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How We Price Our Work — A Guide on How We Determine Prices for Our Custom Commissions

How We Price Our Work — A Guide on How We Determine Prices for Our Custom Commissions

As a plush artist, and artist in general, I often get asked how I determine prices for my work; more specifically custom plush commissions. I’ve put together a handy little breakdown covering all the things I take into consideration when pricing my plush work. This guide focuses on my custom plush pricing but also applies to our other custom work, including statues and art commissions, as well as various other art forms. Whether you are curious about how and why I charge what I do for my custom work, or you are just starting out in your own craft business and need pointers, I hope this article will help!

Note: Here I will highlight what I’ve learned about pricing throughout the past few years of owning my craft business. I won’t touch on the subject of beginner pricing, as that’s an entirely different beast and there is really no set guideline. Beginner pricing also tends to be very subjective. This article is simply meant to offer some pointers to artisans who are needing advice on how to price their work, but mainly to answer the never-ending question of “Why is your work so expensive?”.


Why is Your Work So Expensive?

It's a sad fact that most people who aren't part of the plush-making community severely underestimate the cost and time that goes into crafting unique handmade plushies. If you're a plush artisan I'm sure you've received your fair share of comments like these:

"Well, I can buy a Pokemon plush at Wal-Mart for $15, but you want $200 for the same thing? That's ridiculous!!"

"$200 for a stuffed doll?? That's crazy, no way!" 

or (my personal favorite to date) "$40 is a lot of money for a 3-foot tall plushie".....

What many people don't realize is when you buy art from a small business, you aren’t just paying for the product. You’re paying for the shipping supplies, upkeep of machines and their maintenance, social media time and work done behind the scenes (like interacting daily with customers, keeping the shop up to date and maintaining this website, etc.), all the time spent patterning and testing prototypes, and much much more. Not all profit goes into our pockets. In fact, I’d say about 95% of it goes back into our business, and if we clear anything after all that (including taxes) which is rare, the tiny bit left goes into our bills. The remainder of the “profit” we make from our shop maybe covers about $60 toward one monthly utility bill. Remember, artists need to make a living too, and just because plushies are often considered "toys", doesn't make the artist's skill any less valuable. Chain retail stores like Wal-Mart receive their plush stock from large manufacturing plants that pump out mass-produced plushies like bunnies doing their "spring-thing". Plush like these are stuffed and sardined into boxes with little care and attention to detail. A custom plush artist is a craft artisan, highly skilled in their trade and dedicates a ton of time and attention to detail into their work. And when you order a custom plush, you are getting a unique, handmade, one-of-a-kind piece of art in plush form, made by the artist of your choosing. This is why you'll pay $15 for a Wal-Mart bought Pikachu plush but $200 for a custom-made one from a small plush shop.

Here are some of the things I factor in when determining prices for my work, especially custom plush commissions. These are just my variables, and may or may not be the same as other plush artists.


Material Costs

Oftentimes people don’t realize how many materials go into making our work (especially our custom plushies). Many non-artists have this unrealistic idea of how much art should cost, as well as the materials that go into making said art. Many of us artists would LOVE for art supplies and materials to be less expensive, however, this just isn’t the case. Materials and art supplies, especially good quality ones, aren’t cheap, and this is reflected in the work we produce.

I break down material costs into three categories: recurring expenses, per-project materials, and one-time purchases.

Recurring expenses are things like stuffing, thread, stabilizer, clay, paint, wire, poly pellets— things that are continually used for every project.

Per-project materials are things like specific fabrics for one particular project.

One-time purchases are things like an embroidery program, embroidery/sewing machine, camera for product photography, etc. These tend to be more expensive purchases but are items either purchased one time, or very rarely.

Keep everything in mind. Everything used for a project is an expense; even things we only need extremely minimal amounts of, like paint for eye shines on plush. Most of my plushies are made with Shannon brand smooth minky which (depending where you buy it from) runs anywhere from $15/yard to $32/yard. Luxury fabrics like faux fur cost even more. I've paid around $60 before for good quality faux fur, and the most expensive I've bought for a project was $120/yard….yeah, fabric isn’t cheap. Many people also forget that the size of a project affects its selling price as well. For example if a large plush requires multiple yards of fabric, that’s *fabric price* x however many yards. The amount of colors and different types of fabric also add up. If someone wants a plush with 5 colors, that’s 5 different yards of fabric. If they want 2 of those yards to be minky, 2 faux fur, and 1 suede, that’s three different types of fabric on top of 5 different colors. It all adds up. Larger plush equals more stuffing, more thread, more time, and more expensive shipping. When I make plushies, especially custom ones, I need to test the patterns I create until I perfect them; which also uses fabric and other sewing materials and notions.


