So, I know a lot of people wonder why we take commissions the way we do. It's a very different system then how most makers do it.
And I'm here to explain.
First though, I want to clarify for those who may be unfamiliar with the normal way of doing things. Typically, a fursuit maker will request people send them emails with what they're looking for and any design imagery. Then from there, the maker will reply and reply and reply and hash things out until the person is ready to order. An invoice is sent, and payment made, then the order progresses as normal.
This is fine, but it involves a lot of extra work, and potentially not even getting a sale, as people tend to ask a lot of questions and make it seem like they will order, and change their minds last minute. It also adds on unnecessary pressure on the maker to respond quickly to keep the sale (even though there may not be one forthcoming.)
My approach to taking orders is not so radically different, but it's easier, more streamlined, and it allows people to kind of see what they are going to get before they even reach out to me to order.
It also is set up to mimic the bigger platforms people are now more used to, such as Amazon and Etsy, where you can go through and just order something without having to go through me each time. It's freed up a LOT of the pressure on potential clients, and myself. And more of us are wasting less time, which is lovely.
How our system works is you can go onto our webshop and view what are called calculator listings.
These are REAL listings in an eshop that can tabulate and add in any extra features you want added to your suit, so you get a price right there. Each extra is given it's own price, which is then added together to get a final number. This allows people to see approximately how much their order will cost if they order from us without me having to lift a finger, so I get to focus on orders that have already happened and are already in progress.
Then, when I'm ready to take on more orders, I open my form up and create special listings people can buy from. It's easy to put the page up, and then take it down when we're full.
I still do occasionally create custom listings people can purchase, but since it's still processed through Paypal or a credit card processor, and all the info is kept on my shop for me to see at any time, it works much the same way. And listings are SO easy to set up, I can even do it from my phone!
We only take about 4 large orders at a time, and promise at most a 12 week turnaround for those orders. Why? That's insane and unheard of in the fursuit making world!
Because we know the norm is to wait half a year to several years for a suit, and that there are a customer base of people who are leery of waiting so long. Paypal's refund window is 180 days. To be outside of that is to be taking a risk, in my opinion as a buyer online. I know this and understand people would be worried with trusting a stranger with that amount of money for an item that hasn't been made yet. So I developed a unique workflow that allows me to stay within that timeframe and still deliver high quality suits.
This fosters trust in my clients that I will complete the order and they can still be protected up to delivery. I also have a very generous refund policy that allows for refunds to occur even AFTER the suit has been finished, which very few makers do.
My entire mentality for doing things this way is to make ordering a fursuit easy (for both me and the customer) and streamlined as possible, while maintaining trust and quality. It hasn't been easy, and some people may not like the way I have things set up. But so far it has worked wonderfully for the clients I've had who've used it with us since the beginning of 2020, and I'm looking forward to tweaking it and making it even easier to use with the tools at my disposal.
Ordering a bespoke, custom item through a typical e-commerce platform may seem anathema to everything the industry I'm in stands for, but it's really not that far fetched, and honestly I feel it's the future of the platform.
Websites like The Dealer's Den now offer storefronts to users who can put up custom slots, what makes that any different from this?
So I say I'm embracing the future of furry e-commerce, and trying to make a usually tedious process more streamlined and easy for both parties involved.
Work smarter, not harder!
Check out our pricing calculators here.
The one thing that I've found is the most important thing to purchase in order to put your business ahead and stay ahead is so stupidly simply it might make you frustrated.
Yes, time. That's it. No hokey spiel about buying webinars and patterns and a recipe for success. Literally, if you are just starting out trying to make it full time as a fursuit maker, Time is the key asset you are going to need to succeed.
Now, what do I mean by this exactly? We all have time. And if you're one of the unfortunates this year thanks to COVID, you may have an unhealthy amount of it laying around.
Time is what's needed for marketing strategies to work. Time is what you need to build a social media following, complete orders, and build a client base. Time is your safety net when you're just starting out and aren't sure whether this will be a good fit for you, or if you should just go groveling back to your 9-5 retail job because this is just WAY too scary!
Time is to be cultivated and invested in. When you have a choice between a new shiny thing for the shop and time, PICK TIME, every single day.
In my years using Etsy, it's become an adage as old as time itself. Wondering if paying for ads is something you absolutely have to do, and then when you finally take the plunge and pay for them, wondering if they're even making any difference.
