I’m putting a photo of my latest piece here – it has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of this post.
I have always enjoyed making things. Knitting, and to a lesser extent crochet, came first, I started making jewelry a few years ago. Jewelry has allowed me a much higher degree of creative exploration and expression than I have found in other crafty endeavors.
It was only last year that I started selling my pieces with any serious intent. Putting a price on my work has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with creativity (at least in respect of making jewelry). Whilst before I made simply for pleasure now there is an element of financial gain (actually it’s more a case of trying to offset financial loss given my addiction to supplies, books, tools etc etc).
How to price things is one of the first challenges to be faced. There’s plenty of helpful advice for sellers - most of which suggest coming up with a reasonable hourly rate of pay for your time, calculating the amount of time a piece takes to make and then adding the cost of materials. This all makes sense but occasionally my pieces will take many many hours (even a few days) to complete and there is no way I could realistically reflect this in the price. As a seller (and let's be clear here I do want to sell my work) I understand that, in order to be vaguely competitive, I have to not only benchmark my prices against what others are charging, I also need to have some kind of price consistency across my range. Sometimes this means selling a piece for less than I ‘should’. Having been involved with a local art show (and having an artist husband) I know how agonising the question of what to charge can be.
Did you see I used the word ‘competitive above? I hate the idea of competing with other sellers and I have found, at least on etsy, the seller community to be incredibly warm and supportive. But, if we are honest about it we are, at least at some level, competing with each other. After all, there are only so many customers out there. This doesn't mean being all cutthroat and nasty but it does mean taking some proactive steps - etsy is a huge marketplace and getting yourself noticed is the next challenge. Unless you are selling something super rare the chances are that an average buyer will get hundreds if not thousands of results when they do a search for, well pretty much anything. So, sellers will need to explore a range of marketing and promotional options including etsy based features like showcase and/or search ads (both of which I have tried and found pretty useless by the way – maybe I’m using them wrong), using supporting social media like twitter and facebook and low tech options like cold calling and handing out good old fashioned business cards.
I surely don’t mean to moan about this – after all no one is forcing me to do this and, in fact, a lot of this additional stuff can be good fun. I love listing something and then seeing how long it takes to get views and hearts. But I guess I am trying to point out that, in addition to the making, there is a boatload of additional ‘stuff’ that goes on in the background and that, even for the most successful sellers, the financial rewards are likely to be, comparatively speaking, relatively small. No wonder then that the joy of making something beautiful can get lost sometimes.
I'm sorry to rant on about things as unpalatable as marketing and money. But, I think it's important to reflect on the fact that these issues do play some kind of a role in the creative process and are, to a greater or lesser extent, a part of the process (if you intend to try your hand at selling that is - if not you can just skip right on by this post).
Nowadays when I look at the work of my fellow etsians I have some inkling of what sits behind a piece of work and I marvel not just at the artist’s creative talent but also at their ability to keep on bringing it.
‘til next time.