Your Handmade Jewelry: Lots of Great Feedback but Too Few Sales

I receive a lot of handmade business questions from my Handmade Business Bites newsletter readers. Here's one of the most common questions.

Lots of Great Response but Too Few Sales?

This question and all its variations is so common that I would be willing to be that 95% of people who send in questions are in a similar boat.

I have what I call a fledgling jewellery business, trying to get from hobby to business. My problem is I am not selling any where near enough. I have three of four online outlets and a facebook page. I am getting great comments but this is not turning into paying customers.

How To Sell More of What You Make

Here was my response:

Your question in particular is very common, and the answer is very complex.

I took a quick look at your business, and I think that the problem you face will become best solved by switching from a "how to sell more" perspective to "what do people want to buy" perspective.

The answer to your question will then become a matter of finding a balance between satisfying your need to find joy and passion in what you make, while also satisfying the very practical need of selling.

The real answer then will ultimately be different for each business. To find the answer for YOU, you'll need to work through a process.

If you don't know how to go about the process of balancing passion with business reality, then I recommend joining me in the Great Jewelry Business Experiment.

So that was my answer. Now you are probably wondering what is this Great Jewelry Business Experiment of which I speak?

The Great Jewelry Business Experiment. What Is it?

The GJBE is my personal experiment to create a handmade jewelry business from scratch and make it successful. I'll be sharing my strategy and discuss what I'm doing and how I'm going about it as I go along. The whole experiment will be very candid and open so you can see the process firsthand.

The first part of my experiment will be to create a "foundation". This is where I'll be working through the very process of looking at what people want to buy and what I like to make, and discovering a common ground to build my business upon.

I've been brainstorming the GJB experiment logistics this morning in light of everyone's questions and concerns and it's looking pretty exciting, although my time limitations are going to be a little daunting.

Nonetheless, where there's a will there's a way :)

FYI There will be a small cost to joining, and this is for a number of reasons. First of all, I want to keep out the simply curious, and there is also the reality that it costs me money to create, run and maintain a membership site so I can share the experiment process with you.

The bigger reason, the reason that will be most important for you, is something called called "external motivation". This means that when you pay a fee you creative an incentive for yourself to work through the process. People don't try very hard if something is free. You're much more likely to take action if you pay for it, or if you suffer from some externally produced pain by not taking action.

I'm the queen of external motivation. Why do you think I'm running this experiment this way? I need people watching to motivate me to work on it too :)

Details on when we begin and how to join will be coming up as soon as I can set it up.

Update: I'm taking pre-registrations for the Great Jewelry Business Experiment for 2 Days Only. If 100 people pre-register at $10 per month we will start the Great Jewelry Business Experiment on Jan. 29, 2013.

Register before Monday, Jan 21st at noon Pacific time to get in on this one-time opportunity.

Best,

Christine Gierer (yes, my real signature.)

P.S. Can you do me a favour? I'd love to get your feedback on what I just said about both the GJBE, and about everything else in the post. Can you comment below please?

P.S. If you liked this post, can you tweet this? Click to Tweet

About the Author

Christine image
Christine Gierer is the owner and creator of HandmadeResults.com. With a focus on internet marketing and business fundamentals, not wasting time on stuff that doesn't work, and good 'ol commonsense, she loves helping jewelry makers make strides building their successful online businesses.
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16 Comments

  1. Leoni Nicholson
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    thanks for your words of wisdom, I look forward to your GJBE course.
    cheers

  2. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m eager to watch and see how you go about this. I’m with the rest of them. Lots of comments but very few sales. No sales, no products, etc. etc… Looking forward to your experiment!

  3. Betsy
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Let me split hairs a little. I don’t disagree, but I’d like to offer a variation on a theme. Rather than focusing on what other people want, I’m trying to position the challenge as finding ways to reach the people who want what I want to make. I don’t want to “dumb down” my art to find the low-hanging fruit of customers any more than I want to encourage girls to dress a certain way to attract boys in high school. Be yourself. And if yourself isn’t what the masses want, that’s ok. But find ways to reach the audience you’re looking for. It may end up being a quality vs. quantity shift. That’s not saying this is the answer for everybody, but this is the challenge I’ve given myself. For instance, I don’t do “bling” or “cute”. I could, but it’s not me. If my objective is just to sell stuff, fine. Bring on the glitter and sequins. But somewhere out there are people (and I do have customers) who like my expression. I just need to find more of them.

    • Christine
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Great points Betsy,
      Thanks so much for pointing this out. Yes, I agree. As I see it, the challenge isn’t really about low hanging fruit, because I’m not sure there really is any left at least where handmade jewelry made by us in the west is concerned. We just can’t afford to compete for the low hanging fruit (which I assume you mean is the masses). To succeed in a handmade jewelry business I think you need to target a very specific market (meaning specific group of people), and create what THEY want.

