"It's not a real job." Not only is it a real job, it's the job of many handled by, sometimes, a single individual! We need to know photography, branding, how to navigate social media, web design, search engine optimization, current trends in the market, how to budget, how to balance that budget, how to balance our time, and, most importantly, how to create. While we can (and I highly recommend it) outsource many areas of our work, this in itself is a job!
"It must be nice to be your own boss." Being your own boss certainly has its perks! But it also carries with it a degree of uncertainty and stress. In fact, no matter what job you have and how much you love it, I'm positive in my assertion that we've all experienced stress in our work environments, even if that environment is our home. This is totally normal! Being your own boss means we aren't accountable to anyone but ourselves. But that also requires a certain dedication which differs from that required by more conventional employment. We have to set our hours, stick to those hours, balance our home and business life, stay productive in the face of distractions, especially for those who work from home with children (and spouses!). But finding the balance, as tenuous or delicate as it may be, can be immensely rewarding!
"So you get to set your own hours? Ah, the freedom!" While we do have some ability to maneuver our tasks to accommodate emergencies or meet the expectations of family and friends, these adjustments are often not without consequence to our business or sanity. While conventional employment often provides paid vacations, sick leave and personal development days, these are definitely not in the wheel-house of the self-employed.
"It's too expensive to start a business." Well, this depends. While some business ventures can certainly result in costly investments, a handcrafted business can be successful with limited financial commitment. There are free or low-cost resources for those in the handcrafted market, such as customizable shopfronts through Storenvy, free photo editing software such as Photoscape, and free or heavily-discounted business cards through companies like Vista Print.
"If you build it, they will come." I've seen some iteration of this theory expressed often, usually expressed by artists who are disillusioned or disappointed with their lack of success, and usually as a result of an unfortunate, idealized expectation of success verses the time involved in reaching it. While 85% of small businesses survive their first year, the numbers drop dramatically when comparing survival with profit. And over 50% of small businesses will fail after their fifth year. These are depressing statistics, on their surface. But, recognizing this reality can, indeed, be the catalyst towards success, because it requires preparation and realistic expectations and goals. Knowing how to make a great product will never guarantee sales. So, prepare and be willing to learn about branding, marketing, web design, photography and bookkeeping (especially for those on a budget that does not allow for outsourcing these tasks). In the end, full-time, even part-time profitability is rare within the first year. And, to quote someone who was smarter than me "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." Keep your expectations realistic!
These are only a few of the myths I've encountered, the most prevalent of them, and even myths I'd embraced myself at some point during my journey of entrepreneurship. And none of these are meant to discourage budding business men and women from following their passion! In fact, I think preparation is the foundation of all successful ventures!
What are some myths you've encountered as a self-employed business person?
So when and why are modeled shots useful? While I do believe the primary photo in any jewelry or fashion listing should be a detailed shot of the product itself, modeled shots can show how a product wears. Instead of an inanimate object, the piece becomes part of a scene. When worn on a model, there's an understanding of the mood a seller intends with their work when they create a scene in which it is worn. Ultimately, it tells a story.
I've learned, however, it's not always practical to have every piece of jewelry modeled. It can, in fact, be a financial burden on small business. While I am a photography enthusiast at best, I am lucky to have the gear and experience to take decent photos without hiring a professional photographer. But this came at its own expense via an artistic interest of mine (as any hobby would). I am also lucky to have beautiful nieces who are open to (affordable) compensation for photo shoots. So, I understand this can be a prohibitive expense to many... to myself even! I believe in real compensation for the time any model provides, and would never utilize that time without compensation, relation or not. Therefore, it's not practical (neither in time nor money) to have every piece of jewelry modeled. Bartering, however, is also an excellent method by which new jewelry designers or sellers can pair with new photographers or models to add to a business brand.
So, you don't have the resources to have every piece modeled? Never fear! I'm a firm believer that a single one-hour life-style shoot, shared on your selling platform as a website cover photo, for instance, can complete the picture of your business without the necessity for a modeled shot in every product listing. It's a one-time expense I personally believe to be as important to a brand as a monthly subscription to the provider of a website or selling platform, or to the manufacturer of business cards.
With all this said, as long as you've defined your brand, have a clear understanding of the mood or tone your wish to evoke through your work, and know your market, you can certainly have a successful shop without modeled jewelry.
Pure Black or White Backgrounds CONS (an opinion): While the jewelry certainly speaks for itself, pure white or black backgrounds lack a story. I want a complete picture of, not just the product, but the artist, which is sometimes lost in the sterility of white backgrounds, or (conversely) the darkness of its solid black counterpart. The numbers don't lie, and it's proven to boost sales, but it's important that the choice to use a pure white or black background is in line with your brand and image.
Shades of grey tell a story, set a mood that speaks beyond the product itself, without falling into the trap of associations we might often make with other solid color backgrounds. We might see a red background and think "anger", for instance, but grey (or shades of grey) often provide an opportunity to allow the viewer to build a relationship with the image without a deafening demand to react to the image in a prescribed manner.
The Wrap Up:
In the end, it's ultimately up to the seller to decide what fits his or her branding the best. It's far more important to focus on the consistency and style of the photography than in the color of the background. And to be sure you're telling your story the way you envisioned, through your products and also the way in which you present them to others, and that these things create a cohesive whole.
For more on product photography, check out this blog post, or the videos below!
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