Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sell Your Handmade Jewelry Post 1

Our first step in selling our jewelry in stores is to have a portable, well organized collection featuring our pieces in a variety of styles, colors and prices. This will allow us to quickly present our jewelry in an organized, professional manner that buyers or store owners can examine while you point out why the heck they should sell your lovely jewelry instead of the mass produced, identical (bad word) that most stores stock. 

Do you have that already? I didn't. In the past I put together portfolios of boards that had pinned jewelry to them. Which is fine, but didn't offer the full range of skill I had so I needed to invest in something larger.

These are available here for $95.
I purchased the hard rolling case so I could place lots of jewelry in it and know it was well protected but they also have soft carrying cases that are less expensive.
The rolling feature is a must for me as it hurts my back to lug stuff around and this is heavy once it is filled.
Take a few minutes to see if you have a local store that carries this case to save on shipping.

Now let's fill it!
I like to use a combination of open trays with velvet board inserts and smaller compartment trays. The combination allows me to arrange the open boards as they were magazine pages or a Sundance Catalog web page with complimenting pieces arranged with space around them. The smaller compartments allows for bangles and carded earrings to stay separated.

To keep your jewelry in place on the velvet open boards you will need u-pins.
Just trust me here, the first time we went out with my artfully arranged case, the company I ordered the u-pins from were back ordered and I went ahead with my case anyway. When we arrived the trays were a jumbled mess that just embarrassed me and wasted both the buyers time and our time by needing to untangle the chains and earrings before making the presentation.

I needed to go somewhere else for u-pins and found them here at Beadaholique.
(Stay focused here, you just need the u-pins!)
I use approximately 2 to 3 pins per piece so make sure you have the correct amount .
They are sharp and I hurt myself several times trying to hurry and poke them into the boards so beware.

I'll admit, this "composition arrangement" part is fun for me. I have often imagined being the owner of a shop and having windows to beautifully arrange. This is close to that task.
How you arrange your presentation board is up to you and your personal style, but keep in mind the Rule of Thirds to help you balance and keep each board simple rather than cluttered.

Once you have the case stocked and pinned in place, you need to create a price list and organize it so you can easily reffer to it while your buyer asks questions.
I start a word document and label it with the collection or color that indentified that tray.
I then purchased avery labels and printed the trays corresponding label that I could stick on the outside of both sides of each tray. This helped me locate the correct tray quickly whether it was placed into the hard case the right way or not.

Of course you can also hand write them!
I then listed the pieces in the pinned order of top to bottom with short descriptions and a price;
1.) Verdigris Waterfall necklace with handmade ceramic beads $75

For EVERY piece and EVERY tray.

I have a tendency to go blank when I'm nervous and this list is helpful in keeping me focused on the important details.
Continue on with your trays until you have logged each piece and its price. Print these out, staple them together and place them in a manila folder inside your carrying case.
We will be adding a few other important documents to this folder at a later date.

A few notes on pricing;
I hate it. I hate when people ask me for advise on it. I would rather give stuff away than try to figure out pricing. But that doesn't allow us to buy more supplies or help pay the bills, so I will try to do my best here. 
  1. I pay myself an hourly wage because I have years of experience and it didn't come cheap or easy.
  2. I charge for retail pricing on the parts and components I use but I look for deals, sales and easy to make components so that I have a higher profit.
  3. I have a list of overhead that is divided up to the hour for every month.
That means all the bills we pay to keep our business running is added up, than divided by a 29 day month and then that number is divided per 8 hour work day.  

So if you work 2 hours on jewelry and pay yourself $15 an hour plus $9 to cover overhead you have a total cost of $48. If you are able to complete 6 pieces of jewelry in that 2 hour period and the parts per piece come to $12, divide $48 by 6 and add that onto the $12. 
$20 would the wholesale cost for that particular piece. 
Now this would be different for each one of a kind piece of jewelry you make and you will need to spend more time pricing and charging for that additional time and rarity.

At this point I consider the percentage the store will be getting for selling my work for me and add that percentage on.
Most stores have a 40/60 percent contract and you would need to add $8 onto the $20 piece to pay them and still keep your hourly, overhead and supplies.

(Now this is a small scale example and your artisan jewelry should NOT be going for that low of a price unless that is its value.)

