My Hiatus

Wow! For me, it has been a very long summer.  I was not able to work in my studio for most of the time, and became very restless.  The reason I was not able to work is because we had the basement finished.  The basement is where my studio is, so no work while construction was happening.  Here is a little bit of what happened to our basement, and my studio this summer.

Here is how the studio started (when we bought the house)

This is my large work bench that holds my kiln, rolling mill and any other forging tools.

 

Here is my soldering station, near a window for ventilation.

 

My jeweler’s bench and some artwork done by my assistant.

 

There used to be a closet in my studio, not any more!

 

My assistant, and the doorway to the rest of the basement.

So, we interviewed a lot of contractors, finally decided on one, and got started.  Here are pictures of the gutted basement.

Here is the main area of the basement that was turned into a huge playroom for the boys

 

Here is my studio, without the walls!

After about 3 months of builders in and out of the basement, I have my studio back! I am so happy to get back to work.

Here are the pictures of the new studio:

New Studio

New Studio

New Studio

It is a constant work in progress as acquire more tools, skills and materials.  Keep Creating

 

 

This little guy joined our family a week after construction was finished.  He is my second assistant 😉

Random Stuff to Share

Earlier this summer, I took a pottery class and made this bowl for our dining room.  Us creative types just spill creativity all over the place 😉

 

I am currently obsessed with figs, I bought this flat at the West Side Market in Cleveland and ate all 24 of them in 2 days!

 

My little guy.  I had to put him in, he’s just so cute.

 

On the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

 

In case you don’t know, I’m in love with Kate Spade handbags.  While on vacation, the outlet was having a phenomenal sale! I loaded up with bags and accessories.  This was on one of the care cards inside a bag.  I love it!

 

More of the beach

 

I saw this on facebook and loved it so I had to share it 🙂

 

My best friend Jess and I in a lovely store in Wilton Manners, To The Moon.  They had all sorts of old timey and super funny gifts.
Josh Barker, I know you will appreciate this.  A little throw back to my previous post about haters.

Finding the Right Customer

There are two parts to selling to the right customer for your business.  First is figuring out who your customer base is, second is reaching those people.

First, figuring out your customer base.  This requires a lot of observation.   Who is purchasing your product?  Ask your customers about their purchase and listen to their answer.  For example, is it a gift? If so, who for? And how old are they? If your customer is buying for themselves, do they have children with them? Are they wearing other jewelry, (this applies in my case, not for everyone)?  Take notice of how your customer found out about the show.  Did they happen across it or did they look for a show?  If they looked for it, you can deduce they go to craft shows often.  You also need to take into account your price point.  If you are at a higher price point, you need to consider that your clients need to have a greater amount of disposable income.  My items are quality handmade pieces from precious metals, this makes for a higher price point.  So, my customers tend to have more disposable income. 

Reaching your customer base is a mixture of timing, location and marketing.  Reaching my customers has a lot to do with the show that I’m participating in.  As for timing, the time of year tends to be the biggest factor.  For me, the best sales come around the holidays.  People are in the buying mode and looking for gifts for other people.  Even my loyal customers tend to buy more during the holidays.  As for time of day, I have found there really is not any rhyme or reason to it.  Next, location is something to consider carefully.  I am not only participating in shows in the area but I also sell my items through retail locations.  You want to be careful not to saturate an area with your product but still be visible.  This is a very tricky balance. In talking to customers at a show, when it becomes apparent that they are probably not going to purchase anything but admire your work,  it’s nice to have somewhere local to refer them.  That way, if they need a gift or a piece in the future and you don’t have any upcoming shows, they can still purchase your work.  Lastly, marketing is very important.  I have found that using social media is a free and easy way to let your customers know where they can find you.  Also, keeping your website updated with your contact information and upcoming events can help. This way, when you hand out your card with your website, your customers can refer to it and easily locate you.

Once you find the right customer, you can concentrate your efforts there.  Especially in regards to marketing and choosing shows. 

Haters Need Not Apply

Whatever your endeavor, there will always be haters.  Mostly because they are jealous of your tenacity to follow your dreams, some because they don’t have your skill and still some because you are the competition.  Whoever they are, and whatever their reasons, they have no room in your dream. 

I am fairly new to the handmade jewelry trade and have already come across my fair share of haters.  When they reveal themselves as such, I gently ignore their negativity and go along my own way.  I have also found that there are far many more supporters out there.   People who are willing to answer your questions and help you along in your journey. 

