Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reaching a Goal

It has been my albeit casual goal to sell at least one item a week for one year. For Etsy, it seemed a not unattainable goal, a sign of relatively good business, so it was a good number to shoot for. Naturally, I would like to be selling better than that, but since I sell more as a hobbyist than as a businesswoman, I'm continue with moderate success.

My first shop,, failed in this respect, even though I'm not entirely sure why. I think that the ice cream sundae jewelry was inventive and cute, but it just did not catch on. So I eventually moved nicer designs to a new shop to let a more refined creativity run wild. At, I finally managed to hit my stride. I've only been there ten months rather than my goal of one year, but I have already sold 52 items in my shop. Some items have been sold outside of the store, but others have been traded, so I figure it evens out.

I'm sure some people are asking how I did it because they want to manage it, too. The truth is, I'm not sure. I can list things I think may have contributed, but I don't have any hard evidence for any of it. It's entirely possible that the success is based as much on luck as skill. Anyway, here's the informal list:

1) Selection: My second shop did not really take off until I had almost or over a hundred items in my store. The key for me was variety - not necessarily something of everything, which would leave the store so eclectic you wouldn't be able to put a finger on what it was for. More like letting my imagination run wild within a broad category. My design series opened up whole avenues of artistic direction, but my personal preferences managed to keep even the wackiest idea cohesive.

2) Solid Photography: I know that I'm not the best photographer on Etsy, not by a long shot. I probably start shooting too late in the day, although I am partial to shadows. And sometimes the focus is in the wrong place or not sharp enough, but the thing I try to bring to each photo is enough clarity to see the jewelry in its truest form. My photography is unforgiving. If my jewelry still looks good, it goes into the store. I've had to put jewelry in the reject pile (i.e. my own jewelry box) because it didn't photograph well, even if the flaws aren't noticed in real life.

3) Style Cohesion: This draws from the previous two in that there has to be an underlying sense that these jewelry pieces are yours. When people see it, they have to have a sense of what the rest of the shop is like. And part of a way to do this, especially when you're as artistically restless as I am, is to stage your items similarly. Not the same - variety is the spice of life, and people don't want to see the same thing over and over again. I personally have established props. Sometimes these props change. For instance, I started out with one silver teapot, moved to another, then moved back to the original because I liked it more. I started out with one silver cup and moved to another one, then found the one I liked. I've stuck with that one. I started out with two books to shoot on instead of one. I used to keep my angles within the confines of my black velvet backdrop, but now I'm enjoying breaking the illusion a bit and getting some of the rest of the surroundings in as well. But it's all the same place, the same props, the same atmosphere. It's all mine.

And once that cohesion starts to come apart, sometimes you have to create another shop. That's what led to my second shop in the first place: I had nicer things that just didn't mesh with the cuter and even younger-themed items in my shop. And now that I'm learning how to wrap and weave wire more artistically, I may have to create another shop. The new wire-wrapped and wire-woven pieces just don't seem to fit as well with the rest of my things, and they're out of the average price range. So you need to be willing to branch out and acknowledge when something just doesn't fit.

4) Networking: I'm one of those people who doesn't like to impose my entrepreneurial spirit on others. I can do it pretty well on Twitter because it doesn't take up too much time and space. I'm getting better at being more open about it on Facebook, in part because many of the things that I share on Facebook I'm genuinely excited about as a person - a jewelry artist and not just a jewelry seller. And now that I've started wearing more and more of my jewelry that I make for myself, more people are asking about where I get it, whether I made it, and whether they can see what I make. Now that's a relative term, "more," but it's still accurate. A friend of mine has bought several jewelry pieces; a coworker bought a pair of earrings; my mother has also bought several pieces. I also give some out as gifts to friends and relatives (I keep to my gift budget, as if I were buying them the gift rather than making it).

Part of it is that I make stuff I would love to wear myself, so I know there's a market for it, for at least one person. :) You do need to be willing to tell people about it when they ask. I pass on the link to my shop without shame, which is a lot for someone who easily feels like they've crossed the boundaries of politeness. And you do need to be willing to use social media. I'm not positive how much Twitter helped, although it's probably helped provide some exposure and interaction with other artists, but I'm fairly certain that Livejournal and Facebook have made a difference, in part because people get involved in the process and the creativity behind the jewelry making.

You'll notice that I don't have a marketing plan or statistics. I don't look at fashion magazines or see what's popular or not. I go by what I myself like and want, sometimes inspired by things I see, and sometimes inspired by things I just imagine. Hell, sometimes I just sit in front of my beads and findings and just let myself go crazy without a plan. Since jewelry making is therapeutic for me, I figure that I'm getting something out of it no matter what, and anything might capture someone's interest.

Don't take my business advice. Seriously. If what I run is a business, then I suck at it. But I think I manage a nice little corner shop, my little niche of the handmade market, and I love sending out my things every week to other people who will enjoy them.