  But you're not in this just to break even!
So consider the overall value, current trends, uniqueness and presentation of each piece before adding your profit. This is highly subjective and takes a little bit of research to get it right for your particular style.
Adding professionally printed display cards, cellophane packaging, adjustable sizing, personalized options like birthstones, personal stories, meaningful quotes and other fine details cost money and should be considered when determining the overall value of your piece.

I have shared this link before but let me share it again here;
Dave is my main man in advise for selling and pricing your handmade jewelry.
His site and blog contains a huge amount of helpful, applicable advise based on actual experience.
PLEASE do not just book mark it but take the time to read and research something you deserve to be successful at!

Okay! So that is our first step.
 I am doing this with you and will give you time to finish these tasks before posting the next steps; Drafting a sales letter, assembling samples and putting together a contract.
(Don't worry, I've got a lawyer for this one!)
The next post will be on the 12th of June. This gives us 2 weeks to purchase our case, stock it with collections of jewelry, log our inventory and print out our price list.  
We can do that, right? 
Don't think about the actual face to face talking part just yet, we are not there and we do not want the sick feelings in our stomach to stop us or enable us to make excuses.
So we will just concentrate on putting together a killer ensemble of our awesome jewelry!



  1. Good advice! It is tough, but fulfilling to run one's own business.

  2. You're amazing. Thanks for sharing your years of experience on this one with us for free. It means a lot.

  3. thank you so much for sharing your experience with us..this is wonderful info.

  4. Thank you ! SO much. Just what I needed to get my lazy British bum into gear. I am just starting out & need all help I can get. Check out my beginnings on
    I am just starting doing Artisan Markets too. (EEP nerves)
    Thank you again

  5. Great advice Shannon! I will never forget my first visit to a buyer at a HUGE upper end store. I was young and did not know a thing and went right to the top for my first store! So when the buyer order a gross of this and that, I was like wow...but had no idea what a gross was....It was a great learning experience at 23 years old.

  6. OH MY GOODNESS what a huge amount of infomation you have here I am bookmarking this to reread. There aren't too many places here to sell but I would love to do a show or two to see how it went. Pricing is just a complete nightmare and I agree somedays I just want to give it away rather then have to deal with it. The hardest thing about your own business is just having to know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING...ACK ... thatnks so much for all the good tips and advice!

  7. Thank you Shannon for sharing your knowledge, I love how you said 'I pay myself an hourly wage because I have years of experience and it didn't come cheap or easy.' SO TRUE! Have you ever checked your traveling jewelry case as luggage? Is it what you would use if you were traveling via airplane?

  8. Okay, I can do all of that. I do have a major question though. How much stock should I be preparing so I'm ready when we get through with this tutorial. I'm small potatoes and have been lucky enough to keep selling out my stock word of mouth. I really have no idea what it takes inventory wise to take this next step. Advice PLEASE. Thanks so much.

  9. Thank you, Shannon, for your great information! I'm a long way from selling my jewelry but it's always in the back of my mind. I've made a note of this in my folder for selling jewelry so I can come back to it. Also, thank you for your kind words in the comments to Kristen's blog this morning. That was an overwhelming thing to me & felt like a huge hug! This is a wonderful community we're a part of and I'm grateful to be here!

  10. Heather, the case should contain samples of items you are able and like to make. (If you are able to make one than one of a certain kind of a piece make a note of that when you type out your case log/inventory sheet.)

    I will show how to create an order form that you fill out for your buyer and than go back home to fill the order upon payment.

    As far as how much inventory to send in to a store, that will be between you and the shop, you will both decide what you are able to send in each month and how much to show. (Keep in mind that an inadequate selection does more harm than good. Buyers need variety!) I will go into this in more detail when we get to that, okay?

  11. Shannon, you are fabulous and amazing! Thanks for sharing your information on how to do what you do :)

  12. EXCELLENT post. I had the same issue with the U-pins -- oh boy. Lesson learned the hard way.

    I love your tags - that makes your presentation look SO much nicer, and it's not too much so as to take away from your jewelry.

