Sunday, May 22, 2011

Business Tips for Jewelry Designers -- Part 1: First Steps

Also posted today:


One of the topics I've often been asked to write about is business tips for jewelry designers.  I'm going to share some of mine today, but please know they are just my observations, things that have worked for me, and things that have worked in my demographic (the MD/VA area) and for my style of jewelry (see it at Lori Anderson Designs).  This will be an ongoing series.


When I first started out in business for myself, I started out from a need to carve out a space in the world that defined ME, Lori Anderson, as a person.  I also wanted a way to express myself creatively, something that was still a very new process for me.  And finally, I secretly hoped I'd be successful enough to bring in my own money to our household.  After being laid off twice in the year of 9/11, I was rather tired of the high-tech sales and marketing world I'd been working in.

My background is incredibly varied, and my journey to jewelry making is a crazy one.  If you click here, you can read all about it.  One important part of my background, though, is marketing, and I knew that no matter what I chose to sell, whether it was the handmade greeting cards I started with or the jewelry I ended up with, I had to market myself and market hard.


The number one thing I did, before I even ordered my first large order of beads, was create a web site.  I could have a ton of jewelry to sell, but if no one could SEE it, what was the point?

I started out very simply, writing my first web site myself using Microsoft FrontPage.  In 2003, Etsy and BigCartel didn't exist, and even if they had, I had NO network of fellow designers to bounce ideas off of.  I was on my own.


(Note to yourself: don't be afraid to approach jewelry designers and bloggers you admire -- but refrain from your first question being where they get their supplies or how they make what they make.  Questions like that can put some designers on edge or on their guard, as knock-offs and tutorial theft has hurt a number of artists.)


The second marketing step I made was to design and print business cards.  I use VistaPrint for regular business cards and Moo for those cute little picture cards, but there are other options out there.  A note:  I chose not to use a glossy coating on my business cards because the coating made it too difficult for my pen to write jewelry descriptions or booth numbers for my customers.  And forget using pencil.

I also use VistaPrint for the postcards I have printed for craft show mailings -- a key marketing plan I use for each and every show I do.  Yes, it costs money, but I always offer a 10% discount on the postcard, and the shows often provide stickers for reduced admission that can be added to your card.  I find the cost of the mailing is more than covered by additional sales.




The next step in marketing yourself really moves into branding yourself.  Decide upon a font face, logo, and color scheme.  Fonts can be found online at sites such as DaFont.com and FontSquirrel (just be sure to check on any licensing or commercial use issues). 


I used Pantone's Guide to Communicating With Color to decide on my web site colors (it's also an awesome book to use for jewelry color schemes.)  I took those colors and chose my boxes, bags, and ribbons, all from PaperMart.com.  I ordered a case of bubble mailers, designed various sizes of my logo for online ads and letterhead, and I was ready.


So there you have it.  I had a place to send potential customers and store owners.  I had business cards to hand out when people complimented me on what I was wearing.  Starting with this relatively dull task first saved me from having to explain, "Well, yes, I made it, and I do want to sell, but I don't have a web site yet, but I'm still working on it." 


In following series, I'll talk about storing beads in a busy home, applying to juried shows, how to be a mom and run a business at the same time, and how to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, among other things.  I hope you've found some of these tidbits helpful, and feel free to ask questions in the comments -- I'll answer the questions within the comments section so everyone can see them.


As always, thanks for reading!




Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.






35 comments:

  1. Great info. I'm no longer making and selling jewelry but I will definitely share this post with my friend who makes beautiful jewelry. Thanks.

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  2. great post Lori.
    my problem is that i just don't know how to carve out time for jewelry. even though i want to, the day always ends and i didn't make time for my creating. will love to hear tips on how to do that.
    also, i suffer from terrible migraines, which i know you do as well. after being out of commission for 3 or 4 days straight in bed medicated, i have to then catch up on all my household chores and again, forget about jewelry making. how do you do it?
    take care,
    sandra

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  3. what you wrote spoke to right where i am at right now---stay-at-home mom for 13 years, wanting to contribute financially to my household, applied to first juried show, 42 years old and just now figuring out what i want to be when i grow up. i checked in to see about business tips (and thanx so much for those) but found much more. thank you Lori!

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  4. Wonderful tips, Lori. I didn't post a comment when you asked for reader suggestions for columns, but if I had, this is what I would have suggested.

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  5. Thanks for the interesting post. Marketing is the hardest thing for me. And how to brand myself. I know what I want to make, but figuring out exactly how to brand myself and then market myself just seems to elude me.

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  6. Thank you so much for this series. I have been designing jewelry for twenty years but have not sold too much because marketing is not my strength even though I feel I do make good quality , nice jewelry. I can't wait to read each new step, this is exactly what I have been looking for. I am on etsy and artfire, get a ton of views but no sales !!
    Thanks for your wonderful site and for the help and inspiration you give to so many of us !!
    Stephanie

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  7. Lori, you made such planned and well-thought out business decisions and really seemed to lay the ground work out up front, which has led to many of your successes today I imagine. I think that marketing background is an area many of us lack, so thanks for the tips you share in that regard. Your packaging and correspondence is always so original and professional! I remember how spoiled I felt the very fist time I received one of your jewelry boxes!

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  8. Great tips, Lori! I also started out way before Etsy or any of it's competitors. Ebay existed, but was saturated with jewelry and not a good option. I learned Dreamweaver and laboriously built my own website. I actually started the blog as a way to drive traffic to the site. Both worked well for a while until my website domain name was stolen and I was nev able to get it back. I had to switch to a less popular .net domain instead of my original .com and my traffic has never really recovered.

