Sticking with One Product
I started my business way back in 2006 when I was still a teen! (Bet you didn't see that coming!) I have a love of blank handmade journals and that was how I started crafting for a profit.
At the same time, I loved jewelry and had taken a basic jewelry-making class with my mom. Armed with techniques for both bookbinding and jewelry making, I was selling both types of products in the same store.
Major mistake right there! I couldn’t agree more with what other crafters say about sticking to one product and style in your store. The problem with this is that you’ll soon come into roadblocks when you start to think big, in terms of branding, advertising and marketing. Selling books and jewelry at the same time confused me with who I was to market my products to. Neither could I derive an attractive brand image that would work for both products (it’s not impossible, you might need the help of a professional!). I told myself that I had to make a decision. I ended up choosing jewelry for a number of reasons.
First, jewelry was so much less time consuming. That in itself made it easier for me to make and sell my product for a price that my customer and I could both respect. I didn’t want to slave away making books and price them at over $50 and not sell a thing!
Second, I made a shift into polymer clay, in particular because I knew this was my main material for my jewelry that I can easily find anywhere for a low cost without having to worry about quality or major price differences. I knew I could expect to get the same thing every time. I didn’t want to make beaded jewelry back then because that would require a lot of time resourcing for supplies (beads) and the worst thing is, some suppliers can sometimes up and leave you high and dry! Unless you’re selling one of a kind items, this should really be something you want to consider.
Polymer clay jewelry making for me is a very low cost/capital in monetary terms. As a student in university (I’ll be graduating in December 2010, yippee!), Tiny Hands is my only source of income so I don’t have a lot of capital to start with.
Jewelry is also something that people buy more than handbound books. Most ladies wear jewelry, it’s only a matter of what style or look you go for. But a handbound book is something that a person would use for a year, at least! How many journals does a person need at a time anyway?
My materials for jewelry making are also convenient for me to pack and bring wherever the wind takes me! I would almost consider myself a nomad, shifting from one location to another a few times a year. I can’t imagine having to tug around a huge piece of machinery every time I moved!
Even as a student and a nomad, I found something that really works for me.
Another thing that I want to talk about is the quality of your product and the price tags you put on them.
I started out selling everything I make for a rock bottom price, so I could test the waters and see how well people accepted my work. When I started getting more orders, I became tired and unhappy with how I was working. I didn’t feel like it was all worth it!
The important thing that I learnt in the past couple of years is that you can never undercharge yourself or your time (though that doesn’t mean putting unreasonable prices on your items!). I spend several hours on an order, and I truly believe that my prices represent the quality of the work that I deliver (including photography of products, customer service communication and packaging).
When you have very low prices, it may seem very affordable to a potential buyer, but as a consumer myself, I have been turned off by products that are charged too low because I immediately lose confidence in what I’m looking at.
Not only does it look fishy (I’m thinking, “what’s the catch?” *suspicious eyes*), but it really shows through how much you value your own work. Quality and price should go hand in hand. Even with a fantastic photo of your product, I won’t believe that it is of high quality based on the price tag. As they say, “you get what you pay for!”
The Ultimate DIY-er
As I mentioned above, being a full-time student doesn’t give me much financial capital for a business. I would encourage anyone to make use of this as a motivator to learn new things! Build yourself your own website, make your own graphics and business cards! Do your own copywriting and photography! The Internet is full of resources, tips and tricks and tutorials to teach you everything, and I mean everything! Even if you fail at first, remember that you’ll only get better the more you try and practice. I believe that a good eye and attention to detail is a good habit to instill in yourself – be sensitive to little details, they matter!
I would consider myself to be a critical person when it comes to my work. As long as you can obtain a healthy balance of being critical and being able to tell yourself to slow down, this can be a great asset for any person to have. Because you are critical with your work, you will always strive for developing improvements. And because you’re always on top of yourself, you can be sure that you’re working towards a successful business and a happier You!
I often look back at some of my older products and go through a verification process of whether or not I should keep selling this item. If I feel that the item lacks quality or just doesn’t look as good as my other items, I will either make improvements, or discontinue the product. When I sell my jewelry, I like to be confident with my work. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew that I’m sending out a necklace that wasn’t great! Your customers tend to see this as well. If they’re not receiving something that was made well, you can’t count on them for being repeat customers.
Well, it’s about that time for me to get back to doing other things. In the future, I would still love to talk about my experiences with other aspects of a business. I wanted to include a “Photography” section here, but time flies and before I know it, I have other responsibilities to tend to!
I hope you enjoyed reading this. I can’t ask you to agree with everything I’ve said, but I think that sharing my perspectives with you will help broaden yours too! Please write me comments so I can read what you guys think!