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In Need of a Little Wisdom

I’d like to start selling my handmade jewelry in an online store. I’ve been doing this as a hobby for a couple of years now, but have mainly been using that time learning and trying different techniques. In other words, I don’t really have a niche or a unique style at this point. As far as actual inventory, I have eight memory wire bracelets, and two leather cord and tila bracelets. I have sold two memory wire bracelets face-to-face which the buyers thought were gorgeous. I am working steadily to produce more variety of pieces, but how much inventory do I need to feel confident selling online? And does it matter that much that I don’t have a unique style established yet? I don’t lack for original ideas, I’m just all over the place. Any comfort, encouragement or wisdom would be so appreciated!

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Kroma…There are a lot of people on ganoksin who make their living making and selling jewelry. They do wonderful work, work that I could only dream of doing. They also freely give their advice to people like us when we ask questions and look for suggestions about ways to solve a problem. I am assumng that you don’t have to rely on making and selling jewelry to live. Thankfully, I never did, although I have always setup my shop to be able to so if it ever became necessary. Creating a market for your jewelry is almost independent of what you make and how well you make it, because marketing jewelry and making it are two different things. I am pretty good at making the jewelry that I make. I am fairly awful at marketing it. Luckily both my brother and I inherited a ready made market created by our father who was very good at promoting himself and the work that he did. The only advice I can give you is to find your art. Discover and make the work that you are happy and comfortable doing. Don’t get too comfortable because I will also tell you to challenge yourself to try new ideas, new tools, new materials, new techniques, but make sure that you can see yourself in the final product. Do what keeps you up at night and draws you to your bench in the morning before you have had your first cup of coffee. Once you have done these thngs, you should be comfortable promoting what you do to others. Look for local craft shows to get out and show yourself and what you do to others. Free websites are fairly easy to find. Designing and posting your website may be a challenge. I am lucky to have made my real living in the world of technology, so this is not a challenge for me. Keep your website genuine and reflective of you as a person as well as an artist. Tell your story along with showng what you have to sell, because, in the end, it is as much about you as it is what you make. Post a piece and, if you sell it, let your market know that you sold it. The fact that it is sold will help to create a market for more sales. As a practical matter, figure out how you are happy requesting and receiving payment. On a website you will have to be able to accept credit card payments. This is not diffcult, just make sure that you know how it all works. That’s about it for now. Keep is posted on how you do and ask whatever questions you might have. Good luck…Rob

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Thank you, Rob! Very good advice. Could you please give your opinion as to whether I should go ahead and post my ten items on an online store, just to get some things out there, or wait until I have a larger number of pieces to post all at once?

hi,

i say go for it! start the process! take that first step!

you can begin to create your shop, and add your inventory items when you are ready.

as you move thru the process, many different decisions will need to be made, and different things will need to be done…and skills learned…to develop your “brand”.

brand name
research availability of the name
DBA search
web domain name search (.com)
sellers permit
business license
research and pick an online platform…free? subscription?..open source?..merchant payment processors? etsy (a marketplace) instagram and or favebook/ with paypal, a website? short videos? a craft show booth? a local holiday sale event?

photos, photos, photos

colors used…fonts used…lighting used…

personal profile…do you have a backstory?

materials/ bead/ gemstone info…whats to love

photography…your “look”…how are you going to shoot your pieces…maker shots…a look behind the curtain…

packaging…materials…colors…tags…labels…unique brand ideas…costs…

shipping packaging…materials…sizes…weights…costs…shipping costs…apartment mailbox sizes…how best to safely and cost effectively ship your items

just the above will give you lots of rabbit holes to burrow into…

there are different cost to consider and build into your pricing structure

the process will sort of force you to focus and make different decisions…to set up your shop…to develop your brand…who you are…you can always revise!

i met an young woman, with an interesting story, while taking classes at The Revere Academy in San Fransisco…she would sell her beaded pieces to local beauty shops and a popular local bingo hall (prizes)…she would design and make an item, take a photo and creat a build sheet with all the materials, so that duplicates could be then made by someone else…she spent her time designing new things…she built a very lucrative niche business. it was quite imoressive.

