Business Questions

Below, are questions related to the business of jewelry making:  selling, management, teaching, pricing, videography etc.

What do you use to shoot your videos?

Added: 4/13/17

Question

“What kind of equipment do you use to shoot your videos for YouTube?”

Answer

  • I use my iPhone for all of my videos now.
  • I also use a lavalier mic – with a long cord!  I have found the long cord to be very important. There are wireless sets but, they cost way more too.  Also, I’ve yet to encounter reviews good enough to justify the cost.
  • I store my videos on an external drive so that I don’t fill up my Dropbox account or my phone. The one I use is called:  My Passport.  It has 2TB of data storage.
  • I have a chest harness.  Many of the Gopro products will work with a phone too.  Film in HD, whenever possible, at the highest resolution. Upload at the higher resolution.
  • I should do a video!
  • I also have a killer tripod: the Vanguard Alta Pro.  It can be used in a zillion different positions (well, not really a zillion!).
  • You can also purchase photo backdrops.
  • I use iMovie for editing.
  • Royalty-free sounds and music required?  I use Audiojungle.

Note:  The reason that there are so many Amazon links is because, I bought all of my equipment – except for my iPhone – from them.  All links are via my affiliate account.  By purchasing through these links, you help to support all this FREEEEEEE information and my YouTube videos.  For that, I thank you!!!  If you want to help more, just use the following link, everytime you go Amazon shopping.  This is my general Amazon link.  I never get any personal info about your purchases or know what you bought, when, how much, etc., I just get a small percentage of every item purchased.  This adds up, over time.  Every penny helps. Thanks.

How can I keep track of my inventory?

Question

“I started fabricating sterling jewelry and selling it in a local gallery.
My question is – how do you keep track of the pieces you’ve made?

I take photos, but then find it hard to keep track of them, and there’s no data attached.  I want an organized way to store the photo, basic info, date, stones/details and cost of the piece.  Anything out there that you know of?”

Answer

I keep a spreadsheet on Google Drive.  Here’s what it looks like.  I keep one general inventory and then individual ​gallery inventories.  The thumbnails are great because I immediately know which piece is there or not!  Not shown are date in to the gallery, date sold and/or date returned.  You could easily add a column for material costs and other things like how many hours the piece took to make. Craftybase is one software program but, I have no experience with it or any programs/apps.

How to price the jewelry you make

Question

“I was wondering if you could do a video on how to price the jewelry you make it would be informative to me and other another newbie jewelry makers. Some other questions I have are about the jeweler certificate, hallmarks, and legally stamping sterling jewelry.”

Answer

I do have some information on my website about hallmarks and stamping on precious metals. I probably won’t do a video on the subject of pricing your work because it is very subjective and a rather broad topic.

Yours is a great question and one most of us ask.  Some, like me,  wander blindly into the world of selling and pricing and other’s (unlike me) do their homework.  Good for you for being one of the smart ones!

Pricing your Work

Pricing your work is such fun! (Facetious comment!).

One method for pricing jewelry is the “materials multiplier method” (absolutely NOT an official term! I think I made it up). Jewelry designers/creators often charge from 1 1/2 – 10 times (or more) the material costs – it is, afterall, up to them.  One drawback to this system is, if you are using inexpensive materials to create complicated, time consuming works of art, you might not earn enough.

Another method to determine the price is by calculating time + materials.  The trick is to determine what your time costs.

Take into account disposable supplies, materials, overhead, tools, R&D, what you need to live on etc., when determining your hourly rate. There are many books and other resources available to help you in this area.

Here’s one book of many:  Crafts and Craft Shows: How to Make Money.

Never undervalue your work!

You cannot compete with overseas manufacturers.  Your work is handmade and you deserve a decent wage for all the training, tools, practice and uniqueness of your work.  I cringe when I see handmade jewelry sold for $5.00 or other prices that evidently devalue the time and effort that went into making the piece.  If you make a piece and it takes you two hours and you sell it for $10.00, you are making less than $5.00 an hour. That’s $5.00 without deductions like taxes, materials, tools, overhead, advertising, posting costs, etc. Read: “Pricing your handmade jewelry” – Jacqueline and I are standing on the same soapbox! (See Links below).

