Dana Hartness etsy jewelry

How to Start an Online Handmade Jewelry Business

Let me start by saying right up front that I’m going to talk to two different types of people in this article:

  1. The person who wants the quick & dirty, “just tell me how to sell something TODAY...I’ll do the rest later” person, and
  2. The dear soul who wants to do this very methodically and thoroughly (spoiler alert: I won’t be able to cover absolutely everything in this one post but I will be able to give you a lot of what you need).

Let me start out by answering the question at a high level. Then we can dive deeper into the details.

How to Start an Online Handmade Jewelry Business

  1. Decide on your target market. Who is the woman you will be selling to?
  2. Determine what type of jewelry you want to sell. Sketch some ideas.
  3. Decide where to sell your jewelry online. You can sell in one or multiple platforms.
  4. Make something cute and make it high quality.
  5. Take well-lit, attractive photos (from multiple angles) of what you made.
  6. Write your description, price, nail down your packaging and shipping process, and fill in a few basic details.
  7. Share your gorgeous pictures on your social media accounts.
  8. Stay connected to your customer base through email.

My hunch is that a bunch of you googled “How to Start Your Jewelry Business” and came across this post plus one million other ones, all with “The 10 Things You MUST Do Before You Start Your Jewelry Business” and “15 Essential Steps to Opening a Handmade Jewelry Shop” types of overwhelming titles. Am I close?

There is a deluge of information out there so here’s my goal: to NOT overwhelm you.

I want this to be simple and straightforward. I write with over 9 years of experience running my own handmade jewelry shop and I remember how daunting (and exciting) it can feel at the beginning.

But first, let me congratulate you on being a very smart business person already! You’ve picked a handmade category that makes some serious money and isn’t going away.

A little proof: According to Salehoo.com, 29 MILLION people bought jewelry online every day in 2018. They also state that jewelry is a billion-dollar online marketplace so...you’re already on the right track. Good job.

Clay Handmade Bracelets

Before You Start (Don’t Skip This Part)

To my friends who want to get down to the logistics, you can skip ahead but I don’t recommend it. This is your foundation. If you’re going to skip anything, it shouldn’t be this part.

Here, we’re going to get clear on what you actually want out of this, what service you provide, and who you’re offering it to. Without those answers, you might be flying fast, but you’re flying blind. This is what will guide you the whole way through.

Starting a Handmade Jewelry Business: The Important Questions

Take the time to write this out. Seriously.

Why?

WHY do you want to start a jewelry business?

  • Do you want to make extra money so you can travel or check other things off your bucket list?
  • Do you want more financial stability? Pay off debt?
  • Are you wanting to stay at home?
  • Do you dream of building an empire that reaches thousands?
  • Are you wanting to connect with other women and give them the style options you’ve always wanted?
  • Do you need to express your creativity?

What need are you meeting? For yourself? For someone else?

Who?

Who are you wanting to reach? What is your target market?

Get very specific here.

  • What’s her name?
  • Where does she live?
  • What does she do for fun?
  • How old is she?
  • Where does she shop?
  • What does she wear?
  • How does she want to feel?
  • Where does she hang out online?

This may feel strange but do it anyway, even if it changes in the future. Get this woman in your head, name her, speak to her, design for her, write to her.

She is the key to making a million little decisions in the future much easier to decide on. She gives shape and color and life to your business.

An example:

Ideal Customer Profile

(source)

For more ideas and a downloadable template, check out this one from Fit Small Business

What?

What is the product you are actually offering?

This is where most people start (and why I didn’t list it first) because you probably have a secret Pinterest board saved with all your ideas, am I right? More than likely, you’ve been making jewelry for a while at this point, yes? GOOD!

Write it out, sketch it out, play around. Pick your niche so you don’t get lost in the sea of other handmade jewelry shops.

I recommend coming up with at least 5 cohesive products you’re going to start with and focusing on getting those down. Make your first offering the best first impression you can.

Where?

Where do you want to sell?

You have options! If you’re wanting to sell online, you can open a shop on Etsy, Amazon, eBay or create your own Shopify store (I do both Etsy and Shopify). You can also sell directly from Facebook and Pinterest or set your entire business up on Instagram.

If in-person selling is more what you’re into, there are plenty of opportunities there too: markets, pop-up shops, boutiques, teaching classes, leading workshops, in-home parties, etc.

"Pro tip: If you have a network of people who already like you, that may be a great place to start. "

Dana Hartness

I know I promised not to overwhelm you, but you just did some hard, highly valuable work that I promise will pay off for you as you go. Go pour yourself a beverage. You deserve it.

Then, we build.

