Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Value Of Time

So a post or two ago I mentioned the Small World experience I had with the woman I connected with to do a knitting and crochet project for who I knew from college. Remember that? Well, the project is done. I finished it, and I'm quite pleased with the outcome, if I do say so myself. It took a bit of trial-and-error to figure out the best techniques for shaping, and the best design for the crocheted edge, but I think it turned out exactly as requested.

My assignment? To re-create the knitted bodice of a tank-style girls sundress which has crocheted edging around the armholes and neckline. The dress is an empire-waist design, so the bodice is rather short. To the left is a picture of the original dress I was given to use as my only guideline from which to replicate the bodice. The woman I'm doing this for wanted a few minor changes, mostly to the edging, in order to allow a ribbon to be woven through as an added detail. The original design did not have that. She wanted to change the design just enough so that she wouldn't be outright ripping off someone else's design so she can potentially market this dress herself. The fabric for the skirt would also be different from the original, although in the same style.

After a week of working on this off and on, I finished it. Included in my work is the pattern I generated so others can use it on her behalf instead of trying to re-create it themselves. The picture on the right is my re-creation with a bit of ribbon woven in one side for effect. Pretty good, eh? I think so, too. The biggest difference being, of course, the crochet trim. It's a little more noticeable in my version to allow for the ribbon.

I've e-mailed my contact/friend the pictures of the finished piece and a suggestion of my compensation. I have no idea what the going rate is for work like this. We're meeting later this week to do the hand-off of the finished materials and she'll cut me a check. This took me well over 12 hours to do - probably closer to 15 - because of the fact I was working without a pattern, had to shop for the right yarn, and keep copious notes of my efforts in order to write up a finished pattern. It was hard to keep track of my time because I would pick it up for an hour here and an hour there over the course of a week, and work for a few hours straight in the evenings. Is $50 too much to ask for? It's sort of where I thinking. I know I wouldn't pay $50 for the entire finished dress - it's nice, but not $50 nice - but the payment also includes the pattern itself, which will cut down on production time going forward. She said she might want to get a bunch made (via knitting circle or something) and then try to sell them in local boutiques or on e-Bay.

I would really appreciate any thoughts and insights into this - I don't want to sell myself short but at the same time, I don't want to be too greedy, either. Especially because I KNOW her (sort of) and I have a people-pleasing streak in me.... What is YOUR time worth?

OK, I am shifting slightly into lawyer mode (usually in SAHM mode) on this one. Please forgive me.

First I would ask her what she thinks a reasonable hourly wage for this type of work would be. Then explain the amount of time you spent on it and charge that. If the cost is going to be quite high then you can just tell her that you will agree to accept less and offer an amount that you think is fair. Only do this if you are not giving her the pattern - just the dress.

Now, if the plan all along was for you to create the pattern as well as redo the bodice then I think you should charge much more than $50. If the original plan was just for the dress with the possibility of a pattern then you can just try to estimate the number of hours that it would have taken you if you were not trying to create a pattern for others to replicate. This is original work (beautiful work) done by you and you should benefit from your efforts if you give her the pattern. Figure out an amount in your head for each of the items (bodice and pattern) separately.

I hope this makes sense. You did some beautiful work and you should not sell yourself short. And I have no idea where I would come up with 15 hours of extra time in my life right now. Start high and negotiate down if need be.

Good luck,
Minimum wage per hour in Oregon is $7.80 (I think). Do the math, that is what I think you should charge. Nice work, BTW. Very cute.
Fifty dollars seems a bit low, MP, considering you spent so much time designing a pattern and selecting thread. The subsequent bodices will be much quicker to make because of your efforts. I think that you should be compensated for creating the pattern as well as crocheting the bodice. At $50 you are only giving yourself about $4 per hour and that doesn't seem like a fair amount.
I like what Lisa says... $50 is very low. Don't sell yourself short! Very nice work. :-)
How timely for you to post on this now! I just finished a knit/sewn dress that I'm thinking about getting the license to sell (http://ewebetcha.com/assets/images/dress1.jpg). If I do sell them, I'd list them between $50-$60, and that's online. At boutiques, they'd sell for more. Knowing that, I think your $50 isn't enough. Coming up with a pattern is freaking hard and time consuming (I'm a bit wary that your version of the dress and her original might not be different enough from the original creator's standpoint, but as my dress indicates, coming up with a half-knit/crocheted, half-sewn dress isn't a completely unique idea.).

Anyway, I think the pattern creation is probably worth $50 in itself. Then find out what she'd sell the dress for and tack that onto the price. If that's $100 total, so be it.

Knitting/sewing/crocheting for pay is goofy because it's rare to really get paid the amount that's deserved because few people can afford or are willing to pay $15/hr or more for clothes that take 10 hours to create. I do it because I love it and I can knit while kids play, but when I do consulting projects on the computer that require babysitters, I only take the work because it pays $50/hr.
I agree with everyone else about you underselling yourself. I think it is fair to charge $50 for the pattern in addition to your time. If you'd rather work the cost of the pattern into your time, then charge a higher hourly wage. But, if this goes as planned, your friend stands to benefit greatly from your hard work. Granted, yes, she has to market it in order to be successful. But she'd have nothing to market without all the work you put into it.

I would think that you and she should have agreed prior to work beginning what would be a fair minimum per hour, plus the pattern.

I'd say a minimum of $100. But that's just me.

And that's also because I know she will make that by selling 2-3 dresses at a craft show.
thanks for all the helpful comments, everyone! I appreciate it. And Holly, you are spot-on when you say we should have had this agreed upon before I even embarked on the project in the first place. I brought it up in an email or two when we first started communicating, but she hadn't addressed it directly, and then when we finally met and realized we knew each other, well, I think we BOTH sort of forgot about the nitty gritty.

Anyway, we've reached a compromise and she's paying me $75 for both the pattern and the knitted/crocheted piece I made. I feel fine about it. I really did enjoy the project, so I'm not bitter about a low hourly rate. This sort of thing is fun for me.

She claims to love it from the picture I sent her, I just hope the real deal does the picture justice (it will- it's cuter in person than in a photo).
A little late and after the fact, but I agree - you were selling yourself short.

I put SOOOO much time in the paintings I create, I could never get paid for the actual time & effort that goes into one. In fact my Mom asked me to paint a picture of Santa Claus for her best friend for Christmas. (To view the painting go to http://transplanted-north-south.blogspot.com/ ) I had probably 40 hours in it, 15.00 for the mat that I had cut to specific measurements and shipped it to her. All she had to do was buy a frame that was standard size. This painting was (I think) 20 X 24?? Not small) She sent me a $25.00 gift card. Granted, it was my Mom, but actual value....... priceless.

BTW, I'm glad you worked something out that was satisfactory for both of you.
Beautiful work.

Glad to hear you did get more than the original $50. I have to agree with the stronger opinions....don't sell yourself and your abilities short! The project being fun is a bonus, and should not be reflected in the price. You are a skilled knitter/crocheter and deserve top dollar for your efforts. I tried to do a little online research the other night about hourly wage for this kind of work, and it is such a specialty thing that you should consider a price scale for future work. Hourly for labor plus additional for special requests and materials. You can always start high and negotiate if needed. Nice work!
Beautiful work MP!

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