And Etsy ads is a mystery I have yet to solve, but I do know this much. To be able to weather the storm, you have to have supplies stocked up and a safe place to hole up. Time allows us as business owners to ride out slow months, or in our case, a global pandemic.
A prime example is how I operate my own business. I strictly adhere to rules that prioritize time over possessions. I incentivize my customers to pay in full for their fursuits, which still hasn't quite caught on in the industry since there is so much distrust running rampant. Who's to say I won't run off and spend that money before I've earned it? Easy. Because I prioritize time over possessions.
I pay my bills months in advance. I have several savings accounts. I portion out bulk payments to my credit cards (of which I have few and use very sparingly) to keep debt low. If I ever need to issue a refund, I can pull from that bill advance money and not be in financial jeapoardy.
So technically, it's a win-win for me and the customer. I feel like I've already been paid, because I 'bought' myself time in terms of paying ahead on bills and having a financial cushion. And my customers can rest easy knowing I will not technically be 'paid' until their order has been shipped in the form of time, i.e. paid bills and 'time' to get more orders in without worrying about putting food on the table and paying my mortgage/rent/car payments.
When you're considering doing fursuit making full time, you need to try and prioritize time. If you have a sizable financial buffer in place before you quit that retail job, you have that money in 'time' to start building your empire.
One doesn't become TikTok famous overnight. It takes months and months, sometimes years of producing content tirelessly to make any traction. I know, I'm in the thick of trying to do the very same balancing act. Although I may be rich in terms of time to develop new products and grow, I barely have 5 seconds during the day to slap something onto all my social media.
I'm working on it.
If it hadn't been for my time forward approach to my finances and business, COVID would have thrown me for an absolute loop, and I may have had to do just that and run begging to my old retail job. Thankfully, I'm a paranoid old biddy who decided to squirrel away enough 'time' to see me through the rest of 2020. And in this instance, my paranoia paid off.
So next time you get a commission payment in, or sell off a partial and you have studio aspirations, and wanting to be the next "More For Your Money" think about this. Think about how much more important it is to buy yourself time to grow and accomplish your goals than an object you can't make much use out of in a world without conventions.
Now is the perfect time to buy time, and use it to catapult yourself to the front of the line when things settle down and cons return.
You might be thinking "Why are you telling me this? Why do you want me to know this stuff?"
Because, I got to where I am today through nothing but stubborn-headed hard work and determination. No one told me any of this. No one taught me how to do my job. And so I think it's about time I give back and be that for those of you out there who don't have any help. I don't want to hold anyone back from achieving what I have achieved. I want all of you up here with me!
I hope that helped some of you. Take of it what you will, but just remember...
Time really is money.
So, you’ve pretty much resolved yourself that you want to do the thing and make da soots. But...now what? How do you know how much to charge people in order to make it worth your time, and how do you make sure you’re not undercharging?
Today we will go into some small tips and tricks on how to train your mind to see your hobby as a business. Because honestly, when it comes down to it, Pricing your work is almost purely a mental thing. It has everything to do with how good you think your work is compared to everyone else’s. And if you don’t really have much of a basis of work to go by, it makes it even harder to be sure where you might fall in the hierarchy of pricing.
SO first, lets start with some facts. The higher echelon of makers whom we wont name since most of you know them already, charge a premium for their services. And rightly so. Most of them have been doing this for over a decade. So they have a right to charge for that. Basic starting prices now hover around the $4000-$8000 range depending on how rare their slots are and how in demand their suits are. That’s CRAZY right? Not really. When you factor in the amount of time they have spent honing that craft and practice getting everything perfect, it makes sense. When you commission someone, you are typically also paying for their experience. If you have only been making suits for a few months, you wont be able to charge top tier prices. But how low is too low?
Supply Costs MUST be covered
When factoring out your pricing, you need to keep in mind that the customer has to at the very least cover the cost of materials. So, say you have a paw pattern that takes up about 1/4 of a yard of fur. That yard of fur cost you $34. So you are technically using about $8.50 in fur to complete a paw set. So you need to charge at least enough to cover the cost of the fur you used. And typically when ordering fur online, the minimum amount you can purchase is 1 yard. So, unless you are buying smaller increments from a physical fabric shop. You need to make sure your costs at least cover a yard of the type of fur you will need to complete the order.