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  9. I think what you do is so wonderful, Lori - sharing your experiences with others. Your generosity is something to be admired, for sure.

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  10. Great post Lori, very helpful for newbies for sure. Riki

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  11. Lovely designs and tips.. Loved the bracelet of all..

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  12. Hi Lori

    Thanks for this post. I'm relatively new to making jewellery and I have a particular idea in my head for a new venture, but keep worrying about when to start it and which bit to work on first. This has pointed me in the right direction, and also made me think 'Yes, just do it!' Looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Elly

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  13. A great post, thanks for sharing your start up strategy. I found this really useful and encouraging.
    Deb x

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  14. Lori, this is amazing! Thanks for taking the time and effort to pass on your knowledge. Very generous of you. I also love the new blog layout. Well done!

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  15. Thank you so much for sharing your story, success and love of what you do...
    I look forward to following your series.
    Have a wonderful day!

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  16. Thanks for the great info - looking forward to more advice! Is it too soon to ask what kind of camera you use? You always have wonderful pictures! :)

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  17. On web sites -- it's always a good idea, if you CAN get your .com name, to ALSO buy your .net name, and have that point to your .com name. I have a long story about why I don't have a .com name, but so far, it's working for me.

    I use GoDaddy.com, and they send me reminders WELL in advance when a domain is going to expire, and they also have an option for automatic renewals via Paypal. So try to find a place that will send you reminders, OR mark your calendar EVERY year to check and renew.

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  18. Marbella -- the time issue will be another post entirely. It deserves it, since it's such a hard thing, even for full-time designers.

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  19. Christine, that's actually a hilarious question, since I literally JUST sold a brand new SLR that I thought was going to be THE camera. But my husband bought me a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 years ago and I adore it. It's a DSLR, kind of the middle, between an SLR and a point and shoot.

    The key for a camera is to know -- it's not the CAMERA so much as how you use it and stage your photos. You have to experiment with lighting, and you MUST have a macro setting. I used to use a tripod -- now I don't. But some people swear by a tripod. It's a LOT of trial and error. Just find a camera that feels good.

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  20. Lori, everyone has said pretty much what I think, so all I can add is a deep, heartfelt THANKS! I hope someday you can know how much your generosity and caring mean to all of us. As Cindy said, most of us don't have a marketing background, so your insights are priceless. Thanks for all the time you take to help the rest of the playground! :)

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  21. what a great post Lori! this will be a great series. i am looking forward to it.
    unfortunately i have found that most (not all) jewelry designers dont answer emails ( and i didnt ask either question you mentioned) and that can be discouraging!

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  22. Thank you for the great info! I am just starting out and feeling my way. But you and others are so gracious and generous to share such helpful advice.

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  23. Great advice Lori - I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up - but know it has to work around my boys. I also have awful time issues especially with summer coming up and I will have my boys 24/7.

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  24. BahamaDawn, you'll find that a lot -- but when you reach someone, it's awesome. Sometimes it's a good idea to watch blogs, listen to what they have to say (the tone) and if you're at a craft show, their personality.

    You never know where someone has been. Many have been befriended, only to be knocked-off and never hear even a thank-you for all the help they've given. Some feel threatened because jewelry is such a saturated field.

    Another place to find willing mentors is at jewelry classes, local beading groups, and the like.

    And you can always ask me, and I'll help any way I can!

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  25. What a helpful post! Thank you SO much. Some of it I knew, some of it I didn't. Lots of good sources with links.

    I, too, have a marketing background (and writing) so my skill set is already there. But somehow I got so caught up in the "making" I forgot to do some of this up front so now I'm playing catch up.

    But it's all coming together...I love VistaPrints! You can't beat their prices. And GoDaddy, too.

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  26. Lori,
    Great post.
    Thanks for reminding some of us what we already know...or should remember!! And some of us who know, but are still on the fence about just starting (finger points at me).
    Look forward to your future 'editions'.

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  27. Lori, you mentioned your camera and that is a huge problem for me. I cannot get the deep rich reds to be red or the deep cobalt blues to be right. My husband has a very nice fairly expensive Nikon and I have cannon elph and we have both tried over and over but the reds look brownsih to orange and the cobalt blues look a lighter dark blue, not the rich color the beads really are and I think it does affect my sales, the colors are not right. Do you have any advice on how to get the colors right ? Thanks so much !!
    Stephanie

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  28. Angelrose, part of that might be when and where you take your photos -- natural light (and what time of day -- you'll need to experiment) or in a lightbox. I use natural light but used to use an EZCube, and here's their info on how to take decent photos: http://www.tabletopstudio.com/jewelry_photography.html

    The other thing I use is a combination of Picnik.com and PhotoShop Elements. The Elements version of PhotoShop is MUCH less expensive than the full-fledged PS and will fit your needs -- but there are also online version, like Picnik, Irfanview, and Gimp.

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  29. Lori, this is such great advice!

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  30. Lori ,
    You are so generous to share your time and talents .
    I think one of the most helpful tips is to find a good group of friends to bounce ideas off of.
    And here we all are sharing and caring on this blog!
    This is AWESOME!!!
    m.e. :D

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  31. Good info. Thank you Lori for beginning this series!

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  32. Lori...thanks for sharing such wonderful info. Love your blog.

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  33. Great tips :D Thank you!

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  34. Fabulous... My sister & I sell under the name Two Sisters. We already have a blog- www.twosistersbeadwork.blogspot.com We've been doing this seriously about 5 or 6 years now, and we're just getting serious about 'branding' ourselves. I wish we had known how important that would be when we started!

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  35. I pin it all! Want to make a jewelry gift more personal for my mama ;)

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