Sunday, March 23, 2008

Business Cards and Boycotts?

© 2008 Sunlit Letterpress

Happy Easter friends! I hope you had a wonderful day! This Easter my husband and I decided to stay home and have an Easter dinner together just the two of us. Which reminds me, I'd better get that bird in the oven :)

Above you will see photos of some business cards I designed and printed for a local accountant. She wanted something simple, no motifs, no logo - just text. I love projects like this because they are so simple, and you can really take the time to appreciate the simplicity of type. There's no extra fluff or distraction.

So it seems I'm not the only letterpress printer out there with a beef about the Etsy Alchemy program. I am so happy to hear from other printers and crafters/artists that think the Alchemy system is a bit of a joke. So here is what I'm going to suggest - I think we should all undertake a quasi-boycott of the Alchemy program.

What I propose is this: If you are a letterpress printer that sells your work on Etsy, if you decide to participate in Alchemy, you should only submit proposals with realistic bids. i.e. Just because someone only wants to pay $20 for 50 custom-designed business cards, it doesn't mean you have to submit a bid for $20. Submit a bid that incorporates ALL of your REAL costs - design time, plates/typesetting, paper costs, cutting costs, ink costs, ink mixing costs, printing costs, packaging costs, and shipping (and any other costs you might incur based on your own processes).

I mean really - if you submit a bid for $20, not only are you undercharging for your work, you are doing us all a disservice by lowering the perceived value/costs of all of our work - which as you know, is high when compared to digital and offset printing. If you only bid $20, you'll never make up your costs.

Assuming the entire project takes you one full hour to prep and print 50 business cards (it would be more, but just for fun assume 1hr) - you'll only be paid $20 for that hour. This doesn't even take into account any of your materials, let alone the design time.

So, if you're a letterpress printer - then follow suit and only submit realistic bids. Write a post on your own blog about your new realistic approach to Etsy's Alchemy. And don't bid on projects where you can't even breakeven!

Happy letterpressing!


  1. Your work is just beautiful. I will have to check into this ETSY Alchemy more...I sell on Etsy and this is the first I have heard of it.

    Thanks for the heads up.


  2. Hi Erin,
    I love reading your blog. I just got a Kelsey 5x8 from Don Black. It was quite nerve racking trying to get it from Tornoto to Calgary (where I live). Can you recommend where I can order some rubber inks? And where I can find some california wash? There's not much of a market here in Calgary, so everything has to be bought online and shipped. Thanks for any suggestions you can give me (^_^)


  3. I so agree with you. i have submitted a few bids, but always put my fee and tried to give a very comprehensive breakdown of the cost so that they understand not only the time, but the money that goes into there "simple and quick" request.

  4. Please don't assume all letterpress printers are going the cheap route. I think it is up to people like us to educate the people requesting work on alchemy. I have bid on a few of the letterpress jobs and try to explain to them what the cost of letterpress is... the labor of handsetting lots of little type or of the plates which can be expensive. I think some people just have no idea. A few people let me know that they were clueless and just can't afford letterpress then and a few had a better understanding of costs and were open to paying more.

    Over time, hopefully people will be a little more educated about the costs of various crafts and techniques.

  5. I have yet to put in any bids for letterpress projects on Alchemy, but I feel like for design services it has been tough because bids are always so low, and it seems like there are people willing to work for the price. On the other hand, I feel like the "ideal prices" are low for most items posted there. Like paperstories said, there is also some educational value for a realistic bid with valid cost information. I hope things will get better. :-)

  6. Having recently solicited card designers off of Etsy alchemy, I'll reflect on my experience from the other side and what I feel is the responsibility of the customer.
    Prior to making my listing, I researched the letterpress and gocco art to see what roughly the price ranges were for quantity.
    Not having a firm idea as to what I had in mind, I put up a rough range. And put the disclaimer entirely that I had no idea and that the price I would pay would be entirely up to the technique used, the quantity etc etc.

    I have had an extrememly positive experience. I feel that the artists I selected provided me with quotes that they felt were sustainable for their business.

    I feel that largely, it is up to the customer to ensure they know what they are asking for. But there will ALWAYS be the bargain hagglers. And the artists HAVE to take responsibility for their own businesses and ensure they are paying themselves. I think those that don't use the business sense to do so, inevitably take care of themselves and end up dropping off the map.

    And I must say, those that DID respond offering my bottom end price with my top quantity, I could tell by the quality of their shop and previous works...

    I did a blog recently about WHY to have an artisan produce your business card. Might be worth checking out.

  7. I'm pretty critical of the current incarnation of Alchemy anyway, and your post makes perfect sense to me. I see requests in all categories that are just plain unrealistic.

    It would be nice if there was a seller-wide boycott of low ball bids on Alchemy.


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