Can you make a living selling jewellery?

Today on our beloved blog we are tackling the ultimate question… can you make a living selling jewellery or running your own jewellery business?

Well the short answer to this is yes but like anything it takes lots of hard work and determination so take a look below for a quick run down on some of the main aspects to consider…

Picture from Grace and Firefly (Jewellery business)

– Demand: Like any other business, you can only sell something if people want it. Luckily many of us love jewellery so there is a proven demand for it but there is also plenty of competition from the 100’s of other jewelers and companies out there. So if you are setting up your own business the key is to find something unique about your jewellery (or business) that sets you apart from everyone else. It may be that you use an unusual combination of materials, have an exceptionally good customer service for your customers, have exclusive, exquisite designs or that you have access to selling at events or in shops where there is a high level of demand for handmade jewellery.

It can be difficult before you start to be sure what the level of demand will be for your jewellery but one excellent source of information are the people around you. Show your work to friends, family, friends-of-friends and so on and ask them for their honest feedback. This is often a great way of recognizing trends of what people like to wear which can help you bucket-loads in terms of your designing and how to meet demand in your business.

If something you are selling isn’t working or there is a lack of demand it is also important to recognize this and try something else, don’t spend too long flogging a dead horse as they say!

– Keeping costs down: One thing I can’t stress enough is the need when you are starting out to be economical with what you spend on the business. Try to buy things as you go instead of going on a massive shopping trip and getting everything you think you will ever need for your business. New businesses are very changeable and what you originally plan to do could end up being something completely different. For example if you decide you want to make silver jewellery and go out and buy all the tools and materials to last you the year then one month in, realize that you prefer beaded work your money could be wasted and you may need to buy a whole new lot of equipment. Try things for a while before making big investments.  Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

– Believing in yourself, confidence and determination: I regularly meet lots of students interested in settingup their own business but who are under-confident or don’t feel they will be able to make it successful.  When you are running your own business there is no one there to tell you what to do or which direction to go in which can be very daunting but it is essential to believe not only in yourself but your work and your ideas, this will come with time and experience. I am always very encouraging of anyone interested in setting up a jewellery business, as I believe if I can do it anyone can. Its not easy but it is certainly possible however you do need to be fairly thick-skinned, determined and able to bounce back from setbacks, as they happen to us all. I know it’s a cliché but don’t be afraid to make mistakes as they are an excellent learning opportunity.

– Work hard: To be successful at running your own business it is essential to put the hours in and work hard. Although, I must say, working hard at something you love is hugely rewarding and lots of fun – not like doing algebra!  Try and do at least one thing everyday to move your business forward, whether it be designing a new collection, working on the website, writing to the press or exhibiting at a craft show it is all great experience and will surely contribute to making your business a success.

– The Nitty Gritty – Time and Money: Setting up a new business takes time. Time to develop your skills, design and create your jewellery and set up the ‘business’ side of operations so it is important to have another source of income at least initially. Most business don’t make anything in their first year as all ‘profits’ need to go straight back into investing in new tools, materials etc… It is better to know this from the outset that way you can plan for it. Ideally you would have some money to invest in the business, a way of providing for yourself whilst the business is setting up and as much time as possible to put into it. These are all a balancing act and most of us don’t have them all in abundance but a bit of both time and money is required to set up a jewellery business.

– Consider combos: Sometimes a combination of things works best and many jewellers make and sell jewellery alongside other related avenues such as teaching jewellery making, hosting jewellery parties, working for other jewellers, organizing fairs or events, running parties or sessions for children and young people or selling craft or jewellery making supplies – the list is endless. They are not all for everyone but you may find that one other thing can help to keep money coming in during dry periods.

– Enjoy yourself and give credit where it’s due: On a final note, don’t forget to enjoy yourself, making jewellery is an extremely rewarding job and I for one wouldn’t change it for the world. Don’t forget to stop every now and then and congratulate yourself on how well you are doing as it is not easy but is greatly rewarding and certainly a possible and fulfilling career.

If you would like to learn more about how to set up your own jewellery business, regular classes are held at the London Jewellery School including the ‘Jewellery Business Day‘ and ‘5 Day Jewellery Business Intensive’. We also offer business mentoring sessions for help  and support at every stage of your business and will soon be offering an online, distance learning jewellery business course that can be completed from the comfort of your own home. More info to follow – watch this space.

Until next time,

Happy Making

LJS x

(written by Jessica Rose)

5 Comments

  1. Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for a great post Jessica! Making a living from selling jewellery certainly does take lots of hard work and determination! I’d also add that you really do need to know and understand your market, so that you can concentrate on the most appropriate marketing forums and platforms. You also need to set realistic pricing, and don’t forget to factor in your time and other costs like electricity, petrol, paper, etc. Many people set their prices far too low in order to start selling, but in the long run this can backfire as your work may be viewed as being poor quality or using inferior materials. And yes, you need to have confidence in your ability and believe in yourself, oh and bags of stamina!

  2. Yvonne
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent Jess! My own experience has been mixed, and I’ve decided now not to continue along this path. Tools for sale soon no doubt :). One more fair to do in November, and then try to settle my debts! To others embarking on this path, even if you are good at sales and have inner confidence, I suggest you make a small batch of jewellery and do some testing with some friends to see how you really feel about talking about your jewellery and if you feel confident and love the experience. If you don’t, think again!

    Marketing and selling is a massive part of the jewellery business, not to be underestimated! My business was online, and I can, hand on heart say now, that I have spent an incredible amount of time on the online setting up and maintaining, yet getting people to visit and stay on the site, let alone purchase, has been an impossible task for me. It’s not defeat, it’s acknowledgment. Without acknowledgment there is no learning or development.

    There’s some fabulous artists out there and if you are new to this, try to hook up with a couple to work with for awhile. See it as being work experience. That is my one real regret; I didn’t test my own conviction and when other events in my life became pressing, the first thing to give was the business. If you genuinely love something, that would never be an option!

    My greatest success has been that through the business I have raised a lot of money for charities through auctions and such. Time consuming, but rewarding! There’s many ways to attract notice and customers. Before you start out, have a think, how will you be attracting yours in this shrinking consumer market?

  3. Posted September 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Erika, thanks a bunch for your post. All very useful advice! Jessica x

  4. Posted September 15, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Yvonne, thanks so much for posting and sharing your experience. I am so sorry to hear you will not be continuing but also understand that it is not always possible and personal circumstances are a huge factor in doing any major project like this. I think a lot of people don’t like to admit it but also luck is a major factor. Being at the right place at the right time, getting into that one great fair when you double your audience and of course the economic climate and comparisons with what your competitors are doing.

    As Erika mentioned knowing your market and like you said, testing it out is crucial to seeing weather or not there is a demand for what you are selling.

    I certainly hope you will carry on making, (even if its not for a living) as you have learnt so much and come so far.

    If you ever want to talk about it you know where I am,

    Jessica x

  5. Posted September 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Realyy interesting blog! Very helpful and has helped me a lot. Thanks!

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