I never used to wear jewelry to the grocery store, but after reading about all the sales that Beading Daily readers have had standing in the checkout line ("Your First Sale"), I'm rethinking that business strategy! Here are a dozen more jewelry business tips and stories from Beading Daily readers.
1. Wear your jewelry outside the house.
"First sale was off my ears in a checkout lane. Don't be afraid to answer compliments with 'Thanks, I make these to sell!'"
"Some of the ladies at work asked me why all of my jewelry matched my clothes. I told them that was because I made it myself. They then started asking me, 'How much would it cost to make me one?'"–Yvonne Norman
"I first discovered beading because of an arts class I was taking at college. My kids were young and not in school, so I would take them to the Child Watch at the local YMCA and do homework while they played. Some other mothers that were there loved a pair of earrings I had made and one bought a pair for her daughter for Christmas."–Kassie, The Beaded Butterfly.
2. Ask others to wear your creations . . . or to sell them for you.
“I made a peyote stitch bracelet for my husband and he wore it to work. A couple of his co-workers liked what they saw and asked if I sold my jewelry. My sweet husband who is so proud of my work said of course! So my husband and I made my first sale.”
"I'm creative and love to design jewelry and have mastered many techniques, but the art of selling is not something I've done successfully. I'd sooner give my work away before I sell it, and when I think about how to price my creations, I severely under-price. So a very good friend of mine decided that she needed to step in and sell for me. She took approximately 50 pieces that I had made (many of those pieces were made years ago) and managed to sell 95% of the pieces to her co-workers on the floor where she worked!"
3. Find your niche.
"With Bike Week coming into town, I decided to make amulet bags with motorcycle and patriotic themes. I took them to a jewelry store that was near a famous bar. The owner took them all on consignment–I was amazed. I was pessimistic about them selling because I priced them on the high side. After Bike Week, I got a phone call telling me to come down and pick up a check! She had sold every one of them and asked for 12 more. I was in a daze floating out the door with cash in my purse."
Left: "Making gemstone 'name bracelets' for young men launched my line of Bad Beadz and a jewelry business, Anuenue Gems & Jewels."–Jeri Lynn Endo
Right: A beaded doll by Debi's Designs.
"I am the owner and designer of a needlework company, Always Time to Stitch. I design and sell needlework leaflets. I started making scissor fobs. I do a beaded faux chain. I just sold 18 to one shop in Florida recently!"–Jennifer Rodriguez
"I belong to a Red Hat Society Group and I made custom colored magnetic bracelets in purples and reds."–R.A. Fazio
4. Don’t forget about special commissions.
"I sold two amulet bags to a local college professor who was looking for some special little wearable works of art to give to two students that she had mentored for three years. It was an incredible feeling to know that my work was special enough to be chosen by her for this occasion!"–Jennifer VanBenschoten
5. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.
“[My first sale] was, in my opinion, the ugliest piece I had ever made."–Heather D.
6. Take a picture, it lasts longer.
“It was very satisfying to know that someone other than myself appreciated the creativity and craftsmanship that was placed on the piece enough to purchase it. The only regret that I had at the time, was not photographing it. I now photograph each of the pieces that I sell.”–Teresa Garza
7. Grow and change your business as you grow and change as an artist.
"I began making earrings and found it so much fun that I just couldn't stop! So I would bring my box of earrings around to groups I work with and many were sold at a very reasonable price. Now I am sharing the fun of beading by writing directions and making kits for beaded rings."–Rose Allen, Capitol View Creations
8. Price it right.
“I HATE selling my items, I prefer to gift them! So I put an outrageous price on something hoping that will deter folks. Sometimes it doesn't!”
"Forgot to include the sales tax in my quoted price just today–don't do that!"
"I made a bunch of Czech bead looped bracelets with vintage glass beads to sell at a craft fair at a local church. My friend kept saying I was making pieces that would not appeal to the type of customers the church attracts at these yearly events because the folks are socialites, upper class, the type who buy real gold and silver pieces. I charged ten bucks a bracelet, while he made cool looking gemstone pendants with silver settings that he priced at 35 bucks. I made a little over 200 dollars in bracelet sales and he sold two pendants at 35 dollars.”
"Back in the early 1970's, I started making beaded earrings. I worked in an antique shop and took apart broken bracelets and necklaces. I used the beads to make earrings which I sold for a dollar a pair. Sometimes I bought the week's groceries on the money I made from those earrings."–Rona O.
9. If you don’t get fortune, you still might get fame.
"A woman I worked with was invited to a gala event that Oprah Winfrey would be at and wanted something special to wear. She had seen the jewelry I'd made and commissioned me to make something for her. I made a necklace and earring set (priced barely above cost) which she wore proudly to the event. Sadly, she never got close enough to Oprah."
"One of the first sales I made was during a jewelry sale I hosted in my home. A lot of friends and family came, including the boyfriend of a friend who is a singer in a rock band. He became very interested in a necklace I had made just by chance with all the mismatched beads that I had left over. He bought it and when I got his next album, there he was on the cover wearing the necklace."
10. Start young . . . or not.
Robinsunne started her artistic journey at the age of four. She now creates quilted vessels with beaded edgings.
At left: Could It Be? 4" x 8". Fabric, thread, glass beads, 14K goldfill beads, computer chips, and bone beads.
"The first beaded piece I ever sold was actually to a teacher in high school. I was so addicted that I would bring my beads to school and work on things in class. One of my teachers liked my stuff so much that he bought a piece for his wife and for his mom. Of course, I was told that I should probably not be beading during class."–Chantel
"The first time someone asked me if she can buy a necklace made by me I was very surprised. For 50 years I never made something anyone would buy!!!"
11. Turn a rejection into a sale.
"Last April, I created a set for the Swarovski contest, but it was not selected. I sold 2 bracelets and twice the earrings at my supply store."
12. Selling that first piece can change your life.
"I struggled for years thinking I was a 'fine' artist with no success at all. When I discovered beading and started my first project (a 3-panel peyote stitch 'stained glass' hanging) it was sold before I even finished it. I've sold more beadwork in the last 3 years than I ever sold over the decades of painting in every medium I tried. I finally found out where my heart is!"
"I started to make earrings for fun, and now it has blossomed into a business. I was even able to quit one of my jobs last year, and now I work part time."–Nicole, Paw and Claw Designs
"I had been an editor and writer for many years, and beading was a hobby. In the first year of hobbydom, I sold $900 worth of beaded jewelry! Hmm, I thought, maybe I'm onto something here. A few years–and many more sales later–I turned my beading into my full-time business and said farewell to the land of scholarly footnotes. Haven't regretted it a single moment."–Kelli P.
Today is the last day to enter the Beader's Stash Contest!
Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily. She enjoyed hearing all your stories about selling your work!