Much of a muchness

Things that make you go 'hmm'…

A bit of a whinge….

I’ve been busy. Yes, me. Holiday Queen. I designed a website for a friend and she mentioned this to her friend who happened to need a website and her brother, who happened to need a website and Lo! and Behold! I have been working. All a bit of a shock to the system really especially to poor Milo who can’t understand why I won’t play with him every minute of the day.


The other down side is that it has dramatically curtailed my blog visits – sorry! But after a day of coding html and css and wrestling with the vagaries of Internet Explorer (Please, World – buy a Mac!) I haven’t had time to visit or post here either.

I have come up against a very thorny, perennial problem working for friends – and friends of friends – how much to charge for my services. I’m obviously not a professional but I would like to think that I do a good professional job – basic with few ‘bells and whistles’ and that is what a lot of people seem to want. ( Check out Duck House) However, given the time it takes to code a website ‘properly’, if I charged a reasonable amount an hour, the costs would be huge, so I charge a fairly low fixed fee. Compared to a ‘professional’ web designer, I am cheap as chips. So my dilemma is, do I pretend to be a ‘professional’ or admit I am a beginner. I would like to make some money doing this. My #2 son who is a newly graduated graphic designer is going to send me a ‘rate card’ which he has taken to using, having suffered the problem of agreeing a fixed fee and then ending up with the job taking much longer than anticipated. It’s a minefield!


I am rubbish at negotiating. Or standing up for myself. I have been attempting to sell my books at an art sale in the town where I live. I don’t want to undervalue them yet I don’t want to over charge for them and I would like to sell some. I put them at a lowish price (bearing in mind I’m not in the West End of London) and haven’t sold one. Do I lower my prices even more and almost give them away? They are getting lots of positive comments so I think that it’s just not the right marketplace for them but it is disheartening. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on all this. Sorry this has been such a serious post but it has been bothering me.

So to cheer things up, here is a clip from ‘Outnumbered’ which is quite my favourite thing on TV. The second series is fabulous. Last week Karen, the little girl held a funeral for a mouse caught in a trap in their kitchen. It was priceless.

Her teddy bear stood in for the Pope and she said ‘ Dust to dust. For richer for poorer. In sickness and in health. May the force be with you. Because you’re worth it. Amen and out’.

She also asked why Gordon Ramsey swore so much. ‘Shouldn’t it be people like doctors and soldiers and artists that swear? Not cooks. All they are doing is making salad.’ I love her.

And finally, that time of year which I prefer to ignore is looming fast. It’s a minefield and now the boys are grown up and I’m single, I dread it. I don’t want the boys to feel they have to come home but of course, I hope they do! The first time they both had other plans, I went to stay with friends in Vancouver. I had a great time but it was so weird not being with my boys. Last year they both came home and as I had just broken up with my partner and was not in the best of moods, my ex joined us – which was weird but OK. At least he was a welcome distraction! This year, one son has said he is home, the other is negotiating where to spend Christmas, with his girlfriend and I am waiting to hear his plans. Thankfully, a dear friend has invited us to spend Christmas day with them. #2 son is thrilled as she does cook THE BEST Christmas dinner. Yes, even better than mine….

I’m determined to be organized this year. I’ve already ordered my Christmas tree from Crocus, I am going to buy my cards soon so I don’t end up with the horrible leftovers and if I write and post them early, I won’t be stuck in the horrendous queue in the Post Office for hours on end on the last day of posting and maybe the cards I send overseas might actually arrive before Christmas this year.


21 responses to “A bit of a whinge….

  1. Vicki November 25, 2008 at 2:07 pm


    My husband makes beautiful wood products – doll houses, forts, bird houses, toy boxes, hope chests, Adirondack chairs – and he spends lots of time and money renting space at area art/craft shows. For the first year or two, he had very few sales. Lots of ooohs and aaaahs, which are gratifying, but few sales. He decided to try something different. He rented a space at a Farmers’ Market in a cute little town about 1/2 hour away and he started to realize sales at the very reasonable price he had always asked.

    Sorry for the length of this comment, but I am trying to tell you not to lower your prices if you already offer them at a reasonable one. Perhaps you need to find another venue at which to offer them. Have you ever considered Etsy? The charges are very small to list and there is no fee when you sell. Your books look very well made and quite beautiful.

    Don’t give up and don’t sell yourself too short.

  2. cathryn miller November 25, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Good grief! Please don’t lower your prices. You would be doing yourself a great disservice. It takes time for people to get used to things. If I introduce a new item at a craft sale I do regularly, it can take until the next year for it to start selling.
    And, as you said, you may just be trying to sell in the wrong place.

