The art of quoting: A moral tale to start the month

Earlier in the week, I quoted a very nice chap for a furniture-making job.

I popped to his house and had a chat about the table he was looking to commission, discussing the size, style and its purpose. Then we had several emails around the design he was looking for, settling on a round table, with Queen Anne legs in black walnut. Lovely.

Table top made from dark wood, with a camera, i-phone, glasses, ipad and computer scattered around the edges
Imagine the table: dark wood, round and with shapely legs. Classic. Beautiful. Not really like this picture at all.

Then he asked me the price.

Now, I’m still building a portfolio of furniture, and as such, offered to do the work at a price regardless of days it took to design, craft and make. For a bespoke, one off, beautiful table which was due to become an heirloom for his kids, I asked for £1,000 plus materials. He emailed back politely and told me thanks but no thanks – that price was far more than the budget he had in mind. I’ve asked him what budget he has, but as yet, there has been no reply.

Then I started thinking – was that £1,000 too much? Should I have quoted cheaper? I need more portfolio pieces = and perhaps some cash is better than nothing?

Then I started thinking rationally.

To design and create a bespoke round table (with difficult to make Queen Anne legs) would have taken me over 2 weeks on a good run.

That’s going to the wood yard and choosing the wood for the tabletop. Thicknessing, then planning said wood before I can even start. Cutting the wood planks to size, then joining them and letting the glue dry. Carefully cutting the circular design. Routing the edge. Hand-planing the now-circular wood.

And then there’s the legs. Choosing a template, getting the wood on the lathe and turning it. Then band-sawing, hand-chiselling, using even more various hand tools until I have that beautiful cabriole style - and then doing it again and again and again until I have 4 of them. Then fixing the legs to the top.

Hand-planing (again) the now assembled little beauty. Planing some more. Sanding. Sanding again. Oiling. More oiling.

At 2 weeks, that’s £100 a day. At 3 weeks that’s £66.66 a day. At 4 weeks - likely, given those legs – that’s £50 a day. Or, £6.25 an hour, if you prefer. For a one-off, beautiful hand-made piece of furniture, that you can show off to friends and hand down to your kids.

Jam jar on it's side with coins spilling out and scattered around in front of the picture
Tuppence an hour

I’m also pretty sure that even after a month of working on the piece there would still be things I would want to iron out, sand back, make perfect, so in hindsight, I’m actually glad that the chap said no to me. I’d have been working for free in the end I reckon…

And the moral to this tale? There is a price that can be put on your experience and your training. On your skill. Even on your customer service. I’m also pretty sure the chap I was quoting for wouldn’t entertain working for £50 a day.

So remember kids, just because someone thinks you’re too expensive doesn’t mean that you actually are.

Stick to your price. You’re worth it.

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