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How to price your puppets

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Buck-Beaver, Apr 26, 2006.

  1. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    Thanks buck! No rush. (Sorry to hear about the hacking, I knew it was down but didn't know why)
  2. CB Boy

    CB Boy Member

    When is PuppetBuilding.com going back up?
  3. rypopets

    rypopets New Member

    This is a great information, very useful for some one like me that sells puppets for less than $80, you can see some of the puppets i sell here

    Monster 3

    Monster 2

    I think Im going to raise the price a little bit. lol :)
  4. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

  5. rypopets

    rypopets New Member

    Great tool to give us an idea!

    Thanks :o
  6. Gerbert

    Gerbert Well-Known Member

    Not there (the site)
  7. Goochman

    Goochman Well-Known Member

    does this still exist?
  8. Has anyone got a link to this:)
  9. Gonzo's Hobbit

    Gonzo's Hobbit Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the breakdown here Buck.

    I have one question. Say you don't sell puppets enough to be able to calculate in "a monthly salary" and want to price it based on parts and labor so to speak. What would you think would be a fair hourly rate for building a puppet?
  10. Aardwolves

    Aardwolves New Member

    Seconding this question! I'm working on a custom job at the moment, and am still kind of stuck on what to charge the customer that won't feel like I'm gouging him or shortchanging myself. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I would be very much obliged for any helpful hints. :)
  11. Gonzo's Hobbit

    Gonzo's Hobbit Well-Known Member

    Just to let you know what I decided to do and see what you think. I'm thinking of doing an hourly rate of $15/hour. I chose this amount because the minimum wage in Colorado is a little more than $7.50 and I kinda figured that puppet making would probably be worth more than minimum wage since it's more of a skill set. Then, if I choose to take it down for someone for whatever reason, it's not prone to turn into something that doesn't make it worth the labor.
    Does that make sense. What do you think?
  12. Puppetainer

    Puppetainer Well-Known Member

    Well I'm going to go ahead and complicate the issue a bit. I don't think you should base your puppet builds on a "per hour" basis. Here's why. There's just so much it doesn't take into account. How much training and practice did it take you to learn all of those skills you're applying? And how long it takes you to build a particular puppet may have more to do with your level of experience. That is to say that a person who has been building puppets for 20 years (Like James Wojtal Jr. Have you SEEN his Puppet A Day project?!) would be MUCH faster than a person (like myself) who's only been working at it for 7 or 8 years. So does that make the more experienced puppet maker's product worth less money because it takes him far less time to build it? This pricing model would suggest that as you learn more and get better and faster the prices of your product will go down. That seems entirely backwards to me. I encourage you to read Jessica Hische's excellent article on this topic.


    I think that while the materials used and time spent certainly factor into the pricing structure it could be damaging (to your bottom line) to simplify it to the point of a strict time plus materials model. So how do I come up with prices then? Much like Buck's formula I take into account what I need to make a living at this and then consider how many puppets I can make within a week or a month. Of course in any pricing formula you have to take into account what the market will bear. You do have to look around at what other people selling products of similar style and quality are charging. I find that last part especially tricky with puppetry because so many people are pricing their products WAAAAAY below what they should be by my reckoning. But there are a number of examples of professionals out there that are pricing their products more appropriately and clearly do this as their profession. I try to use those as more of a measuring stick. Another factor is your target market. Are you targeting working parents looking for a fun way to entertain their children? If so then your prices would be considerably lower than someone targeting working entertainment professionals or organizations using these puppets to entertain and teach.

    In the end it comes down to what you need to get out of it. Are you strictly a hobbyist who wants more than anything to see the fruits of their labor enjoyed by someone while recouping some of their building expense or are you hoping to try and make some sort of a living at this? If your answer is the latter then again I encourage you to read Jessica Hische's article and carefully consider how you're going to go about this.
  13. Gonzo's Hobbit

    Gonzo's Hobbit Well-Known Member

    You make a good point Puppetatiner, I never though of some of those things. I will definately try to check out that article, thanks.
  14. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Sorry it's taken me so long to respond in this thread. Unfortunately work and life seem to conspire together to keep me really busy and I'm not able to check the forum here as often as I used to.

    As I've said before, the puppet pricing calculator spreadsheet is really designed for someone who is building the same kind of puppets on a regular basis and needs to figure out how much they should charge. It's a very solid and standard way of calculating prices that I didn't invent it (I just made the spreadsheet). This pricing method can be applied to all kinds of products, not just puppets.

    I am talking about selling puppets as products and what I think Puppetainer is really talking about (and what the article he linked to is discussing) is selling custom puppet building (or other art) as a service. It is important to point out that products and services are completely different and require two different pricing systems.

    The most important thing about this method of pricing is that you should view your own labour and your overhead as a cost and calculate accordingly. What you really make money on is your profit margin. Profit margin is everything when you are pricing products.

    I will say that again...profit margin is everything!

    Does everybody know why so many artists are poor? Because they don't understand this principle.

    Here's an example of how to make profit margins work for you...

