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The Great Mates Rates Debate

Let me set the scene.

cha-chingI’m at work (because I still have a day job *sigh*), and I hear the cha-ching of an Etsy sale coming from my phone. I am still quite new to the Etsy game so each cha-ching still fills me with schoolgirl excitement. I do a little happy dance in my chair and my colleague leans over and asks, “What are you so happy about?” A conversation ensues where I tell her about my online business and all the things I make, I show her a few pictures and she ooohs and ahhhs in all the right places.

But then she says the words I always dread after a conversation like this, “Oh, well you can make me a father’s day card then.”

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, Hey cool, you made yourself sale – you go girl! But here’s where the water gets a little muddy: What she actually meant was, “Oh, well you can make me a father’s day card for free then… obviously I won’t be paying you; I know you!” And I know that this was the true meaning of her statement because, sensing my discomfort, she went on to suggest that if I made her the card, she would do me a favour in return.

Hobbycraft accept cash, all major credit and debit cards, and gift cards.

Not favours.

Let me tell you a (1)

The whole conversation left me feeling a little grimy and disappointed, because people are only so bold when it comes to home businesses. If I ran a shop (dream big people!) she wouldn’t walk in and say to my employee, “Hey, I know the owner so I’m just going to take these.” or “Don’t worry I know the owner, so I’m going to take this and then next week I’ll babysit her kids for an hour.”

And this is someone I work with, not even someone I deem to be a friend. As for my actual friends, they are easily divided into two categories; the ones who are just like my colleague and expect something for nothing (good old mates rates!) and the ones who are not.

ARIYANAH  cardTake my best friend for example: She asked me to make her two cards. I was going to do them for nothing, because she is my oldest, truest friend and is more like family than a lot of my actual relatives. But do you know what she said to me? “Charge me properly, please. No mates rates. I want to pay you what you deserve.”

At first I felt a little odd sending her an invoice but not only did she pay, she actually gave me extra as a tip. When I thanked her, she said, “This is how it should be; you’re running a business and don’t expect any special treatment. Period.”

2016-04-24-18-01-39 (1)I have another good friend, who offered to pay me for a couple of cards I made for her, but I refused. She has since ordered two more, but has insisted on being charged the full amount for both this time.

She admitted that she didn’t feel at all comfortable with me making the first two for free, as she knows a lot of time and money went into them.

These are true friends in my eyes. These are the people who understand me, what I do, why I do it and what I’m trying to achieve.

Now this is very paradoxical because a huge part of me wants to give those friends a discount (at the very least!) precisely because they are willing to pay the full amount. I want to reward them for their friendship, but they won’t let me! And you know what? Rightly so.

As unnatural as that feels to someone like me (I can be magnanimous to a fault at times!) I am starting to believe that is exactly how it should be. Otherwise, you will be using up valuable time and resources making freebies for your friends, when perhaps, from a business perspective, those resources and that time would be better spent on paying customers.

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Potentially, when you’re starting up, a lot of your sales will be to people you know, as they’re the easiest people to reach and they will want to help you on your way. But if they truly want to help, then these transactions should indeed be SALES, and not freebies. And they should pay what your products/services are worth. Their investment in you is not only a great advert but also a great confidence booster; it shows you that they believe in you, and it will persuade others to believe in you too.

When I make it big and I have a chain of stores (a girl’s gotta have a dream!), I will absolutely have a friends and family discount, but while I’m in my start-up phase, perhaps mates rates is something that is best left on the shelf.

And I think true friends will not only understand that, but encourage it.

What do you think?

niobe

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Thoughts on Thortful

What is Thortful?

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thortful.com

I was approached through my Etsy shop by a company called Thortful. They specialise in printing and sending cards designed by artists, illustrators, cartoonists etc… from across the globe. As a customer, the premise is that you choose a design, and they print and send it either to you, or directly to your chosen recipient. You can choose to have the inside blank, or personalised with your own message, or even with your own handwriting (using their Apple or Android apps). For the most part it’s like a cross between Funky Pigeon/Moonpig and the likes of Redbubble/Zazzle.

What are the cards like?