Consider my favorite line (from my husband):  “if it doesn’t sell, raise the price”!  What he’s talking about is perceived value.  If an object is too cheap, it becomes suspect:  why is it so cheap?  Shoddy materials, run-of-the-mill, irregular?  If it is pricey, then it must be valuable. If it’s valuable it must be well made and worth owning. It becomes an object of desire.   Look at how much women are willing to pay for a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes: $500 and way, way up!  (Shoes wear out much faster than jewelry too!)

Places to Sell your Work

If you are selling at galleries, the markup is usually either a 50/50 or 60/40 split (you get the 60%). Most galleries, these days, will only take your work on consignment unless you are a proven seller – and many don’t –  even if you are.  So, you have stock just sitting there and no cash in your pocket until it sells.  I usually only work with galleries that do a 60/40 split. Once, I found a gallery that did 70/30 but, those are as rare as hen’s teeth!

Galleries, at least in my experience, want new lines every 3 – 6 months or so.  I was putting 28 – 30 pieces in each gallery.  I was in 6 galleries. So, I needed to design and make over 300 pieces a year.  Now, I did rotate stock but, when I ran out of new and old work, I ran into trouble.  I cannot physically produce that much jewelry.  So, consider this when/if you decide that you want galleries to represent your work.

Creating multiples – cast items and/or components –  and a few new lines a year is a great way to meet demand – especially if you are being represented by many galleries. There is also the option of outsourcing your production. Besides galleries, craft/jewelry shows, trunk shows, internet stores, etc., there are also gift shows.  Gift shows can be a source of income and, there’s the possibility that your work could be picked up by a catalog company or a large store chain.

Sometimes, the most profitable way to sell your work, is to sell it yourself, with no middleman but, you have to do all the legwork – marketing, photos, promotion, sales, shipping, design, creation, sizing, repairs, etc.  This translate into a large chunk of time used for running your business.

Two Thoughts

My jewelry professor once said:  “If you want to earn money, make it in gold or platinum“.  Intellectually, this always made sense but, the initial outlay of dinero has always terrified me.  What if it didn’t sell?  I would destroy my budget AND I would be sitting on an expensive chunk of inventory.  Jumping into the pool of precious metals and precious gems is a scary proposition.  But, a jump off the high dive can create a financial wave worth riding. (It is time for this analogy to be drowned.)

Take the comparison with Silver and Gold:  Silver is (for finished products like wire and sheet) about $25.00 US an ounce (at the moment: April, 2015). If I use 1/2 ounce for a piece and use the 3X’s materials method, I will earn $37.50 for my trouble. This would make me violently ill,  ’cause, I know, I just paid myself less than 23 cents an hour.  But, if I used gold, at (about) $1,300.00 an ounce, the $1,950.00 I earned, would send my income sailing (just one more for that travesty of an analogy) over the poverty level wages that I earned using silver.  So, it does make sense to use pricier materials but, there is risk involved.  Maybe start with a little gold and work your way up.

Warning:  Ranting Ahead

That said, I hate that our work’s value is placed on its materials.  I hate that, what a piece of jewelry is constructed of, is more important than the “art” of it.   Our work’s value should be founded in our ideas, our inspirations, our skills.  Fortunately, there are many jewelers, out there in Creative Land, who do make really amazing money for their work, using non-preciuos materials,  but, but, but…one has to get to THAT place first.

In the meantime, is it considered selling out to use “precious” materials?  Do we plod on – working in copper, plastic and silver,  making sub-minimum wages waiting for our name, ideas and concepts to be recognized and valued?  Or do we buy the gold and diamonds so that we can make enough money to feed ourselves and perhaps our children?

The problem, for me, lies in the idea that really, really talented people will make 23 cents an hour because they can’t afford to earn more.  How do we change peoples perceptions about preciousness?  How do we shift the emphasis from materials to the art?  Maybe, we teach people about what goes into the creation of our work, place higher values on our labor, accept the preciousness of our creativity.

The Second Thought

Now, I used to be a painter.  So, don’t get all crazy on me.  I know how much it costs to set up a studio, go to college, practice, live in a garret.  My question is:  why can a painter get $5,000.00 (and a “not-that-well-known” one, at that) for a painting that he/she spent 5-30 hours on, while I, the jeweler, who has spent THOUSANDS on tools, materials and education receive $250.00 for the same amount of labor?  Why? My work is one-of-a-kind.  I can’t even make prints of it to sell for $200.00.