Time Costs

Time is money, and as artists it’s part of our job to determine what our time is worth. Education, training, and experience all factor in, as plush-making is a specialized job. There is a lot of trial and error involved, idea generating, sketching, prototyping, and planning. It may not sound like much, but a pattern alone can take several days, even weeks to work on and perfect. And of course there is also a lot of time spent conversing with clients, ordering materials for projects, and doing research for a particular plush commission. If someone wants their custom plush commission rushed and completed in a very short notice, that’s even more time all compacted. In some situations the workload is so great that I must request time off from my job in order to dedicate all my time into a project. Thankfully these situations are rare and I don’t take these kinds of projects on often, but it is still a contributing factor.



I end up paying quite a bit in fees each month. Paypal fees, custom fees, platform fees, currency conversion, shipping fees for any materials I order online, taxes— individually it may not seem like much, but together all those little things really do add up. Paypal fees are 'only' 4% but that adds up like crazy after a while. Our shop is run through Shopify, which costs $30/month on top of the 3% transaction fee Shopify collects from all sales on our website. In addition to just selling and platform fees, we also pay income taxes on any sales we make.



There are quite a few things that go into shipping costs than just the cost to send a package. Some of my plushies are packed in boxes, while others are packed in mailer bags. All have tissue paper, custom branded labels, and in some cases (as with our statues) contain bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and other protective materials to ensure the item doesn’t get damaged in transit. These are, just like fees, small things that end up adding up at the end of the month. Sizing also affects shipping cost. Larger plushies often end up being shipped via Priority shipping given their size and weight.


Overhead and Maintenance

Overhead and maintenance are things that get forgotten the most and are often taken for granted. However, they are still vital to a plushmaker or crafter’s operation. The machines we use cost a hefty price, and the maintenance for them isn’t cheap either. I pay $200–$1000 in machine maintenance fees every single year to make sure all my equipment is running smooth. Embroidery/sewing machine maintenance, printer maintenance, and computer/program maintenance is a necessary part of my yearly maintenance. Those machines, as well as the power in my craft studio and house require electricity (which is so pricey here in central Florida— especially in summer!). Rent/mortgage is factored in along with utilities to keep the shop running. I live a good distance away from the nearest post office therefore must factor in gas. Again, these may seem petty but must be factored in, as this is my livelihood as a plush artist. Every little bit counts and nothing runs off of magic or for free in our shop!


Living Expenses

Much like overhead and maintenance, living expenses oftentimes get overlooked, but these are equally important especially when your primary source of income comes from your craft. We are all people, and we all have to eat and pay bills!


Situational Pricing

Anything that causes more stress, requires more time, rush projects, difficult customers, etc., all fall under situational pricing.

Rush Projects
A rush custom plush project means more work hours each day until the project is complete. And generally more stress involved. As such, rush projects usually cost 25% to 50% more.

Custom Plush Commissions
Custom plush commissions always cost more than my other plush because more work is involved. With custom work, I have to develop a custom pattern specific for that project only, as well as order any special project-specific materials. I also have to factor in all the prototypes I need to make to test the pattern, as well as any alterations requested by the client. Sometimes it can take 2, 5, 10, or more prototypes to perfect the finished plush product.

Difficult Customers
Artist don’t like difficult or rude customers; in fact, nobody does! Particularly needy or bothersome clients that feel the need to spam emails several times every single day inevitably take up more time than clients who are patient, calm, and generally nice. I have a soft spot for very kind people, and honestly I’ve drastically dropped a price for custom work solely based on the fact that the person was an incredibly good and kind person. Kindness goes a looong way in the art world. Not every artist uses this as a determining factor for their prices, but some do.

Particularly difficult projects
This one is pretty self-explanatory; more difficult plush designs means more planning, more time spent on pattern drafting and testing, and set-up and work overall. A simple blob plush with little detail, for example, is going to cost less than a complex, posable, asymmetrical plush with a bunch of tiny details.

I don’t typically factor this into my prices, but some artists will raise or lower their prices based on their demand. High demand tends to make artists raise their prices until their workload/demand even out. This is purely subjective though, and therefore there isn’t any real set amount for how much one should raise or lower their prices. My demand increases and decreases at random times, so I personally don’t bother with this factor.

Current orders/commissions in queue
This is very similar to the above, and I don’t generally factor this into prices either, but some more prominent artists do. One way around this is to limit the amount of custom orders an artist will accept at any given time, temporarily closing commission entries until their queue is free again.



So here you have it— this is how I figure out prices for my custom plush commissions and other work. Hopefully you can find this useful, and at the very least I hope this will quell the ever-common (and honestly quite rude) question: “Why are your plush so expensive?” or “Wow, that’s really expensive, forget that!”. 

Honestly the bottom line is everyone is free to price their work as they see fit, and by no means is an artist obligated to lower their prices unless they themselves want to. Please keep all the above things in mind when reaching out to custom artists, and try to be understanding and respectful of their work and time ♥︎♡ Custom plush-making is a very specialized skillset and a bit hard to find, and as such deserves much more respect than the community gets!

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