The cards are A5 in size, printed on ultra smooth 350gsm card. They feel really nice and the print quality is pretty decent. On the back, there is a considerable amount of Thortful branding, although they do also credit the designer with the name of their company and a short bio. Each card costs £2.99 + postage of 64p (a first class stamp, very reasonable). The cards are delivered in a brown envelope. It is not hard-backed, and I have read a review from someone claiming that their card arrived bent. This appears to be an isolated review, however, and I’m not sure that the absence of a hard-backed envelope is a deal-breaker.

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Card front & envelope

 

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Card back with heavy Thortful branding

 

What’s in it for me?

Basics

As a designer, I am able to upload up to 20 of my designs, for free and without exclusivity. I retain all rights to the images. I can retire any or all of my designs at any stage. There is no contract. When you have more than 10 designs, you are eligible to be featured on the Thortful homepage, and across their social media platforms. I currently have 12 designs uploaded, but have yet to be featured (although I am still very new, so I will need to give this some time).

thortful creators
Featured creators on Thortful homepage

Profit

When someone buys a card, Thortful take care of the order from start to finish (printing and posting). I do nothing. And I earn 50p from every sale. Designers are paid monthly, through Paypal once sales have reached at least 10.  It remains to be seen how popular my card will be, and Thortful appears to be a business near the beginnings of its growth, so I doubt this will be a money-spinner. Still, an extra trickle income would be nice.

Security

I have attempted to ‘steal’ my own designs from their website (using the right click button) to check if my work is vulnerable on Thortful, but it seems to be fairly secure.  I’m sure anyone bloody-minded enough could find other methods (screenshots, etc…) but I doubt they would, and even if they did, I’m pretty sure the resultant image wouldn’t be of a good enough quality to do anything untoward with it.

Profile

You get a profile on their website, but you can’t add much to it.  It would be nice, if nothing else, to be able to add social media links – perhaps this feature will be added later? Essentially,  if you want to use this as another way to promote your existing business, you really can’t, as it is very insular and limited in that respect. Having said that, if you treat your Thortful profile as a separate entity to the main bulk of your online business, then it’s fine. I have used the CushoPeas branding, rather than the Cushobi branding for that very reason. It feels like a separate branch of what I do, so I have made that distinction clear on Thortful.

Service

I want to stress the point that, before I joined, I had a few email conversations with a member of the Thortful team and they seemed genuinely nice. How refreshing!  They also made the process easy and pleasant – and that counts for a lot in my book.

What is Thortful’s web presence like?

Reviews

As it stands, Thortful have 96 Trustpilot reviews with an average rating of 9.6 out of 10.  I checked out the two negative reviews (as I always do!) and one referenced heavy Thortful branding on the back of their cards, while the other referenced a bent card. Both of which I mentioned earlier, neither of which are deal-breakers. And both times Thortful responded in a positive, helpful way to the complainants. I was also pleased to read that they’ve taken on board the comment about excessive branding and have promised to address the issue in due course.

Social Media

Socially, Thortful have 2,180 Facebook followers, 3,176 Twitter followers, 488 Instagram followers and 79 Pinterest followers.  Those stats could use some work, but like I said, they seem to be a growing business and I think that they’re full of potential, and numbers could – and likely will – soar over time.

What’s the app like?

I can only speak for the Android app here but with 5,000 downloads and a 4.7 out of 5 rating, it seems to be doing fairly well.  It’s got a nice clean design, it’s laid out for ease of use, and it’s fit for purpose. I like the idea of being able to incorporate your own handwriting inside your card, but am yet to try out this feature and therefore cannot attest to how well it prints.

 

What’s the verdict?

All in all I think Thortful is full of potential and I’m excited to watch them flourish.  For designers it’s a fabulous idea, but I can’t imagine it will bring in huge numbers of sales until more awareness is raised. Still, there is *seemingly* no harm in trying it out and seeing how things develop. If nothing else, it’s another weapon in the online crafter’s arsenal.

Why not check it out and let me know your thorts (see what I did there??)

niobe

 

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The World’s Most Expensive Card

Materials + Labour + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

The above seller’s formula is what most craft business owners are told to use when working out how to price their items.  It’s what is fair.  I mean, let’s face it, as much as we crafters, artists and other creatives do what we do because we love it, if we’ve taken the leap into selling our makes, it’s because we want to see a return for the time, money and passion we’ve invested.

