Also check out Build A Business: The Basics
I can't say I'm all that well-informed on starting and running a business, perhaps not as it applies to a wide audience. But... I know what's worked for me, keeping in mind what follows is little more than a glorified opinion. I've covered product pricing, product photography, photo editing, selling platforms (and more on selling platforms here) and social media in previous articles, so what I've chosen to talk about here is the general idea that makes a business a business.
Before I get started, a small caveat: get all the legal stuff addressed- taxes, licenses (if required by your state), insurance, whatever is necessary which can be found on your local government's websites. They are usually pretty all-inclusive and fairly easy to navigate. And they have staff (usually) that can walk you through any process. As I said in a previous copyright article, if they aren't a government employee, don't take the advice of strangers on the internet as concerns the law. Just ask the appropriate professionals directly.
And while product pricing IS important to the overall business model, the most important element of running a business, in my opinion, is branding and marketing. None of the other stuff matters if you don't have any customers, right? Branding and marketing is what brings in your customers. If you are paying for your time, overhead, materials and profit, then what you charge (hourly rate) doesn't matter. What matters is finding the customer who will pay it. In other words, don't price to appease an audience, find the audience who will pay your price.
If you are charging $300 for a piece, make sure your branding (photography, packaging, online presence, signage) SHOWS that your pieces are worth that much. Charging $300 and then throwing that piece in a bubble mailer taped up in newspaper isn't doing any business owner any favors. Make sure your branding and marketing is consistent from the piece you make, to the venue on/in which you chose to sell, to the way you present yourself on social media. Consistent photography, consistent marketing materials are very important. Carry color themes across the board, with your social media banners and avitars, packaging and websites. Use the same business name consistently, keep it brand-appropriate and change it only when absolutely positively necessary. Difficult to pronounce or spell might signify a necessary change.
Social media is SO important. Don't rely only on Facebook. You need Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, a personal blog, and you can't post the same things on each of them. Post different material on each social media platform then link out to other platforms or your website. Your particular audience may not be on all of those platforms, but you have to use them for a while first to determine if that's the case. Learn SEO and use it ALL the time. Chose your words carefully when you post for sale, on your website or social media to assure you are creating the best online presence for yourself possible in Google search. Use a program like Google Analytics (some all-inclusive websites like Weebly may already include something similar), which will detail the source of your incoming traffic.
Vary your posts on social media. Your posts shouldn't be sell sell sell. You aren't selling materials or mass produced items. You are selling art. You are an artist. You should present yourself as such and make the transaction about a personal connection and not moving product. Talk to people. Converse with them. If you don't love doing that, I can tell you that making a living at this will be impossible in today's market.
The market is incredibly saturated. I wont sugar coat it. It's so saturated that only the people who devote all their time to making it a business will actually make it a business. No platform, no matter what they promise, will make sales happen for you. In my experience, it definitely IS a gamble. I hear people say they work full time jobs and don't have time to promote themselves. So it's a risk. You have to make that time, even if it means losing hours or money at a conventional job. You have to take that risk. If you don't believe in yourself, and invest in yourself with time and money, no one else is going to want to either.
Make product no one else is making and do it better than anyone else could possibly do it. Even if that's not really the case, BELIEVE that it's the case, because if you believe it, you'll market yourself as if you believe it, and the audience will believe it. This is what branding is all about: your belief in yourself and how you chose to present that to others.
And, finally, good luck and happy weaving!
Giveaway is now closed!
I'm very excited to announce a new giveaway... "Win it before you can buy it" for one free entry into the new Art Jewelry Online Retreat and any ten PDF tutorials from my available selection of lessons. This is a prize valued at more than $150, and one winner will receive it entirely free!
I've been invited to take part in a fantastic all-inclusive online retreat, featuring 19 art jewelry designers and 24 beautiful video lessons. Stay home, use your favorite tools, work at your own pace, and complete fabulous art jewelry projects while participating in a great community of creative individuals.
My video project "Pocket Watch Pendant" demonstrates how to set cabochons (of most shapes and sizes) in a wire woven bezel, suitable for any intermediate wire worker.
Entries are accepted October 18-23, 2015, and a winner will be chosen and emailed on Saturday, October 24, 2015. To enter, simply use the form below. (Now closed!)
