I’m somewhat stuck right now, on the difference between pricing something according to “what the market expects/will bear”, and charging what I believe it’s worth.
On the one hand, there is a tendency among crafters and spiritworkers to undervalue their work – society as a whole doesn’t put a high price on cottage industry, spiritual work, or service professions. As I am often reminded, if you price your work well below others’ the customer or client will assume there’s some drawback or fault with it. They’ll be suspicious, and suspicious people don’t buy. They’ll think you’re shoddy or dodgy, compared to people charging “normal” prices.
Even if those “normal” prices are 200, 300, 500% higher than cost price.
I’ve always been told to add costs (time, materials, labour) and overheads (shipping, marketing, rent, packaging, etc.) and add 100%. And yet there’s a school of thought that says we should charge higher prices simply to compete. That to not add what amounts to a “luxury image surcharge” means you’re pricing yourself away from success.
This is tricky for me – raised both poor and somewhat left-of-centre, the idea of making people pay more for something that will help them just because you can seems, well, cruel. Don’t get me wrong, altruistically charging so little that your business can’t grow is just dumb, and charging most people Real Prices can give you space to offer pro bono where it’s really needed. But when I know that for most of my peers, it’s a case of “pay rent, pay utilities, buy food, see if there’s anything left”, deliberately pricing what is supposed to be a service/devotional exercise up by more than Fair Cost + 100% (or whatever percentage is appropriate) seems counterproductive and in some cases almost blasphemous. And yet, because there is a crowd of upper-middle-class, mostly white, spiritual seekers who will not only happily pay your 300% mark-up, but perceive your goods/service as better because of it, there are many Spiritual Providers who feel obliged or entitled to do just that.
With services, there is a degree of trust involved – the client trusts you to provide value for money, and you trust yourself to provide it. With goods, however (value-added, consumables, or raw on-sold product), we have to face the fact that many people are accustomed to paying earth-raping, slave-labour, mechanised, mass-produced, chemical-soaked, economy-of-scale prices, not true-cost prices. Conventional wisdom states then that you should create Points of Difference to show that your “artisanal” product is worth the extra cost. But at what point does that become artificial, and where does Devotional or Spiritual Service intersect with that?
For example, I recently went on a wholesaling expedition, and managed to pick up a Nifty Thing I’ve been ogling for years, but couldn’t really afford/justify at $40 retail. The wholesale price? $4. That’s right. Knock that zero right off.
While I was thrilled to finally have my Nifty Thing and take it home and put it to Work, I was a little sobered and disappointed. The wholesaler from whom I purchased was just a wholesaler. He was just selling stock, no personal investment or mission involved. But the retailers? The ones whose 1,000% mark-up had kept me from a Nifty Thing for three or four years? They bill themselves as “spiritual folk”, specifically the non-materialistic hippy-ish type. I know they need to make a living, but are their overheads really so high that such an enormous mark-up is justified? It really made me think about perceptions of worth and value – that 1,000% is accepted as perfectly reasonable by their customers, but I can guarantee none of them know about the wholesale price. Would they still be as eager if they did know? What if knowledge of the Nifty Thing’s true cost (environmental, social, and financial) and worth (magical, powerful, personal) were thrown into the mix? What would it be worth then?
To be honest, I’m running around in circles a bit. Thoughts and advice are welcome. 🙂
(I have found a bit of common sense, although it lacks a spiritual Gebo type perspective.)