I was thinking about the last episode of The Dusty Life, a podcast which I co-host with Brian McCauley and Kyle Toth, where we had a couple questions about how we price our work for clients. Do we charge an hourly rate plus material cost x3? Material cost x4 plus a bit more for incidentals and profit? Do we charge for certain types of joinery and price out each cut we make to get an accurate rate per project? As a hobbyist, I am not concerned about “making my rent” for the space I am using but I am concerned about getting paid for the time I spend working on a client’s project. Personally, I charge based upon a comparison of what a similar piece is currently selling for. Example, a client shows a photo of a piece and asks if I can make that for them. I typically say “yes I can” and then I tell them I will give them my price for the work they are requesting shortly. I then look for the item online through a search and when I find a similar piece I carefully break down how it is made by visually inspecting it. That gives me a rough idea of how it is constructed and how long it will take me to make the piece. I haven’t even gone into material cost at this time. Reason: some clients don’t want the exact material from the photo they send. Sometimes they want something else. It could be cheaper or more expensive. That is when I ask what they are looking for in terms of wood species or metal. Once a material is decided upon and the details have been worked out I then give my price. If the client agrees with no hesitation I know I priced the piece well under their budget and I should charge more next time. If they are hesitant I know I got the price right around what they saw the original piece priced at. Often times clients come to us as woodworkers with the idea that we can make a piece cheaper than what a retail store charges. That simply isn’t so. Custom made is not made cheaper.
Now you may be asking, how do I charge for incidentals and consumables, i.e. glue, screws, dowels, biscuits, dominoes, etc.? Simple answer: I don’t. The reason is because I don’t want to place more value on my materials than the value of the end product. I price the client’s work high enough so I can replace any consumables in the shop and still feel good about the profit I make. If the work requires a new tool, saw blade, or specialty hardware, I factor that cost into the price so it isn’t taken from my profits. If the client and I are happy with the price they are paying for custom work then I have successfully and sufficiently charged for my work.
This is a topic that can be discussed at length. I only mean to clarify and expand on my answer from Episode 004 of The Dusty Life.
Keep it dusty!