Friday, January 27, 2012

I am an Artist, This does not mean I will work for free.

"I am an artist" image by PearlEden

I'm generally an easy going person. I get along with most people I meet and do everything I can for my customers.  Recently I had a transaction go bad.  It was ironic that I saw this image yesterday.

I know this is a common issue. It is something many artists have faced. But not only artists... many people that run their own businesses put hours and hours in to work that goes unpaid or uncompensated.

I have many absolutely wonderful customers that are fabulous people. Often when asked nicely and respectfully I do what I can to work with budgets or time lines or any other restrictions. I don't want to take away from all the lovely and easy transactions as they far, far, far outweigh the bad.

This is to deepen understanding of what goes in to the cost of a handmade good.

I run a business. It pays my bills, buys my food, buys materials, tools, health insurance and anything else it takes for an average person to live a modest life. I don't take vacations, I don't go out, my car is 15 years old, I save what little I can.

When I make a ring, the cost of the item has to cover EVERYTHING. What is everything? Most costs can be easily overlooked unless you know what it takes to run your own business. This is not a hobby, this is my job. Yes, I like my job, but that doesn't mean I'll do it for free.

The work that goes in to a single piece takes a lot of time in the actual making and everything surrounding it.

I create the wax - I had to buy the wax, buy the tools to work the wax, the alcohol that goes in the lamp, and the lighter I use. It gets put on a sprue base and a flask goes over it. Both of those items had to be purchased. It then gets investment poured over it - which also costs money. It goes in a kiln that burns out overnight - costing electricity, cost of the casting equipment. Not to mention that electricity and other bills, like heat, or firewood that are incurred during the entire process. I use a torch to melt the metal in a crucible. I go through acetylene gas pretty quickly. After the piece is cast there are many many more steps that go in to finishing the ring - most of which include tools or supplies that cost money.

All of this takes time.

And like everyone else who works, I deserve to be paid for my time. I cannot simply work to cover the cost of materials. If I did this, I wouldn't be making a living, it would be a hobby and I would need someone to support me. I wouldn't be able to pay for the internet I use to list my item, the gas it takes to drive to the post office, or the labels I print for shipping.

Again, all of this takes time. When a ring is returned that I cannot resell - I lose money for all that time if I give a full refund. So basically, you asked me to completely work for free, make a custom ring for you how you wanted it, the recipient didn't like the look and wasn't open to me doing anything to change it to make him/her happy, so I'm just out being paid. This is why I feel it is more beneficial to make alterations or exchange, I still get paid and I can still produce an item the person wants. It may take a little more of my time that comes at a loss, but it is much less of a loss than the alternative. It feels like a win/win.

Casting metal once degrades it. Each time, new metal has to be used and mixed in with old metal b/c of this. It isn't like that one ring can be melted by itself and turned in to a whole new ring without much more costs adding up.

And the time it takes to communicate all this, not paid.

So as far as your friend doing full refunds, that is great and if that works for his/her business than that is good for them. I can give you many references of other jewelers who do not take returns of custom items at all, much less a offer a partial refund. While I do not feel this is fair, I do feel it is fair for me to be paid for my time and for the supplies that were used. Luckily in 5.5 years of selling etsy, I've only had a few returns (less than 5). I'd prefer to lose a sale than take a return.

My return policy is clearly spelled out on Etsy and hasn't changed in quite a while - directly from my policy page -

RETURNS: If you have a question or concern about an item you are interested in, ask before you buy! If there is an issue after the fact, please by all means, let me know and we can work something out. I stand by the quality of my work but I cannot accept a returned item due to an error on anyone else's part. If I've approved an item for return, please make sure to package it as it was shipped and with insurance. If receiving a refund, one will be given minus shipping costs and a possible restocking fee. Most custom order items are not returnable. Some may be returned with a 10% - 50% restocking fee. It will depend on the style, material and size of the ring.

So hopefully you have a bit better understanding now as to why I feel justified in having a policy that only gives a % refund on a ring I cannot resell. I should still be paid for the time I have spent at each step of the process - from listing the item, computer time in communication, actually making the item from start to finish, general expenses from running a business, packaging and shipping the item, the time until leaving feedback and finishing communication completes the entire transaction.

Regardless, you're not happy, so you got a full refund minus the initial shipping cost (which should have gotten to you by now). The order has been canceled, so it's all taken care of.

all the best,


Sharon said...

Hear hear! Well said and well detailed.

Erin Jane - Erin Jane Designs said...

Beautifully stated, Beth! I applaud you!

Raquel McClure said...

Very well stated. And you are right, you have a much more generous return policy than the vast majority of jewelers. Folks just think 'creatives' wave a magic wand and things happen... if only it were that easy! :) You have a new fan :)

Marx said...

Great post! That was interesting.I like your quality that you put into your post.Please do continue with more like this.

- Marx of web design

J said...


Beth: +1000
Unidentified client: -1000

I think your response was fantastic, and I commend you for having the composure to respond in such a way, especially when contending with comments like "well my friend does x....."