What is the most important thing to do when starting out?

I am just getting started as a jewlery designer/independant studio
artist (fancy names for a girl who likes to play with metal). I
have a pretty good set up with tools, torch, rolling mill,
education, etc., but I can’t decide what the next step should be.
What should I invest my measly funds in? What would you say is the
most important step for getting your name out there and your work
known, and especially making money? Web page, portfollio,
consignment, contests,traveling to shows? (each of these represents
a substantial investment in equipment so I wanted to get some input)
All my school taught us about marketing was how to enter contests
and I think that is a bit one sided because I am sure there are many
other markets. Ps. has anyone read any good books on the subject of
art marketing that they would reccomend? I have no clue about the
etiqute involved in talking to galleries and reps. Thanks, Tracey

Tracey, I’m just getting started as well. Business cards, always
wearing something I made when I go out, and having a website have
been the most helpful things that I’ve done. A website can be as
simple as one page with a couple images and contact
which you can expand later on when you have the resources - in the
meantime, it gives you a place to show off a piece or two that you
are proud of, and anyone you give your card to can then go to the
website and see what you do. Also, start building a mailing list with
contact info for everyone who buys from you or seems interested in
buying from you, so that you periodically get in touch with them so
that they don’t forget you exist. I’m sure there are many other
marketing things that more experienced people will recommend to you,
but for me, with a total marketing budget of about $100 when I got
started, these are the things I was able to do that have been
helpful. (Of course, if you have to hire someone to make a website
for you, that would be significantly more expensive than if you can
do it yourself.)

– Leah