How to Be Successful Selling Handmade Jewelry

Selling Handmade JewelryLately I’m realizing that you {or at least some of you} are considering starting businesses – or have fledgling businesses – selling handmade jewelry.

As you probably know, I have several years of selling under my belt and have some lessons that could probably help you.  This post is an overview to get you thinking and planning.  It is by no means exhaustive and you will find other ways to make money doing what you love.

The great thing about being in a creative business is actually using that creativity to help run your business, too.

Grab yourself a coffee or tea, grab a pen to take notes and read on!

Button BraceletHow to be Successful Selling Handmade Jewelry

Step #1  Knowing your style and mastering your skills.

First off, you want to make sure you master your craft.  I don’t think you need to go to art school or you need to be a master metalsmith by any means (I didn’t and I am not), but you should have a firm grasp on what you are making.

Know your unique style and try to stick with it in some way.

Be the best you can.  Practice.  Wear your jewelry.  Make sure it holds up.  Use the best materials you can.  Take workshops.  Read books.  (Might I suggest a few tutorials?  The terms of use of my tutorials allow you to sell the jewelry you make from them.  Not everyone does that so be careful!)

Step #2  Figure out who and where your customers are.

If you have customers this is easier, but if not you can do some internet research and figure out where they are online and in the physical world.

{Some people suggest doing this and then creating your jewelry.  I think making jewelry is a form of art and should be based on the creator of art first.  I made jewelry for myself and as an expression of my creativity first.  I try to stay somewhat cohesive in style so as to not confuse my customers.}

Business Plan Scrapbook{My business plan!}

Step #3  Set up your business for success with a business plan.

Figure out where you’ve been, where you’re going and what you’re going to do with your business with a business plan.

It’s much easier to achieve your goals if you actually plan them out!

Sounds boring, yes?  And if you look up how to write a business plan and follow an example, it certainly can be. But I do I have the solution for a creative soul like you!  The Business Plan Scrapbook!  (I have retired this product for sale, but you can come up with some great ideas on making creative business plans yourself.)

Step #4  Set up multiple streams of income.

It is unlikely that selling in any one place alone will give you enough income to live.  So it’s important to set up different streams of income.

Here are a few ideas:

Online

It is so easy now to start selling on websites like etsy.  And it’s not that expensive.  There are other similar websites as well, but etsy is the big one.  Back when I started before etsy there was just eBay and some people still sell handmade jewelry there.  You can set up your own website as well.

The #1 most important skill you need for selling jewelry online is taking great photos!  You don’t necessarily need an expensive camera or expensive photo editing software to take great photos, either.

Lititz Craft ShowCraft Shows

When I first starting selling jewelry I kind of went about it backwards in those days (it’s kind of different now.)  I started selling online first because I was so shy and I didn’t think that I could handle craft shows.  Most people then started in craft shows first.

However, once I started doing craft shows is when I really started getting serious with my business.  Craft shows led me to so many more opportunities than I would have ever known without them.  In fact, one year I did at least one craft show per week (often 2 when you include a weekly Sunday market I did in the summer).

I wrote an entire book about craft shows and you can pick it up here.  I recently revised it because craft shows have changed.  It used to be that you could set up at a craft show and as long as it was relatively well-attended you’d make out fine.  That’s not really the case anymore.  You have to be more thoughtful and picky about shows.  In my Craft Show Tips eBook I tell you everything you need to know about craft shows!

Craft Shows got me over my shyness.  At craft shows I met so many wonderful people.  Also, at craft shows is where I met people who wanted to sell my stuff in their shops.

(I’m grouping craft shows, art shows and markets all together here.)

Consignment Shops

I have a love hate relationship with consigning my handmade jewelry.  In the best case scenarios, I sold a lot, had my jewelry well taken care of and was paid promptly.

In the worse cases I had broken or lost jewelry, had late or no payments and had to ask multiple times for either my jewelry or my money.

Consignment in boutiques or galleries can be profitable depending on where the shop is (again, you need to know your customer), the owner and how involved you can be.

How it works is you drop off your jewelry to the shop and they try to sell it.  If and only if the jewelry is sold you get paid.  Typically you get 60% and they keep 40%, but I’ve had 50/50 before at very popular stores (and a gift shop for a nonprofit) and have negotiated to keep 75% before as well.

Before you agree to consign, make sure you check out the store and see how it’s kept.  Get to know the owner and talk to others who have consigned there.  You can probably figure this all out by just visiting the shop and looking around and talking to the owner.

When you decide to consign, make sure you have a signed agreement (usually they will have one, but if not, make your own) that clearly states the terms, who’s liable for theft or damage, how often you will receive payments, etc.  You can find samples on the internet if you need one.

When you drop off your pieces, make sure you have a list of the items.  Have a copy for them and for yourself and ask them to sign it for your records.

I recommend checking in each month to see what sold (and ideally you’ll be paid monthly as well and get a list of things you sold), make sure your stuff is being cared for properly, take out stuff that isn’t selling and drop off new items.  You can work that out with the owner.  Don’t go too long without checking in.

Don’t just think jewelry stores here.  Think of places that people who would like your jewelry would shop.  Think of places you go and if they have gift shops.  Would they be a good fit?  Local shops often love selling local artists’ work.  Do you have any boutiques nearby that would be a good fit?

Wholesale

Wholesale is much more desirable than consignment because you receive the money upfront and you don’t have to rely on the owner of the shop to pay you later.  They place an order and you deliver it.  The standard for wholesale is 50%, but you do not have to do that if you don’t want to.

I recommend setting up your prices from the beginning so that you have room to offer 50% off for wholesale orders.  I require a minimal order to place a wholesale order.  Some people require certain types of stores or other conditions, but I only require the order to be a minimum amount to qualify for wholesale.

Co-ops

I was involved with a co-op store for years.  It was similar to an antique co-op, but this store had art, handmade and antiques.

I paid a monthly rental for my spot and then the store took a small percentage of the sale of my products each month.

I’m not sure how many of these types of stores are out there, but if you’re in the Lancaster, PA, USA area, check out Building Character.  I sold at Building Character for years until I took my jewelry selling break.

Some co-ops require you to additionally work there a certain amount of hours per week or month as well.

Glass Tile Pendant TutorialCustom Orders

A large portion of my income came from custom orders.  Some were ongoing orders from nonprofits that I worked with for fundraisers, some were repeat customers purchasing more gifts for people and some were new customers who wanted help making their ideas come true.

I highly recommend that you take custom orders.  It might seem a little scary at first, but if someone asks you to do something out of your league you can tell them no.  If they ask you to copy someone else definitely tell them no.

Usually custom orders for me came from people who saw my jewelry and had an idea for something somewhat similar and then asked me if I could make it.  I made a lot of scrabble tile pendants and glass tile pendants and that’s an item that’s easy to customize.  People automatically start thinking of what they would get if they could have any pendant and they are excited to talk about it.

You can get paid upfront and even charge a little more if you wish for custom orders.  In fact, I eventually always asked to be paid upfront for custom orders unless the person was a repeat customer.

I love custom orders and I hope you’ll consider them, too.

Home Parties

Thinking back over all my income streams over the years where was I most successful in the shortest amount of time?  Home parties.

Think Mary Kay or The Pampered Chef.  You get your friends to host parties, have snacks, maybe some wine and show them your jewelry.

I have done this in a couple different ways:

  1. Open house or drop in style.  You set up your jewelry in a nice display, get your host to provide light snacks and drinks and people drop in throughout a few hour period.  They can try on jewelry, make custom orders and purchase right on the spot.
  2. Fixed time.  Everyone gathers around and you can do a presentation about your jewelry, play games, have door prizes, etc. with lots of time for trying on, shopping and purchasing.

I always have door prizes no matter what type of party it is.  The prizes are always my jewelry!

You can start out by having them in your own home and inviting your friends over.  Or ask your family and friends to host.  Come up with a nice thank you for them.

If you start branching out more to people who aren’t as close to you, you will want to come up with a specific reward for the hostess to make it worth her while.  Your best friend or sister will probably do it for free, but other people might need a little more enticement.

You could offer a percentage of your sales in jewelry or maybe you’ll even want to give her a percentage of the cash if that is more appealing for them to sign up.  (I offered jewelry or cash and every time the people opted for the jewelry.)

The hostess will invite her friends, but you might want to send out invitations for her (or give them to her to send out.)

If you also sell online you can have online parties or even create a catalog and have a catalog party.  Use your imagination.

Others

Come up with other ideas of where to sell.  Really think about your customers and where you might find them. Maybe a hair salon?  Maybe you can strike up an interesting deal at a coffee shop?  Maybe your jewelry belongs in an art gallery or in a gift shop at a gallery?

Make a list and see what you can come up with.  Then get confident and start talking to people.

Step #5  Set up systems for keeping track of everything.

This is well beyond the scope of this blog post, but I did want to mention that you should come up with a way that works for you to keep track of everything.  Every cent you spend on your business and every bit of income that comes in need to be accounted for.  Whether you get specialized software, use spreadsheets or go old school and hand write everything, you must keep track of it all and have a place to keep receipts.

In Conclusion…

Selling your handmade jewelry can be a very rewarding experience.  There  is absolutely no feeling like the one that comes from seeing someone on the street wearing the jewelry you made.

Take the general steps outlined above, do your research and get started!  If you need help, make sure to check out the resources I link to and feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below and I will try to help!

Good luck!


I would love if you would be kind enough to share this post if you found it helpful!  🙂  And please leave a comment below!

Be Sociable, Share!

11 thoughts on “How to Be Successful Selling Handmade Jewelry

  1. Pingback: Jewelry Business Tip: Know Your Style & Master Your Jewelry Making Skills | Emerging Creatively Jewelry Tutorials

  2. Pingback: Jewelry Business Tip: Your Customers | Emerging Creatively Jewelry Tutorials

  3. Pingback: Jewelry Business Tips: Business Plan | Emerging Creatively Jewelry Tutorials

  4. Pingback: Jewelry Business Tip: Multiple Streams of Income (Part 1) | Emerging Creatively Jewelry Tutorials

  5. Pingback: Jewelry Business Tip: Multiple Streams of Income Part 2, Selling Online | Emerging Creatively Jewelry Tutorials

  6. Pingback: Jewelry Business Tip: Multiple Streams of Income Part 3, Craft Shows | Emerging Creatively Jewelry Tutorials

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*