5 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Selling Handcrafted Jewelry

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What was your first introduction to jewelry? For many, it starts as a fun hobby that grows into something more serious. When this is the case, there is no nice way to plan your business strategy- it seems to happen to you. Here are some takeaways you can learn from if you're just starting your jewelry business: 

1. Your Prices Determine Your Audience

I recently took some jewelry classes with a new instructor and I showed him some of my best selling pieces. I explained that my audience loves my mantra bangles but I have conflicting feelings about selling copper jewelry. I love that copper is affordable and a nice alternative to rose gold, which is very popular right now. The problem? Copper tarnishes relatively quickly. While I've been looking for solutions like waxing and including a polishing pad with every order, the copper (no matter the quality) presents complications. 

His advice? Start all over and build a new jewelry brand from the bottom up. That's sage advice from someone who has been entrenched in the jewelry industry for over two decades. Specifically, he said that an ideal audience will save up their money if they truly want your pieces. You put in the same amount of work regardless of whether a piece is gold or copper, so you might as well set your prices to reflect a collection that values your time. 

While I haven't completely abandoned the brand that launched my business, his advice sticks with me. In some ways, it haunts me. Am I doomed for failure before I've even really begun?Since my earliest days, I've started purging my inventory of any materials that aren't representative of my current brand. I don't buy any new materials that won't represent the brand I aspire to be. If I were to do it all over again, I'd definitely take my instructor's advice. 

2. Every Customer is a Potential Repeat Customer

Repeat it until you've committed it to memory. I've had a handful of customers that have come back for multiple orders over the past year. It was totally unexpected. Customers don't come with a notification that says, "Hey, I'm coming back for more." It's not always the person who spends the most that will return either. You can't know in advance who will come back and who won't, so treat every customer like a potential repeat customer. Not once, not twice, but three and more times the same customers have bought pieces from me. I was shocked every time! I shouldn't have been. When you deliver great products, you should expect customers to come back for more. That's what some of the best and biggest brands are built on. 

3. The Quality of Your Jewelry Matters

This is closely related to number 1 on my list of lessons learned. All the marketing in the world doesn't matter if your products are not able to withstand wear and tear. Your jewelry speaks for your brand long after it's left your shop, so make sure you can stand by the quality of your work. One thing I've started offering is guarantees for the wedding jewelry I make for customers. This means that I'll offer complimentary repairs, cleaning, and re-work on the piece for the life of my company. Even with the best materials, things happen. Chains break, people wear their jewelry while swimming and cleaning and a host of other things happen. Don't freak out when a customers lets you know that something's gone astray. Just be gracious and work as quickly as possible to fix the problem for them. If you're following the advice in #1, then this will make complete sense. If you're not charging enough for your pieces upfront, then it will become frustrating for you. The time and energy you'll spend working to replace and fix lower priced items will cost you in the long run. Avoid the problem before it starts by offering the highest quality pieces and craftsmanship that you can. 

4. Make Items You Love That Can Scale (Quality Over Quantity) or Be Willing to Sell OAK

What's your strategy for making handcrafted jewelry? Are your pieces one-of-a-kind (OAK) or are you prepared to make multiples of the same item? While I love making OAK pieces, my strategy for my first year was to practice the same technique over and over again- and make a little money while doing so. If you choose to go the route of making the same piece over and over, make sure you really enjoy the pieces you're making because someone just might ask you to make dozens or more of them at once. I had a few requests for wholesale orders my first year and I wasn't ready. Because of my lack of preparation, the opportunities completely slipped away. It was disappointing, but I had no one to blame but myself. What was the problem? How could this have been avoided? 

I wasn't prepared to make the requested products in bulk because of the time and skill it would have taken me to make each piece perfectly (or to quality standards). What started out as an experimental piece, turned into a "test" product in my shop and that turned into a wholesale request. Since then, I've learned to only list products that I would enjoy making over and over again or that I'm willing to list as one-of-a-kind. At the time, there was no way I was confident that I could replicate my success with my piece even one time, let alone 100 or more! Basically, I wasn't confident in my technical skill. That's where lesson 5 comes in...

5. It's Ok to Ask For Help... And To Say No

There's no way you can be expected to know every jewelry skill, technique, and tool when you're just starting out (or even years after).  Especially when selling to a global audience, be prepared to say no to some requests. If your shop isn't equipped with technology for arc welding, there's no reason to beat yourself up about it. Just be honest with your customers about what your current shop allows for and be comfortable with that. Don't drive yourself into debt or unhappiness by comparing your shop to others or buying every new product or tool based on a single request. Scale at your own pace and make the best decisions for your business. 

When things in your business get overwhelming, don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. The Jewelryosophy 360 community was designed to offer support to your business at every stage. As we grow, we'll have a wealth of experiences that we can share with each other so that you never feel alone. Not a member yet? You can find out more and join today by clicking below.