Thursday, August 5, 2010

What is Your Time Worth?



Word travels fast.  It's only been a day and a half since my in-laws returned from their travels and the orders are pouring in.  Apparently the way to get noticed is to make over someone's couch.

Yesterday or the day before I got an email from Mr. Skooks' aunt requesting help making some (thankfully 2, not 8) simple cushions for her sunroom.  She's had this wrought iron furniture (along with its original cushions) since they bought the house oh so many years ago and well, they've seen better days.

I had to laugh when I started to read her email though.  She said something like, "I heard you do upholstery."  For the record, tackling the couch was a bold and inexperienced move . . . I wouldn't say that because I did some upholstery work that I DO upholstery.  Nevertheless, we went back and forth a bit about what she was looking for and time frames on when the work would need to be completed.

Something that really caught me off guard and had me questioning Mr. Skooks how to proceed: how much do I charge for my services? 

I really have no idea actually.  Is it like a regular job where they pay you by the hour?  What if I'm naturally slower because I'm not a pro?  Should they have to pay extra for my slowness?  What about a flat rate per job?  How does one begin to assess that?  If I'm making something I've never made before how do I guesstimate how long it will take me?

Really, what is my time worth?

I circumvented the fee schedule with his aunt temporarily so that I could have some time to come up with a strategy.  I also think I need to see said cushions in person to know what I'm getting myself into.

As I said, this all happened yesterday.  Then today, I got a call from an uncle requesting 2 sets of bean bags made for the ever popular summer staple game: Bean Bags.  I think I've heard it called "Cornhole" before, but that sounds so completely weird and wrong that I refuse to call it that.  (For those of you who may be bean bag illiterate, check this out.  You can buy sets, but they're not terribly hard to make, and they're very much worthwhile.  It's beside the point that I'm kind of completely awesome at this game.)

Anyway, the question came up again: what would you charge me?

I didn't know what to say, again . . . so I ended up telling him that I would take note of how long it took me to make them and he could pay me what he thought was fair for my time.  I did this because a)I felt that I needed an answer to his question, b)I was put on the spot, and c)because he's family.  And because I know that making bean bags is not something challenging, it's just tedious . . . so I know that I won't be slow at it.

Do you find that people start asking you for sewing favors when they learn you can sew?  Do you charge people?  If so, how do you figure out what's fair?  What kind of a discount do you give, if any, for family or friends?  I mean, I want to be helpful, but let's face it . . . my time is precious.  I've got 2 kids, a part time job, a husband I actually want to hang out with when he gets home from work, and the general day-to-day jazz that comes with maintaining a household.

Bottom line: I want to be fair . . . to both myself and the person asking for the sewing help.

Any and all input is most welcome.  Please, let me know what you think in the comments.

7 Comments:

Lilith's mommy August 6, 2010 at 1:19 PM  

I hate that question. Only because I ask my husband and mom the same thing. I ususally figure my price on if it's something that I can find on Etsy or in the store and how much it cost me for the fabric. And I have a friend that I usually tell her a few dollars less then I plan on selling them. Same for family. Although, after a certain cousin of my husband, I won't ship things now without getting payment first. It took her a month!

Skooks August 6, 2010 at 1:32 PM  

LM - I know. It's an icky one. In both the above cases the materials are all being supplied to me, so I'm really just trying to calculate a price for my actual labor. One of my tweeps told me that $10-14 is the going hourly rate for a seamstress these days. I think she lives in Canada, so it may not be the exact same in the States but maybe similar?

urban craft August 6, 2010 at 5:42 PM  

It's quite strange. This is a topic I can never figure out. I know how long things take to make, cause I have made them. But most times some small felt obkect is not worth the $25 + people are charging on etsy.
Someone asked me how much I would charge to make their kid a shirt with some felt appliqued to it and I was like, I'll just make you one. When really, I want her to make one herself for her own kid.
I am no help at all.

beka*b August 8, 2010 at 11:46 AM  

Like you and the rest of the commenters here, I always feel awkward answering questions of renumeration. What about asking around at some professional upholsterers for some quotes on what they would charge for similar projects (make like you a potential customer), then pool the results as well as noting how long you took for the job and seeing how the two tally? Your customers are likely to be familiar with the professional quotes, but are probably hoping for you to come in cheaper than those others - it is all about finding that happy medium between the two. As for offering them a family discount, I think by coming to a fair price for your work, that will be all the discount you need to offer - word of mouth spreads like wildfire so you will be rewarded by getting more business in the end. Congratulations!

Skooks August 8, 2010 at 7:50 PM  

u.c. - You, as always, crack me up.

beka*b - Thank you for such a completely thoughtful answer. I will definitely keep this in mind for future requests and in the meantime I guess I'll discover firsthand what someone else in the family thinks my time is worth. Should be educational at the very least.

Katherine August 19, 2010 at 1:14 AM  

I think everyone has a tough time with that question. Usually I come to the conclusion that either I want to do it, and it is a gift, or I don't want to do it, and my time is worth too much for them to pay for, and I just say I am too busy. That is perhaps a cheap way out. I really don't like involving money in family or friend transactions. I have a really really hard time with that. But really, when I have tried to give an honest estimate, time * $10/hr, people have seemed surprised and put out. So I just skip to the "it's not worth it." :-/

Skooks August 19, 2010 at 2:29 AM  

Katherine - I agree. It's tricky with family for so many reasons. When it comes down to it, though, they likely feel better about paying me because they know how busy I am AND because they know if they have to buy it from someone else it will be more expensive . . . so I guess, better to say, "I'll pay you" and have me take the job than risk me saying "I'm too busy" and end up having to pay more for the work elsewhere?

I'm totally putting words in their mouth here. I may be way off.

Also, in these particular cases I am not their "natural" relative so maybe they are just more formal with me when asking for help. People that are blood related to me probably have an easier time slipping favors on me without talk of renumeration. That is, I know for me the reverse is true.

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