    Know what you mean about working for friends. Perhaps you could let them know what a “professional” would be charging? :}

  3. Marguerite November 25, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I’ve been happy with my pricing — I’ve priced things at what I’d pay for them myself. That way, if someone else doesn’t buy them, I’m happy that I get to keep them! (and give them away for Christmas…)

  4. strugglingwriter November 25, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Good luck with the book selling. I hope they go to good homes. I’ll miss those guys. *sniff*

    I like the Christmas card diagram. My wife is busy getting ours together. We have something like 75 cards to send which amazes me because I don’t think I know 75 different families. Maybe she’s sending them to bloggers too :)

  5. Teresa November 25, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    I was just thinking this morning while brushing my teeth (funny how that reminds me of you…guess your smile is very memorable! Either that or I’m one of those strange people reading your blog…hahaha) that I should go say HI to you on FB because I hadn’t seen you in a while.

    I didn’t know you were a talented web designer on top of the other creative things you do! I’m so impressed. The mere mention of CSS brings me to my knees (and not in any fun or kinky way either).

    Milo is getting cuter by the day; must be trying to compete with your handsome sons. I’m sure all three are superb chick magnets!

    As for charging, never ever short-change yourself! I am a fine one to talk, but that’s the advice I have always read. I am willing, and ready, to buy a couple of your beautiful books any day!

    The Outnumbered show sounds hilarious! I love the dialogue you’ve quoted.

    Once again, I’m impressed by the seamless way you went from one topic to the next, and the next, and the next. You ought to teach a class on how to transition.

    And good luck with the holiday plans! I hope you’ll get to see your boys for some portion of it at least.

  6. Daddy Papersurfer November 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I loved the joke about the cheese and bread … or if the lickle mousey went in the ‘other’ direction, cheese on toast – brilliant [a very over used word but in this case justified].

    Re: selling stuff – I can’t help you at all as I’m exactly the same. I prefer giving away stuff rather than not getting what they are worth. Want any sculptures? – tee hee

    Glad to see you’ve been working. The phrase ‘about time too’ comes to mind ……….. tsk

  7. Elizabeth November 25, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    aahhhh!!! no, don’t give away your books! A good idea is to be really clear how much your books are worth, cost and your time. Then go into shops and see where you see books similar to yours that are priced the same. Have a look at a few stores and you will start to see the market they are sold to. Maybe you’ll find that you are selling to the wrong market?

    Etsy seems to be a good way to go as well, but don’t forget about taking excellent photos. I think that selling on the internet is all about the photo, and of course the website. Or how about having your own website to sell your books? I learned how to take great photos of products here
    Also this blog has great tips, she sells stationery.

    Good luck with your books, may the force be with you! :)

  8. Diane November 26, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Vicki – I hear what you are saying and I think you are right. Finding the right market is going to be key. I have set up an Etsy shop but I haven’t stocked it yet – I am in the throes of doing it – it’s so time consuming!
    Your husband’s wood products sound wonderful and I’m glad he is now selling them successfully. I enjoyed reading your blog, your artwork is beautiful. Thanks for your advice – much appreciated!

    cathryn – I have a figure in my head which is what I think they are worth – I just have to find like minded people! Some people say they are worth more – some less. I suppose any artist selling their work has to go through this! As for working for friends – that’s what I did – told her to go and find someone cheaper, when she came back – that was when she agreed the price but slipped in 5 x the work. I’ve done the job because I have just put it down to exerience and I’ll know better next time!

    Marguerite – I think that’s a good principle to work on! Trouble is, I have more books than friends – they would have to have them for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries….. :-)
    I love the sound of the Roasted Pumpkin and Onion Fettucine recipe on your blog – will definitely be trying that one!

    SW – I think that’s half my problem – I don’t like parting with them either!!
    I always think I don’t know many people but I always get cards from people I had forgotten and end up having to buy more!

    Teresa – you say the sweetest things! You are the least strange person I know! Very ‘grounded’ – I think that was a very strange remark on my FB page!
    I noticed the other day how big Milo was getting – I’ve only had him about a month. Being with him every day I don’t notice it until I look at photos.
    ‘Outnumbered’ is a great show – genuinely funny. The first series has just come out on DVD – I’m dying to watch them again.
    It’s looking like I’m going to get to see both my boysat some point over Christmas – hurrah!

    DP – oh you mean where she said ‘we are giving this mouse some cheese and bread for it’s journey to heaven and if it goes to hell it can have cheese on toast’ Priceless!
    I’ll swap you a book for a sculpture….
    Cheeky! I do work…… in my own way.

  9. Lord Likely November 26, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Heavens, sounds like you have been highly productive indeed!

    And of course, should you find yourself wondering what to do this Christmas time, the Likely Estate is always open!

    That goes for everybody!

    I’ll bring the stuffing.