To my friends in the first category, this one's for you:

The Minimalist Guide to Getting Your Business Up and Running

  • Make something cute and make it high quality.
  • Take well-lit, attractive photos (from multiple angles) of what you made.
  • Write your description, price, nail down your packaging and shipping process and fill in a few basic details (how to pay, how to care for it, any shipping or return policies, how long you expect it to take for them to get it, etc.)
  • Tell everyone that you’re selling your gorgeous pieces. Don’t be shy!
  • Ask them to follow you, share you on their socials or gather emails (offering an incentive like a discount is a good way to do this) so you can keep them updated.

YOU HAVE STARTED A BUSINESS!

Handmade Jewelry by Dana Hartness

Category two friends, this is for you:

The Slightly More Thought Out Way to Get Your Business Up and Running

Make something cute and make it high quality.

This usually involves honing in on a specific technique and practicing until it’s something a person (not a family member) would want to buy. Jewelry is a saturated market BUT no one else can put your spin on it so don’t worry about it. There’s room for you.

Look at shops that are selling something similar and study how they are presenting, pricing and marketing their products. Do they seem successful? Why do you think that is?

Source: Happy Little Lovelies Shopify Store

How can you stand out?

Take well-lit, attractive photos (from multiple angles) of what you made.

There are no real short cuts here. The pictures matter. In some cases, they are the only way a customer will see what you made until it is in their possession.

A few musts:

  • Well lit, clear photos (in natural light when possible). It doesn’t matter how gorgeous your work is, if the photos are dark, it will be a hard sell.
  • Multiple angles. Take them from overhead (showing the whole piece), from the side, being worn, being hung up, a close-up, it its packaging. You get the point.
  • Something alive. I promise you, this makes a difference. It could be a plant, a hand, the jewelry being worn on a wrist or neck. In general, people like to see other people in pictures.
Source: Happy Little Lovelies shop on Etsy

If you want to go to the next level, style the photos with a cute outfit, a beautiful table, a themed flat lay or beautiful packaging.

Write your description, price, nail down your packaging and shipping process, and fill in a few basic details.

Entire articles could be written about each one of these things so I can’t cover everything, but let’s touch on a couple of details:

 

  • Product description: if you’re selling online, you’ll need to describe your jewelry in a clear, pleasing way. Cover basics like size, dimension, materials, features (is it adjustable?), anything unique that makes it stand out, how to clean/care for it. Maybe throw in some styling ideas like ways to wear it or what occasion it would be perfect for.

 

  • Pricing: there are a lot of thoughts out there about this one. My experience is that most people start out sorely underpricing their work. I’ve learned that if you don’t value your work, other people won’t either. You’re not a yard sale. You’re an artist. Here’s a great pricing guide to get you started.

 

  • Packaging: yes, it matters but don’t get too stressed about this in the beginning. Make sure it’s secure and won’t break in shipping. Beyond that, think simple and pretty. This could be a brown kraft box with twine and your business card or colorful tissue paper with washi tape and a card. If you to be extra smart, include a discount code for a future purchase and info on how to follow you on social media. Keep them in touch with you!

 

  • Shipping: it’s important not to skip this step or you risk shipping costs eating into your profits. Weight it (including the packaging) and then check the USPS calculator to see how much it would cost to ship to the furthest place you’re willing to ship. Decide if you’ll offer priority or rush delivery options and how long each of them take to get to the buyer (make sure to cover your costs!).

 

  • Details:
    • How to pay: if you don’t have a way for them to pay you online, you need to consider that. If you choose a platform like Etsy or Shopify, there are commerce platforms already built-in so you don’t have to worry about it. When you’re doing in-person sales, do you offer them a way to pay with a card? If so, decide on the service you want to use. (I have used Square and the Shopify reader and have liked both.)
    • How to care for their product: this is covered in your description.
    • Shipping and Return policies: if something happens in shipping, will you replace it? Do you offer refunds if they don’t like it? How long do they have to return it? Who pays for the return shipping?
    • Turnaround time: customers WILL ask about this so give yourself plenty of time (reasonably, of course) to make their product if needed, and the shipping time.

Tell people!

Share your gorgeous pictures on your social media accounts, mention it to your friends/family and ask them to share it as well. This may feel really awkward, but sister...you are now a business owner. You don’t have to be sales-y. Just share what you’re doing and do that consistently (once is not enough!).

Stay connected to them.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: an email list is GOLD. It’s access to a customer base that is yours and no platform can take it away (like they can shut down your shop or take away your followers). Offer an incentive or freebies like a discount or a free download of your 5 favorite fall looks, for example, in exchange for their email.

Whew! I know that was a lot of words so it’s ok to approach this in chunks. It might take you a little while to get fully up and running and that’s ok. This is important work and worth your effort to do well.

The goal is to get your art into the world and get people to buy it, but not at the cost of your sanity so go at your pace. This is an amazing undertaking and can bring you so much joy and fulfillment (not to mention cold, hard cash) for years down the road.

I’m cheering you on!


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