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Mike Ward

First commission!

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Ok, so I just got my first potential commission. Some relatives posted some of my work I did for them on social media and got very good reactions. And a person messaged and asked if I sold my work!  Booyah! Of course I said yes and asked what she wanted, by when and how many.

In response, she told me that she wants a kitchen knife set of a 6” chef, bread knife, paring, nakiri, carving, and a petty/utility knife. As for a timeline, her wedding is in September and would like to have the knifes by July at the earliest but would be understanding if the knifes came a little later. But before the wedding of course.  I believe this timeline is doable with my responsibilities of school and interning in the summer. 

I’m planning right now to use 80CrV2 for the steel since I know to work with it. 

Now my big question is pricing. I have no idea what I’m going to do besides material costs plus whatever I think they’re worth. I know some people use a price per length deal or a hourly wage. I don’t know what I should do for my first one. If someone had an estimate that I could maybe work with to tell the customer so she has an idea what this could cost, that would be amazing. Also, if the price for the full set is too much, I’m pretty sure she’s willing to get individual knives. So I need to figure out separate prices also.

While I wouldn’t call myself a beginner, I’m not close to being as good as a lot you guys on here. But I do think that I’m at the spot where my work is good enough to start selling. That said I don’t want to undersell my work. Figuring that out seems to be my problem right now. 

Any and all advice is welcome. I’m kinda freaking out right now that this is happening. Thank you!

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Following. I'm interested to see what kind of insights others will bring.

I sometimes get a feeling I under sell my stuff. My last commission is a santoku and pairing knife combo I agreed to do for 600$. I believe I am around 50 hours of work total. So my time + consumables makes a very low hourly rate. But other times I feel I'm not that experienced and it's like free learning. I struggle to find balance.

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What about these rough estimates?

I feel like I’m almost cutting myself short but I don’t want to scare the customer off.

Paring~75

Utility~175

Carving~200

Bread knife~250

Veggie knife~300

6” Chefs knife~325

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It also depends on the level of fit and finish, cost of materials and consumables, etc...

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Those seem like reasonable prices, I myself would maybe go a little higher depending on how complicated the knives will be.  I always try to remember than pricing too low can be as bad as pricing too high, many people who buy custom knives like higher prices, because it makes them seem exclusive, just like an expensive car or coffee maker. Ofcourse you also don't want to scare off customers with too high prices. I struggle with this dilemma myself, one of the hardest things about knifemaking in my opinion.

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I always ask what the customer's budget is. Generally they give a range, $300 - $500 say, and if it's reasonable, I'll produce a couple of designs within that range. If their budget is on the low side, I'll give them a design for a simpler version of what they want, but I'll also produce a design of a fully realised version - often they'll find the extra cost, or ask to pay in instalments...

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51 minutes ago, jake cleland said:

I always ask what the customer's budget is. Generally they give a range, $300 - $500 say, and if it's reasonable, I'll produce a couple of designs within that range. If their budget is on the low side, I'll give them a design for a simpler version of what they want, but I'll also produce a design of a fully realised version - often they'll find the extra cost, or ask to pay in instalments...

That is a good plan, and one I use on tomahawks.  

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I did do that and she said she’s willing to spend about $300. If she’s a little flexible with the price, I’m thinking of offering to do 3 of the knives like the chef, utility, and paring at  medium/higher level of fit and finish. If she wants the full set, I’ll give her sketches of simpler versions like suggested. Thank you for the help, I really appreciate it!

Edited by Mike Ward

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I hope that this goes well with you but it seems like you are dealing with a person who doesn't know what goes into making a custom knife.  I sounds like that she is comparing prices to knife sets that can be found at Walmart.  Just be straight up with her and see what she wants to do.

Doug

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And be up-front that they will rust and discolor.  Just today my wife freaked herself out by using my 52100 petit chef to slice lasagna.  She forgot to clean it off immediately and the tomato sauce left a very interesting black patina.  Which I get to go polish out Saturday... :rolleyes:

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I would add that in order to 'seal the deal' get a down payment on you estimate. Make sure that the down payment covers the cost of your materials and give yourself a little wiggle room in case something will need redone from scratch.

I've had a lot of contracted jobs (hobby or even when I was working as a contractor) that I would take on work from a friend or friend of family only resulting in that customer walking away after the job was done.  Normally the issue of "I don't have the funds right now but can I pay you later?' came up a lot.  Getting a down payment from your customer will show you they are committed to getting the job done.  Moreover once the job is done, never give the customer (even if they are friend or family) the finished job without their final payment. 

I normally work with people and tell them they can pay installments if they feel like they have to.  I will also add that I do not sell things very often, but so far I've worked things out pretty well with the people that I have sold to.

 

I would also advise to do each knife at the same quality. They are a set and ascetically they all should match each other.  

Work hard at them, give the customer your best work, and have fun most importantly. 

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