JENS MALMGREN I create, that is my hobby.

How much is a 'Jens Wet Panels Box'?

I got the question if I would like to build and sell a ‘Jens Wet Panels Box’, but how much would it cost?

This is a really simple question but what is a good answer?

It was a nice feeling that I could just say a number and that would be the price! Then if the customer to be said ‘no’ then I would be done with the entire experiment and if it was a ‘yes’ I would have to produce the box and then I would be done. A little bit of sell excitement! Actually selling art is an art by itself.

I have a daytime job, and my artist production so far I do for fun and not for profit. There has been no need to set my art entrepreneur skills to a test to make a living. This does not mean that I am not commercially minded. Most of the things I do in my daytime job are entirely based on commercial decisions.

Obviously the material of the box would need to be covered for in the price but what about the working time, how do you charge for that? I bought tools for making the box, a hand held router machine for example. The time can be divided into creating the design of the box and then the working time to create the actual box. On one hand you cannot possibly charge for all of the design time in the first sold box, can you? Another issue was that only if I knew my own hourly rate I would just multiply with the estimated time it takes and voila, there would be a price! Well that is to me an equation with two unknown variables right now because I would need to set a stopwatch and really build the box to see how much time it took. But here I had to tell the price before starting building the box. I figured out that the scientific stopwatch approach would not be so good. The gambling route to selling is probably much more fun.

Then I got the brilliant idea to ask a neighbor who is a professional carpenter what he would charge for to build the box. So I did. I went to my neighbor and just like all born-to-be entrepreneurs he instantly gave me a price. How do they do that? The price came with that nice feeling of self-confidence. “It takes about two hours to make that thing”. I am not going to mention the price that my neighbor gave me but it was a reasonable price. Then I asked him if this was a real price or if it was a “nice price” for neighbors and friends. Indeed, I had got the “nice price”. So then I got the real price. Still reasonable. To me. With a daytime job - knowing how difficult it is to make a ‘Jens Wet Panels Box’.

So with the price issue out of the way I took contact with my customer-to-be because I had a price! “Well Jens, you want money for the box? You see I don’t have any money” the customer-to-be told me and instead offered me to get a painting in return for the box.

Hmm… What is it with this business?

It occurred to me that the difference between my neighbor the carpenter and me is that I have a daytime job and the arts and crafts stuff is not something I do for my living, it is for fun. When he works then he works for a living and when he got spare time then he is not earning any money. The relation between my daytime job and my spare time is quintessential somehow. Obviously I need to give myself an hourly rate for my spare time art things that is greater than my daytime job. To me this is obvious. It cannot be so that I go and devaluate my for-fun-time to something that is less valuable than my daytime work time so obviously the spare time rate has to be higher - by some factor. It does not matter so much what factor is but it has to be larger than one.

Another minimum could be that I compare myself with the neighbor. Is that feasible? Well, I am the designer of the ‘Jens Wet Panel Box’ so when I build it why should it be less valuable than when my neighbor builds it?

Why is a cheap price always the best price by the way?

Probably it would take me longer time to build the box compared to my neighbor but I would pay attention to the small little details and not just look at the design. I would know why something was designed as it was and make sure it worked out perfectly.

But if I cannot sell the box to the price regardless of what it is then the price is useless? Yes and no. Remember I don’t need the money, I have daytime job. The price just needs to be emotionally right for me.

I was thinking back and forth like this when a new thought hit me. How about after sales care? Well, for a nice price the after sales care would be no problem at all but for the exchange of a painting? Huh? I am a painter myself. If I want a painting I make one myself.

Then I started to make up after sales horror stories about the customer-to-be complaining. I was thinking that when the customer-to-be needed more panels she would come back to me with “Can I buy more panels from you?”. I would say no. Then when making the panels herself she might not realize that the panels needs to have the absolutely correct size and she would become annoyed when they got too big for the box and they would not fit in it. Or the panels could be too small and just bounce around in the box. The panels could fall out when the box was turned upside down. The box could be too heavy to carry on long trips. She could demand there should be a handle. When the panels would be left in the box for a long time the paint would glue the panels into the box. Maybe the customer-to-be had misunderstood that you cannot have any width of the panels in the box? She might buy a canvas panel and it would not fit in the box. I continued my fantasies that my customer-to-be would complain about new things over and over again and then at some point the customer-to-be would not want to be a customer anymore and come back to me with the box under her arm and demand the painting back.

I want to design a box but I want the entire experience to be fun, for me. I know it is maybe an arrogant idea. The above scenario would not be fun. At this point I decided that the right price would be the double of the carpenter. He would not give any after sales care services as far as I could tell. The best way of dealing with after sales hurdles would be to ‘manage the customer expectations’ so that before the sale was completed I would inform about the customer-to-be about what you can expect from the wet painting box, after all it is just a painting box and not a can of worms, right?

On the Internet I found people writing about ‘How to price arts and crafts’ and there are many people who struggles with this subject. Many more than I had ever thought. It seems the most common mistake is that many crafts creators are undervaluing their time. Only a few do the opposite, making things too expensive. Is it not so that the pricing of handmade goods are completely overshadowed by all sorts of mass produced goods these day? So much so that we cannot comprehend the real value of something unless it came from a conveyor belt by the thousands? One method to set the price is to figure out how much you need to earn per week and then see how many pieces you can produce in a week. I understand that it could work for some but I see that some of my time is quality time and other is scrap time so this would not work for me.

I expect that I will meet the customer-to-be to within a couple of weeks or months and she will look at my ‘Jens Wet Panel Box’ with envy and ask me how is it going with the transaction and then I will point her to this blog post to find out the answer herself.

So what is the price? It is 150 euro and it includes a terms and conditions tips and tricks sheet prohibiting all possible after sales woes and four MDF panels prepared with gesso! A great bargain.

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If you need to send me a link or something personal you can do that on jens at malmgren dot nl.

I was born 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden. I grew up in the small village Vågdalen in north Sweden. 1989 I moved to Umeå to study Computer Science at University of Umeå. 1995 I moved to the Netherlands where I live in Almere not far from Amsterdam.

Here on this site I let you see my creations.

I create, that is my hobby.