  13. Great info...I sell regularly at Farmers' Markets but have yet to sell at a boutique, this is so helpful and might just give me the push I need...this is great info and I will be looking forward to the next post, Thank you

  14. Fantastic in depth post Shannon. Thank you for sharing your hard earned experience with us, it's much appreciated.

  15. Fabulous post! Lots of info and inspiration to be organized~~~Thanks so much Shannon!

  16. I really commend you on the time and effort you put into this post! A wealth of practical information and your experience comes through every statement! I've always admired your tag idea, it makes a great presentation. I'd like to do that for the larger pairs of earrings. I know someone who puts earrings and pendants on white cards,(I like your pretty ones better) then stands them up in the drawers from an old treadle sewing machine. Easy pack up when the show is over.

  17. Great googly moogly, girl! You are incredible! I love all your tips, but most importantly is the pricing. I have seen way too many people not charging the true worth of something. That hurts us all. I don't care if you won the beads someplace, they have a value! You also need to value your time and talent. That was a hard thing for me to ask for when I started but I feel so very confident in that now. Thanks for sharing your years of experience Shan! You are the BEST!
    Enjoy the day!

  18. Thank you so much Shannon for such great advice and detail. You are so generous!!

  19. Thank you for the article. Excellent!

  20. Thanks Shannon, saved this to read when time permitted. I have the case, now will sit down to follow the rest of your instructions. Never thought of U pins, great idea. I use my case to carry my jewelry to shows and always spend many mintues rearranging my pieces I have to figure out pricing for whoelsaling, not quite sure how that works yet. Thanks again....

  21. You went above and beyond with this post Shannon! Thank you! That case and those trays look like the perfect solution to showing your work in a professional manner. Even though it would take a fair amount of work to get set up and inventoried, it would stay like that until the pieces were sold. Which would mean less work in the long run. Thanks again for sharing your 'insider business info' with us. That really was generous!

  22. Thank you Shannon. This is very helpful information. Your creativity and caring personality comes through clearly on your blog posts. I'm sure it will be the same when you meet with shop owners whether you feel nervous about it or not. Remember, they all want to be the shop who discovers the newest coolest jewelry designer. They are just waiting for you to walk through the door!

  23. This is one great post! You are One Spot On Chic! I will have to book mark this too like Patti. I cant wait to see how you do in Florida, there should be many great shops to sell in and your everythings are great!

  24. Hi, saying hello for the first time! Thanks for your insights...I think I would feel like a gangster going in with that huge jewellery case, and now I want one ; )

  25. Thank you so much for providing this wonderful series - perhaps you should write a whole other book on this topic! Maybe get some other designers to share their tips as well - this is much needed advice!

  26. This is great info. This is a subject I think about often. It is a struggle to price my work and still to feel competitive. To add overhead and pay myself it seems the pricing gets up there and yet I need to make sure I can stay in business. I find myself adjusting downward. Self defeating. Sometimes I think artists must get better pricing on their products and it does hurt those of us to try to stay competitive. This is the kind of help everyone who designs with art beads should read. Thanks Shannon.

  27. Shannon, you are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  28. Great advice Shannon.
    I purchased one of the aluminum cases last year and just LOVE it! Can't believe how much stuff you can put in it. I would shop around for prices though - mine was only $60 from a Wisconsin vendor.
    Nile Corp is also a great online source for display items - I haven't found anyone lower.

  29. Wow. Just WOW! How kind of you to share all of this information! I'm nowhere near ready to do this (too scattered with too many different things) but I'll follow along anyway. Thank you!!!

  30. Wow - really excellent post with so much good information. Not to mention sorely needed by a lot of people. You're a truly good citizen for taking this on. blessings - kvk

  31. Hey girl, I am scared to even get the case. help! I don't have cool tags or anything like that. I want to get into places other than my salon but I am afraid to because of theft and damage etc.
    I guess I should just get the damn case and think about packaging etc later huh?
    Shannon C

  32. Thank you Shannon! Not only is this helpful, practical advice but it also motivating to me to take the next step to approach small shops. My sister gave me a smaller case for Christmas last year and it's just been sitting there waiting for me to do something with it! Now I know what to do!

  33. Thanks, pricing is a real problem for me so this helps.:)

  34. Just came across this page and love this advice! I know the feeling of lugging around heavy jewelry trays and my rolling case is my savior! I really found the section on pricing helpful- it's amazing how some jewelers don't value their work and set prices too low. Thanks for the post!


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