      Now whether you find the market first or create the product and try to find the people that will want that product… That’s really where the challenge and process comes in because there is a bit of research, a bit of observation, a bit of trial and error, and a bit of resourcefulness that all come into play.

      I think no matter which you do first, you still need to know your market inside and out. And yes, it probably is quantity vs quality. If you can sell pieces for $500 each with a 100% margin, then you only need to sell 4 a month to make $1000. If you have a small number of devoted repeat customers, you can still have a thriving business if you sell only a few pieces a month at a higher price.

      That’s how artists make a living, for sure.

      My point is that you have to have a market – and be prepared to give them what they want.

      If you can’t find a market for your art, then you might have to change what you make. Call me an idealist, but I still think quality trumps quantity, and the craftsperson that goes out of their way to become a master of techniques that aren’t easy to learn, makes jewelry that no one else makes and that earns a name for herself based on superior skill, design, attention to detail, talent, passion, selection of materials and / or some other quality will still triumph in the end IF she also keeps in mind that she has to make money.

      If you can say you are meeting your business goals, then I think you are a success. If you aren’t meeting the goals you ultimately are aiming for, but are seeing steady progress, then I still think you are a success and you just have to set smaller goals to reach on your way to your ultimate goal.

      The problem with many new jewelry businesses though is that the product isn’t different enough, and there is no wow factor to move anyone to buy it. There is a sea of beaded jewelry out there for example, and it’s really not that hard to learn how to make so where’s the impetus to buy it specifically from you? (You meaning anyone, not you specifically :)) But that’s what I meant when I answered this specific question for the specific asker.

      You’ll see if you join in my experiment, that I too will be struggling with making what I like making, and what I see selling in the market. I’m already worried, to be honest, because I don’t really know how long it will take before I start seeing some traction, and I do really want to make what I like to make. I am willing though to make what I like to make in a way that will appeal to a certain group of people, so I have to figure that out. And I have to make sure that they have money to spend because what I like to make is pretty labour intensive so it can’t be priced cheaply.

      I know from experience though that if you think things through, do your homework, and stick to a strategy, that eventually you will start to see some traction if your foundation is sound. Once you start seeing some traction, everything becomes easy, and you just have to maintain the forward movement. But, like a car stuck in the mud, it does take awhile to get going.

      I’d love to see if you agree or disagree and why. I love these conversations :)

  4. Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Christine, I think you have some valuable posts and I am looking forward for the GJBE course. Take care.

    Dita

  5. Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I am excited and can’t wait to see how this turns out, I too have the same problem but now feel there is hope and that i am not alone.

  6. Cheryl
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Hello Christine,
    I have been reading your web and I subscribe to your news letter.
    I see not only here in South Africa that we have the problem of people saying wonderful things about your jewellery but never purchasing, it is all over the world.
    Here where I live in Fish Hoek, Cape Town we also have the problem that there are not many jewellery supply shops and when you want an item to be able to complete that perfect piece you have to travel miles to find a place that actually stocks that item. The people here are not appreciative of what it takes to create a piece and to actually complete it. The mind set is that if it is hand made then it should be cheap (price wise). There are (although I have not done much research into this) no galleries that will put your items there for show. (I see there in America there seems to be many places that do this).
    I also think that as much as people want to purchase your goods, there is the financial restraints and you find them saying “if I buy this then I will not be able to afford bread and milk for the next few days.” Hence you find yourself in a catch 22 situation.
    You may say that you need to market yourself more but if you work a full time job and only work with jewellery in the evenings and on weekends……. well then it beomes more difficult.
    I appologise for taking up so much of your time but I hope I have given you food for thought…. the South African perspective.

  7. valarie
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I am sort of in agreement with Betsy. I find the problem is not making things that people want to buy, but getting my pieces in front of the people who will want to buy them. For example, I make a lot of silver items that would be perfect for weddings or bridesmaids, but the local bridal shows start at $600 (which is very high for this area, and they are only about 4 hours long, not particularly well attended). I do a lot of craft shows, but I get a lot of “your items are too nice for a gymnasium”. I don’t really know how to drive business to a website, so I need to figure out that component. I seem to be heading down a lot of rabbit holes in the process!

    • Christine
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Valarie, the wedding market is great market. I agree that craft shows are the wrong venue. There are a lot of different ways to get to your market though, and there are lots of free ways online. The wedding market is huge, and there’s a lot of competition so you need to figure out how to differentiate yourself and get the word out, in that order. This does take some effort of course, but I hope you join the experiment because it will give you lots of ideas I think.

  8. Posted January 16, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this information. Can’t wait to sign up and understand about the fee.