    Say you build hand puppets and sell them on Etsy. Your cost (including paying yourself or assistants) is about $50 per puppet. This means that if you sell all the puppets you make every month and have a 0% profit margin you will still make a living and pay all of your bills. This is because you view your labour as a necessary cost you have to pay. That's nice, but it's also kind of dumb. What if you don't sell all the puppets that you make in a month? What if you get sick for a week or two one month? How do you cover your costs and pay yourself then? Financially speaking it's like living pay cheque to pay cheque. Not good.

    (by the way, this is more or less how most stuff on Etsy is priced...whether the artists realize they are doing it or not. It's also why many artists complain they can't make money on Etsy)

    You know what you need in this situation? A profit margin!

    What you can do once you know your basic costs is work out how much your profit margin should be, using some of the factors that Puppetainer mentioned. If you decide on a 50% profit margin you would charge $75 per puppet. That way when you sell a puppet you've not only paid yourself for your labour, but you also have an extra $25 in your pocket that you can save or re-invest in your business without driving yourself in to the poor house. Now you're better off than most people selling on Esty, but you're still not going to get as far ahead as you could financially.

    What do you need if you want to get farther ahead financially? A bigger profit margin. Also (eventually) you need to think about wholesale pricing.

    A 50% profit margin is all well and good until you get successful, someone discovers you and wants to carry your work in their store. On the surface this is great because they are, you know, actually in the business of selling things are you're really in the business of making things. You two compliment each other nicely and the store owner should be your new best friend.

    I say "should be" because you now have a problem. This store owner wants to sell your $75 puppets, but they have to make a profit too. You can sell them your puppets wholesale for $50, but that sucks because now you're back to a 0% profit margin. You could sell your puppets wholesale for $60 and make a little bit of profit, but that sucks too. This is terrible! You can now sell more puppets than ever before - thanks to your new best friend the store owner - but every puppet they sell means you're giving up your margin.

    What's the solution? Start with a bigger profit margin!

    Don't charge $75 retail for your puppet, charge $100. Now you have a profit margin of 100%. You can sell your puppets for $75 to your store owner friend and he can sell them for $100 in his store too. You make an extra $25 for every puppet that he sells and an extra $50 every time you sell one yourself. This is great! Now you have a win/win more scenario. Sure, maybe you don't make as much as through your friend as you do when you sell your puppets yourself, but you also don't have to work nearly as hard and your friend can probably sell more puppets than you could on your own. Eventually you want to become friends with more store owners, sell more puppets and make more money thanks to (wait for it) ...profit margin!

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is how every producer of every product that has ever made any money has done things since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Just remember, I'm talking about selling puppets as products, not custom puppet building services. Know the difference!

    The complaint that most people about this approach is that it forces them to charge more than they think people are willing to pay. That might be true (in fact it usually isn't...ask any restaurant that sells $100+ hamburgers in New York), but let's say in your case it actually us. In that case you have to lower your costs somehow (this why manufacturing is outsourced overseas), find customers who are willing to pay more (the "be like Apple" approach) or step up your game and make a better product that people will actually pay enough for (welcome to the dynamics of a market economy).

    It's really that simple.

    Otherwise you have a lovely hobby that will make you a little cash on the side and that will probably give you hours of fufillment and enjoyment, but it isn't likely to ever pay your mortgage.
  15. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I know that last post might make me sound like a horrible, jaded jerk, but I am right about this. Art is art. Business is business. Learn this. Know it. Live it. I wish someone had drilled this in to me years ago.

    I'm working to get the puppet pricing calculator back online and available for download. In the meantime, if you would like a copy just send me an email (not a forum message!) via puppetvision at gmail dot com.
  16. Puppetainer

    Puppetainer Well-Known Member

    The professor to the rescue! Personally I don't think you sound jaded or jerkish. You do however sound experienced, knowledgeable and professional. Though I have a fair amount of professional sales and business experience my experience with selling something like puppets and building a business around that is virtually nil. I bow to your greater experience and knowledge. Thanks again Buck!

    This is my way of saying I'd listen to what the man has to say folks!
  17. Gonzo's Hobbit

    Gonzo's Hobbit Well-Known Member

    You don't sound like a jerk Buck. In fact I kinda like how forceful you were about it. I haven't been in any sort of busines for very long, so I'm never sure what's fair to ask for. But I've done enough work thats "non-paying but good experience aka. please waste my time and energy" that I'm starting to understand the need for confidence in situations like this. So I totally understand your firmness on the situation.
    You both are very knowldeable about this stuff so thanks for all you're input.
  18. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    staceyrebecca likes this.
  19. buttons

    buttons Member

    Thank you! This iss very helpful. It's almost like web/graphic design (I'm a designer). One needs to really get over that hump of--if new--stepping forward and pricing. To not be scared to ask what you need. My professor, when I was in school, said never to under quote what you think because it may look a bit unprofessional. You can always discuss optional lower prices for 'cutting corners/leaving out things' WITH the client.

    I just got over that hump with my first web designer client (I just graduated). It was difficult and scary but guess what? The client was happy with it.
    Buck-Beaver likes this.
  20. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

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