And rightly so.

But, see, there is a fundamental flaw in using the above formula that most, if not all, crafters also have to take into consideration; what consumers will actually pay.  Most of the time the two figures don’t even come close to each other.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a popular item and work it through: The featured image on this post (see above) is a bespoke card I made for a customer whose friend’s last name is Fox. She saw and fell in love with my button fox wall art (see below) and asked if it could be turned into a card. My answer was, and is always, “of course.” Because I love a challenge and I am a people-pleaser to the core.

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My framed button fox took me about an hour to make. Let’s say I pay myself the current UK national minimum wage – because this is work – that would be £7.20 for the labour. The materials cost around £5.00, expenses would be around £2.00 and I always try and give myself a profit of around £5.00 on each piece of wall art. That gives me a total wholsesale price of £19.20 and a retail price of £38.40.  Would people pay that? I’m still undecided – and at wholesale price, Finn the Fox is still unsold!** – but for a piece of wall art, it’s a possibility.

Now, let’s take the formula apply it to my fox card. As a reference point, the fox is the exact same size in the wall art as it is on the card.

So, again, it took about an hour, perhaps a shade under this time, so I’ll set it as £6.30. Materials varied slightly (no frame, different paper) so they came in at £2.20, expenses stayed at £2.00 and it’s a card, so I usually allow a profit of just £0.50.  That gives me a total of £11.00 wholesale and £22.00 retail.

Take a second to digest that.

£22.00 for a greeting card.

£22.00.

£22.00?!?!?!?!

OK, so clearly that’s never. going. to. happen. So here’s what I did:  I took away my labour costs and sold the card at wholesale price, which brought it down to a much more respectable £4.70.

Can I just say here that this handmade hustle is HARD.  Because I can guarantee you that there are hundreds of card makers (and other crafters) out there completely and consistently underselling their work. The main bulk of my business is cards, but there really is no profit in them. When I make and sell a card, I do so purely for the enjoyment, and I’m OK with that. I’ve made peace with that.

What I really want you to take away from this though, whether you’re a creative or not, is that the next time you see something that’s handmade and think HOW MUCH?!?!?! please first consider this formula, consider the maker and consider the time and care they’ve put into creating it. But most importantly consider this:

They are probably STILL selling themselves massively short.

** Somebody very lovely has since bought Finn.  I hope he’s enjoying his new home – I certainly miss him!

niobe

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An Apple a Day

Apples remind me of my mother

My mother is a retired nurse. She came to the UK at the age of 19, all the way from Barbados and moved from hospital to hospital until she settled on one in South West London. She lived out her career there as a paediatric nurse, and a darn good one at that.

Growing up, there wasn’t a pill, potion or proverb that my mother didn’t possess in order to fix whatever ailed us. But more often than not she’d conclude that drinking plenty of fluids, or having a cup of sweetened tea, was all that was necessary.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Whilst I only recall mother using this particular phrase once or twice, she loves to come out with these pearls of wisdom, as if she had coined them herself. This particular one reminds me of her and her relentless positivity. Her belief that, perhaps, we are all responsible for, and in control of, our own destinies.

Teacher’s Pet

Apples also remind me of my father. He’s a retired school teacher. 40 years in a boys school in South West London and he managed to earn the respect and admiration of most, if not all, of his students. One of his ex-students is now an MP, and even in his 40s, this man still refers to my father as “Sir” when he’s campaigning door-to-door.

An apple for Teacher

My father would always stand up for his students if they’d been wronged, would always fight their corner when others had washed their hands of them. He was an awesome teacher; firm but fair and so down to earth that the boys always wanted to be in his good graces. I’m not sure that any of them bought him actual apples, but metaphorically speaking, he had an orchard full.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… Except sometimes it does.

So apples remind me of my mother. And apples remind me of my father. But I am my own person and I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. So while I wanted to create something that reminded me of my parents, I of course had to put my own, silly, sarcastic spin on things.

So I took an apple… made it pretty… and then made it… well… me! 🙂

 

niobe