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[Starting Up] Small shop

i am currently considering opening a small shop to do trade work.
could anyone give me any helpful with regards to starting
up…what timeframe do most retailers expect? is 2-3 days acceptable?
i have also seen several “price lists” but the prices shown for doing
work run from to cheap to bother or a bit on the high end. is there
any standard to go by for pricing? I have only touched on a couple of
areas of concern and will accept any advice on other areas you might
have experience with. thanks in advance. J

As far as turn around time, I think 2-3 days on easier jobs, sizing,
simple repairs, heads and set, etc., is the norm. Wax models are
usually a week and completion of the custom job is another week after
the wax is back from approval. Pricing is a trickier issue. There are
really no rules, this was vexing to me when I started out. I assumed
that there would be an accepted formula for pricing, but there really
isn’t. Typically people check out the competitions price list and go
from there. This can really be a mistake. Often the competitions
prices are too low, and they are too low because that’s the way its
always been. I t has no relationship to actual costs and reasonable
profits. Fortunately times are changing, many jewelry business owners
are operating using widely accepted and successful business
practices. One of the most popular is ‘partnering,’ this is not a
formal partnership but represents a much closer relationship between
the business and the vendor (you). In this relationship it is
critical that it is a win-win situation for both parties. So my best
advice is to hook up with retailers that have your best interest at
heart, people that understand that you need to make a living as well.
In this kind of relationship you can charge more because the customer
understands that you will spend more time on his work, giving him
priority. That’s because you don’t have to take in as much work to
make a go of it. Charge as much as you can, it is hard to raise
prices later. Mark P.

Hello all!

Sounds like you have experienced some good relationships with your
jewelry accounts Mark. No doubt formed on some, less than

When I started out subcontracting for retailers, what to charge was a
real unknown as well. Some good business sense and advice would have
been helpful. The “School of Hardknocks” works OK, but is a slow
process. My best advice to an individual starting a one person trade
shop is look at what your worth in the job marketplace. A master
jeweler is compensated between $20 and $30 per hour depending on what
part of the country your in. You need to at least double what would
be your wage. If you could sit at your bench eight hours a day and
only do bench work your wage value would be fair compensation. You
now need to do far more than you would as an employee. The trade
shops I am familiar with (northwest) charge between $40 and $55 per
hour for shop labor. It is not really that simple though. You need to
calculate your cost of operation carefully; your overhead costs. Keep
a tablet nearby your bench for the first few months just for the
purpose of calculating your overhead. Keep another for listing tools
and supplies you need. And another for figuring estimates and listing
findings, gems, metal you need to order.

Back to labor rates. If you don’t at least double your job market
value (wage) and or charge like rates as your competitors you will
cut yourself short on income. Your ability to grow your business and
hire additional staff (even one employee makes a huge difference)!
will have to wait until you see the light! Someone has to run your
business!; order findings, metal, tools, shop improvements, store
estimates on the phone, and on and on. These things do not happen
without time spent. You need to charge for all your time; your
overhead, etc. To look at charging a little more than the wage you
were earning is a tempting avenue. Developing a good business sense
of your value and your costs to run your business is best. Plan on
spending a minimum of 10 hours a day running your business. Do
everything you can to stay at the bench, that is where you make most
of your money. You won’t be spending eight hours at the bench unless
someone else is attending to your operations. Check with a few shops
and jewelers in your area discreetly, to arrive at an understanding
of local shop rates. Keep in mind their overheads may be quite
different from each others; and yours. It is easier to lower your
price on a piece occasionally if asked. You will rarely if ever be
asked to charge more, however! It is humbling when it happens.

If you are going to offer pick up and delivery you will need to
arrive at a minimum pick up ($50.?) You can’t routinely pick up two
sizings and a chain solder and provide a delivery service to smaller
accounts. Who is at your bench making money when you are on
deliveries? Also establish a charge for a rush job, either by
percentage (double charge anyone)? or flat charge ($15 to $20 over
job cost)? for this service. The stores sometimes (mall stores are
routinely the worst abusers) will run your legs off with rush jobs if
you don’t charge additional. When they really need it, they will pay
your rush charge add on.

