A question of quality

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So over the last couple of weeks I’ve become fairly disillusioned with my work. I started following Epheriell, a handmade jewellery designer who is also Australian and works from her home, and has created this little amazing business with blogs and mailing lists and all sorts of stuff, and who is actually successful. Although I enjoy what I do and have a small following, I have never made enough money from my business to live on – although I feel like I am working constantly (designing, making, accounting, promoting, etc etc). So I’ve subscribed to Epheriell’s “Create & Thrive” mailing list, which is full of tips on how to make your small business successful.

I realised that I already do a lot of the things mentioned in the mailing list emails. (Although there have also been some good tips like, not renewing expired Etsy listings all at once, but rather spreading them out over several days, so as to gain as much exposure as possible for your shop). So then I started trying to work out what it is that makes such a huge difference between the success of Epheriell’s business and my own. Meanwhile I contacted IAMTHELAB.com about the possibility of advertising on their site – inspired by the tips I was reading in Epheriell’s mailing list. I received a message back that was basically along the lines of “thanks but no thanks” (ok, maybe not that harsh – they said that they focus on more of a modern/contemporary aesthetic and maybe I should look into advertising with a blogger who has more of a focus on boho/eclectic style).

I think it was then that it hit me – the reason why I was not enjoying the same sort of success as Epheriell and other successful handmade artists, and why I had been feeling this vague dissatisfaction in my work for so long. As a single parent, I don’t have very much money, and even less to invest in my business, so out of necessity I tend to buy cheaper materials for my work. I essentially make costume jewellery – always silver plated rather than sterling silver, acrylic beads rather than glass, thrifted components rather than genuine vintage. I have the skills to make higher quality jewellery, but have never invested the money in the higher quality materials – rather, I have focused on quantity over quality, and I am beginning to realise that this has been a huge mistake. I now have a huge amount of unsold stock, some pieces dating back to 2010, and I am rapidly running out of room for it all. With so many small costume jewellery resellers springing up now, I’m finding myself competing with  factory-made jewellery which is essentially on the same tier as my own work – it’s just that mine is handmade. Those resellers can make a profit selling jewellery for low prices because it is mass produced… I cannot.

So, how to fix this? I’ve already started, by planning a massive revamp of my entire business. I am currently having a huge sale of almost all of my old stock – you can find my sale section of my Storenvy store here and the sale section of my Etsy store here. After the sale (I haven’t quite decided when I’m going to end it yet) I plan to retire these pieces. I’m tossing up the idea of making a new account/shop on Etsy to sell old stock/destash, because I want to get rid of all of my old lower quality materials as well.

After this clean out? I am going to purchase new, much higher quality materials. Think jewellery made with hand wrapped 24k gold filled wire, vintage silk cord, rough gemstones and Swarovski glass. I am studying new jewellery making techniques – I want to make pieces that require a higher level of skill, rather than pieces that anyone could make by buying a few cheap charms and beads off Etsy. And I want to sell pieces for prices that actually reflect the time and effort that go into them.

It’s not only my jewellery work that I want to improve. I also have plans for making new ranges of makeup (in fact, I have already purchased the components to begin experimenting for my future products), making handmade clothing (rather than upcycled) and I’ve also been researching selling art prints (giclée prints, printed with archival inks)… but these are all plans for a bit further in the future. I think the thing to focus on right now is getting my jewellery fixed up. It’s a bit overwhelming – I basically have to revamp my entire business image – but hopefully this will end up being more profitable in the long run. :)