By Noah Hornberger
Is there a logical method for pricing your 3D printable designs? There are tens of thousands of free 3D models available online, which makes it difficult to figure out how to get compensation for your work without alienating prospective buyers. I’ll share my pricing strategy and thought process with you – and it involves a bit of psychology.
All other factors aside, the goal when pricing digital assets is to set an asking price that is both acceptable to the buyer and fair to you, the designer. If you price too low, you miss out on getting reasonable compensation for your work and also fail to establish a sense of value.
If you price too high, your potential buyer may seek cheaper or even free alternatives. Where is the middle of the road and how do you get sales rolling? Does it even make sense to charge money when there are so many free models readily available?
My experience is that buyers looking to print unique and useful items will still pay for exceptional 3D models–but price is a consideration.
First Things First
Before you think much about price I would recommend building up a small portfolio of five to 10 models that you want to sell. Here’s why: a portfolio, even a small one, will help establish you as an experienced designer. Let’s face it, people are not likely to purchase from a shop that has one lone item.
Buyers cannot physically hold a 3D print design before they purchase one, so it’s important to establish a sense of trust. By featuring a small portfolio you give the buyer confidence in your work and help establish a reputation for value and style within the online marketplace.
So instead of listing one or two models, take some time and work on building a collection of at least five great designs. This will increase the probability that your designs will be discovered, appreciated and purchased.
My Anecdotal Secret Prices
Price will effect the perception of your products and getting it right can make or break a sale. A good example—one I remember from economics class— is buying tires. You would be skeptical of mint condition tires priced at $10 each when you know they typically cost much more. But those same tires at $45 or $50 immediately would appear more appealing. This says nothing about the quality of the actual tires. It does demonstrate why selling is influenced by initial perception as well as price
In my experience, the secret numbers for 3D-print-ready models are $3 and $4. I have been getting consistent sales across multiple platforms and these are the prices with the most frequent sales. I know this is anecdotal evidence and I myself wonder how the data will compare as time goes on. I believe these prices work because they are high enough to give the buyer a sense of quality and yet low enough to be affordable. It is effectively inexpensive without feeling too risky.
This is essentially where a bit of psychology comes in—a design priced at $1 or $2 can elicit skepticism over quality when buying and selling data. But there is something magical that happens when you bump up to $3…the price fades into the background and it starts to feel like more of a legitimate investment. I’m sure a marketing specialist could share the thought process, but I suspect it has to do with the price being a certain distance away from zero, and $1 or $2 being closer to free.
The buyer who is excited to try your model is not interested in the data, but in the finished 3D print. That individual will buy into an imagined experience with the physical model. And your job as the seller is to price that experience so it makes logical sense.
Pricing Your Own 3D Model Portfolio
Start by lining up your models and decide which ones offer the most value considering factors such as uniqueness, ease of print, and sophistication of design. Consider how much time and resources, such as materials, went into each design. Next sort them into three categories such as ‘Regular’ (primitive), ‘Extra’ (medium), and ‘Supreme’ (complex).
Now use some simple math to price your groups in multiples of a base price, like this:
Regular: Base price = $3
Extra: Base price x 2 = $6
Supreme: Base price x 3 = $9
This will create a logical range of prices that pertain to the complexity of your work. Then when someone is browsing they can see the logic of your prices. It will also provide prospective buyers with added confidence in your designs and your ability to deliver a good and dependable product.
Define The Market Your Way
My pricing method has worked well so far. If you are also designing models for 3D printing, this puts you in a position to determine what is fair compensation. But you have to do so with a bit of logic and care, or risk not selling anything. Your prices can be whatever you feel is fair, as long as you stay consistent and sensible. The best part about digital prices is that if something isn’t working, well, then you can always go back and change it!
I’m very curious to hear what kinds of experiences others have had with selling 3D printable models. If you have wisdom to add, please share it in the comments.
About the Author
Noah Hornberger created his first 3D model at the age of 11, and thus a fascination was born. A native of Howell, Michigan, he studied art, music, and animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Today he is pioneering 3D printing technology to create home decor, toys, and mechanical prototypes. Hornberger shares his expertise as a guest blogger for Spyder 3D World, of which he is a featured designer and Charter Member.