You've taken over your dining room table and your jewelry making gear is overflowing into the living room, kitchen and entryway of your home. Your friends and family are raving about your talent and potential: "You should sell that!" "Do you teach classes?" "Can you make me one of those?"
You're seriously considering the next step in your journey: starting a small business. Your head is probably swimming with questions. What does it take to realize your dream? I'm no business expert but what I can do for ya'll is tell you a bit about my own journey and give you a couple of tips. There's a lot to know but, in the initial stages, I want to give you a few things to think about.
This post is aimed at jewelry makers but the things I'm going to tell you apply to any small or micro business start-up.
Check out this article by Neovamp Jewelry: "Starting a Jewelry Business? 10 Things to Start Making Now" My biggest takeaway from this article?...the four reasons jewelry makers fail in their small biz efforts:
- lack of commitment
- lack of confidence
- lack of knowledge about business and marketing techniques
I've modified the above list, a bit. Here's my take. What are you missing?
- lack of experience in jewelry making: The earrings you see above, are an example of some of the first real jewelry I ever made. When I was a kid, my mom and I would make a trip to town, to the local craft shop, and pick out findings and beads for making earrings. I couldn't believe my eyes when mom wore these...she still had them! I've been making jewelry, on and off, ever since. When I got a break in child raising, I re-discovered my passion for jewelry making. I took classes. I made lots of pieces. I ate, slept and lived...jewelry. I refined and perfected my techniques...an ongoing process. You absolutely must be excellent at what you're doing if you want to turn it into a successful biz. That takes time...and practice! If you've just started out, with maybe a year under your belt, you probably have not yet developed the skills you need. Take classes...there are many online and probably some in person classes, in your area.
- haven't taken the time to develop your own style: Along those same lines, it takes tons of time and practice to develop your own style. Deep down, every artist wants nothing more than for his or her own spirit to shine through their work (Belle Armoire Jewelry-Finding Your Creative Voice) The style of your work is what will help to sell it. Customers want a little piece of you! Nothing pleases me more when someone tells me they can tell my work just by looking at it. Check some of my pointers in a previous post: What Not To Do.
- not committed enough/procrastination: If you've been thinking about starting your own small biz...you have the experience, the perfection of technique and the unique personal style, in the bag...but you've been procrastinating, perhaps you're not committed enough to the idea. Starting a small business takes commitment: time, energy and resources. I procrastinated for quite a long time because I knew I couldn't dedicate the time and energy it took; I was raising two young boys. Once the guys grew into young men, I knew the time was right.
- lack of confidence/fear: Which brings me to fear. Many of us are paralyzed by lack of confidence which stems from fear. Will anyone like what I make enough to buy it? What if someone criticizes my work? What if I don't have the mad skills? What if I fail? Well...what if you do? You'll never know until you try. If you're ready, don't let the fear of what others might, or might not, think stop you. Look for encouragement in your friends and family. Find a creative mentor to guide you and give your constructive criticism, inspiration and reassurance. I have several mentors but my very best one is Wife Whisperer. He's backed me from the git go...listened to my woes...boosted me up...told me how terrific I am...invested emotionally in my future. He's also let me know when I was off the mark and called me on it when I was headed in the wrong direction. Thank goodness! Your mentor doesn't have to be a spouse, he/she could be a friend, fellow artist or other family member. Choose someone who truly cares about your future.
- missing computer skills: In the information age, you must have basic computer skills, at least. The internet is a fantastic way for your work to reach a huge audience. The potential is incredible. If you don't know how to navigate the web, use a simple photo editing program, use a word processing program, or create a blog or website, there are plenty of classes and tutorials available. Don't get left behind in this area.
When I started out, I knew very little about computers, programs, or the internet. Believe it or not (wink, wink) there was no internet, when I was younger. So, I grew as it grew. I learned what I needed to get my work online and out there. I have to say, I did things a little backwards...I started with my blog (which is 9 years old...9!) where I should have maybe done a website first, or both a site and blog at the same time. But my blog has served me well and has been a more personal venue than just a website. I like connecting with my peeps!
