It's easy to begin to think that our creative path is just all leading downhill, especially when things get slow in the summertime. Easy to think that way, not necessarily true.
It's probably really going forward....incrementally. The trick is to get it going in a straight line.....
Instead of broken up in chunks:
When we reach the slower summer months---or for some, should I say, busy summer months? It may be difficult to keep focused and maintain momentum as makers of handmade jewelry. It can be particularly discouraging and hard to keep moving when sales slow to what seems a standstill.
There may be quite a number of reasons beyond economics why sales of your handmades slow down---in any season.
And while we talk about WHY, let's remember:
That's number one, most of all, when taking a step back and examining what's going on. A good attitude! Being positive! Our desire is to CONTINUE, not quit!
Here and there an examination of our business plans and habits is quite important. SO: be brave, and face what you're doing in the eye, stare the monster down. Be determined to be objective and do the work, if work needs to be done.
This is a list of what works for me. Maybe it will help you, too!
1. Run away to the mall. ????? Are you kidding me, a lover and maker of handmade jewelry, off to the mall?
Yes my dear, yes indeed. GO TO THE MALL. Go into all the specialty stores that carry accessories. Check out what they carry, and stop to have a good, good look. Chat up the clerks. Usually earlier in the week in the summertime, mall clerks aren't busy, either, and will be glad to strike up a conversation on trend.
One shop I enjoy checking out is Gracy Lane. You may find that you have one in your mall, it's a chain, a small boutique shop that shows only jewelry and accessories. Key lines are Vera Bradley, Swarovski, Alex and Ani, Brighton.....among other smaller names about which you may not yet have heard.
I hear you from here saying YEEECH. Yes, that would be a typical reaction from handmade designers. But, just give me a listen and let's be very objective:
Did you hear me say, "smaller names about which you may not yet have heard"?
Those smaller names are possibly designers who started out on lap desks and kitchen tables just like you and I did. Ever hear of Carolee jewelry? It's a big name, started in the early 70's. You won't find it in Gracy Lane because it's an upscale department store/bridal shop line these days, all about the glass pearls. But it was started on a kitchen table.
Another line you know, 1928 Jewelry Company, started in a guy's garage.
So yeah.....there's something to consider there.
WHY are those lines selling? WHY do they appear in so many outlets?
While the department store jewelry business is on a bit of a downswing, the specialty shop business is NOT. What IS there about a line like Pandora, or Troll Beads that gets them buying that overpriced product time and time again? Why do people spend so much money on ooodles of antique silver Brighton bangles? Why is Alex and Ani still so hot? You'd think that it would have had its day. IT HAS NOT.
The line continues to expand with more and more new gimmicks, personalizations, charms that speak about people and their interests. ANY of us can and probably have made Alex and Ani style bangles, sheesh, I carry the components (the expandable wire bracelet as well as oodles of workable charms) at B'sue Boutiques
AND: you can make them and sell them for far less than they do.
After you make your run through the mall (snap a few pix with your phone camera if you can sneak it in, usually they don't mind, you can say you are snapping them to remember where you found them. That's true, you're doing research!) ....go grab yourself the prerequisite mall Gloria Jean's or Starbuck's coffee, sit down at a table with a little notebook journal you should have put in your purse for notes....and your trusty pen.
Begin to write. Which lines jumped out at you? What did you learn? Hey, don't turn your brain off here because they are jewelry lines sold in a mall. ****People are buying them.**** You need to think about why, because there are points there that DO apply to you.
ALSO: take notice of the median prices. Best selling jewelry usually sells in the 22.00-55.00 sweet spot. Watch out for that as you schmooze through the shops.
Can you sell your jewelry in that sweet spot?
Keep writing in your notes.....
WHEN LOOKERS BECOME BUYERS
2. What is the gimmick, what is the thing that touches the heart, what is the oooh-la-la moment that gets someone to say, yeah, I'll fork over for that mall jewelry?
One is branding. How is YOUR brand doing? Have you pulled it together yet? Do you know what branding is and how important it is for your handmade business?
Branding is not just for big companies with major fundage. All businesses that want recognition on ANY level need branding. This means:
custom url or domain for your selling spot on line
Facebook business page
promotionals....print or online
If any of those branding points are remiss, time to see what you can do to shore them up. Personally, I need to work on my Pinterest boards. What do YOU need to work on? Great time to do it when business is slower.
Branding gives you not only recognition but cred (credulity, a sense of buying something of quality and worth the money spent).
THEN: think about this: when you make orders with your suppliers, what catches your eye as far as new products are concerned? New design elements, plating finishes, mixed media products, beads, COLORS? What? What makes YOU buy THOSE things?
It's gonna be basically very similar to what makes people buy that jewelry....or YOUR handmade jewelry. Really, it is. So go have a look, do the research, think deep and identify it. What does that jewelry have that yours doesn't?
3. When YOU are the designer, there is one big truth that holds the floor if you desire to sell your work. While you may choose the style that represents you, that speaks to you as an artist...contemporary, retro, vintage, Boho, etc....it's gotta be a design that people besides you will want to purchase, at a price they can pay.
You may sell a few pieces of work that you made just to please yourself, but if you truly want to make a go at this, you cannot simply please yourself. You will need to discover that delicate intersection in your design life that satisfies you as an artist, but also reaches out to your customer. This is called ARTISTIC GENEROSITY.
