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How to Start a Jewelry Business
I Had to Either Start Selling Jewelry, or Stop Making It
How did I start a jewelry business?
For me, it all began with earrings.
I've always loved earrings, and this love has turned into my dream career - my own successful handcrafted jewelry business.
Several years ago, after two decades of buying earrings everywhere I went, I received a birthday gift that changed my life - a book called "You Can Make Your Own Earrings".
Somehow it had never occurred to me before that I could actually make jewelry myself - so receiving this book was really a pivotal moment in my life.
I was obsessed, and I sent for dozens of jewelry supply catalogs, ordered jewelry making supplies and tools, and began turning out dozens of pairs of handcrafted earrings. I made far more earrings than I could ever wear myself, so I gave them to everyone I knew and kept making more. It was the most addictive hobby I'd ever had!
Finally, when my earring supply reached critical mass, I realized I was going to have to either stop making them or start selling them.
And so my jewelry business was born.
But How to Start a Jewelry Business?
Okay, I was all geared up to start a jewelry business - but didn't know where or how to begin.
It took a bit of research to find what I needed to know, but I worked my way through the "setting up" part of how to start a jewelry business without any trouble. (It was actually not as big of a deal as I'd expected.)
Now I just needed to start finding some customers for my work.
Should I sell my jewelry at craft shows? At home jewelry parties? On eBay? To shops and galleries? Consign it? Wholesale it? Build my own website for it?
Well, I basically just jumped in and experimented with selling jewelry via all these methods and many more. I decided the only way to find out what direction to go with my jewelry business was to try everything.
I made a lot of mistakes, but I also had enough success to keep me motivated. And most importantly, I learned a LOT about what worked for me and what didn't.
My First Jewelry Business Lessons
One of the first things I learned was that if you want to sell a lot of jewelry, you have to make what people want to buy, not just what you like to make!
I found that I could sell a lot more jewelry by offering other pieces of jewelry to match my earrings, so I diversified and began designing bracelets, necklaces, and pendants too.
Another crucial selling point is accepting credit cards. I found that was my ticket to really big jewelry sales and profits.
As much as 75% of my sales are paid for with credit cards. In fact, the year I started up my jewelry business merchant account, my sales nearly quadrupled!
It's easier than you might think; I use ProPay, which is set up perfectly for small businesses and artists to accept credit cards.
People will buy more if they can pay with plastic instead of shelling out the cash right then and there, and many customers don't have their checkbook with them anyway. So if you're serious about making money from your handcrafted jewelry, it's essential to accept credit cards in addition to cash and checks.
Creating a Great Jewelry Display
I entered a few craft shows - and although it sounds like a no-brainer now, I learned that a professional looking display can sell ten times more jewelry than just a scattering of earrings on a tablecloth.
I also discovered that elaborate jewelry displays are a pain to set up and take down, and require a lot of closet space to store at home. I began to evolve my jewelry booth to my current setup, which looks professional, is lightweight and compact to store and transport, and stays loaded with my inventory and ready to go at all times.
Now when I do shows, it takes me less than an hour to set up and take down my display, and if a customer calls wanting to look at jewelry, I can just whip out a nice display on my kitchen table or in the client's living room in only a few minutes.
Here are some more jewelry display ideas and possibilities.
What I Learned About Jewelry Packaging
I experimented with selling gift packaging to accompany my jewelry. But I soon found that nobody wanted to spend money on it, and that offering free jewelry gift packaging increased my sales.
So now I provide a selection of different types of elegant pouches, boxes, and bags. This is an especially important selling point around the holidays. My customers are thrilled to get complimentary gift packaging with each piece of jewelry, so they don't have to go home and hunt for a tiny box and wrap the jewelry themselves.
I even offer to ship or deliver the gift for them. Anything you can do to help make your customers' lives easier will give them a reason to come straight to you the next time they need to purchase a gift!
Other jewelry packaging is also important. I found that designing my own earring cards and jewelry tags gave my pieces a much more professional appearance. I printed my contact info on them as well as specific information about the components I used in the jewelry.
Selling Jewelry on eBay
I dabbled in selling my jewelry on eBay, and had some spectacular flops along with some thrilling successes.
Jewelry is a very competitive niche on eBay, and success in the online auction market takes time to develop. To be successful in selling jewelry on eBay, you need to have a constant presence there, with at least a couple of auctions up at all times for your repeat customers to find.
And if you want to make a profit instead of a loss, you need to understand and work with eBay's fees and policies.
Also, you may find you have much more success with selling jewelry-making supplies on eBay than with selling your finished handcrafted jewelry!
Clear, closeup photos of your jewelry (or other auction items) are also crucial for eBay success.
Figuring Out How to Photograph Jewelry
In fact, great photos are essential to any method of selling jewelry online. I learned through a great deal of trial and error how to photograph jewelry and get professional-looking results.
It's actually not that hard if you have the right equipment and spend some time experimenting with it. Then write down the settings, lighting, etc. that gave you the best results so you don't have to re-invent the wheel every time you need to photograph jewelry.
I finally figured out that the cheapie digital camera I started out with just wasn't designed to take close, sharp pictures of jewelry, so I mastered the technique of photographing jewelry with a scanner. You can get some beautifully artistic jewelry photos with a flatbed scanner, and it's a quick and simple way to get great shots for your website, auction listings, promotional literature, etc.
I also learned how to edit jewelry photos with PaintShop Pro.
Eventually I did get a higher-quality digital camera, and spent a day learning how to use it along with a Cloud Dome / light tent to get beautifully sharp jewelry photos.
Profiting from Home Jewelry Parties
While experimenting with various ways of selling my jewelry, I discovered that home jewelry parties are one of the most profitable ways to sell handcrafted jewelry.