I was blessed to be in at the beginning of the online class craze. At the time I began offering them, there weren't many high quality online jewelry making classes, available. If I hadn't developed decent computer skills, I'd have never been able to develop this part of my biz.
- lack of knowledge about marketing techniques, including social media: The biggest audience you will market to is on the internet. A website or blog, and an internet shop, will help you get lots of exposure. You should absolutely take advantage of social media. There is an amazing array of choices but Facebook is probably the biggest and most well know. While some of you are hesitant to join the social media fray, it's a terrific way to connect and get your work out there. My facebook pages, personal and business, are invaluable to me, not only for exposure, but for discovering and maintaining relationships. Like I said, I love connecting with my peeps!
You'll also need marketing materials like business cards, packaging, a great business name and a logo. Hand out your business cards to everyone. Get postcards made and hand them out at shows. If you're selling your jewelry (and I know you want to!) have your name put on your packaging.
- really bad photography and styling skills: This is really part of your marketing but is a whole subject, in it's own right. First, you'll need a decent camera. These days, that may mean the camera on your phone. I've taken lots of my jewelry photos with my phone. But, I do have a nice DSLR camera that I use for most of my photos. Let me say, I'm no photographer. I've always loved it but never had the time to pursue it. So, I've learned as I've gone along. Early on, I realized that if I didn't do my own photos, I'd have to shell out a lot of dough for someone else to do it. I'm a real diy'er so I learned. Your photos must be good! They are one of the main things that will sell your work. They must be clear and styled to show off your jewelry to it's best advantage. If you don't have the skills, take a class.
- lack self-motivation: To run your own business, you must be self-motivated. There will be lots of times when you'll be working your fingers to the bone. Then, there will be dry times. During those dry times, there will be things that need doing but if you don't have the go-gittedness to get them done, they'll pile up and you'll still have to do them, but now you're swamped with the other stuff that needs doing. One of my favorite things about my business is my flexible schedule...yep, I really do get a lot of my work done in my jammies. But, I have to set goals for myself or it's too much fun and games and not enough work. The work is what makes your business successful. Lots of work.
- organization, or lack thereof: This goes hand in hand with motivation. It's hard to get motivated if your studio is in a mess. And, yep, you do need a dedicated studio space. If you're serious about your biz, you need a place to work where the dog isn't chewing your hammer handles and the husband isn't able to grab your tools. Ditto, it's hard to be motivated if you don't have some kind of organized schedule. If you're feeling dis-organized in your head, it's likely to show in your work.
- lack of business knowledge: Believe me, I'm no business woman. But, I've slowly become one. By my own choosing, my business has grown slowly, over time. That allowed my business knowledge to grow with it. I know my limitations and my strengths and I never felt that business sense was one of my strengths. But business knowledge is something that can easily be learned...and I'm interested in it, so I learned. Accounting is another thing. As my business has grown, I know that numbers is not my strong suit...and further...I'm not the least bit interested. For me, it was smart to hire someone for this part of my business. Keep in mind that there may be things you'll need to hire out to have them done properly. You may have to hire someone to create a website for you, print business cards, design a logo, keep your accounts, file your taxes or give you marketing advice. Make sure you're in compliance with your state and local licensing requirements. Get advice and/or training if you need to.
Resources you'll need: time, energy, patience (it doesn't happen overnight!), drive and maybe a little money. You'd be surprised that a jewelry making biz doesn't require the financial investment that a lot of other types of businesses require. As you get deeper in, there will be more expenses, for instance; a good camera, computer, video camera, studio set up and, of course, tools and supplies. I started out with very little but acquired what I needed, as I needed it.
For a few more insights, check my post: I Built It-Art And Business Q&A.
I hope this was helpful for ya'll. I've been so very blessed in this area of my life and it's a pleasure for me to encourage you in your dream. Please, let me know what you think, in the comments. I'd love to know where your dream is taking you!