Sometimes, the people who reveal themselves as haters, are not easy to ignore.  A good friend or a family member may turn out to be a hater.  In that case, you need to gently tell your hater that you do not need negativity in your life right now and if they are not going to be supportive, please don’t speak about your dream. 

I notice that I have used the word gently more than once.  I say this because it is very easy to deal with negativity harshly.  But take into account that they dealt with your dreams harshly, the virtuous thing to do is to consider their feelings and deal with them gently. 

Regardless of what others have to say about you, you are following your dream and fulfilling your vision.  This in and of itself is admirable.  Don’t let the haters get you down. 

Learning Through Experiences

I am a big believer in learning by doing.  Being an auditory learner myself, I don’t always need to, but whenever possible, I do.  Learning by doing activates the kinesthetic part of one’s brain and puts all the pieces together,  visual, auditory and physical.  The best way to learn a new skill, is by taking a workshop in which you get to practice the skill you are learning.  The best teachers know this and use it in their daily practice.  But we also learn by experiences, good and bad.  This applies especially well to shows.

When we, as adults, are going to learn something new, we need to keep a few things in mind. 

First, is to observe everything.  I can’t tell you how many workshops I have been in where people (including myself) are so eager to finish the project, they don’t listen to the instructions or they don’t bother to watch the demonstration.  This is a huge mistake.  The instructor is teaching for a reason, because they are an expert in the skill.  We as learners need to take advantage of that.  Take in all details and if you need to, write them down so you can look back on them later.  When you are learning something like selling your product at a show.  Observe how people react to the information you give them.  You may find that something you know as fact and deal with every day, others may find extremely interesting and surprising.  Observe who comes into your booth and stays to chat or make a purchase.  I have found that husbands are an untapped market at most shows.  So, when a husband or boyfriend comes into my booth, I am sure to say hello and casually mention what great gifts earrings make. 

Secondly, Ask Questions.  If you don’t understand, ask.  So many people go through a conversation not knowing just because they don’t want to appear unintelligent.  This is absurd! I feel that the indicator of a great mind is one that knows that they cannot possibly know everything.  In a workshop setting, you paid to understand the skill so you should understand it when you leave.  I like to leave a workshop with such a complete understanding, that I could do it by myself at home.  In a show setting, asking “how did you hear about the event?” is a valuable way to figure out if the show has been publicized.  Also, asking if the person is looking for anything in particular saves them time if you don’t have what their looking for and helps you to show them certain items they may be interested in.  Asking questions of your customer and being genuinely interested in their answer makes you a great sales person and gives your customer an excellent experience. 

Lastly, Reflect.  I know this sounds a bit corny, but I’ve found it very valuable.  In a workshop setting, after the workshop is over, I like to sit down and run through the steps of the skill in my head.  Thinking through the logistics helps me to see if there are any gaps in my learning.  If so, I like to research the skill or process and if need be, ask for help.  After a show is over, I do a lot of reflecting on my drive home.  I think about how many sales I made that day.  If I got any custom orders, I plan out when those are going to get done.  And I think about the customers that came out that day.  When I get home, I write down my reflections to look back on the next time I go to apply for that show. 

Being a great learner is just as important as being a great craftsman.  When I start to think about it, they really go hand in hand. 

Shows Part 2

As I said yesterday, I will speak to shows that weren’t worth returning to.  Before I get into the nitty gritty, let me state that there is no such thing as a useless show.  All shows have some kind of use, whether or not you sell anything, people are seeing your work and you are getting your name out there.  There have been a few shows that I have participated in that I haven’t sold a thing but gained a gallery spot or a tip on another show.  It’s very easy to look at a low income show and get down on it, but as an artist you are always learning and evolving, so keep your chin up and stay positive 🙂

What makes an event worth returning to?

Obviously the number one factor is sales.  I have heard that a truly successful show is one that sells ten times your booth fee.  So if you paid thirty dollars to be there, you should make three hundred.  For some shows, this is unrealistic.  It’s a nice goal and definitely an indicator if your target market came out to that event.  I think that five times your booth fee is one I may try again if my schedule permits, eight times your booth fee is worth putting on your calendar for next year and ten times your booth fee is a for sure thing next time. 

Another factor is the feel of the crowd.  Did people come into your booth and listen to what you told them about your product, or did they walk right by? If you can distinctly remember each person you talked to, there probably weren’t enough people interested to make it worth going back.  But if you felt like you just talked and talked all day and it was just a blur of people in and out of your booth, it is worth going back. 

