Friday, November 4, 2011

Boy, do I need feedback!

At the start of October, I set these goals for myself:

1) re-think materials, techniques, styles, and skills regarding jewelry-making.  

2) shop differently.

3) work to improve my jewelry photography skills.   

4)  take a serious look at my business-model and marketing strategy.

It's a month later, and here is my Update:

1) Re-think what I make/how I make--Check.  Rather than making so many pendants, I started making necklaces, using chains and jumprings, twisted wire, using beads in new ways.  I'm doing less stringing of beads and trying other styles.  I'm experimenting with various types and colors of wire.   I've shown pieces to you to hold myself accountable, and I thank you all so much for helping me in so many different ways!  I appreciate each tip, thoughtful gesture, show of support, and offer of help I receive!

2) Purchasing Changes--Check.  I now purchase the majority of my beads and findings from Etsy shops.  I'm finding much better quality and variety, more unique items, and I can support artisans who make items themselves or sell beads to supplement their income to support their own jewelry projects.

3) Practice Photography--Check.  Each time I make a piece, I've posted photographs online for your viewing and feedback.  I've practiced, practiced, practiced!  I've joined "I heart macro" for more practice and to study other's photos.  I feel like I'm in a photography class and it's great!  (My thanks again!  Your tips are so very helpful!  Please keep them coming!)

4) Review business model & marketing strategy--Check,...wait,... (Alert, Trouble, May Day!  Going Down!) ...A REVIEW IS NOT THE SAME AS FIXING IT!


So here's the deal...  

I entered the jewelry business earlier this Spring with the intention of selling wholesale to local businesses.  I found a local shop immediately interested in buying and contacted my accountant about what I needed to do.  I already had a business license with my city for the contract work I do in my other business.  The State I live in doesn't require you register your business if operating under a sole proprietorship.  No tax ID # was needed since I would be selling wholesale rather than retail; the shop owners would collect the sales tax.  I would only need to pay income tax if I made a profit (not likely this first year).  (Don't quote me on ANY of this or take it as fact or advice.  I'm not a lawyer or an accountant--this is just my understanding of things, which could be flawed despite the research!)

So, I did well at first, but found it difficult to expand...and to find time to knock on as many  doors as was necessary.  My best customer moved and closed the gift shop portion of her business. 

Now, I have a website, (which I started early this year) but I'm not selling to anyone. (See a problem?)   It shows my jewelry, designed for local wholesalers, (and used to indicate where individuals could purchase the jewelry, but now essentially says to individuals, "you can't buy it.  Nope,...  
It's NOT FOR to YOU!"   
(Could I deliver a worse message than this?!)

I've known that's been a been a major goofed-up message to send to customers from the start, just thought it would be short-termed and soon I would be expanding.

Well, time for a business plan overhall.  What to do?

  • I've considered selling through Etsy, E-bay, and others.  I've been trying to read through the info on setting up a shop in Etsy (and while I know most of you have done it and I'm a reasonably bright person), it's been like dragging myself through a bog while covered in heavy mud for some reason.  (I mean no offense to Etsy, it's likely just my frame of mind right now.)
  • I've considered using a store front program through my website (but it's much more expensive than what I currently pay and I think it would cost more than what I would make), or 
  • just using Pay Pal buttons on my website and promoting the site like crazy. (I was about to go with this option until last night when I got notice that starting next month there would be a somewhat substantial rate increase in my monthly website fees.)  

Maybe it's a matter of doing a cost-benefit analysis.  I would certainly like to make some sales again, but whatever method I choose:
  • needs to be fairly simple to set-up and to manage/maintain so I don't get bogged down in the mechanics of the system.  I want to be able to get this up, then handle things promptly and efficiently.  If it's too complex, it won't happen.
  • needs to require a minimum of expense upfront each month in the event there ARE no sales.  (That was one thing I liked about the PayPal buttons. As I understand it, there are no fees until a transaction is made.)  
I suspect that will be the "tug-of-war" issue:
ease of use vs. expense.    

I was thinking that for financial reasons (and time too), I need to invest in either the website (and use it for selling) or in selling elsewhere (and get rid of the website).   I can promote through Blogger and other means (social networks, online ads, writing features, and still promoting locally with brochures and business cards).  I can use my money in better ways than a website that doesn't sell anything.    (I think I could use some good honest opinions on this though.  I may be being short-sighted...)

There has been some helpful information put out lately that I've been going through.  I'll post here just in case anyone else is asking themselves similar questions:

"Etsy Alternatives: Guest post from Brandi of CatiesBlue," Guest Post, Oct. 20, 2011 on "Simply Shiny Life: Opinionated drivel and handmade bling."

"Where to sell handmade online: List updated," Updated March 2011 on "Simply Shiny Life."

But I'd also truly appreciate your feedback, if you are willing to share:

1) As far as selling online, do you sell through your own website, Etsy, E-bay, or some other site?

2) Did you find it easy to start up?  If not, what was challenging about it?

3) Did you start with another type of online selling first?

4) Do you have recommendations for first-time sellers wanting to sell online?  

In the meantime, I realized there was more paperwork for me to file since I'll now be selling retail.  That really got me down because it looked at first like it might take up to 6 weeks for it to clear. However, I managed to jump through 2 hoops today and already have what I need back.  Still need to check on a couple more things Friday, but it may not be as bad as I first thought.

I'd like to use the next 2 weeks to make whatever changes I can to get on the right path to selling again.   So that let's say someone might actually WANT to buy a piece of my jewelry, there would be a way for me to make that sale.   My goals for this next phase are simple (yet they are what's been holding me back):  

"Just pick something and do it!"

Let's see what I can report this time next month.  My sincere thanks to all for your support,



We have a new follower who has joined us, I see!  I'd like to welcome Kym Hunter to our group!   Kym, please feel free to drop us a comment and tell us more about yourself and your interests if you would like to.  And always feel welcome to join in the conversations!   Thanks for being here!



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T... said...

hugs, Sharyl, you're a smart'll get it all worked out, I have faith in you :)

Krista said...

Etsy really is very simple. I think you will find it easy to open up a shop. You can try it without spending a lot (I think there is a small listing fee, but not bad), and just see what happens! I think it's better than ebay for sure.

Sharyl said...

Thanks for the "votes of confidence" coming in, and messages here and in my e-mail!

Krista, I think I may need an "Etsy mentor." I know you've done this before. Did I just hear you volunteering?! ;-)

(Just kidding, I know you are keeping very busy these days! Thanks for taking time to write!)

3Pearls said...

Setting up an Etsy shop is very easy. Getting seen is a lot of work. There is so much jewelry on Etsy that I feel like just a drop in the vast ocean. I don't mean to discourage you though, there are several shops that sell a lot. It doesn't cost much to give it a try. I'm certainly not an expert but would be happy to try to answer any questions you need help with should you decide to go for it.

Linda Landig said...

Have you considered selling on ArtFire? That's where my shop is. There is still tons to learn, but they have lots of guides and the forums are very helpful. Feel free to email me with questions.

Sharyl said...

Thanks to each of you for your offers of help! I'll be in touch as I continue sorting things out!

I appreciate the kindness shown here more than I can say!