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A little fursuit cost perspective by ClockworkCreature

I posted this info over on Tumblr, and thought others might find it interesting!

Someone just sent me a note that read:

"Seeing all the materials you guys use for your fursuits, I can really see why they're so pricey. "

Thanks for noticing! We are asked to justify our prices pretty often, or even accused of charging too much, but I think a lot of people just do not realize that there is A LOT of expense (and not just in materials), and a TON of time that goes into making each suit. And sure, lots of people plug in features to our price calculator and come out with a $3000-$7000 figure, and must be imagining us sitting around in bathtubs full of cash. Truth is, we don't make a whole lot of profit - where does it all go?

First, consumable materials. These are items that need to be bought new for each and every suit because they get completely used up in the process. This includes casting resins, sheet plastics, foam, polyfill, paint, elastic, velcro, pattern paper, thread, and FUR.These items total approximately $300-$350 for a fursuit of about this complexity

But wait, there's more! A lot more - consumables are pretty easy to figure out on a per-project basis, but after that we go into general expenses, and for that we need to start taking averages. So, with the aid of last year's tax documents...

Let's say we make roughly 2 costumes per month - and again, this is going to have to be the "average suit", somewhere in the middle of the scale and complexity of all of our projects - I figure it all equals out to a fairly simple 1-color fullsuit. We charge about $3,000 for a white wolf suit. Here's what goes into that (note, all figures are last years TOTALS for these categories, divided by 24, or two suits per month):

Materials and supplies: $1200(and I rounded this DOWN) (includes the consumable materials above, plus mold making, tools, equipment, and equipment maintenance)

Contract labor: $800 (aka Mom's paycheck)

Taxes: $550 (this is state and federal)

Studio overhead: $500 (40% of our rent and utilities are claimed as a business expense to reflect the amount of our house that we've devoted entirely to the business)

Other fees: $350 (includes paypal fees, shipping expenses, etc)

Total Expense: $3400

Oops.

Luckily we turn out just a little more than 2 costumes a month on average, so we end up breaking even most of the time. When we can manage to turn out three or four suits a month (that's one suit a week) on average, we start making a modest profit.

ALSO! the average costume takes about 100 man-hours to produce - subtract the already accounted-for contract labor, and we come out with about 60-70 hours. We would like to make at least $20/hour, which means we would have to charge at least $4600 for that same white wolf costume in order to actually sustain ourselves at a 2-weeks-per-suit pace.

Now, I see this being a potential question:

If you were to do the math and say, "Ok three people with 100 hours of work, over 10 days - wait a minute, are you actually proposing that you should each only do a little over 3 hours of work a day?!"

No! And this was a bit of a lack of clarification on my part. Let me explain.

Firstly, our actual work pace is definitely more than two of these a month on average. It's probably closer to 3, hence the fact that we are not operating in the red.

Secondly, and more importantly, is the difference between "man-hours", aka active work hours, and everything else that happens during the work day. The work day encompasses those active work hours (in other words, times when we are actively pouring resin, shaving fur, running the sewing machine, etc), and ALSO transitions between tasks, setup and cleanup, breaks, and administrative duties (email answering, bookkeeping, inventory and ordering, etc). After you add all that in, the time spent "per costume" easily doubles.

I hope this information has been helpful to everyone reading it!

A little fursuit cost perspective

ClockworkCreature

18 September 2013 at 09:41:42 MDT

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  • Link

    Nice to see how it all breaks down. Makes a lot more sense as to why suits are a bit pricer. Thanks for the info. :)

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    I missed this on tumblr. I must go to reblog it!!!

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    This is really interesting! Previously I couldn't begin to guess how much your material costs were per suit.

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    This was very helpful indeed. I've always been aware of the amount of time and effort it takes for such costumes, but I had no idea it was to that extent! Rather amazing, actually. It's a lot of important small details to consider, especially since one day I'm planning on eventually commissioning one myself. Sure makes one appreciate the final product all the more.

  • Link

    Simply by looking at the quality and detailing of your fursuits they are most certainly worth it, especially at the rate you put them out, many people forget a lot of the background that work that goes into making it and running a home buisness there are a lot more other factors, sadly many compare working wage and time put in fursuits to office workers who dont have to worry about company taxes, company electric bills, the building rent and all the other background costs, especially equipment. If a sewing machine fails thats $500+ dollars you need to replace.

    If you're paying for a walking piece of art you damn well wanna pay for somthing high quality that will last you. And that doesnt come with a 1k price tag.

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    dunno how people think they shouldn't be so expensive.. i don't even like fur suits (no offense, but i had a sorta traumatic experience with one in the past. i mean i can appreciate their artistic value but i wouldn't ever wear one and dont much hang out with people while they're in one. ^^; ) but just by looking at them, without knowing a thing about them, you have to know it would cost a pretty penny to get/make one. i mean crap, when someone is gonna pay upwards of $200 for skinny jeans, think of that material at least 10x over or more! ..i feel like a lot of furries are spoiled on prices, what with how low us drawing artists have to stoop with prices all the time just to be competitive.. @.@

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    This doesn't even begin to cover living expenses. Insurance, gas, food, utilities.. And they're living people, not machines. What about fun expenses? I disagree with the other responses. This isn't amazing. This is terrible. Horrifying. I wish there was something that could be done to help you guys out. I was glad to see when you raised your prices a while back. Would also be good to see if there'd be a way to cut costs. But the only things that looks even remotely attackable there would be the Studio Overhead. :-\ Sorry you guys have it so rough. :(

    • Link

      Thanks! Yeah... that's pretty much what I was getting at with this. I'm glad the responses have been positive! But to be totally honest, I almost didn't fall asleep the night after I wrote this. It's hard to look at.

