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pricing a custom bass - the unrealistic expectations of those requesting a quote

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Rodent, Mar 12, 2008.


  1. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    a "well known" builder of custom high-end basses once offered me some advice on this topic ...

    "Rodent, you always need to remember that any musical instrument is a luxury item and not a basic requirement for existence. A custom bass is even more of a luxury, and cannot be confused as being a staple.

    Do not go down the road of pricing your custom basses like they are mass produced cheap knock-offs - if someone want's a $750 bass, point them towards a Squier or similar. If they cannot see the value in a custom bass, they will also not see the value in your work when you deliver them a $2000 bass for that $750 price"


    While I have not always followed this advice to the 'T', it sure has helped me feel at ease when quoting prices for my work.


    One approach I now usually employ when working a quote for a new client is to have them provide me a working budget in addition to their materials and spec wants. I have found that anyone who cannot propose an initial working budget is usually someone who cannot accept paying fair value for a custom bass


    all the best,

    R
     
  2. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    Great advice, this should be a sticky! I don't know how many builds I've turned down because of this. It should be posted that if your looking for a custom bass built to your specs you have no right being cheap. :scowl:I've taken some builds in the past that ended up as a loss for me because I felt that the certain individual would value the product in the end and it would help get the name out. Which more than likely they don't value it any more than usual or they have already sold to fund whatever other daily desire they have.

    What really bothers me is that the same person who gets the "Deal of a lifetime" is also the same person to go over the build with a fine comb then complain and critic any non perfection they can find. Sure that's to be expected if your work is bringing top dollar and you have a world renowned reputation as a builder, but as a small time hand builder I've yet to produce a perfect one..... yet.....;) I Thought I would bring that up while I rant!

    Hopefully soon I will have a nice website that will lay everything out and help filter out the problem. That's the only solution I can really think of other than posting a price list, which I would really hate to do because theres no individuality there and it could bring up other problems for the guy who wants that 400 buck buckeye top....

    I think a big problem is that people don't seem to understand or care what it takes to build, the time, money, tools, skill ect, and above that they dont know that for the small time builder the profit margin is small. Very small....I will use the new smilie here :atoz: <----pathetic little guy huh?

    Dont get me wrong, I dont do this for the money and I don't expect to get rich but I want whats fair. RANT DONE!:bassist::D
     
  3. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Two great posts up there. I don't know if I can add much more to that :)

    I believe most people don't know how much time and effort is actually in those things. I got asked for a quote recently for a refinish on someone's instrument. After checking out the local prices I quoted him half of what the local repair guys charge. (I gave him the nice guy reduction :D) He still felt it was pretty expensive and asked about if he did the disasembly and sanding himself how cheap would it be? :D

    After having chatted with him for a while of what's actually involved in finishing, what lacquers and sandpaper cost and how long/how many coats of lacquer is involved in it he totally understood where I came from.

    I've often felt that maybe I should bring my prices down since I'm not getting orders in as much as I want. I've tried thinking of cheaper ways to build and ways to save money on parts/hardware that I could pass on to the customer but really, there's just so much you can shave off. I would still end up with a too little marge of profit to bother spending all that time working on something like that.
     
  4. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Quote from Sheldon Dingwall on a different thread right now, directly related to this thread.


    I never though of it this way but it's totally true, before making a sale of a custom you often have to have an exchange of countless e-mails before the customer finally decides to go with the build and sends a deposit. I can easily say an exchange of 50+ e-mails for some insturments. I've also had the same experience for custom wound pickups too.

    Imagine doing the building full-time and having to deal with 50+ e-mails per instruments at a rate of several instruments a week. Thats a lot of time spent writing e-mails :eek: That's where the higher price of high-ends comes in I gues. Gosta get PAID for your time! :D :bag:
     
  5. Yes, this is all great advice. Scott, one thing I did to try and limit the amount of quotes I have to work on is post a basic price list and most common options with prices. If someone asks me 'how much would this cost?' I say 'please see my prices page and when you're ready to order I'll give you a formal quote in writing'. It's working great so far.
     
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    A good thread!!

    I agree with a lot of what has been said.

    People looking for a cheap custom bass have driven me nuts over the years. I have found that the more e-mailing that gets done the less likely that they will really go through with it. Anybody else notice this?
     
