I’m one of many, many small creative business owners who go to fetes and fairs, have market stalls and therefore get to interact with potential customers face to face (written before Corona became a thing). It’s really wonderful to have people come see your work in person, it’s fabulous to have some of those people go the extra mile to come tell us they love what we’ve made! …and then there are others who exclaim, loudly, “How much?!”, ha – and trust me I understand the reaction, so let me explain the why behind the price-tag.
My coloured pencil work can take anywhere up to 20+ hours, all depending on size, colour and subject. It’s a labour intensive craft, there are no shortcuts – I can’t speed up the process (though I’m wildly skilled at slowing it down). But, who can sit and draw for 20 hours straight?! I’ve found I can just about draw for 2-3 hour stints and then I need a break. I can only draw for 5-6 hours a day – so a 20 hour drawing will take over 3 days to complete!
Now, let’s talk materials. I use archival quality pencils and papers. The pencils can cost £1.70, £2 or £3 per pencil! It’s nearly impossible to keep track of how many pencils I can use per drawing because size, colours and subject can drastically affect the number and because of my detailed work I have to use sharp pencils so these pricey pencils can disappear real quick! I also have 3 different sharpeners for the 3 different brands of pencils – all of which need blades replacing often.
I use LOTS of different coloured pencils, 316 pencils across 3 brands to be exact… plus backups. Depending on what I’m drawing I can often use 50+ pencils per drawing! I buy my paper in large sheets and hand cut them to size myself.
So that’s time and materials… but I still have to communicate with customers on the best type of reference photos. Sometimes we can go back and forth for weeks searching for the best photos. Then, for each commission I have to set up the PayPal invoice and personalised commission agreement. I then make sure to keep each client updated with work in progress photos as their pet portrait comes to life.
But I also need to keep up appearances on social media, to drum up interest and hope to attract some buyers – social media alone feels like a full time job! Small businesses have to try to keep “engagement” up on their posts so the algorithm will be our friend!
I need and use tech bits and bobs; Mac, hard-drive, iPad, printer, scanner, GoPro, DSLR camera, daylight lamp…
Then there’s the cost of packaging, stickers, tissue paper, compostable bags, acid free backing boards. You get the idea.
You’re not just buying one drawing, on one bit of paper. You’re buying the hours and hours of prep, the years of practice and experimentation. You’re supporting a small business, sometimes just ONE person who does the whole lot, from start to finish, from taking your order to running it to the post office.
We wear a lot of hats, whilst spinning a lot of plates. We are marketers, social media managers and accountants. We are customer service and we are material researchers and buyers.
Please, if you can and want to, now more than ever, small businesses like mine need support – supporting the small businesses that you love doesn’t have to mean buying something, the free acts of liking, sharing and commenting on social media posts boosts engagement and does wonders for small businesses like mine!