My two bits!


Hello, Just a modest contribution based on my mentor’s situation from
years ago. His studio was in his home and his wife worked outside
the home. His rule was that he never left his studio during the
hours when his wife was away. That ment any jewelry work or repairs
were generally delivered and picked up by the retailer. He had also
figured that each time he lit his torch the minimum charge in 1980
was $5.50. Obviously, the inflation factor needs to be applied, and
I think that would be $15 - $20 today.

Something else is security. Don’t advertise your location to the
general public. Some people use a PO Box. With cell phones as
inexpensive as they are, giving out a cell phone number may offer
another form of descretion. Obviously, if someone wants to track you
down and plan a burglery, he/she can, but why make it easy. Judy in
Kansas where it’s getting HOT and steamy.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S. Extension Associate 221 Call Hall Kansas
State Univerisity Manhattan KS 66506 (785) 532-1213 FAX (785)

Joe, I have a trade business with four accounts.It depends a bit on
what the market in your area will bear as far as pricing
goes.Obviously if you live in the middle of nowhere and there are
three jewelers in town besides you your prices are going to reflect
that.I live in a fairly large city and the prices are competitive and
dictated by the market.It also depends on how fast and efficiently you
can work.For instance around here we get between $15 and $18 for
sizing a plain diamond solitaire down.We work on triple key with the
store on sizing and most repair.So our cut is $5 to $6 per sizing.That
does not sound like much but I can do that work in four minutes start
to finish.You do the math.Now there are other types of repair where
you don’t make didley.So it averages out.But I make a good living and
you get spin off from people knowing what you do and getting a hold of
you away from the store environment.My wife is always bringing home
jobs from the bank the post office the grocery store.It can be a
little annoying at times.I have had people bring work to my birthday
party.If you want to work hard and make a good living go for it.Just
make sure you get off time once in a while.
J Morley Coyote Ridge

Alright, finally something I know everything about!!!

I have been doing trade work for about 19 years. I have hired, fired,
and almost pulled all my hair out. I strongly advise you to stay away
from major chain stores, they are passing around price lists with
below market value charges, their motto is if you work for us you have
to go by our list. example 4.95 sz down lds ring 5.95 sz down gts.
etc… Brad’s book has great info…I’m presently working on
it now… Also these guys are buying their own replacement
melee…not good… findings are next I guarantee you…I’m ready for
a union myself… In a nut shell they want cheap labor, buy their
own findings, you furnish expensive insurance and delivery service and
they want no extra charge for rush jobs… sorry to be so negative
I’m just a tad burned out at this moment… good luck…but what’s
even stranger is I love my job…it is worth the fight…if you have
any specific questions please don’t hesitate to contact me…I’m in
the DFW area… –

I agree totally on this issue. I had a shop for 10 years and have
been a bench jeweler for 29. I love the trade but they can’t be the
ones to put a value on your tallent. Don’t sell yourself short. A
good set of hands is tough to come by. There are plenty of hacks out
there. This is a skill and you are a trained professional. Why should
you take all the risk and they make all the money. I finally closed
my shop down and said enough is enough.

In sunny Albuquerque!!

Phillip Scott GG

hey joe, your prices are close to what i charge…i don’t know what
area you are working in. there is one thing i changed early on about
my price list and it was keep prices on an even or round up number ie.
6.97 is made simplier by just chargin 7.00 when you are working at
the speed of light and can’t afford a helper to write jobs up ,it’s
8:45 and you have to deliver to the mall by 9:00 because miss got
rocks is leaving for mars at 5:00am in the morning…silly 3 cent
errors in your invoice will slow you up every time…keep it
simple!!! send me an address and i will drop price list in mail…

brad’s book is ok . get the book and then decide on software…keep
start up expenses at a minimum…more businesses fail because of
no working capital than anything else…

have you repaired alot of jewelry? repair is harder than fresh jlry.
just remember everybody makes mistakes and you will have failures…
so charge for your talent, hard work and go out there and make some
good money

let me know how you want list sent to you mail or e-mail