Business and Jewelry Art
To what extent do (and should) business concerns influence the artistic choices bead and jewelry artists make?
I’d say “A Lot!” But this isn’t what a lot of artists like to hear.
You have to market to audiences. You may have to standardize things to be able to make the same thing over and over again. You may have to work in a production mode and repeat making certain designs, rather than freely create and design anew each time. You have to price things so that they will sell, and you have to price things so that you can make a sufficient profit. You can’t undersell yourself, like offering discounts to family, friends and co-workers.
You have to conform to prevalent styles and colors and forms. You have to make things that will photograph well for sale online. You have to make things that local stores want and are willing to buy or put on consignment. You may end up with a lot of “one size fits all.”
You find that if you want to make your jewelry design into a successful business, you may have to compromise with yourself, your artistic drives and sensibilities. You may have to limit what you offer. In order to make that sale. In order to make a profit. And stay in business.
– Putting your artwork on a sound cost/revenue footing
– Developing market-driven strategies (as opposed to product-driven ones)
– Pricing your pieces for sale
– Implementing various selling strategies
– Compromising artistic and design choices, in the interest of the business
Over and over again, I have seen one jewelry artist after another fail as a business. The reasons repeat themselves as well.
1. A reluctance to learn how to conduct oneself as a business.
Many jewelry artists get so excited after selling their first piece, that they think they don’t have to get too involved with business principles. They understand their “business” as a “necklace-by-necklace” endeavor. Make something, sell it. Doesn’t matter what the price. Doesn’t matter to whom. Doesn’t matter if making the piece in the first place is in line with the resources you currently have to make the piece, or will drive you in debt in order to get those resources.
Artists need to focus on what’s called “Velocity”. You need to have in place sufficient strategies for keeping the money turning over at a constant rate. If you can’t maintain this rate, you go in the hole. You make something. You sell it. You reallocate the money you just made to reinvesting in more inventory, replacing the inventory you sold, evaluating the pros and cons of the sale that just happened, adjusting accordingly, and strategizing how to keep this velocity going at a constant, or ever-increasing, velocity.
And artists need to keep good records, and implement good accounting principles.
2. Gets Bored.
People who get started are very excited. They’ve made a lot of pretty pieces, and someone has bought some of them. But then you need to leave your creative mode, and enter a production mode. You need to discipline yourself to make the same things over and over again. Many artists quickly lose interest.
3. A fear of marketing your own things
You won’t succeed without marketing. Marketing is more than advertising. It includes all forms of self-promotion. It includes doing research on your markets and market niches, how to reach them, how to get their attention, how to get them to translate this attention into needs and wants and desires, and how to get them to part with some money.
Many artists are shy about self-promotion. Time to train yourself, if this is you, to get over it.
4. Trying to please all audiences
When people get started, they are reluctant to use the “No” word. They want to please everyone. But when you get started, you can’t. It will put you out of business.
Let’s say you have some jewelry that is predominantly purple. Someone at work loves the jewelry, but asks if you can make it in red. If you don’t have an inventory of red beads, and will have to go out and buy them, it may make this sale foolish, from a business standpoint. You can’t buy just one bead at a time; you need to buy strands or packages of these beads.
When you start, you need to pursue a strategy of depth, rather than breadth. You want to buy a limited number of pieces in large quantities to get adequate price breaks. So, initially, your designs will be limited, as well. You need to be able to say No. No to your family. No to your friends. No to the people you work with.
In my experience, such as the situation with red vs purple beads above, when you say No, the potential customer tends to make a face. Pitiful. Angry. Frustrated. Sad. Pleading. If you can wait 60 seconds, in almost every case, the customer stops making this face, and says, “OK, I’ll take what you have in purple.” But so many jewelry artists can’t wait that 60 seconds.
And don’t give these people discounts. They’re already getting it cheaper, than if they bought the same piece in a store. One major way your business will get built up is word-of-mouth. You don’t want some of that information to include extremely low price expecations that will never be self-supporting in your business.
5. Doesn’t do homework on the competition
You need to understand how other jewelry artists you compete with function as a business.
How do they define their markets?
How do they price things?
What kinds of inventory do they carry? What kinds do they NOT carry?
Where do they advertise? How do they promote themselves?
How do they define their competitive advantage — that is, all the reasons people should buy from them, rather than from anyone else, like you?
Where do they sell things — stores, shows, fairs, online, etc? What seems to work better for them?
You can find a lot of this out by Googling. You can look for jewelry designers. Directories of jewelry designers. You can plug in a jewelry designer’s website, and see where they are listed, and who lists them.