  9. Dee
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I have been a follower of your posts and lessons too for over a year or perhaps two now and have felt that you have given us a lot of valuable information in your emails and blog posts. I have the same problem and the same questions as the other posters. It seems that the only people making money in the handmade jewelry business are either selling their items very cheaply(Lord knows, selling supplies to other artists, selling jewelry making lessons, or selling programs to show you how to get more business. I am afraid that the whole market is over saturated and with the current economy it is extremely difficult to get a foothold if you are a relatively new name in the business. I think that both you and Betsy make extremely good points and I find myself agreeing with both of your comments and I certainly would like to participate in this process to see if it will help I just hope it won’t turn out to be another one of those situations of where the is a lot of out go without any return of income.

    • Christine
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      You and me both Dee! I’d love to say this is going to work for certain within a certain time frame, and how much you’ll have to invest in time and money into your business but I’m not sure myself.

      The membership in the experiment itself will be too inexpensive to pass up, so when I talk money I mean other business expenses.

      I won’t be getting rich off this course, and if I wanted to be making money I would definitely be making some different business choices:)

      That’s where the passion comes in for me too.

  10. Susan Ferreira
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Christine…
    I’m up on the tip of the East Coast, and the whole craft show thing is big up here. Problem is, I have limited income, mobility issues, and find the “big” craft show winners up here have young helpers, great-looking mini-store-type booths, and seem to be able to afford the ever-climbing “fees” charged for space at the shows. Seasonal, mind you, so you have to be riding bareback and making stuff at the same time just to keep up.
    Long story short (?!?), I can’t compete in that environment. Found a really great little shop (again, seasonal), but the commission agreement was way too high. Each month I’d get the rap sheet and my check, and feel sick when I looked at what the shop owner was “making” on my pieces. When I ran the numbers, she was getting paid more than I was when I factored in the most important thing of all – my time creating these pieces!
    Quit the shop after 3 years of semi-success. I do miss the added “seasonal” income, and have turned to the usual internet venues with minimal success.
    I’ve made some progress, though, and definitely have a “niche” market….I agree that finding those that also love the things I make takes constant effort. I view each new positive contact as potential for the future. And word of mouth is still by far the best marketing there is….100% success there, but again, reaching out and making those connections is crucial.
    I had 2 very successful careers (I miss them dearly but can’t make it in that arena, now, either), now I’m able (and very lucky) to spend more time making things, finding things and making things, sea glassing, etc.
    Because of my 7-yr.+ passion, I’ve put it all on hold because of the unbelievable amount of “inventory” I’ve amassed. I’m focused on getting it all on paper and making a plan. I know I’ll “freak” when I see exactly what I have that’s already saleable right under my nose….
    Now it’s “pedal to the metal” in exactly the area you’re working on, so I do look forward to your emails and info. Let’s just hope I can devote the time necessary to keep up with the blogs, etc.
    Thank you for all your input, info, and especially your can-do attitude. I need that last bit the most a lot of the time…..I enjoy you, and will keep up with what you’re doing more so than in the past. I have to get my ball rolling – faster!

  11. Carina Sehrai
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I am very excited to hear about your GJBE experiment. I am trying to start my own at home and online jewelry business. Will follow your experience closely. Thank you and looking forward to it.

  12. Posted January 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    l think this is a good idea and l am one of those 95%, who get compliments and the likes, but they don’t convert to sales. l look forward to learning more. Thank you.
    You read my mind – l make jewellery for designs sake and l haven’t considered how my product could benefit potential customers. People generally like what l make, but the criticisms or reasons for not buying are they wouldn’t know what to wear my pendants with. Hmmm all food for thought. Again thank you for the opportunity.

    • Christine
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Laura, your pieces are so cute! I love them! I thought they were glass when I saw them. I didn’t realize they were polymer clay until I read your bio.

      You are getting those wheels turning in my head. Sometimes I look at people’s items in etsy shops and think that too many other people make the same thing, or else there are too many different kinds of things thrown together so the focus of the business is not clear.

      When I look at yours I start thinking about how to position them and who would be attracted to them. You would be an interesting challenge.

      I hope you join so we can talk about that in the group. It might dovetail nicely with some of my challenges. Being in Canada, I feel at a disadvantage because the US likes to buy American, and is more leery of buying from anyone else.

      I saw the difference firsthand buying and selling stuff on EBay. Used cloth baby diapers were selling like hot cakes when I didn’t need my babies’ diapers anymore. I sold a number of high demand baby items but I didn’t get anywhere near the bids the US items did. The Canadian market is a lot smaller so there were less bidders, and of course I got less money. It works the other way too though. I can get something cheaper by buying from someone in Canada if its something pre-owned. If I can find it. Not a lot of Canadian sellers anymore.

      Any way, I’m guessing that selling from the UK has similar issues.

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