julie

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Julie, I am grateful for your feedback. I have, at least, gotten my business license and my local Sales and Use Tax Certificate, so I am free to sell legally. And I do have a business name that I really like. The hardest part of this is becoming a savvy business owner. I know that more business knowledge is necessary if I want to recoup some of the money that I have put into my studio so far, but I don’t want all that to take the fun out of what I do. I guess it’s a trade-off. I tossed and turned last night, but have come to a conclusion that pretty much echoes your advice: start the process, and then focus on the enjoyment of creating. The inventory will take care of itself, right? It’s most important to me that I don’t get bogged down in the business end, and become so “successful” that the creating of the jewelry suddenly becomes drudgery!

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Julie has given you some good advice. Making jewelry will no longer be your hobby, running a hobby jewelry business will replace it. Get yourself out there. Hand out business cards, offer pieces for charity raffles, let the community communicators (beauty shops, flower shops, etc.) know what you are doing, do the local craftshows. Definitely get your website up. It doesn’t have to be a full featured e-commerce website, just a place to point people towards to see your work. You do have to keep it up to date. My website was, for years, just that. I would tell people to look at it to get some idea what I do and then call, email or stop in to discuss what they wanted. I have e-commerce modules setup on my website, but I prefer to interact with customers as I find plain order taking to be contrary to how I want to work. It is also very difficult to make sure that they get the right size bracelet. I sell a lot of my work through a local giftshop/restaurant/farm market. It is right on the man road nearby and sees a lot of customers. Because of my family jewelry history (The Meixner Bracelet), people look for my work. You do need to be careful how you work with shops. I prefer not to wholesale, but to consign, but at a fairly low percentage. In return I buy, place and stock the case. In other words, I have creative control over what is in the case and how it is displayed. They just sell my work. I have had my work in as many as three places, but it is difficult and expensive to keep them stocked. When I turned 70 and had a health scare, I decided to draw back. I don’t regret it. Keep good records, learn to take good pictures. Photography will become another obsession if it isn’t already. Learn to draw and do it if you don’t already. Keep all this in notebooks. I have a shelf full going back to 1973. I get funny looks when people catch me looking at their jewelry. I eplain why and make another connection. Get to know your customers and always be honest and do what you say you will do. Good luck…Rob

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hi,

i typed another true life story to add/ edit last night… but it would not go thru…too long​:rofl::joy:

i am attaching as a screen shot down below…

in addition:

i totally hear you…and i am the kind of person who can get tangled in the weeds…my past life was as a retail buyer, so i can get over/analytical and into too many details…as you can probably tell by my posts​:joy::rofl:

the attached true story may inspire…i love it!

it basically describes most of what i listed…but it all came down in a natural progression…very organically…beautifully…relatively little drama…i always so admire and aspire to this sort of life flow…i push too much i think…

there are many ways to launch a business

decide what it is you want to do…what you want to spend the precious and invaluable asset of time on…

i started accidentally on etsy years ago
because i had product i pulled out of a store for non-payment of consignment sales…and that gig started accidentally as i was helping a friend put her line in the shop…i did not have a line”…my product had evolved when i bought an old tool from a retiring friend…

so etsy…it started out as setting up a shop using their template and focusing on what i mentioned above, but morphed into learning to “drive online sales”

it got to the point that i was getting more orders than i could comfortably produce single- handedly

it was all custom, so an order triggered the work…
the clock started ticking when i got an order…peak periods which became kind of predictable nonetheless got chaotic…

the fun factor wained…

i was at a point…do i change up my production, outsource, etc…add expense…what volume would i need to achieve increased margins, etc…

…do i want to try to build and run a business?…or work with my hands…play with tools…learn new things…and make jewelry…?

i am not even mentioning the quickbooks “with inventory tracking segue…

…then…life intervened…i took a 3 year sabatical…i took the opportunity of time to learn CAD…(it took me 8 years from the time i wondered about CAD to actually buying it…but it was serendipitus…as matrux launched their online training just then…it was like school…but, i digress…

anyway, here is the story…see attached…

julie

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Greetings Kroma,

There is a load of good advice here. You have already gotten a lot of what I would have offered. Market what you have, where you can, and build a base. Do “Refigerator Magnet Shows” at the Church. Wear your work and be blatant about showing off. Carry cards. And donate to fund raisers for the Library now and then. But charge what your work is worth, don’t under value your craft.

