Here was my booth set up on my first day, when I was outside at the Chattanooga Market. As you see, I have 2 tables full of stuff, plus a ladder shelf unit and an easel with a handmade earring board, full of the earring cards that I also make myself.
Here is my biggest table that I set up, which I have old barnwood board makeshift shelves, satin covered shelving for height building, and 32 different necklace busts on, plus more. I actually lost one of my fancy tall busts this day due to wind knocking it over and breaking the bust off the stand bottom.
My total sales for the 3 days of markets were $1847 before taxes, and that is including 2 sales that did not transpire at the market, but did stem from connections made there. Now lets look at the costs I incurred over those days:
Gas: $45 for 3 days of travel an hour to and from the shows in a fully loaded down suv
Booth Fees and Commissions Paid: $180.70 (NOT including a $25 application fee and a $30 yearly fee)
Food for 3 days of eating and drinking for 2 people at farmer's market cost: $85
Babysitter for 1 of the 3 days: $40
Ok so my monthly farmer's market costs come to $360.70, really $415.70 if you include the once a year fees, but since those are only 1 time a year, I'm not including them in the typical month costs.
That brings my total down to $1486.30
Now lets consider the cost I have in the jewelry itself. Every piece of jewelry I make has components and materials I pay for out of pocket to create. After looking up the numbers, the material cost in the jewelry I sold is roughly around $500. So we have to subtract that from my "profit" as well. This brings it down to 986.30
Finally I have to consider the hours I worked. All of the 3 markets were 5 hours long, with approximately a 1-1.5 hour set up and 45 minute breakdown, plus 2 hours total of travel each day. It basically amounts to at least a 9 hour day for a 5 hour show in either Knoxville or Chattanooga, which I happen to be located right between. That's a total of 27 hours. $986.30 for 27 hours is still just over $36 an hour...which would be fantastic...except it doesn't factor in the time it took me to make all of that jewelry I sold. I do not make $1800 worth of custom jewelry in a day. In fact, I don't think I could even do that in one week. It would take me at least 2, but just for fun we will pretend that I'm superwoman and can make that much in one 40 hour work week (on top of those show days) and that ends up being 67 hours of work. Now I'm making $14 an hour. (If we want to keep it real, its closer to 2 weeks worth of work, which is around $9 an hour, but back to the fantasy.) I'd actually be pretty happy about making $14 an hour if that was the end of it...except it isn't. I also have to purchase organza bags and gift boxes, labels, business cards, jewelry displays, cloths, tables, laminating sheets, cardstock, printer ink for making my cards, tools, inks, patinas, misc supplies that aren't included in the cost...the list does indeed go on and on. By the time everything is said and done, I might be making $8 an hour, and that is if I'm lucky enough to be blessed with customers (who want to buy) and nice weather.
Is that too much money for a self employed artist to expect to make? Should the fact that I have been honing my craft for 8 years factor into my value? How about the many different skills I use, or the creativity I have?
Some people think that I have it easy making jewelry. Yes that part can be fun at times, when I'm in the zone and have my music going, but there's a whole lot more involved than just making jewelry. I also make my earring cards (photoshop creations, printing, cutting, laminating, and cutting again) have written my own bios and several press releases about my accomplishments, market my business on social media, set up & break down my booths (physical labor), pack and ship items, communicate with customers, photograph and list all my jewelry, price and inventory, hunt for unique components and beads, and keep up with paperwork on all of my figures from shows, online, etsy, shops, and private transactions. All of that extra stuff takes a considerable amount of time, and it isn't included when I'm doing numbers or figuring out my price. I also have to pay income taxes out of whatever I make, too.
So, having seen what the numbers really mean, I hope the next time you need a gift for a loved one or feel like treating yourself, you will stop before buying that "mass manufactured for cents and marked up 1000 times" item and find a local person in business you can shop with. If you are the type who generally doesn't buy handmade due to the price, consider those costs the artist is incurring, and find value in their unique skills as well as the personal connection you are making with the artist. Know that you are helping someone pay their rent/mortgage, feed & support their families, and survive. You will be buying something unique and special that is a reflection of the artist's soul, quality made to last much longer, and be much nicer than anything mass produced. You can rest assured that you will be in good and grateful hands. : )