The Price of Expertise: Part 1

When I started 10,000 Hours I knew that I would have to be completely honest about my experience, otherwise it simply wouldn’t be worth going through the process. I have held to this. And now there is a topic that I think I finally need to address although I have put it off for quite some time – money. I’m finding more and more that it is inextricably linked to this journey and it is having a major impact on the way I experience the pursuit of mastery. This particular topic encompasses many different aspects of 10,000 Hours and I’ll try breaking them down into their various categories over the next few posts.

Part 1: The Etsy Equation

My 10,000 Hours journey has taken me down a knit-wear designer path. Along these lines I have made both custom-one-of-a-kind commissions for people and I have also written some knitting patterns to be sold.

One of my knitting patterns has been quite popular. I sell it both through Ravelry (the knit & crochet social media site) and on Etsy (the online site for hand made items and craft supplies). The pattern in question is for a pair of fingerless gloves, it comes to the purchaser as a downloadable PDF file, and it costs $2.95. Because it is a downloadable digital file there is no shipping cost.

Apparently many people think this is the price for an actual pair of hand-knit gloves that will appear on their doorstep (despite the fact that I have labeled the item description with “Please note this is for the pattern only.”) It happens a lot. Someone gets upset when they discover that their $2.95 has bought them the instructions to knit their own pair of fingerless gloves rather than a pair of pre-made hand-knit fingerless gloves. TWO DOLLARS AND NINETY FIVE CENTS WITH FREE SHIPPING… It would cost me that much just to ship the gloves to them. The yarn alone could cost between $5 – $40 depending on how fancy you like your materials. I tend to pick the higher quality yarns myself. And it takes me 18-20 hours to knit a pair. Now, yeah, I’m not the fastest knitter out there (always being at the edge of my abilities and all, I haven’t developed quite the same speed as many long-time knitters). But even if I could shave 10 hours off of that time (which would be some crazy fast knitting), calculate at minimum wage; the cheapest we should realistically expect a pair of these handmade fingerless gloves to be is:

$5.00 materials + ($7.35 Missouri minimum wage x 10 hours) + $2.95 shipping costs = $81.45 (Never mind the % both Etsy & Paypal take.)

So keeping in mind that it’s widely known that minimum wage is not a living wage, nor is it at all appropriate for a self-employed worker given there are additional overhead costs that cannot be covered in that amount… the price of fingerless gloves changes quite a bit, doesn’t it?

I know most of us would understand that $2.95 would be a ridiculous price for a hand-made item requiring skilled labor. But many of us would also probably cringe a bit at the $81.45 minimum wage + materials cost initially too. If you plug “hand knit” into the search field on Etsy you will see an overwhelming majority of the knit-wear sellers are working at an incredible loss. But then, one of the most-often heard complaints about Etsy is that it’s for and by hobbyists.

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