5 Tips for Marketing and Selling Your Handcrafted Jewelry

6 Oct 2011

One of the questions that I get asked most often is, "How do I sell my jewelry?" Even though I've spoken to groups about selling jewelry online and it's something I've done myself for awhile now, there's always more to learn and changes to keep up with, be it in online marketing, social media, web stores, or search engine tactics--or all of the above.

Online sites like Etsy (where my shop is), ArtFire, and others make selling jewelry online very user friendly with simple, fill-in-the-blanks web store options, allowing everyone (even people with no website experience at all) to have an online shop to sell jewelry. In addition to the online store itself, they handle the billing, payments, and even some marketing for you. But there's so much more to selling your handmade jewelry than the transactions themselves--and what if you don't want to sell online at all, but at shows and in boutiques? There's still the branding, inventory, marketing, shipping, packaging and displays, photography, and more--not to mention actually creating the jewelry!

 
Viki Lareau, author of Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry and owner of The Bead Factory
There's a world of information about marketing and selling your jewelry online (or in stores and at craft or art shows) in Viki Lareau's book, Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry: The Complete Guide to Turning Your Passion into Profit. Here are a few thoughts, tips, and ideas I've excerpted from Lareau's book, just to get your wheels turning. . . .

1. The strung/beaded jewelry I sell online is made for a very specific customer with a very specific style. Most of it is simple and elegant, very feminine, classic and bordering on preppy. It's made for "girly girls" like me to wear with pretty dresses at parties in the summery South--at least that's the idea I have in my mind when I make it! My company name (Southern Baubelles), logo imagery (an antique iron fence at a plantation house in Louisiana), product images (earrings are shot on peaches, etc.), packaging (adorned with a paper flower and a mother-of-pearl button), and marketing copy (lots of "y'alls") are all a result of that very specific vision. According to Lareau, this is where to begin. "If you put all your jewelry out on a table and had to describe its look or style, what words would come to mind? Contemporary? Art Deco? Vintage? Ethnic? Edgy? Playful? Being able to define your style verbally and in writing is one of the first steps in building your jewelry business." Lareau emphasizes that clearly defining your style "determines who your typical customer is and will help you keep a clear focus. It's very difficult to sell a product if you don't know who you're selling it to. Your style will determine every decision you make about your business: the name, the logo, the promotional material you produce, the type of shows you do, the displays you create, the stores and galleries you approach."

2. Here's an exercise to get you started: "Try selling jewelry at a local craft show--the smallest show you can find, your church bazaar, your kid's school fair, or your town's local weekend market.. This type of show should be very inexpensive, $20 to $40 for a table or booth, so that you can at least make your fee back. Don't think of it as a money-making endeavor, though, but more as research. You need to really listen to folks, see which pieces they're commenting on, which they are ignoring. Many times the pieces that are not your personal favorites will be the most popular. Discover what styles resonate with the public. Even if you end up going for a different demographic, this experience will help you immensely in thinking about your professional path and what type of jewelry you want to focus on."

 
Viki recommends hosting a home jewelry party (marketed by postcards like these) to see how customers react to your pieces and to get started selling your handmade jewelry.
3. Lareau's advice for selling beyond jewelry and craft shows or websites: "Creating a special niche for your jewelry . . . will give you unique and targeted marketing opportunities. For instance: If you do a line of semiprecious stone jewelry and choose to market on the healing properties of the stones, then you could approach New Age shows or stores. If you do floral themes in seed beading or precious metal clay (PMC), you can approach florists or floral shows. If you focus on jewelry for men, you can market your work to hip men's boutiques."

4. This one really speaks to me--it's something I have to remind myself regularly: "Don't overestimate your potential customer. You might go into a department store and see the simplest earrings on the rack for $45 and think 'I could make that.' Well, most people don't think that way. Most people want to buy their jewelry already made, and that's where you come in."

5. My biggest fear is that a piece will break while a customer is wearing it. Lareau stresses the importance of creating quality jewelry and recommends that you "wear any new designs yourself for a few days to see how the piece lies around the neck or on the wrist and how comfortable it is, so you can make any changes before you take that design to market." 

 
This is just the tip of a very big iceberg! For more in-depth information about selling the jewelry you make, get Viki Lareau's book, Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry (in print or instant eBook download). She provides proven practices and tips for pricing your work, selling at craft and art shows as well as wholesale jewelry selling, selling online and on eBay, marketing (online and otherwise)--and then managing your jewelry business once the ball gets rolling.

Lareau shares the stories behind independent jewelry brands that you've probably seen in stores, and you won't want to miss her own story about starting The Bead Factory with her husband and all of her successes, failures, and lessons learned along the way, including why you need to care whether celebrities are wearing jewelry. She also provides a great list of websites for selling online and resources for small businesses, too. It's a must-have resource for anyone interested in selling your handmade jewelry.

Do you sell your jewelry online or at craft shows? I'd love to know what works for you and what you don't recommend. Please share your tips and suggestions below!