Regards growing in your craft my advice would have been Learn to Draw if you don’t draw already. And draw in three dimensions. A lot of people can draw a pretty picture but what is lacking is often a sense of proportion and composition. Google up The Golden Mean, skip the deeper philosophical aspects of Aristotle and see how it applies to proportion and balance. In illustrative terms the Human body is measured in “heads” as if it were a part of a ruler. (search: Bourne Hogarth and Bart Sears) While we aren’t creating bodies as a rule the concept of proportion is consistent. I find that I work in 3rds and 5ths. Just as in nature most things appear in odd numbers so does my jewelry. I tend to forge my heavy wire cuffs into a triangular shape. (tri=3) I use three components in my bracelets quite often. If I make a pendant that has more than one component the bottom part of a pendant is 3/5ths, the top is 2/5ths. Get a drafters circle and oval template and draw a lot of shapes. I ramble…

A lot of take in I know. But take the time to study. Learn to draw. Learn to measure, and ask questions.

Don Meixner

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Great Advice! The learn to draw was a major step in my jewelry journey, and I would add learning to visualize in 3D as well. Spending time with one shape and brainstorming around it is a meditative exercise for me.

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Hello Kroma,
Lots of good advice here. I might mention a few things others have not. A couple of gem cutting friends of mine are doing business solely on line, at a website and on Instagram. So you might need to see where you can get sales and not count out selling on line as a main method. If I were you I would put my current items out for sale and see how long it takes to sell them. Then you will know something about how much inventory you need to produce and you can start making some income projections, etc. There was once a craftsman on here from Australia who made lots of rings and small items. One of his specialties was a “mobius ring.” He could do one in ten minutes or so and he had the cost figures down and the selling price. It was an easy selling item and he could sit and make them at craft shows. So I’m saying it is a good idea to have some best sellers and some of them can be cheap items. You can do a simple time and motion study so that you know how long it will take to do the item, and what your costs and profit will be. This is a good reason to put your items out there, so you will know how well they sell and how quickly you need to make them. Some would say if they are flying off the shelf, you need to raise your prices until your rate of production equals you rate of sale. Or, you might find that you want to do one off elaborate pieces and just wait for the right buyers for them. You’ll have to give some thought to your business model and how you want to run things. Right now you are anxious about sales, but you may find that you can’t make enough at some point and have to decide how to deal with that. Lots of small sales or a few big sales or ??? -royjohn

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Selling online is fine, but the jewelry online market is saturated. I recommend trying to sell at small shows once you build your inventory up a little more. Getting in front of people, seeing their responses to your work will help with the growth of starting your business. I sell online, but the majority of my sales is at shows and repeat customers. The shows are lot of work, but that is how you really learn what people like and don’t like. I have done over 100 show in the last 3.5 years and it has taught me a tremendous amount about my market, building stronger sales skills, building my customer base and helped me rework some of my products. If I didn’t do those shows my sales would of been down 90%. Everyone has a different sales strategy, but just get out there and try various things. Good luck…

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Monolisa, while I have your kind attention - if I wanted to sell at a show, what would you suggest I get in the way of a credit card reader? Early on, how much should I worry about packaging materials, a banner for my table, and display components?

