Jewelry Business: Selling Your Work for What It’s Worth
Knowing how to price your jewelry is one of the hardest parts of selling your work. Should you estimate or price it lower than you originally total because you can’t compete with retail store prices? Bead and business expert, Viki Lareau, gives her advice on selling your work for what it’s worth, and not underpricing your beautiful designs and hard work.
ABOVE: Ringing in the New Year by Becky Nunn featured in Beadwork, December 2017/January 2018.
When they first start out, most jewelry designers underprice their work. In part, this is because calculating expenses accurately can be an overwhelming task. We are often very tempted to “guesstimate” and hope our guesses are in the ballpark. If this is your approach, don’t be discouraged. Everyone has used it at least once.
After costing out our work accurately, it can be startling to see how expensive the price of our work should be. (A basic formula is labor + cost of materials × 2 for a wholesale price; double that for retail.) Any American-made, high-quality work can only fall into a mid to upper price range or high end. No matter what, your work will not fall into a low-end range. You’re not selling to Wal-Mart or Claire’s — all their inventory is made cheaply overseas, and they have a customer for that. However, that is not your customer.
For your customer, jewelry is a very personal purchase. For her, it is a form of self-expression and she appreciates its beauty. Your job is to help her connect to your jewelry by creating an appreciation for the value of the craftsmanship and materials used. She is buying jewelry based on how it makes her feel, and she is willing to pay for that feeling.
It’s easy to gaze in disbelief at the prices of jewelry in the Sundance catalog or at Neiman Marcus. But there is a reason such companies retail expensive jewelry—because there is a customer for it! Store buyers don’t buy handcrafted work unless they think it’s going to sell, and there’s no reason your jewelry can’t be sold there, too! Produce beautiful high-quality jewelry, market it and yourself accordingly, only sell in venues that attract discriminating customers, and one day you will see someone you recognize in those catalogs — you!
Everyone always says they love my jewelry but no one in my area seems to want to pay for it. Everyone wants a deal. It’s very frustrating. Help! —Sandy
You’re just marketing to the wrong people. Often our friends, family, and coworkers are not our best customers just because we know them. You might need to approach stores or shows that are out of your area and are a better fit for your jewelry. Even though it’s more work, it’s often worth the effort to achieve bigger sales. Plus, these people will only know you from your business, so there is no expectation of special favors. —VL
I have just started selling my jewelry. My (artist) husband thinks my designs may be too simplistic and wonders why people would buy my pieces if they could just make them themselves. What do you think? —Gabrielle
I mean no disrespect to your husband, who I’m sure only wants the best for you in this experience. However, most people don’t look at jewelry and think, “I could make that myself.” While we beaders are always looking at jewelry designs and making mental notes to ourselves about how we can make them, people who do not bead do not think that way. Most women just want pretty jewelry, simple or fancy, and don’t have the time or desire to make it themselves. That’s where we come in — thank goodness! —VL
This article was originally published in the April/May 2007 issue of Beadwork magazine.
Viki Lareau is the author of Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry: The Complete Guide to Turning Your Passion into Profit (available at www.interweave.com). She has also taught business and beading classes nationwide.
For more advice from experts in the jewelry business, visit the Interweave Store!