  7. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    Thats a great point it makes good sense too.
    Yep it's like they want to explore the possibilities until its time to put up or shut up but up until then they are all so serious with statements like "man I've got the money right here in my hand":p

    One example I've had, the worst actually is a guy that wanted one of my shapes but with a ton of personal accents. This guy wanted it all, were talking dual scrolls on the headstock to mimic bug antennas (I'm not kidding!), a Jem style handle, a scroll on the little horn in the single cut, custom inlay, the works.

    So I spend a good amount of time mocking up the bass in cad and emailing with him back and forth, the old shave a bit here add a bit there type stuff, Until finally we got to the I LOVE IT! stage and I'll send my deposit tomorrow. I haven't heard from him since.....

    I've got 3 custom orders going on right now and once they are done, I'm seriously considering going back to just building and selling. I like it better that way. NO deadlines, no hassle, I've never had a problem with selling them and everyone who has one spec out by me seems to love them.:meh:

    For those of you who think I'm just "whining" and that answering questions and emails don't eat up time. I leave you with this..........The infamous Antenna Bass. :rollno:Now that I look at it, its probably a blessing that my logo isn't on this thing...:help: :D:D:D

    ScottyClosterSC-1headed.
     
  8. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    If the upper horn part is cut all the way through I like that part of the bass or was it just a design on the upper horn....t

    the antenna don't do it for me though. :D
     
  9. "Meat-head....dead from the neck, up." - Archie Bunker

    ...or in this case, dead from the nut, up. It's actually a cool design until you get to the headstock.
     
  10. Yep....I once traded 15 emails with a guy who just wanted 3 fretboards. Dude knew about scale lengths etc I'll give him that, he just could NOT make up his mind what kind of wood he wanted 'em made from.

    By far the best customers are the guys who come to the table knowing just what they want.

    Anyone ever toy with the idea of a "quote fee" as a filter on the rebels without a clue? Say, $20-$30 nonrefundable to start the in-depth conversation, to be applied toward the deposit upon receipt of order.
     
  11. eleonn

    eleonn

    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    I like the scroll at the horn!!! about the ones at the headstock ...:D
     
  12. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    Well what can I say, I really don't think there was too great a way to pull of the ol' double scroll headstock....
     
  13. Hey, can one of you guys build me a bass for $56? :D

    lowsound
     
  14. Sure...as long as you don't mind me putting my "Squier" sig on the headstock.... :scowl:
     
  15. eleonn

    eleonn

    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú

    Deal!!! But I want it to have all the hardware from Hipshot and fat stacks for pups. I don't want to abuse so lets keep the preamp for the future and I expect a good discount for that one!!!! :D
     
  16. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    Dude I will totally beat that price. You can have it for $52 and it will come with 13 extra strings. And a tranny block. And LOADS of mid-hump.:eek:

    Sheesh, all you guys jawin' about wasting time making quotes... Meanwhile, I'm the one beating all your quotes and getting the jobs... :rollno:;)
     
  17. Well sure....if my diet consisted of cheese curd and Old Style I could build on the cheap too!

    (you're talkin' to a F.I.B. here...)
     
  18. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    You got an antenna bass to prove that??:p
     
  19. Worshiper

    Worshiper

    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    I do more set-ups and repairs than complete builds... but I really am getting tired of all of my friends coming to me and expecting me to do this stuff for free. I don't mind doing a favor now and then and I really would to ANYTHING for them... but it gets to a point where I'm just like enough is enough. I am a full time student, go part-time to another school, work full time hours, play 4 services on a sunday, have clinical rotations, and volunteer at my church's youth group. Whatever free time I have left over after that (if there is any left over) is EXTREMELY valuable and if I keep getting taken advantage of I'm going to loose my mind. I just want respect or at least to be offered to be payed you know.
     
  20. newfuture

    newfuture

    Jul 13, 2007
    I'm not a builder, but a recording engineer, and have faced this same situation with recording time. I keep my rates criminally low, but everybody's gotta pay at least a little. Sort of my way of reminding folks (even friends): hey, please don't take advantage of me. It's especially important when I work with clients that eventually become friends that there be some form of "compensation for time" precedent set.
     

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