Get Expert Advice and Instruction for Pricing Your Work and Selling Handmade Jewelry
A friend recently asked me how you determine the value of a handmade object over a nearly exact object that was mass produced. What a question! Our rambling discussion on the topic meandered through the topic of beauty in the eye of the beholder, intangible value, what kind of “add-on” value that handmade has over machine made, what is valuable to someone vs what might be considered valuable to someone else, and on and on–with no conclusion in sight.
Pricing handmade work is always a good topic for debate and an important part of the larger question–how to sell handmade jewelry. Pricing and selling handmade jewelry are two of the hottest topics in the jewelry-making world, and much like the chicken and egg, there seems to be no one-fits-all answer.
But there are great guidelines and ways to figure out the best answer for you and your jewelry business. Enter Wendy Rosen and Carolyn Graham Edlund of the Arts Business Institute. Their careers are dedicated to helping artisans succeed by selling the jewelry and art that we love to make. They’re reoffering their popular course, How to Launch a Successful Handmade Business, along with a specific course on pricing handmade work, Pricing Strategies for Artists and Makers. The courses are offered concurrently and are self-paced, so after you’ve completed both courses, you’ll have a comprehensive grounding in selling handmade jewelry and all you need to know about pricing it wisely.
I asked Carolyn a few questions that I thought you might ask her, and here are her answers.
JMD: I’m interested in selling handmade jewelry. How do I decide where to sell–boutiques and shops, craft shows, Etsy, my own website or online store, etc?
CE: I would encourage people who want to sell their handmade jewelry to explore more than one possibility. The options that you mentioned could include wholesaling, consigning, in-person retailing or selling retail online. Any of these could be streams of income that work together. Here’s an example: If you sell retail at fairs during the summer months, you might have a slow season during the winter. But, if you are also wholesaling, orders taken and shipped during those “off-season” months will help even out your income, helping to make your jewelry business a full-time endeavor.
When first starting out, I think it’s a good idea to get out there in front of customers, which is how you will learn who your ideal customer is and how to speak with them. There is really no substitute for face-to-face contact. Who responds to your work? Who buys from you? Ask them questions. Where do they live? What do they do? Find out what they like about your work, and what concerns or objections they have. I call this “retail research” because it will help you fine-tune your line and be able to create an effective marketing message going forward that speaks to that ideal customer.
JMD: What are the biggest mistakes jewelry artisans make when starting an online jewelry business?
CE: In the consulting work I do with artists, I see a number of mistakes being made over and over again. One of the important basics when designing jewelry is to put together a line which is really cohesive, with a signature look that is distinctive and memorable. Many times, artisans create “some of this and some of that” which means they don’t really have a collection that clearly belongs together or has a real concept. If you place your work on a display, would it be obvious to anyone that the same artist made everything? Do the designs work together? Do you have enough pieces in your line to provide the “wow factor” when seeing the collection as a whole?
Another mistake that can really sink your business is not having excellent photos of your work. Jewelry needs to be photographed well to make an impact and stand out. I’ve seen so many poor photos, with inadequate lighting, shadows, glare or inappropriate backgrounds. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a cell phone photo is good enough. It’s not. Your competition has outstanding photos which are professionally taken, and they are the ones getting into shows and making online sales. You work hard in the studio to make beautiful jewelry. Shouldn’t your images do justice to your talent and hard work? When selling online, you don’t have the chance to meet the customer and place your jewelry in their hand. Fantastic photos (and multiple views of each piece) are the best way to show your work to a prospective online buyer.
JMD: Formulas for pricing handmade goods can be found online for free. What more is there to know about pricing?
CE: We have found that pricing is one of the toughest challenges that artisans of all types face. I’ve seen “rule of thumb” formulas, too, such as multiplying the cost of materials. But what if you use found materials? I found, in running my own ceramic jewelry business for 20 years, that using a formula like that would end up with a wholesale price that was too low, because my raw materials were very inexpensive.
What we present in our Pricing Strategies course is a basic pricing formula that builds a wholesale price from the ground up and includes an appropriate markup to retail. But that isn’t the whole answer. There is also perceived value, and ways to add value, which can affect the price. We go deeply into those topics, as well as the flip side of pricing, which is controlling costs, becoming more efficient, using alternative materials, and more. We also address pricing issues such as when to raise prices, opportunity cost, the problems with discounting, taking commissions, price point spreads and more.
We are repeating our online course How to Launch a Successful Handmade Business at the same time. This course has tons of business basics and best practices that dovetail perfectly with Pricing Strategies.
JMD: Why should jewelry artisans who are considering selling handmade jewelry online, at shops or shows, etc. take these courses?
CE: We have found through running many in-person workshops, giving business consultations and in our social media groups that many artisans work alone. They don’t have a business background or a solid foundation in pricing, marketing, sales, and other skills needed to grow their small business. These courses are specifically written for artists and makers, with an understanding of the challenges involved, explaining concepts in a clear, interactive program. Our full-time job is to help artisans get started and become successful with their handmade work. We’ve put a lot of care into developing programs that work.
One great feature of both of these courses is the online Discussion Board, where students can post questions regarding their own particular situation and get specific answers written for them. Or, they can reach out to me and to co-author Wendy Rosen individually for input. This format allows for lots of Q&A and personalized attention. We are thrilled to be able to present these courses through Craft Online University, and look forward to meeting our students in January! –CE
These Craft U courses begin on January 18 and are delivered in their entirety on day one, so you can take them at your own pace and learn when it’s convenient for you. If selling handmade jewelry is a goal for you this year, or if you want to improve your existing handmade jewelry business, start the new year on the right foot! Learn more and register for How to Launch a Successful Handmade Business and Pricing Strategies for Artists and Makers.