You don't need a jewelry line to start selling jewelry. In
fact, there are advantages to not having one when you're starting out and not sure about your style or what customers want. Trust me, when I listed my very first pair of earrings on Etsy in August of 2011, I had no
definitive plan in mind. Like many of you, I just liked to make things
and wanted to earn a little money on the side. Now more than 4,000 sales
later*, I'm ready to think about creating a
focused jewelry line. [*To be clear, not all of those sales on Etsy were
jewelry. I sell a mix of handmade items in that shop.]
I have worked toward a unified line with certain brick-and-mortar shops already. For example, the jewelry I sell through Allegory Gallery all has a steampunk vibe with lots of mixed metal gears. If you were to visit the shop in person, you'd clearly see that my jewelry is different than the other jewelry sold there. My goal this year is to further develop my jewelry line and get my work into more shops and galleries. I'm in the research-and-prototype stage now, but I'll share my finished pieces when they're ready. In the meantime, I'm sharing my thoughts about why a jewelry line is important.
Advantages to Having a Jewelry Line
1. Focused shopping. There are so many cool things to buy in the bead world that if you don't have a focus, it's easy to be distracted. You won't necessarily spend less, but what you buy will be more tightly focused by materials, colors, or themes. As a bonus, you may qualify for larger discounts by buying in larger quantities from a few vendors, rather than spending your money in dribs and drabs at hundreds of places. (You can always buy a few one-of-a-kind items to make jewelry for yourself or to give as gifts!)
2. Repeat customers and multiple sales. I've sold a little bit of everything in my Etsy shop; I could go in many different directions. Western-themed jewelry sells well for me, for example. But I have so little of it that when customers are looking for that, they're not likely to come to me as a first source. They may buy one item such as my simple cowboy boot earrings, but if they need more (like a matching necklace), they're not going to find much available in my shop.
It may feel like you're missing out on sales if you don't cater to every
possible customer out there, but eventually, all that product diversity will
3. Quicker to price. If you use the same materials for multiple items, it will be much quicker to price everything. Pricing always takes me a long time because I have to look up the cost of each material. Yes, I keep a spreadsheet of purchases, but it's still a time-consuming task. (I joke that it takes me longer to price jewelry than to make it!) A streamlined inventory should also be helpful at tax time.
4. Possibility of duplicates. You may or may not want to do this. There are many advantages. You save time by not having to create new photos, descriptions, and keywords. You may save money by buying parts in bulk. You'll definitely be at an advantage traffic-wise online, since many search engines (including Etsy) do seem to rank items with more sales or visits more highly. Since sales and visits are cumulative over the lifetime of that item, the easiest way to get that number up is to sell duplicates.
Of course, the downside is that you may feel bored. There's nothing like making assembly-line jewelry to suck any creative joy out of the process. One middle ground solution: make "limited edition" items. Set a number of items you'll make in a single design. Once those sell, move on to something new. You'll reap the financial rewards of making duplicates, but you won't make so many that you feel bored and resentful. Another idea is to duplicate a few of your lower-priced items and do one-of-a-kind work only at the higher end of your price range. This way you give customers an easy "in" to your work before they commit to a higher-priced piece. If your jewelry becomes super popular, you could hire staff to help make the simpler pieces or take over other parts of your business to free up your creative time.
5. Easier sell to shops. A display in a shop will look better and more coordinated if everything is in a similar style. Similarly, the more competitive art and craft shows give preference to designers who have a cohesive, distinctive look. You're also more likely to be featured in a magazine or blog if you have a specific hook ("recycled jewelry made from old street signs") rather than a more generalized shop ("random pieces made from various stuff').
6. Focused design time. If you limit your materials, it doesn't limit your creativity. If anything, it stretches it. This sounds counterintuitive, especially to someone who doesn't work in a creative field. My problem isn't that I lack ideas; it's that I have so many ideas that sometimes I can hardly begin. If I know that I'm creating a set a bangle-style bracelets for nature-loving twentysomethings, I can concentrate on a few dozen ideas, not thousands. You might find yourself getting more work finished!
What Should Your Jewelry Focus Be?
Once you've decided to pursue a jewelry line, you need to decide how to focus.
Your focus could be:
- a theme (gears, woodland animals)
- a customer (trendy tweens)
- a color palette (school colors)
- a type of material (wood, plastic)
- a style (romantic, hipster)
- a technique (resin, wirework)
- a type (cuff bracelets)
Most likely, it will be a unique combination of these ideas.
What I've found (and you will, too, if you do it long enough) is that if you don't choose your jewelry line, your customers will choose it for you. Certain pieces will sell more easily or you'll get more custom requests for things with a certain look. When you look at the keywords that bring people to your shop, you'll notice the same words keep popping up. You'll find that some items get lots of traffic or comments from Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram. Listen to how customers at craft shows describe your work to their shopping companions. Those are all signs of what your focus should be.
Of course, your own enjoyment plays a role. No one wants to
spend time making things she hates. Having a jewelry line does not mean you are locked
into a certain style forever. You can and should evolve over time as
an artist. You can offer a new line every season or once a
year—whatever makes sense to you.
Want more information about creating your own jewelry line? Check out these helpful resources:
- Build a Line Challenge Hosted by B'Sue Boutiques. More than 50 jewelry designers will be blogging about the process of developing their own jewelry lines throughout January—March 2015.
- The Perfect Recipe for Creating A Stellar Jewelry Collection. Three practical approaches by OhMyHandmade.
- Behind the Scenes: Designing a Jewelry Collection. Aimee of Swellmadye explains her design process in five steps.
- Belle Armoire Jewelry Magazine - Kristin Oppold's Designer Collection. This designer shares her process for creating a cohesive collection for a magazine.
- Can I Have a Successful Online Handmade Business If I Make Mostly OOAK Items? Create & Thrive explains why this is so tough to do.
Are you a jewelry designer with a jewelry line? Why or why not?