Monday, May 28, 2012

The Bottom Line in the Jewelry Business

Several years ago when I had barely gotten going on Artfire, I did a blog about time and artisans.  But I think that it is time for another one. No matter who you read or where you read it, there is a continuing theme about artisans and how they either do not value, or they undervalue, their own skills.  Going hand in hand with this is how we as artisans, think that if we get some portion of what we paid for supplies returned to us in sales, that we are doing great. I heartily , do not agree with that.

First of all, we need to review exactly what it takes to produce a piece of jewelry or any hand crafted goods.  We have many overhead expenses...electric, water, gas, heat, taxes, telephone..if your studio is at your home, whatever it takes to keep your home running, is also needed to keep your studio running.  Supplies do not magically appear on our benches to enable us to make what we want. ...wouldn't it be nice if they did.  I don't know about you, but I spend hours on line, first of all, being a very careful shopper, and secondly, trying to find that special piece of something that will help me to make my jewelry special.  Then there are the trips to the shops that carry my jewelry and at the end of a long day, I usually have to go home to some bookwork from the trip and usually make or alter something for one of the shops and that means a return trip.  Now, that makes my car part of my overhead and I keep very careful mileage and money charts for these "road days".  If you are on the show circuit, those days are like my shop days.

I probably spend one day a month, trying to find more boutiques to carry my jewelry.  These are frustrating days - owners are rarely in and managers don't like to come to the phone, nor can they make decisions.  I do not like to do cold calls, so I am always trying to set up appointments and that doesn't always work.  I get lots of information from the internet, and more often than not, the info is out of date or the phone number is wrong.  I have spent whole days without talking to anyone that I really want to talk to  -  so it's slow, frustrating and very time consuming.

Next we come to the computer - beside my Artfire Shop, I try to blog regularly, I need to keep up with my facebook pages, do my email, and show up at a few sites where I am a member.  The shop is the hardest, look at the amount of time that it takes to enter just one piece of jewelry, and that can only be done after the photos are taken.  I think that the forums are important and I wish that I had more time to build some relationships there..  Google tends to ignore you, if you ignore your you can't afford to let that happen.  I tend to use my web site as my catalogue so I'm not as paranoid about this aspect as I might be.

There are also 2 other time consuming factors to out businesses that vary from year to year, but are usually always there.  The first one is going to shows and taking some continuing ed at the
show and of course, checking out what's new to buy.  The second time consuming nugget is marketing ourselves.  Whether we do it all on the web, or we give a jewelry  party, or we send out emails or postcards to previous buyers, it is another time consuming, sometimes expensive proposition. we have all this stuff to do, and our "real" goal is to make jewelry, which we haven't done yet.  All of the above are part of your business - you cannot pay yourself  $10 or even $20 per hour for making a necklace and expect to cover the costs that you have incurred.  If you cannot cover the costs that have incurred, then you shouldn't be in business.  That is the bottom line, pure and simple.  If that sounds harsh, then I apologize, but you talented people need to take a close look at what you are charging and what you are netting from your talents.  If it's not enough, then raise your prices.

I read a fairly well known artisan who charged $60. /hr for when she was creating jewelry.  She felt that by the time she added everything in to her overhead, she was may be clearing $20.00/hr  for herself.. This was several years ago - she's probably charging $100.00/hr. now, and my feeling is, if she is, then God bless...I hope that it works.  I see women on the forums who have had a wholesale offer and they can't do it.  The wholesaler wants 50% off...the artisan has priced her product so low, that 50% off would break her...she is truly between a rock and a hard place.  Don't get yourself stuck in that same place. Realistically look at what you are charging for your product, and ask yourself what would happen if someone wanted a wholesale order from you...would 50% off leave you high and dry or where you should be????

Monday, May 7, 2012

Marketing Madness for jewelers

In my first life - i.e. before retirement - I was something of a marketing guru.  My husband was a dentist and I was the out of office, office manager.  Along the way, I became a national expert on computer implimentation for the dental office and that entailed allot of marketing.  I was published numerous times in national Dental publications, I lectured and I consulted on Dental Practice Management and Marketing, and I had a book on marketing letters.  I am not bragging here, but I feel I have to establish my ability to write about what I want to address here.

I spend as much time as possible in the forums on Artfire where I have my shop for the jewelry that I make and I am continually amazed by the people who make pleas to have people "like" them on Facebook and they will do the same back to them.  So they get lots of jewelers and other artisans to see everything that they put on facebook.  Maybe I don't fully understand facebook, but that makes no sense to me - I don't want other jewelers to see my work - I want prospective buyers to see my work and hopefully buy it.  If I could figure out how to do it, I'd be advertising on facebook...but it would be to a small, select group of potential purchasers. I really wish that I had the computer skills now that I had in the 80's - but sadly, I don't.

I had two sayings that I flashed on my screen when I was lecturing - the first was - " if you follow the herd, watch where you step" and the other one was - " Marketing materials are like bullpucky( I think you know what I mean, it ryhmes with hit) they do no good unless you spread them around.  In other words, take the less traveled path, do not do what everyone else is doing...and if you are going to invest in marketing materials make sure that they get out to the people  you want to market to and hopefully they'll be in a place where they will share what you are doing with others.  We had a series of letters and gifts that we sent to people who referred a new patient to us and one of them was a bouquet of flowers, but we never sent it to their always went to their place of work where more and different people were apt to see it, ask about it, and then ask why someone's dentist would send them worked exceptionally well.

We lived in a severly depressed area and yet we managed to run a practice that was more like practices in much more viable areas than ours.  We worked very hard at it and it paid off. Treating people well and following through did wonders for our bottom line.  Every business has similarities  and I think that all artisan crafters share allot of the same needs - basically finding people who are willing to pay for the gorgeous things that we make.

I wish I had a magic wand and could translate my dental business knowledge to my jewelry business...but I don't ):
But I do think that any artisan has to think long and hard about how they spend their marketing budget - both the money budget and the time budget. Don't spin your wheels marketing to your peers and make sure that whatever you do that it is in good taste, unique and affordable.