And if you don't win, you can still take advantage of this opportunity, community and 24 projects by 19 teachers, for only $99. The retreat will be open for purchase October 25, 2015. Classes will begin in January 2016, but access to the community, list of teachers, projects and necessary materials will all be available for early viewing. Purchase your seat in the first three days (October 25th, 26th and 27th) and you'll be entered to win one of 100 goody bags.
More examples of work made using the Pocket Watch Pendant lesson!
How many times have you heard this in relation to the reproduction, by one person, of a work of art created, originally, by someone else: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"?
And while that may be true, this doesn't mean it isn't theft. Woah, now, you might be saying. Theft is a strong word, I know, but I wanted to get your attention.
Now I'm speaking generally, of course, and not in relation to anything I've experienced, personally, only things I've witnessed in the community, as a whole. Recently I was wandering a great web of social oddities (ahem, Facebook) and came across a post in which one artist shared their work and wrote "Inspired by..." and named another artist as their inspiration. These posts are endless in their numbers, and usually quite innocent in motive. And while I don't think it was the case in this particular instance, the point is that "imitation" is sometimes, not always... but sometimes, just a polite way of saying "I copied it" that doesn't offend ones sense of artistry and personal morality. It happens. Sometimes we like a design so much we have to prove to ourselves that we can do it. It's a mentality with which I sympathize. But when you do that, own it. Own it completely. Implying that a copy (even when altered) is "inspired by" is not owning it and could honestly get you into trouble. Eeep! No one wants that. No artist enjoys cornering or policing those who have copied their work without permission, especially when it's usually a result of excitement and admiration.
Does this frighten you into never sharing anything you make inspired by others? It shouldn't, but there are important distinctions to make. First, let me say, this in no way applies to the use of tutorials. If you use a tutorial and say "Inspired by" when you share on social media, you're FINE. Don't worry, this has nothing to do with you. However, it is necessary these days to state explicitly that posting a piece of art online is not, in and of itself, a tutorial, unless explicitly stated, nor does it grant others permission to replicate, even with alteration, and then share or sell this copy. And copying a design detailed in a tutorial that you didn't purchase the rights to use is not okay. Ever. Saying "I didn't buy the tutorial, but I wanted to try this design by....." is not cool. It doesn't matter that you gave credit to the designer. Tutorials take 30+ hours to construct, from start to finish and, in may cases, much much longer. A teacher has to sell hundreds of copies in order to adequately pay for their time and expertise and this can take months. Please, as my public service announcement on behalf of all those who write tutorials, if you like the design, just purchase the right to reproduce it and (if applicable) sell the reproductions.
Please note: I am not a lawyer. More specifically, I am not a COPYRIGHT lawyer, and will not be offering counsel in that regard. If you are not a copyright lawyer (I don't care if you know one, or if your husband's brother is one, or if your college professor is one), please do not comment with legal advice. This post regards the MORAL obligations we have, as artists, when creating and sharing our work with others. And since morality is entirely subjective, it goes without saying that this is my opinion. Based on experience, yes, but an opinion nonetheless.
Artists spend thousands of dollars on tools and supplies, hours hunting for resources, years perfecting a skill and this isn't a hobby for everyone. For every person reproducing the work of one artist, no matter how derivative, there is less opportunity for that artist to support themselves. "Art is meant to be shared...." is a lovely idea and I agree entirely and encourage this philosophy, but make sure the artist IS actually sharing it for use by others. For instance, I sell tutorials. I LOVE to share designs in my lessons and see what others make with those lessons. I have designs that are one-of-a-kind, that have no lesson attached, sure, but I make it a point to provide a ton of other designs and lessons from which artists CAN chose. But there are other artists who do not provide lessons and do not share the rights to designs. It is very easy to forget, in a world in which there is a proliferation of how-to videos and files, that no artist at all is required nor obligated to sell the rights to their designs or instructional materials. Some chose to, others do not. So if you find yourself inspired by others, just make sure you take what they do and do it bigger, better and INNOVATE. Innovation is the life force of art. Ah, "but there's nothing new under the sun" you might be thinking. I hear it often. And it's wrong. Totally, utterly, unforgivably wrong. TECHNIQUE might be a standard in the jewelry world, but DESIGN possibilities are endless.
Now, that's my soap box for the month. It's an opinion and a strong one, and it may differ from the opinions of others, but maybe it will instigate a little conversation. These are important conversations to have.
Now forget all this and go make something pretty!
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