When asked what the hardest thing is about sublimation, I often smile, because the hardest part of running a business selling sublimated goods, or running a business selling any decorated goods isn’t what most people would think. It’s not figuring out what equipment to buy. It’s not finding good suppliers. It isn’t even learning to use the new equipment and supplies and becoming skilled enough to turn out exceptional product. The hardest part of running a decoration business, in my opinion anyway, is finding the value in what you make.
Finding the value of a decorated product sounds pretty easy, at first. Common sense says you take the cost of the materials, multiply it by the cost of your time, and add a certain percentage for overhead. You should probably also do some market research to figure out what others in your market are charging and what customers are accustomed to paying. With all those data points covered, it should be easy to set a price.
Sadly, setting a price is often more complicated than that.
One thing that complicates pricing is education, or the lack of education among the customer base. People who buy decorated personalized goods like the fact that they’re one of a kind, or can be customized, but they don’t often understand what goes in to making the goods they love so much. When people say “500 for that family tree quilt, that’s outrageous!” or “I can get a printed mug at the dollar store for less than this!”, they’re not being cheap or mean, they’re just being uneducated. As decorators, part of our job is to help customers understand what goes into making the products they buy. Once they understand, the majority of customers will also come to understand why you charge the prices you do.
Another obstacle to proper pricing is often the attitude of the person creating the product. Many creators dismiss their work as a hobby, or think they’re not really in business because their shop is in the basement. Often, people who do this sort of work get told that it’s just something they do for fun or something anyone could do, if they had the time. The result is a craft that is made to seem less valuable and, if the creator of the goods believes this sort of thing, a craft that is sold for less than it’s worth. Remember, if you don’t stand up for the value of your work, no one else will.
Competitors can also throw a wrench into a pricing scheme. The old saying “A rising tide lifts all boats” is a saying for a reason. If all the competitors in a market work to keep prices reasonable for both the customers and the business, then everyone gets a fair deal and the businesses make what they need to make to stay open. All it takes, however, is one company in the marketplace making their selling proposition low prices and the playing field changes. Customers, especially those who have not been educated about the value of decorated goods, will often be attracted to the lowest priced option, and other businesses may lower their prices to compete. Before you know it, customers are getting lower quality goods from businesses that aren’t making enough money to do better. Don’t fall into the lowest price as a unique selling proposition trap. Make good products and charge what they’re worth, regardless of what the rest of the industry is doing. In the end, quality products and service will win the day.