The really weird part (at least to me) is that you are able to wear my art.  You can show it to everyone you encounter.  That painting?  The family sees it, a few friends, the real estate agent, etc.  If you want to show off your good taste, what better way to do it, than to proclaim it on your wrist, fingers, ears or neck. (Heads and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…)  So, can anyone provide me an answer to this question because, I am downright confused?

I’m done now.  Just wanted to put a “precious” thought in your diamond studded ear!

On Hallmarking:

See: The Essential Guide to the U.S. Trade in Gold and Silver – Gold and Silver Jewelry for info on hallmarking (see pg. 4 for the law on whether or not to use a quality stamp.  Also, this article from Rings and Things.

Links: Some Sites to Visit to Learn More on Pricing and Selling your Jewelry

  1. Van Den, Jess. 10 Things You Must Do to Have a Successful Online Crafts Business. (n.a.). Create and Thrive.
  2. Adam, Timothy. 10 Real Tips for Successfully Selling on Etsy. (2011). Handmadeology.
  3. Klingenberg, Rana. Jewelry Consignment Percentage. (n.a.) The Jewelry Making Journal.
  4. ?, Patricia. Selling Handmade Jewelry to Stores. (n.a.) JMW – The Jewelry Making Website.
  5. Jacqueline Jewelry. Pricing Your Handmade Jewelry. (2011). Handmadeology.
  6. Klingenberg, Rena.  “Jewelry Pricing Formula. (n.a.) The Jewelry Making Journal.
  7. Jones, Tammy.Pricing Your Handmade Jewelry: Tips from Etsy Experts“. (November 29, 2011). Interweave:  Jewelry Making Daily Blog.
  8. Many, many other pages out there!

Here’s some info on the Jeweler’s Certificate.  They are important if you are wanting to work for someone else.  They are also for people who wish to advance their skills but, you can also do that independently.  If you just want to make jewelry, it’s not imperative to get a certificate.  There are plenty of classes available for upgrading skills.  It all depends on what you want/need. Many people enjoy the intensive training that a certification program entails.   Others – not so much.

Below are a few links to places that offer certification:

Hope this information helps.  Good luck and I hope I haven’t discouraged you! There are many people out there making their living at this craft.  There are also many methods, ideas, guides and strategies available that will help you on your way.

Back to Table of Contents

Should We Just Sell Our Jewelry On Etsy?

Question

We’re starting a small, family jewelry business and we want to sell our jewelry on Etsy. Once we get the hang of it,  we want to branch our and sell on our own.. or stick with Etsy, I don’t know. What do you think?