Charging for your Time
Now, when you’re just starting out, you’re also going to be taking a lot longer to do what more experienced makers can do, since you’re learning. This is OK. Never rush yourself or feel obligated to finish as quickly as everyone else in your social media feeds. Not everyone has the same experience levels, and you will get there with time and practice. Forcing it and rushing things will only teach you how not to do things. But how do you charge yourself fairly for that time?
Keep in mind that people are willing to pay for experience. If you don’t have much of it yet, you can make up for it in other ways. But when it comes for charging for your time, start low. I know I may get flack for saying this, but if you’re just starting out and it takes you 3 full days to make paws, you can’t charge minimum wage for hourly work. You will be able to eventually, but for right now to stay competitive and get interest, you need to keep prices low. So if you have worked on making suits for 6 months, charge 6$ per dedicated hour of your time. Make a test set of paws and set a timer on your watch or phone that is only on and running when you are actively working on the paws. Add up the time it took you, and tack that onto your starting price.
So for example, a new 11-year-old maker works on a test set of paws. Her material cost her $20 from a fabric store. She has been making suit work for 3 months. She charges $3 an hour for her time, and it took her 8 solid hours to make the handpaws. So she is charging $80.
That may seem like a lot, but remember, you have to value your time as well as your skill. If you don't do so, no one will. And if younger makers start valuing their own time and effort, they can stop shortchanging themselves and help more experienced makers from being undercut.
Consider your Environment, Age, and Circumstances
Not everyone who makes fursuit parts is the same age, and the range can sometimes be staggering. But it is common knowledge that if you want experience and expertise, you go to an adult maker. With this comes increased prices. Adults have their own set of bills they need to pay that children and minors do not have, and as such your prices need to reflect that. If you are at the $80 mark for a set of paws and over 21, add another 50 cents for each year of your age. So if you’re 22, you would charge An extra $11. So $91 for the same set of paws with the same skill set. Make it known in your advertisements your age and that you are an adult, as this is a selling point for some people looking for reputable makers on social media.
Raising prices over time
So, you finally have all your pricing worked out. Great! Now what? Well, you should know that your prices should go up over time as your skill level increases. If they stay the same, you may find you are being overwhelmed with orders and your pricing no longer covers the cost of the headache and stress. So, how do you know when its time to raise your prices?
Easy. WHEN IT BECOMES TOO MUCH TO HANDLE. If you find yourself wanting to refuse orders or getting so bogged down you’re not sure you can finish them all, raise your prices. It will take a bit of time for the market to recover from you doing this, but don't let this scare you into lowering them again. Time is your friend, and you will need it to keep doing this going forward.
Ideally, you should keep raising your prices with each successful month you hone your skill and work on orders. But I understand if this seems a bit much when you’re first starting out and want that steady stream of work first. So aim for certain milestones that work for you as a reward system. For example, say you set your first price raising milestone to whenever you get your 10th sale. Once that sale is confirmed and completed, raise your prices evenly with the amount of experience you’ve gained leading up to that 10th commission item. You can also add another 50 cents on if you get a year older, or if you get over 21 and can start charging for being an adult.
Now this is not a tried and true way to price things out, and you may find a different method works for you. And that’s ok. But this works well for people who just dont know where to start, and have a hard time judging where they sort of stand in the skill level of makers out there. Remember that when you first start out, you may have to tweak things and try different methods to get things to work well for you. There is no guaranteed path to success in this field. As long as you keep that in mind, and don't write off any one method as being wrong because it just didn’t work well for you, You can figure out your own path and grow the way you were meant to.
How to price your work for absolute beginners
Cost of the yardage of the fur/material used to complete the order+Hours needed to complete it x Months you have been actively learning your craft + (.50 cents per year of age if over 21)
Miriam is 24. She is commissioned to make a solid white Digitigrade bodysuit. She needs 4 yards of fur to make it at $32 per yard. It Takes her 37 hours to make it, and she has been making suits for 2 years. She charges 128+37x24+24x.50 or $1,092.00 USD.
Miriam is not a well known maker, and opts to round this price down to $900+ shipping to stay competitive. That is ok and Miriams choice. Miriam also considers she lives with roommates and her rent is low, As well as working another job, and she can afford to do this.
