How much should you charge for 3D printing? For most people, valuing a 3D print or a 3D print design file is like playing darts blindfolded. For Tom and Tracy Hazzard, it is part of what they research and do every day for their clients. Hear their tips on how to apply their retail pricing research techniques to 3D printing services and designs.
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What To Charge For 3D Printing
We’re in the midst of service week talking about design services, print services, whatever kind of services you’re going to offer, but as long as it’s surrounding 3D printing.
I like this question because it’s hard to answer. It’s hard to determine what I should charge for my 3D print services if that’s what you’re doing with 3D printing.
That is a difficult question. You can go out there and you can comp some things. The 3D Hubs have a set fee thing that you can go out there and do. I believe you’re allowed to set your fee for your design services related to that. There’s one thing to be printing and another thing to be providing design services to fix people’s files and complete it. We’ve heard of a lot of horror stories of files that are provided that are unprintable and they require hours of work to clean up. You don’t want to undervalue that because it takes a lot of your time.
The surprise with these issues is a lot of people undercharge for their services. They don’t take into consideration all the time they have put into it. If they did, they might realize they’re making $1 or $2 an hour for their time. At the same time, people seeking 3D print services, your potential customers out there, don’t understand everything that goes into fixing that file or making that 3D print come to reality in a physical print. They don’t have an appreciation for it. They think you’re charging too much.
One of the things that we’ve learned of our many years of doing design services is that it’s hard to value services in general. It’s hard to value your consulting services and a lot of fields, whether you’re a videographer or a photographer. It’s easy to value the actual print of it, but it’s hard to value the service that went into it, the time that went into it. The reality here is that business in 3D printing needs to be sustainable. Any business and any service you provided has to be a sustainable business. You can’t discount and go in there with this low price and then expect to still be in business in six months doing this. You’re not going to be able to function. You’re not going to be able to pay your bills, feed yourself, none of that is going to work.
It’s not doing the industry any service either. You’re not doing a charitable service to the 3D print market either by doing that. You have to put a value to it because we have to educate all of the people out there how involved this is, how much skill is required to this, how important this is to getting a good print, the design of it, the file integrity, all of those things that take time to do. Undervaluing that does no one any good. If you just print what they’ve got, they’re going to be dissatisfied too. One of the things that we learned is that you must turn away business and that’s okay. Price it out, turn away and let the business walk away. In the end, those are your troublesome clients. Those are the guys who will never be satisfied no matter how hard you worked on it. You will have killed yourself, put too many hours in, made a few bucks an hour, not your real rate and they’re still not going to be happy with it.
There may be some business decision you make in a calculated way that it’s okay if you have a new customer you’re courting that is maybe a bigger company. There may be a regular amount of business every month from them. This is like a test where they need to see what’s the quality of the item going to be. Is that going to be acceptable to them? That’s good because managing their expectation for what they’re going to get is important.
In this situation though, what you have to do when you’re giving a quote on that job is quote it at its actual rate and give them a line item discount at the bottom that says, “10% off or 20% off, first time customer discount or new client discount,” or whatever it is, but make it separated. Don’t lower your hourly rate or whatever your fee is.
Don’t give them the impression that this is how it’s always going to be. This low rate is typical. It needs to be an exception.
It needs to be special. What you do when they push back because they will push back on you and they’ll say, “I want that 10% off all the time.” You’d say, “Are you going to commit to long-term business with me and is this going to be a retainer or a monthly occurrence or am I going to get a minimum commitment of doing ten of your prints or whatever it is? I can give you a volume discount.” That’s how you turn that one around when they push that one back on you.
There are many ways to structure pricing and business arrangements as there are business arrangements. Our point here is don’t undervalue the good work you’re doing because you could sometimes make more flipping burgers at a fast-food place, not that you’d enjoy that.
Don’t be afraid to step in and call a customer when you started it and you realize this is many more hours of work than you anticipated. Don’t wait until you put four hours into it, call them and say, “I’m charging you more.” You can’t do it that way. You have to go in there. You start looking at it. You see the problem. You call them immediately and say, “Do you want me to proceed or I’ll stop? I won’t go further with this. I won’t charge you for the hour I just put in,” or whatever.
Let’s face it, CAD skills are valuable skills. It takes a lot of time and effort. The software can be expensive for the CAD software you’re using and that inherently has a real high value.
Don’t de-value it. I hope that helps. I wish I could say to you, “Charge $50 an hour.” It would be easy, but it’s not. In fact, $50 an hour is low. I wish I could do that for you. We’re definitely going to be looking at some comps and things out in the market that can help you. Our interview with UPS store, they have rates that are published online for the printing portion of it. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can certainly find that out there in places.
This is probably a subject that we’ll be addressing time and time again as more things get defined and as customer perceptions change.
Be tuned in for that or ask us more detailed questions if you want to get more specific on it.
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