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.