Sophie is 14. She is commissioned to make a fursuit head for the first time. She spends $150 on supplies like foam and fur to make it. It takes her 47 hours to make it and she has been making suits for 6 months. She should charge 150+47x6 or $432.00 USD for the head.
Sophie is also just starting out and wants to be competitive. She compares her work to others around her age range and believes her work to be on par or even better. She rounds the price up to $450 and includes shipping as well as free repair to the buyer if anything needs to be fixed.
As you can see, pricing is very dependent on what you want to get out of the exchange and your own personal situation. Miriam acknowledges she has less bills to worry about so she can afford to competitively price to keep getting orders until she gets more practice. Sophie has done more research into her age range of makers and is confident her suits look on par or better than then average for her age, so she charges accordingly.
These methods could work or they could not for these two makers. Miriam could get overloaded and need to raise her prices more quickly than she had anticipated, and Sophie may need to lower hers as people are less likely to want to pay a minor more for a suit unless they are exceptionally talented. It all depends on the audience you generate and how well you work on getting the word out there.
And remember, just because this method may not work right away for you, and you end up doing it another way, that doesn’t mean this is wrong. It’s meant as a base foundation so those who have less idea of what to price and how to begin can use it as a stepping stone and figure things out from there.
Hope this helps! Elbi from the Sun Spot, Signing off!
As we adjust to life during a pandemic there have been some things about conducting our business that have changed and we would like our customers or future customers to be aware of.
Currently, the shipping service we use primarily, the United States Postal Service is experiencing longer than usual delays internationally, and domestically. We are feeling the effects of these delays whenever we order supplies such as faux fur and materials for our costumes, as well as additional delays once the finished items are sent out. We are asking for patience during this time as neither of these delays are in our control whatsoever. We are doing our best to speed up the material purchasing process and shipment process so our customers are not waiting overlong for their orders, but delays are still possible and may occur.
We ask that any customers refrain from chargebacks at this time due to slow shipment, even if tracking is provided and give most items 30 days to arrive before contacting us for further action. You are also welcome to contact your local Post Office at any time to check on the status of a shipped order. We are also now discontinuing international shipping altogether from today, until September 2020.
As a result of the abundance of caution we are taking due to the pandemic, we will be letting most packages sit for a maximum of 3-4 days to allow most surface contagions (if present at the time of packaging) to be mostly eradicated prior to shipment. We are also including complimentary handmade cotton face masks with orders in excess of $500 from any of our storefronts.
Supply Shipment Delays
We are also seeing shipping delays on supplies we order for upcoming projects. To mitigate this, we will be bumping up our material sourcing on most large orders as early as possible provided reference sheets have already been sent. That said, sometimes delays on materials will inevitably cut into construction time and we may need to bump back completion dates. All current customers will be kept as up to date as possible on these delays if they look to soon interfere with agreed upon construction timeslots. We ask for your continued patience in handling these changes.
For the first time we will be offering alternate shipping options to our customers to try and avoid severe delays. If a customer is interested we will send large orders via FedEx or UPS to worldwide destinations. The customer is responsible for any and all fees associated with this change of handling and shipment.
If any article needs to be returned, refurbished, or otherwise sent back to the shop, we will also be observing a 3-4 day delay on opening the box and assessing the contents to allow any contagens time to dissipate. This will be repeated prior to the item being sent back out. This may effect speeds in which refunds can be processed, and refurbishments completed. Please keep this in mind.
We will be doing our best to keep in more constant communication with all of our current customers regarding delays and the status of their orders currently. We have been noticing an uptick in lapsed communication between us and our customers, and hope to mitigate this by making more frequent attempts to reach out. Also if you have any questions regarding anything mentioned here, feel free to contact us at any time via email, email@example.com. Customer Service hours are steady from 9am-10pm EST all week long, most days of the year.
So this is it. You’ve generated a sizable following, honed your skills and bought all your marketing materials. Business cards at the ready, and cash flow coming in, you ready your two weeks notice at your boring day job and get ready to make the leap into creating fursuits full time. But are you really ready to do this? The answer is never yes (and if it is, I’m scared for you), but there are things you would be better off knowing before you decide to take that scary step into self employment. Read on to find out 5 things you don’t really hear talked about much in the fursuit making world.
1.) Have money saved up