improving my online shop. This includes using better quality materials, which will ultimately result in a price increase. It’s important to keep in mind that just because I am a “poor graduate student” doesn’t mean I have to price my items based on what *I* would like to pay for them – Thank you!!


Great post! I’ve come to the realization that it’s o.k. to feel that sticker shock when pricing my own items. I’m worth it! My time. My energy. I recently raised all my prices after realizing that even when working my hardest and being the busiest I’ve ever been, that I barely broke even. I had to really evaluate what my time was worth. I’m happy with my decision and proud of my work. If people want what I have to offer, they may have to save a little more to get it, but it will last them a lifetime! And if they have the money to buy it right off, and they want it, they will.

Lucy Chapman

Excellent post, Tiffany!

I’d also add that it’s not our job to worry about someone else’s pricing. I see so many times a popular and successful shop will lower their pricing (which obviously they’ve determined from knowing the back end of their business that they can afford this!)…and a slew of competitors will follow suit.

Put your heart into your work and your people will find you…and they will not blink that your prices are a couple bucks higher than that other shop’s…and to that end, it’s very important to realize that the price is not always going to be the make it or break it factor. Not everyone is looking for the cheapest thing or the best deal.

Your post made me realize that I, too, have been making assumptions about what other people can afford based on what I can afford.


Wonderful post!

Although I am not trying to make a living from things I make, I passionately believe that we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about VALUE.

Learning to sew has made me realise how much time and effort goes into sewing things, for example. We need to value human beings: their talent, their creativity, their time, their labour…. even mass-produced goods are frequently underpriced in terms of the human effort that has gone into producing them… let alone all the advantages of handmade goods and art.

The idea of giving a discount to friends and family is a great one 🙂


great great great advice! thank you!


this is such a great post! it’s exactly what i needed i’m always worrying about whether people could afford what i feel my work is worth. thank you for this 🙂

lily sol

oh my god, this is gold! just like rebecca, i’m always thinking whether my pricing would still be affordable to my friends and family.. yet at the same time i want to be appreciated for all the love, hard work and effort that goes in crafting my products.. thanks so much for this..

Windy Dhanutirto

This is such an important topic! The unfortunate thing is that consumers are just really used to low price points, which are often achieved by unfair labor situations. A friend of mine just wrote an amazing article about this here:

That point you made about not making assumptions about what your target market can spend based on your own situation is so key. I have to remind myself of this every day!

Natalie Teodori

Wow, such great advice Tiffany and so simply put. It’s hard not to consider your own life/financial situation when considering pricing but this is definitely something I will keep in mind for the future and advice I will share.

I think a key element to pricing is keeping customers educated about your product and helping them to understand the true value of your products. The good thing about the handmade community getting bigger and more mainstream is that the average person becomes more educated about handmade. The time that goes into each piece, the detailed craftsmanship behind items, all the work that an independent entrepreneur puts into their business, etc. As people become more aware about these issues, they understand the value of a handmade item, and therefore are willing to pay more.

For example, I used to think letterpress was so expensive, which it is. But after learning more about the letterpress process and seeing all the time and energy that goes into each print, I’m more than willing to support artists and pay the higher prices. I can pay a little more to get something that has so much love put into it. 🙂

Lauren Elise

This is a fundamental lesson for creatives that run a business. A year after launching my photography biz, I met a woman who had been at it for five years longer than me. She gracefully pointed out that my prices were severely low. It was definitely a challenge to up my prices. I’ve had to say “no” to several potential clients who have outright asked for a pretty steep discount. One helpful approach I’ve implemented is a friends and family 10% discount. It saves me from giving away my work but also allows those close to me a small break.

Sandra Fazzino Photography

Hanna, that is a great question and a really good point to bring up! I think that one thing you need to ask yourself is what is sustainable for you in terms of running a business? New business owners often start out with low prices and then realize that it’s difficult to raise prices once a low bar has been set.

The other thing to consider is what your target market really can afford. It really hurts when you think someone can only afford a specific price only to see them spend much more money on other products.

If you are concerned about specific folks being able to afford things, one thing you can do is offer a specific friends and family discount (15% is what I offer ~ it feels comfortable and not like I’m giving it away) or have sales periodically throughout the year. I do a BOGO sale a couple of times a year and people can stock up if they’ve been wanting something for a while.

Finally, to the question about your target market, I think that if your target market can’t afford the prices that you need to sustain yourself, it’s time to rethink a few things about your business. Maybe you need to change up your products or start marketing to other people. Maybe you need to offer a range of products at different price-points to appeal to different audiences…just a few thoughts…

All of this discussion is great, and I appreciate your honesty around your thoughts. So many people hate talking about money, and I think it’s time that we open some dialogue around it!

Tiffany Moore

Great advice, although rather hard to follow sometimes. I often get conflicted when wanting to price my work and take the means of my potential costumers into consideration. What if my target costumer is someone, who can’t afford the “real” price? Or am I underestimating my market or should I reconsider my target audience? I would love to put a fair price on my creations, but it does frighten me sometimes whether I’ll be able to sell it at that price.


Hi all, I’m SO GLAD to hear that this is resonating with so many of you! I’m definitely getting some ideas for some future posts too…

One thing that is good to keep in mind, especially if you’re a newish seller, is that you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone at the beginning. Good pricing decisions will almost always make you uncomfortable at first. As Jan mentioned, it starts getting easier and easier over time…trust the process!

Tiffany Moore

Great article! As for me, I read up on different pricing formulas and figured out a system that worked for me, early on. I was fortunate to have a mentor when I first started selling onetsy, and she sent me links to these high end jewelry sites that were very bold about their pricing and suggested I up my prices even further. Her suggestion to me was to price my work and then add on another $5 or $10 past my comfort level. At first, I felt bad about my prices, but Marlo (my mentor) was right. With the fluctuating silver market and now taking into account wholesaling at 50% my retail price, I can be assured that I am still going to make a profit. My price point also allows me to offer grat customer service; free shipping specials, upgrades for my best repeat customers, and discounts, too. Pricing is still challenging, but focusing on offering a customizable, high quality product and awesome customer service helps keep my confidence. Thanks for the post! 😉

Jan Avellana

hey mgb. there is a facebook share button, but no “like” button. maybe i’ll add one in the future. but for now, i did post it on facebook, you can “like” it there if you’re interested.
either way, thanks for stopping by!


this is great advice – thank you! honestly, pricing my jewelery is one of the hardest things for me…and a big part of the reason that I don’t list more on etsy. I usually make jewelry, rather than buying it…so I am afraid that people will look at my work and think, I could make that! I assume that every consumer is just like me…which is not true! this gives me lots to think about!!


I wish there was a facebook “like” button for this post!


glad to hear that you’ll be keeping tiffany’s tips in mind. it is not always easy to make that mind shift, but once you do its quite freeing! good luck.


Such great advice! I always subconciously cost things around what I or my friends can afford or other similar products made en mass…definitley keeping this in mind for the future x

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