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I use Shopify - fantastic for building a website and processing cards at shows. Watch their youtube videos for setup and how to use the system. Start with a simple display and build as you go. You just learn as you go and will continue to research. You can also visit other shows to see how people setup displays and see what is vital such as tables, table covers and a chair for sitting. Displays and packaging supplies comes down to your budget - what you want to spend. When I look at my own experience - what I was designing 4 years ago is completely different from today. I am glad I didn’t spend too much money on fancy packaging until I knew more about my collection. Refine things as you go and get creative - put your own personal touch on your display. I recently wrote an article Lessons I Learned Making Jewelry - Great Teachers & Resources - Lessons I Learned Making Jewelry - Great Teachers & Resources – MONOLISA there are some resources you may find useful building your business. Good luck you are going to do great!

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Hi Kroma,

Doing shows is a fun way to sell your jewelry. I do them almost exclusively for mass sales but I do have people come to the shop as well. When I decided to begin doing more than the refrigerator magnet shows at the church hall I had to decode exactly what kind of shows I wanted to do. Brother Rob gave me great advice with “Only do shows that are strictly juried”. This way you are sure that if you get in the other artists are at least as good as you.

Select the shows. Go look at a few to see what they are like. Talk to all types of crafter, not just jewelry folks. Some are better run than others. Many shows will require a specific style of cover and a specific size as well. In my case the shows all require a 10’ x 10’ cover of the EZ-UP style and many will want them to be white. This is true of the shows I attend but they are not all this way. An EZ-UP case is 60” long so you need that kind of space in your car. When the kids all flew and the Mini Van wasn’t needed anymore we changed to a smaller SUV and at the time the Kia Sorento was the only one that would fit our already established gear. A long way of saying a great set up is not so great if it won’t fit in the Mini-Cooper.

Keep the set up simple and consistent. A bunch of black velvet necks don’t really match the nice burlap necks they had on sale at Michaels.

Have business cards whether they come from some online service or from your own printer. Your business name, and website. Mine have my name and phone number as well but some folks are at odds with that as giving away too much information.

Packages and wraps are expensive. Another area where I try to keep things simple. Uline has a number of industrial products that are affordable and look pretty good. Buy a good tissue roller and tissue. Put the money where it matters as things you use constantly are no fun at all if you are always having to untangle the machinery.

I use The Square. It is simple. If it costs a penny or two more per transaction to me it was worth it because I got an accurate transaction and the statement in December was correct to the dime. I still keep solid records but The Square works well enough for me.

Good luck with your plan. Have fun.

Don Meixner



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Thank you for the great info. Would it be an imposition to periodically ask you more questions about outside selling as I go along? It wouldn’t be an everyday thing. But since you bring up Shopify, here I go with a new question :laughing:! It just so happens I am doing the free trial thing on Wix. They permit me to custom design my own website, which is what I especially wanted. Do you know if Shopify will let me do that? The prospect of a card reader from Shopify would also be attractive, and could be enough to make me switch. I stayed away from Shopify because a reviewer said that it was more geared toward larger businesses. What do you think?

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Feel free to ask questions on this platform and that will give others along with me for advice. I know nothing about Wix. The best thing you can do is watch the reviews on youtube and call Shopify directly with questions regarding their platform and specials on pricing. I got a free theme from Shopify and just pay a monthly fee. I learned how to do all the design /web stuff myself through research, videos, and their online support - just takes some time.

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Feel free to ask any question anytime. No one here will steer you wrong. Just remember that what works for us in Central New York may not work for someone in Seattle or Toronto. I am happy to share what I know. Except for my Chicken Chili recipe.

Don

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Thank you, Don. I feel very warmly accepted here. I am from the Atlanta area. (I have a great turkey chili recipe, if anyone wants it.)

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I started with Shopify in January 2021 using a free theme and my son’s help with the theme software insertions. So far, it is working well.

Can someone enlighten me about something? I have been to Shopify and other online stores, in hopes of finding a website template for my style of handmade jewelry. It may just be my technical ignorance, but I never see more than a few jewelry making templates, and they all feature jewelry pieces that I would never make! How am I supposed to sell my brand of jewelry, that has no connection with the jewelry and people shown on those templates? None of them fit my style of jewelry making. Am I stuck with choosing something from the few unrelatable templates that are provided, if I want to set up a website? I feel that my only option is to create my own website apart from these online stores. Sorry, but I’m exasperated…
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