So I spent some time figuring out how to do profitable jewelry parties that are also rewarding for the hostess without cutting into my profits too much. Hostess incentives are important if you want to keep scheduling jewelry parties, but you need to be sure they don't cut into your profit margin too much. I came up with an incentive plan that worked well for me.
I developed my own jewelry party invitations, different party formats, and found that an open-house type of party with just light snacks and no party games or formal presentations gets the highest attendance and sells the most jewelry.
And the number-one way to increase your home jewelry party profits and attendance is to have the hostess call all guests a day or two before the party to remind them about it and secure their commitment to attend.
See more great jewelry party tips and ideas.
Selling Jewelry at Shows, Fairs, and Festivals
When I first started my jewelry business, a friend talked me into being in a tiny Christmas craft sale at her church.
I was so nervous before this little show that I almost made myself sick, so I never even thought about using any kind of jewelry displays or even a table cloth! I just laid out tons of my earrings mounted on earring cards on a bare table and sat on a chair behind it.
But in spite of my initial nervousness and lack of jewelry displays, I made enough sales to have a sense of success. I spent $10 for my booth space, and came home with $175 - which was a big deal for me back then!
I've come a long way since that first show, doing countless other shows of all types and sizes.
I've learned how to find profitable shows to enter, types of shows to avoid, how much inventory I need, how to market my jewelry before the show to get all the traffic and sales I can handle, how to prepare for a successful show, and how to work with the customers who come to my jewelry booth.
I've written a step-by-step guide called Ultimate Guide to Your Profitable Jewelry Booth, which details every tip and secret I've learned for having more profitable jewelry shows.
Selling Jewelry Through Shops and Galleries
I jumped into consigning and wholesaling jewelry to gift shops and galleries, and just learned the ins and outs of it as I went along.
I learned how to approach shops with my jewelry, to be very selective about the places where I consign and wholesale jewelry - and to maintain great relationships with good shops!
Selling your jewelry via shops and galleries has its own rewards and challenges. You may have to make dozens - or even hundreds! - of one jewelry design for a chain of stores. Or you may find a privately-owned boutique that loves to carry your one-of-a-kind pieces.
If you want to sell your jewelry through shops and galleries, it's important to understand the needs of these businesses.
Shops are always looking for something new and different to add to their product mix, to give them an edge over competing shops and to keep customers coming back to see what's new. Shop and gallery owners want something unique that will fly off their shelves at a good price, and they need suppliers (such as jewelry artists) who are reliable and professional to do business with.
Like business owners everywhere, they're very concerned about their bottom line - and how your products can help them cover their expenses and turn a profit for them. When you sell your jewelry through a shop, it has to sell twice - once to the shop owner who makes the decision to carry your work, and once to the final retail customer who purchases it from the display in the shop.
Learning How to Build a Jewelry Website
Customers and shop owners assumed that since I was in business, I would have a website. So I learned how to build and promote a jewelry website.
I learned that a simple website design is best, so that your jewelry stands out. Although neat, flashy website features are fun to play with, you should resist the temptation to put them on your site. At best they distract visitors from your jewelry, and at worst they slow down the page's loading so that visitors on a slow Internet connection will give up and hit the back button.
And most especially, do not use any background images. They make it very hard to see photos and read text. Just a plain background is best for your visitors!
Use lots of photos of your jewelry if you want to sell it from your website. You'll need big closeup shots, and maybe several shots of the same piece to show different details such as a clasp, focal bead, or chainmaille pattern. People won't buy jewelry online without big, compelling photos.
They also don't stay on a website if the first page they land on shows them nothing but a screen filled with text. Be sure the top half of every page of your site (especially the home page) has one or more tempting photos of your jewelry!
Profit by Teaching Others How to Make Jewelry
One of the opportunities my jewelry business has brought me is teaching jewelry making workshops, which is very rewarding. It's also a good way to profit from your jewelry business during the times of year when your jewelry sales are slower.
However, I learned the hard way that workshops are a lot easier for me if everyone in a group jewelry workshop works on the same type of project at the same time, instead of each person doing a totally different thing!
From jewelry workshops I discovered the market niche of providing bracelet-making birthday parties for girls, which is a fun way to spend a few hours and make some good money for your time
Besides group jewelry classes, there's also a demand for individual jewelry-making sessions.
A lot of people have jewelry-making wants or needs, but don't want to get into it on a permanent basis themselves. They just want to make a specific project or two, or create an occasional special gift to give.
These customers need people like you and me to provide the supplies, tools, and guidance they need to accomplish the project they have in mind. And they are very willing to pay for our supplies and assistance.
Helping individual people make a special jewelry project is very rewarding, and in the process I always wind up with new ideas I probably wouldn't have otherwise.
Continuing to Learn and Grow
In addition to developing the technical skills involved making and selling jewelry, it's important to keep studying and learning about all kinds of issues involved in having a successful jewelry business.
I have to attribute the biggest leap in my professional development at the beginning stages of my business to online jewelry-making forums, where I found a wealth of information exchange, encouragement, and inspiration, and developed online friendships with kindred spirits.
I think that if you have any interest in starting a jewelry business, participating in jewelry-making forums is a fun and important element of your success!
Another important element in your success is to keep learning and brainstorming new jewelry-making techniques and designs. Always have something new to show your customers, and work toward using techniques and supplies that are different from what other jewelry artists are using. Uniqueness is a huge element in selling lots of jewelry.
For your own jewelry business success, I encourage you to follow your artistic heart and think with your business brain. I recommend that you study jewelry trends and styles, learn everything you can about jewelry making materials, set up your business recordkeeping so that you stay organized, and concentrate on providing solutions to your customers' problems.
Don't try to make all jewelry for all people; focus on your own style or niche and build a client base.