As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of DIY projects. If I see something I like, there’s a good chance I’m going to try and make it myself. Usually, the reasoning behind my DIY is that I’m just a craft junkie and think it’d be fun to try my hand at something new. Recently, though, I tried a DIY for all the wrong reasons. I’ve never given up on a DIY project before now. I’m confident that it’s because I wanted to do it because I thought it wasn’t worth the money.
I’ve been showing sneaks in my Instagram stories for months now. I bought all the supplies, showed some of my process, and worked on it for ages. My plan was to make my own felt letterboard, because they’re pretty expensive, and I didn’t think it was worth the price. I was reminded of an important lesson, though…
Sometimes that pricetag is there for a reason.
All in all, the process for making the letterboard was incredibly simple, and the materials don’t cost much at all. You need wood dowels, felt, hot glue, and a frame.
The process was simple. Measure and cut the dowels to fit in the frame, cut the felt, and glue it onto the dowels.
Except that takes a lot longer than it sounds. It’s easy, but it’s incredibly tedious. I worked on my letterboard for about 5 hours one Saturday, and wasn’t even half-way through. I had to go back to the store twice for more materials over the next 2 weeks, and still wasn’t anywhere near done.
After weeks of cutting and gluing felt, it hit me.
I didn’t want to do this anymore. Suddenly, I didn’t mind the $50+ pricetag for a letterboard. It made sense to me that it would cost so much. Luckily, I found one in my budget.
This post isn’t about my letterboard, though.
I have a bigger message to send, and it’s one that comes from my heart. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I was in the handmade industry for years, and attitudes just like mine are something I saw all the time. “Why buy it when I can make it myself for cheaper?”
As a handmade artisan, I was frequently told that my prices were outrageous. That they weren’t worth it. That anyone could make it themselves, for a lot cheaper. At least that part was true. My items could be made on your own a whole lot cheaper. I’m a knitter, and you can get yarn at some pretty cheap prices, if you want. What everyone needs to understand, though, is that the price is about so much more than just the materials!
There is skill involved. Years of perfecting a technique, sourcing the best materials, and designing a new piece. There is time involved in the actual creation of the product. Packaging and shipping products takes time.
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There is so much that goes into the price of an item.
Especially if you are buying handmade, there is a lot that goes into the price of an item. It’s not just materials, and it’s not all apparent in the final product. This week, I was reminded of this lesson. I know better, because I’ve been on the other side of this debate for a long time, and I still fell into the trap of believing I could make something for cheaper. I couldn’t. At least, not when you factor in the time, the trips to the store, and the multiple pieces of mis-cut felt that I dealt with while trying to create my letterboard for a better price. Honestly, while I didn’t track my spending very closely, I probably paid more for the materials and gas than I ended up paying for the final product!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be crafty.
I love making things, and trying new techniques. Please don’t think I’m telling you not to make your own projects. Flexing your creative muscles is always a good thing, so that is not my point at all. What I want you to take away from this post is to consider the reason why you chose to make something yourself instead of buying it.
Was it the cost? I can promise you, it’s usually worth the cost.
Was it the turn-around time? Handmade items take longer, and they’re usually made by an individual that is also dealing with the daily grind of life. Give grace, and shop early enough that you can wait.
Did you want a different color or size? Most small businesses will do that for you if you just ask.
Were you already planning to make your own, because you’re crafty and think it sounds like fun to try? By all means, do it! Making things with your own two hands is so fun!
Just be careful that you’re making it because you really just want a new project, and not because you think that company’s price is absurd. I can promise you, it almost never is.
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To drive this point home further I want to point out something else.
I spent approximately 10 hours on my craft, and I was only half way done. I probably spend $20 just in supplies and gas, and that’s a conservative guess. A good quality letterboard on Etsy runs about $70.
When you take away the $20 in materials, that ends up being $50. Divide that by 10 hours and that’s only $5/hour. That doesn’t include packaging and shipping. It doesn’t include the time spent learning the best techniques or ordering materials. I’m sure someone that makes these as a business has a better system in place than what I was using, but it is still an incredibly tedious project that takes a long time to make.
Time is money, my friends, and when you take on a project like this just to save yourself some money, you are taking time away from something else you could be doing. It’s less time you’re spending on your own business. Less time you’re spending with your family, or on personal development. Consider that time when you are thinking about taking on a big project to save money. Usually, it’s worth paying the money to let an expert make it.
Do you know someone that needs help understanding why handmade items are so expensive? Feel free to share this post with them to help them understand the other side! Let’s all support our makers today!