Starting my jewelry business was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done, but it was well worth the effort. As a result of starting my own jewelry business back in 2005, I've made some great friends, learned a lot about myself, and, yes, even earned a little bit of money.
More and more people are looking to be their own boss to find a sense of fulfillment, have some fun, and earn money doing what they love. But before you dive in to starting your own jewelry business, take a good look at these five things that are the most-often asked questions about starting your own business!
#1. How to determine prices. This is probably the number one question that I hear from anyone who sets up at a craft show, flea market, church bazaar, or fine craft gallery. You need to cover your costs for materials, your time, your overhead (which includes things like insurance, utilities if you have a studio, and office supplies), but you don't want to end up charging $4,000 for a single bracelet.
While there are no hard and fast rules for pricing your beadwork, the general rule of thumb is to calculate your materials costs, plus anywhere from 25-40% profit on materials; and a fee for your time. I beg people, PLEASE charge a fee for your time! Even if you only want to charge $7 an hour (or somewhere around minimum wage) for the time you spent creating your beaded jewelry, it's important to recognize that the time you spent working to create inventory for your jewelry business is valuable.
If you do all this and you still get sticker shock when you see what you should be charging for your beaded jewelry, take a good look at your market. Where are you selling these pieces? Who is buying them? If you take a table full of $400 neckpieces to a flea market, you probably won't get many sales. But if you take that same inventory to a high-end craft show at an art gallery, chances are you'll be pretty happy with your sales.
That said, please don't change your prices depending on the venue where you are selling your work. Keep your prices consistent. If you must, change your venues or take a better look at who's buying your beaded jewelry. Understanding who your customer is can make all the difference between making the sale and ending up with a box full of beaded jewelry that's collecting dust in a cabinet somewhere.
#2. How to effectively use a blog and social media. We are truly living in the digital age -- it seems like everybody is online, has a blog, or has a Facebook or Twitter account. These tools are mostly free to use, so take advantage of them! Learn how to set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for your business, and if you're the kind of person who likes to tell stories about your beadwork, consider setting up a blog.
Keep your social media accounts active. After all, if you're not using them, no one is going to see what you have to say! Posting on social media 2-3 times a day usually works best, and try to blog at least three times a week. Share those blogs on Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to your blog, and make sure you always include links to your products in your Etsy, ArtFire, or other online shop so that interested customers can make a purchase!
#3. Don't expect overnight success. This is probably one of the most important things to remember when you're starting a jewelry business: things take time. Don't expect to be able to quit your job two weeks after you open your Etsy shop. Just like any other kind of business, building a successful jewelry business can take years.
Be gentle with yourself, too. If you aren't happy with your sales after six months, re-evaluate your marketing practices (like social media and blogs), or take another look at your customer base. Remember, too, that you're competing with thousands of other handmade jewelry businesses online, and establishing a name for yourself can take time.
#4. Seek advice from your local chamber of commerce. Once you've decided to start your jewelry business, you'll need to figure out how to obtain a tax ID number, collect and pay sales tax, register your business, and possibly obtain a license to operate a business in your county or state. Because each of these things vary widely from state to state, or even county to county, it's best to contact your local chamber of commerce or economic development center in your community. These organizations exist to provide free or low-cost assistance and advice to anyone who wants to start their own business, and are often staffed by successful small business owners just like you.
Check your local community college, too, for continuing education classes that deal with business skills like software, accounting, and even product photography. When I started my business, I was lucky enough to be accepted into a free six-month comprehensive marketing class offered by the now defunct Northern Adirondack Trading Cooperative that was crafted to address the needs of small business owners who lived in northern New York. Attending those classes helped me to write my own marketing plan, learn how to do market research, and gave me an advantage when I was ready to do some serious market research. Any kind of small business class is well worth your time and effort if you want to have a successful jewelry business!
#5. Make what you love. When you're just getting started with your own jewelry business, you might think that in order to make any money at all, you should be making jewelry that looks like what everybody else is making, even if your heart isn't in it. I can tell you from personal experience that nothing could be further from the truth.
The most important thing to remember when making jewelry as inventory for your jewelry business is that you need to put your heart and soul into what you create -- if you aren't enjoying the pieces that you make, chances are, your customers won't, either.
My personal experience with this came after I had been doing craft shows for a few years as my only source of income. For the first two years that I did the show circuit, I sold mostly handmade fused glass jewelry. Now, the nice thing about having a line of fused glass jewelry was that I had a wide variety of prices, ranging from just a few dollars for a tiny pendant up to nearly $100 for a large, intricately painted set of glass jewelry. After two years, though, it started to feel like I was just doing production work, churning out piece after piece after piece. My heart wasn't in it. So, that summer, I decided to focus instead on selling just my high-end, one-of-a-kind bead embroidered and bead-woven jewelry.
As I packed up for my first shows that season, my husband warned me that I shouldn't expect to see sales as high as I had seen with my lower-priced items. I was absolutely thrilled that summer when, to his surprise, I my sales actually increased! My customers were happy with my new products and inventory, and it encouraged me to start applying to some of the high-end craft shows.
The lesson learned from this one? Do what you love, be true to yourself, and the money will follow.
More great jewelry business advice for you! Whether you're just getting your jewelry business started, or you're ready to re-evaluate your existing business practices, you won't want to miss the Net Profits column in each issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. You'll find advice for using social media, how to get the most out of your jewelry photographs, and strategies for selling at shows and on consignment. Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine and follow your dream of owning your own jewelry business.
Do you have some great advice or tips for someone who wants to start a jewelry business? What do you think is the most important thing to know before starting your own jewelry business? Ask a question or share your expertise with us here on the Beading Daily blog!
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