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Comments

Jorry wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 9:50 AM

I just started selling my jewelry at a shop where everything is made by local crafters in my town. Most of my pieces are made with brass filigree, chains, Czech beads and brass findings. I'm really excited about this, but a little anxious too. The owner of the shop assured me that my pieces would sell, and to go home and make more! I hope she's right. Wish me luck!

Dita Basu wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 10:58 AM

I had a show this weekend.  I make knitted wire jewelry.  Many commented that they were unique and have not seen this type much around.  I sold a viking knit bracelet.  But I did not sell a lot.  I sold more when the bracelets are priced around $30 but learning about pricing I think that does not cover me or will not cover me in near future.  I am a bit confused if I should stick to the formula or lower the price

AspenSoleil wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 11:37 AM

Hi! Thank you for your great article. I do online marketing for my job, including social media, but it is so hard when it comes to marketing myself :) I have set up the following, as I just started my jewelry business last month: Etsy shop, Facebook page, twitter account, and blog. I find that etsy, twitter and my wordpress blog help with free search engine feeds. Currently though, my personal Facebook page has brought me the most business! It is a learning process for sure!!! I am also going to create moo cards so that I can send them with purchases to my blog http:/;/www.aspensoleil.com (this is my hub/portal of entry for all my marketing efforts).  look for me as Aspen Soleil if you want to see what I have done. I think now it is going to be about putting out unique high quality designs + keeping with the momentum. Good luck to everybody!!!!!!

gotsparkles wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 12:17 PM

Fabulous article!  As a professional jewelry designer, I wholeheartedly recommend testing your products at local art fairs a couple of times to gauge your designs, prices, etc. (Do customers frequently pick up a look at a piece, but not buy it? Either take a peek at how you priced the piece, or provide more explanation / education about the materials, process, etc...)  

I would add to the author's tips that knowing  your demographic is.  Are you aiming at a feminine, girly buyer (as the author notes), or is your demographic a bolder, more urban customer.  What is their buying power, spending habits, etc.  From there, you can market directly to your target customer and even choose which fairs and locations are best suited to your jewelry.

gotsparkles wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 12:27 PM

If I could add one more comment, especially in response to the comment(s) about pricing...  

I purchased some jewelry pricing software (wont' mention brand here, but a search on the web should come up with several options) which allows me to create a "recipe" for each piece, listing the parts I used like ingredients.  From there, I would add my labor to the overall cost.  This at least gave me a point from which to start my pricing.  If a piece sells quickly several times in a row, I know I can bump it up a bit. If it doesn't, then I either need to educate the customer more or I need to drop the price a bit if I can't demonstrate or justify the higher pricetag.

TammyJones wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 1:08 PM

Hello friends! Thank you all for sharing your stories and tips. Your great suggestions and wonderful advice will help us all be more successful with online jewelry sales. Thank you for sharing and thanks for reading JMD! Good luck with selling your jewelry!

DreamBird wrote
on 7 Oct 2011 3:57 PM

Thank you for the excellent article!  I've already read Viki's book, but needed the reminder... especially regarding idea #1.  Although I've been designing and making jewelry for 11 years, and have had some success with sales, I still struggle to define (and limit!) my style.  I know that if I could do this better, It would help me to focus my marketing plan and grow my business.  

Here's the problem:  my own style tends to be more edgy and urban, yet most of my designs seem to be more feminine and classic.  My inspiration comes from so many different sources, I have trouble limiting myself when it comes time to actually design and make jewelry.  There are certain elements to my designs that make them identifiable (symmetry, restrained use of color, geometric designs, perfectionism re: craftsmanship, etc.) but they definitely would not all appeal to the same customer!  I often get inspired to put my own spin on a fashion trend, and make something edgy and cool, but when I sit down at my work table, out comes the inner girly-girl who grabs the pearls and brightly-colored crystals.

Does anyone have a suggestion they would be willing to share?  

tkdesigns wrote
on 10 Oct 2011 11:33 AM

Just a quick note on trying out your new pieces before you put them out for sale.  I have done this for some time now and have discovered that some of the clasps I used would not stay closed.  I like toggle clasps and some are not made quite right to stay closed, unless you stay perfectly still.  Even some of the more expensive or brand name ones just don't work right.  Much better to find out before a customer tries it on and has it fall off due to a faulty clasp.

on 17 Jul 2012 12:13 PM

Thank you for the info. I am just starting out with my jewelry making and need as much info as possible for being successful online. I had not thought about finding a niche, so I will have to think about that. Any info is greatly appreciated. Being disabled, I can not set up at outings, so online is the way to go for me.

akshat112 wrote
on 19 Feb 2014 7:26 AM

According to me, the best place to sell Jeweleries is ListingDock.

You can list your jewellery in the specialized category of Jewellery and get more sales.

The category is: <a href="listingdock.com/.../Handmade-Jewelry">Handmade Jewelry</a>

akshat112 wrote
on 19 Feb 2014 7:54 AM

According to me, the best place to sell Jeweleries is ListingDock.

You can list your jewellery in the specialized category of Jewellery and get more sales.

The category is: listingdock.com/.../Handmade-Jewelry