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      And actually - studio overhead can't really come down much, as that's basically our rent and a lot of our utilities. So the only way we could tackle that would be to move, but I don't think we could rent this same amount of space any cheaper. We could streamline, and maybe try to save some money on supplies/equipment, but that can only change so much.

      So our only option (as far as I can see it), really... are raise prices even more - and risk pricing ourselves totally out of the market. Because yes, in its current state, the business is not sustainable.

      • Link

        You're going to hate this idea. But what if you made a line of Clockwork suits - Particularly your Rahier species or basic wolf/fox/etc costumes -- That you develop a method of making them.. not necessarily in bulk.. but cheaper, faster, and easier. And you sell a line of suits that are pretty much all the same except for sizing edits to fit the customer. Not sure of how possible it would be, but it would be understood that they'd be of a bit cheaper quality, but it would buy someone a clockwork suit. Material costs would obviously not be too much different. But if you could easily make them quicker, just maybe it would help with all the overhead cost?

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          You know I have been thinking about something similar. Maybe not of cheaper quality at all, but incorporating more premades and "basic models" into our lineup - and in return, taking a few fewer custom orders. If nothing else it might take the pressure off of me a little.

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            You could do what Dream Vision Creations and BeatleCat do and sell things like resin blanks, painted eyes, premade tails/ears/horns/etc., as well as do things that Sepherixthefox mentioned. Also, another way to look at it, if you decided to do this but still wanted to retain your image as being a high-quality suit maker that is known for their custom-made 100% individual costumes, is to make this seasonal. As in only do the bulk premade stuff (like the tails/ears) around certain holidays like Halloween, Christmas, or prior to the big furry cons so you can sell things geared towards people attending. Meanwhile for the rest of the year you can sell premade parts and blanks to tide things off. Yet another option would be to sell things like memorabilia. Namely, T-shirts, bandanas, keychains, necklaces, etc. These things are relatively easy/cheap to produce and would more than likely do well with your past clients/future clients. Considering many of them are proud to own a work of art from you or absolutely adore your work and would like to acquire something from you in the future. Another option too, which I've seen you do recently, is offer things like digital art. Digital art may be time consuming, but it is a cost effective medium to work with as the only materials you need are a tablet, software, and a computer (which you already have). No need to worry about buying replacement materials and it gives you a million and one options: sketches, headshots, busts, portraits, chibis, concept art, ref sheets, full body sketches, digital paintings (which I've seen quality artists charge a pretty penny for, one time up to $500), badges, adoptables, banners, logos, you get the idea.

            Needless to say I hate to see you guys suffer financially, your work is awe-inspiring and I would be crushed if you guys went under. On that same note however, if you did raise your prices again I think your business would suffer. Your suits are already the most expensive suits on the market, the highest quality but the most expensive. Raising your prices further is bound to push it out of reach of many customers... myself included (<- I HATE to admit that >_> ) Being an artist and being a poor college student with a minimum wage job I'm directly in the middle of this debate. I understand how much work goes into these thing (having made one myself) and that it is worth the money. But on the other side, barely making 11k a year, it's difficult to justify spending 3k+ on a costume. (people think I'm crazy when I tell them that I want to buy one ._. ) I've wanted to at least get a mask from you for the last 4yrs, but it's only within the last 2 that I've been able to save up enough money to pay for one (having to redouble my efforts when your prices rose the first time). If they rose again, now that I'm at an even more expensive school, I sadly wouldn't be able to afford it. And I'm sure there are others in similar situations.

            Regardless of what you choose to do, I'll still support you as a loyal fan ^^ If I can't get a suit from ya'll until I'm 40 then so be it! I'll buy other things you'll have to offer and try my best to help keep you afloat. 9w9

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              It might be silly of me to take this stance, but I have thought about it before, and I really, really do not want to just sell components. There are so many reasons, but oppressive boredom is a big one. I have started up a t-shirt shop, but that has pretty much flopped - I need to advertise it better, though.

              Honestly, I'm starting to be of the mind that if I raise prices and people stop ordering, then that will be a good signal for me to pursue a new career. If selling fursuits is honestly a futile pursuit in helping me ever achieve my life goals, then so be it, I guess.

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                No one said you had too, it's just an easy option to make ends meet. Like I mentioned above there are tons of options out there and ultimately it's your decision in the end that matters. If raising prices is what you decide to do, then go for it. ^^ You will still have clients in this fandom, they will just consist of the more financially well off. Even if it means barring people like me from obtaining a work of art from you, you have every right to do so, and I will respect your decision (just as everyone else should).