I also take into account other factors that don’t have to do with the customer at all.  Like was set-up and break down organized? If not, I would have to make ten times my booth fee to even think about returning to an unorganized show.  Did you have volunteers come around and ask to watch your booth while you went to the bathroom or got something to eat?  This is a big help when you are working your booth alone and it makes the show more comfortable for everyone.  Was there another booth that was exactly like yours? If so, the organizers weren’t in the market for diversity and then it makes the show too competitive for you and the other person who does the same thing you do.  Was the show publicized? Sometimes you’ll get great traffic at a show but not because it was publicized, but because people were out at another nearby event or just out walking around.  If customers come into your booth and in conversation mention that they just happened along this event, it’s a red flag that the organizers did not publicize the event.  With all the free marketing and social media opportunities out now, there is just no excuse in my mind. 

Like I said before, there are no useless shows.  But you, as a prudent business person, have to determine the worth of the show.  If you did it once, and feel you have exhausted its worth, you don’t have to go back.  This is also your choice as to how busy you want to be and how many shows you want to do. 

Shows Part 1

Festivals, Craft Fairs, Art Walks, and Markets.  These are some of the names my events go by.  At these events is where I make the most of my income.  Today, I’ll be talking about what to look for in a successful event and how to ensure returning customers to make a successful event.

When looking for events, it pays to do your research and envision the event before you apply.  In doing research, I recommend visiting the event before applying.  This way, you get a good feel for the customer that will show up and what kind of vendors the event planners are looking for.  Also, take into account juried versus not juried.  I also make sure to read all the information on the application including if food vendors are applying.  All these factors give you clues as to what the event will be like.  For example, if there are food vendors and kid friendly activities, you can bet that the customer base will be families.  I look at the longevity of the event also.  The longer the event has been going on, the more loyal shoppers there will be. 

To ensure returning customers, a few things need to come into play.  First of all, you need to be present, not only physically but mentally also.  Being excited about your product is contagious.  When people walk into your booth, greet them and anticipate any questions they may have.   Secondly, educate your customer.  Be willing to explain your process and why you do what you do. And lastly, even if they don’t make a purchase, send them away with at least a business card if not a post card with your information and a place to go to find your future shows. 

Tomorrow I’ll be talking about events that weren’t worth returning to. 

Pricing

Sigh, this is a touchy subject.  Everyone has their own formulas for pricing that work for them.  Here is a good example of a pricing formula.

At a recent Mompreneurs Meet Up we were doing an ice breaker exercise and the question came up, what business mistake will you never make again?  A very wise woman answered, I will never again undervalue myself.  WOAH! This struck the nail on the head.  I had undervalued myself for a long time and learned the hard way that my time and skill set are valuable and cannot be negotiated.

Because I’m the one making the pieces, I don’t see the skills as anything special.  Let me rephrase, I don’t see my skills as outside my creative reach.  But, thinking about my customers, they do not have these skills.  This is why they are shopping with me, because they value my skills and creativity.  That being said I need to value them also.  This gave rise to my pricing formula and the fact that my prices are set and not negotiable.

Sometimes at shows you will get those people who look at a price and give you the “you want me to pay what?” look.  In the early days of selling, this made me doubt my formula.  Now, I just ignore it and they move on because I know that a customer will come along who loves my work and appreciates the time and skills put into it and will show that appreciation with a purchase.  People are willing to pay for my quality items.  When I thought about it, I am willing to pay for quality items, like tools. So, why shouldn’t my customers be willing to pay for quality jewelry.  (More on how to target those customers coming later)

I have found that in order to create a successful business, you need to cover your costs and pay yourself.  The formula helps me to take all of that into account.

 

Taking a Time Out

This is very easy for me to write about right now, because I have no shows to get ready for or deadlines to meet.  Actually, I planned on writing this post yesterday, but took time with my family instead.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to take time for yourself.  Whether you take it a little at a time or have slow periods when you can take as much as you want, it is imperative.  Though during my time outs, I may still think about work and business, the processing time helps me to think through ideas and absorb things.  Another big reason I take time outs, is to appreciate going back to work.  I always am grateful to be back at my bench after a time out.

This past weekend, I had all kinds of family visit for my son’s baptism.  It was a good time out and I will appreciate going back to the bench next week.