Answer

On selling your work (This is a very abbreviated discussion on this topic).
I’d take a wait and see approach on selling your work but, one that is carefully thought out and planned.
Create a business plan that includes costs, overhead, marketing, time and try to project what you may expect to earn.
You don’t want to spend a ton on marketing yet. Although, the internet is an affordable place to showcase your work.  Just remember that there is a lot of competition so, speak from your heart and sell your passion – not someone else’s!
See how your product does – check your stats daily. Add new items if sales become sluggish.
Start with an Etsy store or put your work into a local craft fair or maybe try some local galleries. Trunk shows with friends and acquaintances are great too and wonderful testing grounds.
Listen to what people say about your work.  Are they saying great things or are they talking about problems?  Problems with construction are an easy fix:  work on improving your skills.  Do they like the materials/colors/metals your are using?  If not, maybe upgrade/change your materials (and your prices).
On Etsy, it will be harder to hear what people are saying about your work but, not impossible. Pay attention to responses from viewers on the web. Like/dislikes, etc.  Sometimes, when work doesn’t sell, it’s because you are trying to sell it to the wrong market.  Perhaps your work doesn’t “work” for this crowd so, you need to find the right crowd. Maybe your marketing isn’t reaching enough people or it’s reaching the wrong people.  So many things to consider!
Often, in the beginning,  our designs aren’t as good as they can and will be – it’s all part of developing our craft.  If this is the case, then we need to look at what we are doing and determine how we can make it better without compromising our vision. Looking critically at our work is difficult and occasionally painful but, it helps us to grow and to more fully develop our concepts and ideas.  I know for a fact that I’ve made many, many ugly bombs.  It was hard to admit that they were failures because there was something about them that I loved.  The trick is to identify that “thing” that you loved, in the first place, and put only that part into the next piece:  each subsequent piece growing out of the lessons of the prior one.
Understanding that we are always growing and moving forward, shouldn’t stop us from selling our work though.  If we make interesting, well-made work, unique work, produce art that stands out from the crowd; then someone will want to buy it.  Finding the people who appreciate our vision is our goal.  Producing what we love is our joy and purpose.
Your Brand:  Figure out your brand.  What is your business about, why are you different? Why should we buy your work? Who are you? Do you have a message that you want to share with the world? Tell me a story. Here’s one, of many links, to get you started: Building a Jewelry Brand (also see additional links below).
 Marketing:  How will you market your site?  Some start out by simply posting images on a site like Instagram, Flickr, Facebook or Pinterest.  You can also start looking for ways to build up a following. “Like” others site’s, join groups, join discussion boards, etc. How will you let people know that you exist and where can they buy your work?  You have to find your potential customers, then you have to convince them to spend their hard-earned money.  Why should they buy from you?  Tell them why. Convince them.
Pricing:  Have you determined how much to charge so that you actually make money?  Accurately record the amount of time needed to create each of your pieces ( a timer helps) and then add in material costs, overhead, disposables like sandpaper, soap, etc., overhead, shipping (paid on delivering materials and supplies), taxes, etc. What do you want to earn an hour?  Don’t forget all the other hours spent designing, marketing, shopping, maintenance, advertising, web development, videos, etc.  Please see my web page:  Business Questions.  Price accordingly. Check out the concept of “perceived value“. (This link works – don’t know why it is crossed off!?)
Inspiration:
I love this quote from Ira Glass  (he’s talking about writing but, I believe, the same applies to any craft):

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners.  I wish someone had told me:  All of us, who do creative work, get into it because we have good taste.  BUT THERE IS A GAP.  For the first couple of years you make stuff.  It’s just not that good.  It’s trying to be good.  It has potential, but it’s not.  But, your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.  Your taste is why your work disappoints you!A lot of people never get past this phase.  They quit.  Most of the people that I know, who do interesting, creative work, went through years of this.  We know our work doesn’t have this “special thing” that we want it to have.  WE ALL GO THROUGH THIS!  If you are starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you do is: DO A LOT OF WORK.  Put yourself on a deadline so, that every week, you will finish one story.  It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap.  your work will be as good as your ambitions.  I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone!  It’s gonna take awhile.  It’s normal to take a while.  YOU’VE JUST GOTTA FIGHT YOUR WAY THROUGH.”

I’m just starting a jewelry business online. How many designs should I have and how many to make in advance?

Question

“I want to sell bracelets and become a proper merchant. I’ve looked online for videos and articles but, I can’t quite get a clear answer, as to what I feel has kept me from moving forward.  I’m hoping that you can help me with an answer.

I have about 14 bracelet designs, each will have their own necklace designs as well. Should I:

1) Have more designs than just 14?

2) Once the online store is open (I know they won’t be selling like hotcakes right away) should I have 5 on stock already made to ship? Ten?

3) Start making them at the moment an order arrives?

I’m still trying to figure out the pricing based on the materials used.  I need my sales permit and then I’ll be ready to launch. I would appreciate any guidance and time you can spare me.”

Answer

I think 14 bracelet designs is sufficient. What most do is to add new work every 1/4 or 1/2 year – it depends. You should be able to tell by looking at your stats. If you sell a bunch and then things slow down, add new.

When you sell, get people’s email addresses (legally) and send them out teaser announcements about the new line. Also, be everywhere you can on social media and announce your new work/old work on those sites. Get your name out there!

I would make, maybe 2-3 or each. Then wait and see what sells. Maybe one will be more popular than the other. Can you make the bracelets fast enough to fill a larger order?

To speed things up: Can you prep the components and then just assemble as needed? Can some of the components work for other designs? If some components are interchangeable, you’ll have more, almost finished, material on hand when the need arises.

See the question above on pricing.

Good luck!

For further research: