Grow Your Jewelry Business: 5 Tips for Marketing and Selling Handmade Jewelry
One of the questions that I get asked most often is, “How do I sell my jewelry?” Even though I’ve spoken to groups about selling handmade jewelry online and it’s something I’ve done myself for awhile now, there’s always more to learn and changes to keep up with, be it in online marketing, social media, web stores, or search engine tactics–or all of the above.
Online sites like Etsy (where my shop is), ArtFire, and others make selling handmade jewelry online very user friendly with simple, fill-in-the-blanks web store options, allowing everyone (even people with no website experience at all) to have an online shop to sell jewelry. In addition to the online store itself, they handle the billing, payments, and even some marketing for you.
But there’s so much more to selling handmade jewelry than the transactions themselves–and what if you don’t want to sell online at all, but at craft shows, trunk shows, and/or in boutiques? There’s still the branding, inventory, marketing, shipping, packaging and displays, photography, and more–not to mention actually creating the jewelry!
There’s a world of information about marketing and selling handmade jewelry in Viki Lareau’s book, Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry: The Complete Guide to Turning Your Passion into Profit. Here are a few thoughts, tips, and ideas I’ve excerpted from Lareau’s book, just to get your wheels turning. . . .
1. The jewelry I sell online is made for a very specific customer with a very specific style. Most of it is simple and elegant, very feminine, classic and bordering on preppy,. It’s made for “girly girls” like me to wear with pretty dresses at parties in the summery South–at least that’s the idea I have in my mind when I make it! My company name (Southern Baubelles), logo imagery (an antique iron fence near an old plantation in Louisiana), product images (earrings are shot on peaches, rustic wood, etc.), packaging (adorned with a paper flower and a mother-of-pearl button), and marketing copy (lots of “y’alls” and other Southern phrases) are all a result of that very specific vision.
According to Lareau, this is where to begin. “If you put all your jewelry out on a table and had to describe its look or style, what words would come to mind? Contemporary? Art Deco? Vintage? Ethnic? Edgy? Playful? Being able to define your style verbally and in writing is one of the first steps in building your jewelry business.” Lareau emphasizes that clearly defining your style “determines who your typical customer is and will help you keep a clear focus. It’s very difficult to sell a product if you don’t know who you’re selling it to. Your style will determine every decision you make about your business: the name, the logo, the promotional material you produce, the type of shows you do, the displays you create, the stores and galleries you approach.”
2. Here’s an exercise to get you started: “Try selling jewelry at a local craft show–the smallest show you can find, your church bazaar, your kid’s school fair, or your town’s local weekend market.. This type of show should be very inexpensive, $20 to $40 for a table or booth, so that you can at least make your fee back. Don’t think of it as a money-making endeavor, though, but more as research. You need to really listen to folks, see which pieces they’re commenting on, which they are ignoring. Many times the pieces that are not your personal favorites will be the most popular. Discover what styles resonate with the public. Even if you end up going for a different demographic, this experience will help you immensely in thinking about your professional path and what type of jewelry you want to focus on.”
3. Lareau’s advice for selling beyond jewelry and craft shows or websites: “Creating a special niche for your jewelry . . . will give you unique and targeted marketing opportunities. For instance: If you do a line of semiprecious stone jewelry and choose to market on the healing properties of the stones, then you could approach New Age shows or stores. If you do floral themes in seed beading or precious metal clay (PMC), you can approach florists or floral shows. If you focus on jewelry for men, you can market your work to hip men’s boutiques.”
4. This one really speaks to me–it’s something I have to remind myself regularly: “Don’t overestimate your potential customer. You might go into a department store and see the simplest earrings on the rack for $45 and think ‘I could make that.’ Well, most people don’t think that way. Most people want to buy their jewelry already made, and that’s where you come in.”
5. My biggest fear is that a piece will break while a customer is wearing it. Lareau stresses the importance of creating quality jewelry and recommends that you “wear any new designs yourself for a few days to see how the piece lies around the neck or on the wrist and how comfortable it is, so you can make any changes before you take that design to market.”
This is just the tip of a very big iceberg! For more in-depth information about selling the jewelry you make, get Viki Lareau’s book, Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry (in print or instant eBook download). She provides proven practices and tips for pricing your work, selling at craft and art shows as well as wholesale jewelry selling, selling online and on eBay, marketing (online and otherwise)–and then managing your jewelry business once the ball gets rolling.
Lareau shares the stories behind independent jewelry brands that you’ve probably seen in stores, and you won’t want to miss her own story about starting The Bead Factory with her husband and all of her successes, failures, and lessons learned along the way, including why you need to care whether celebrities are wearing jewelry. She also provides a great list of websites for selling online and resources for small businesses, too. It’s a must-have resource for anyone interested in selling your handmade jewelry.
Do you sell your jewelry online or at craft shows? I’d love to know what works for you and what you don’t recommend. Please share your tips and suggestions below!