When you look at your jewelry listings ask yourself: who is my customer, what is their budget, are they buying my stuff to go with clothing, is it a gift, or does what I make have collectable quality?
Does my work have a cohesive quality? Do I ever repeat a piece in a number of colors?
One artist who has done remarkably well on all these levels is Lori Prull Meyer of Parisienne Girl at Etsy
I would encourage you to stop and take a look at the way she has branded her shop, put her line together, how it has been promoted. The line has fashion elements but works beautifully as a gift line. Many gift lines are timeless and work across the entire year, because everyone needs a gift....all the time. The whole world seems to revolve around events and holidays. Have you considered that in the way you have put your line together?
I loved this online promotion ( I believe it was sometime around Valentine's Day) that Lori crafted:
Check out the feedback Lori gets and how many mention the gift factor.
Check out her professionalism and branding.....and how the look all comes together across all of her categories in her store.
Check out how many sales she has made! This is all throughout the year, not just at the holidays. You can have a similar success doing what you love, by aiming it toward the gifting market, carefully considering color, and making lovely, wearable pieces of quality materials at reasonable prices.
IT'S NOT TIME TO SIT BACK WITH THE REMOTE AND WATCH NETFLIX....
Unless you stream it into your workspace and are making jewelry at the same time.
4. STAY BUSY. Examine your inventory. Is it looking tired, old, picked over? Maybe it's time to take new pictures, not necessarily have a sale. New pictures bring new life to tired pieces that have been hanging around.
Maybe it's time to take some of those pieces down and re-design them! Here's a video that might help you get your head around that idea:
Just yesterday I was looking at a hopper full of jewelry that I made for video projects, etc. I found this piece:
I had it on my Ruby Lane shop as well as my Etsy shop, when I had them up. No one bought it. Now it's time to step back and figure out why. Too much stuff on it? Too heavy? Too many techniques going on? We all have pieces like these that need reworking.
OH, I'M SO DEPRESSED.....WHAT'S THE POINT?
Come on now! Consider the time and money you have into this already! And you know what pleasure designing gives you.
5. CONTINUE CREATING. Just because it's slow NOW, does not mean it will be slow later. How many times do we miss the boat because we were not ready for the offer of a new selling platform/possibility, custom order, or just a busier season? I can tell you, if you have you are not alone. It has happened to me too many heartbreaking times!
I have learned that when it is slow, then it's time to check inventory, restock needed pieces, come up with new design work, and pull what you doing together. As long as a business has inventory, it is never dead in the water; as long as a handmade business has quality, imaginative components to use to make new stock, it's still in the running.
Even though thegarden needs to be weeded and you've got three weddings and a bunch of grad parties still to attend this summer, doesn't mean you should not have budgeted, dedicated time to make new stock, learn a new technique, and organize your workspace.
This video that JewelryDonna and I made a few months back about managing your supply inventory might come in handy:
CONSIDER NEW SELLING PLATFORMS and OPPORTUNITIES
There are many ways to sell your handmade designer jewelry. You may want to consider new consignment opportunities. Get online and find out what shows within driving distance might work, for what you do. What about home parties, trunk shows, and open houses?
Facebook groups are a great way to network with other sellers for new ideas, resources and encouragement. Find the best groups to join that suit YOUR personal needs. Narrow it down to the type of jewelry you make and what you want to do. If you belong to every group for the latest new component, idea, technique, destash, you will soon find that all you do is truck back and forth between groups all day and very little will be accomplished. You may even find yourself feeling overwhelmed and confused.
The worst part? at the end of the day....nothing accomplished.
It happens to me, too, guys.
I've found that I need to start each day with a good list of the major stuff that has to happen. While I do have a bit of trouble finding enough time to create because I am managing a supply business, doing a lot of writing and usually teaching or planning to teach an online class....I do get all of the most important things taken care of, each day.
I'm able to get things finished because of the priorities on the list. While I may have Facebook and other social media screens open all day, I am not necessarily spending time there. Leaving the screens open serves as notice for me so that I will not be long in responding to someone who needs assistance. It can be a distraction but I am beginning to train myself to keep it in its place.
I do like to spend a bit of time attending to my groups and pages each day and I do allot a certain amount of time for that. YOU SHOULD, TOO. But: unless there is a specific reason, I try to stay well within the time frame I allow for social media. I love to visit as much as anyone but, if I am going to get anything done, I can only spend just so much time there. Do your promoting first, then check your groups and friends. ;-)
JUST STAY BUSY
6. IN SUMMARY: J.S.B. JUST STAY BUSY! Slower times really don't indicate you have time on your hands when you are running a business. There is ALWAYS work to do.
My husband is a head custodian in a very large inner-city school system. His busiest time of the year is in the summer, when summer school is over and there are no students in the building. This is the time of year when desks are repaired, floors are stripped and waxed, restrooms refurbished, painting is done. He and his team are busier this time of the year than EVER, in preparation for the next school year.
We should be, as well. Our best selling season of the entire year will be here before you know it!
SO! Keep that great attitude....step back and have an honest look....do a bit of rethinking, even redesigning.....rework your keywords, promotion and branding! There is no time to lose. J.S.B. Just stay busy and you will be ready when the next opportunity comes.
Look! It's right around the corner!