If you’re just getting started in selling jewelry, what are your choices?
Etsy is in some ways the easiest — the barrier to entry is low — you just have to be able to take pictures and do some simple uploading and typing. On the other hand, you do have to be able to ship your orders one by one.
How to Make Money Using Etsy: A Guide to the Online Marketplace for Crafts and Handmade Products by the blogger at Handmadeology is a terrific book on the subject of Etsy selling.
Local craft shows are another popular option. The barriers to entry there are that booth rental can be expensive, and you’ll need a tent, a booth and to jury into the show. It’s helpful to have a friend or partner to help you work the show and helpful if you’re friendly and outgoing.
Consignment sales, where you consign, or lend your work to a shop, and they pay you only when they sell a piece, or pieces. While some argue that it’s not a good deal for craftspeople, and there are risks that are greater than with wholesaling and retailing, many artists and craftspeople include consignment as part of their mix. Low barrier to entry here – you just need good product and to find a shop that’s a good match for what you have.
The downside to consignment is that you put in a lot of investment into your product and then you “carry” that inventory for however long it takes to sell. Some argue that the retailer has less incentive to push your product if it’s consignment, because they don’t have cash in it.
There have been cases when artists have lost their work when a gallery went out of business while holding their goods on consignment. Recommendations are to visit the stores or gallery and see how things are going, as well as excellent documentation and contracts. See The Law (In Plain English for Craftspeople) for help. And your local law school may be able to help you as well. Or the Volunteer Lawyers for the Creative Arts, see if they have an office near you.
Trade shows are an option if your goal is to sell wholesale to galleries and shops. The barriers to entry are even higher with trade shows than with local craft shows. The booth rental will be more expensive and your booth design may also be expensive. But, if you meet lots of retailers and take lots of orders, it could definitely pay off. Then you only make what’s already been ordered — no guessing! There’s the possibility of doing fewer shows by doing trade shows than doing retail shows. Read more about booth design at the blog of Luann Udell.
In addition to Etsy, there are lots of other ways to sell online, including your own e-commerce website. This is the way to go, because then you control the entire experience for the customer, you build your own traffic, and the whole thing is branded to your company. Read more about that on the blog Smallerbox.net. Is it okay to do both? Sell on your own site and Etsy? I say sure, why not? But be clear, have clear goals and possibly sell a slightly different mix on Etsy vs. your own site. E-commerce sites are just not that hard any more. Square Space and Big Cartel are just two easy to use, attractive looking options. Big Cartel can integrate easily into your already existing website. Square Space is more of a total solution, if you’re starting from scratch. And you can even sell using WordPress.
Okay, so which one do I choose?
The bad news is you probably can’t pick just one. A successful crafts business most likely needs to have multiple approaches to sales. Some combination of selling wholesale, selling retail online, selling via in-person shows, either wholesale or retail and possibly some consignment. And shipping internationally is also a smart idea. It’s a big world out there, why not sell to everyone? Start with one or two and focus on those, especially in your first year.
What’s my mix? Right now, I’m selling jewelry and supplies on Etsy, and selling my Kindle book, Jewelry Photography, You Can Do it! on amazon. I also have jewelry on consignment at the Illinois Artisans Shop in downtown Chicago. Next up: approaching stores with a pitch to buy my jewelry wholesale. (Plus some other exciting projects I can’t talk about just yet!)
Speaking of my my ebook, having a digital information product or two is a very smart addition to your product line up. Digital products — it could be a book, could be a downloadable pattern or color printable transfer sheet — are wonderful because you create them just once, but you sell them again and again.
See if there’s a complementary digital information product that you could sell. Having a diverse range of products and price points is smart in any business.
The other terrific thing about digital information product is that you don’t have to go to the post office to mail them! Whatever service you use to sell your digital product — whether it’s amazon or Etsy or a solution hosted on your own site — the service generally handles the money and the hosting and handing over to the customer, the file.
Many of the smartest and most successful craftspeople I know have at least one digital information product in their line up.