  10. Daddy Papersurfer November 26, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I like people who work ………………. in their own way …………… perhaps we should form a club or is that too much like hard work? – tee hee

  11. Vanessa November 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Diane! Don’t sell yourself short, if I had half your talent I would be so pleased with myself!

    There is a wonderful shop called Mayther (they are in Oxford, Bath and Marlow I think). They sell beautiful books, but actually yours look even better, honestly. Their shops would be the perfect outlet for your books.

    I know what you mean about Christmas, always tricky when you have a ‘broken’ family, not my favourite time of year at all. I wish I could go lie on a beach somewhere and read a book, but that would be just too selfish!? (I’d like the boys to come though).

    Milo looks so smart, a real credit to you!

    Outnumbered is priceless, it is so rare to see something as good as this on TV.

    Christmas will be over this time next month!

    Take care….x

  12. Diane November 26, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Lord L – now that’s a tempting offer….I do enjoy a nice bit of stuffing (pork and chestnut is my favourite – yum!) :-)

    DP – sounds good to me – now I’m just off for a lie down…..

    Vanessa – hello! Christmas this time next month!!! Eeek! Time is flying past! I haven’t even booked my trip to Oz in January yet – just been too busy!
    You are right, Christmas wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t single. I’d hate the boys to feel they need to come home just to keep me company. The curse of having married friends – I hate being a gooseberry too! I’m determined not to have another Christmas like this. Next year is going to be the year of finding a chap! Early New Years resolution! :-)

  13. 70steen November 26, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    D ~ your work is absolutely phenomenal.. so don’t even think about reducing prices… I think your sales venue maybe is not right for your products.
    I know this may sound a bit of a naff suggestion but what about e bay with reserved prices… also you have to get yourself out there and contact specialist shops who stock individual pieces..
    Do you have a web page of your own ?

    Love your Xmas card flow chart .. that is exactly what goes around my head every year …. lol

    & Milo … what can I say he is adorable and my teen has just fallen in love with him, heavily hinting we add a Milo to our menagerie….. eeek!

  14. Rhonda November 27, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Your books are fabulous, you probably should charge higher prices! I do local craft sales occasionally, but I do not sell a lot as it seems to be entirely the wrong crowd. Selling online, though, has worked well for me. You should try selling online!

  15. laketrees November 27, 2008 at 11:29 am

    hmmm ..difficult Diane ..
    I would never dream of haggling with some one over the price of anything artistic…but I’ve had it happen to me a number of times ..that’s probably why I haven’t done a commission since 2006 :)
    coding and webdesign takes hours and hours and I wouldn’t be charging anything under $600…which seems to be the going rate out over here for a basic website…
    you need an agent or an assertive friend to sell your books for you ;)
    hope you sort out your plans for Christmas…

  16. Amran Ismail November 27, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Since you’re into building websites, I think my website might interest you. It’s supposed to generate income for you and its got to do with selling web addresses (all automated). Anyone can do it actually. It’s a new business idea I bet you haven’t heard of before. Come by my website and watch the video we have there. See whether you can capitalize on it


  17. writinggb November 28, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Ah, well, in terms of charging for work done for friends and acquaintances, it’s hard, I know, but honestly they are being a pain in the ass if they try to take advantage of you. I advise you to put the plan in writing first and make it clear that this is TIME-CONSUMING work and you are giving away your time at an enormously cheap rate. If they want to change later what they ask of you, then ask them to spend an equivalent time weeding your garden or cleaning out your cupboards. :-) You can say it in a cheeky way that will remind them that it is time, time, TIME they are stealing from you.

    And I agree about what folks are saying on the book prices. Find the right market. That’s the best way. Your books are lovely. But you need to figure out where people are buying. How about offering them to local schools’ Parent teacher associations for folks to buy for teacher gifts? People who need a quick but lovely gift for an acquaintance would do well to buy on of your lovely items.

  18. RennyBA November 29, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I know what you mean working for (or the think its ‘helping’) can be a challenge. You do a very good job though – yes, I saw Duck House: Great, nice and clean! and have all the reasons to be proud of yourself.

    You know I love all your other creative work too – keep up the good work!

    Wishing you a great end to your week :-)

  19. Esther November 29, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    I LOVE your Duck House website. It makes me want to stay there. Far better than a lot of pro websites. Make sure you don’t short change yourself. I love the look of your books too. Unfortunately I live in LA now so probably can’t buy any.

  20. Creechman November 30, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    R U still playing with that dog?

  21. Brodhe February 5, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    How much did you end up charging, if I may ask? I’m in the same boat at the moment. I’m no profession, but Ido a good enough job. I’ve got some friends asking for websites, as well as a couple of small businesses. They are all happy to pay and keep asking “how much”. I really don’t like to value myself, nor my work!

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