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View Full Version : Can You Make a decent Living Making Jewellery?



Cathy at the Beach
08-04-2010, 05:41 PM
Seems a bit of a dumb question- but seriously - I wonder.
Almost everyone I know who is a creative jeweller has another job or career.

I am a Realtor and thinking of retiring and focusing on my jewellery. I am pretty good at marketing and pricing and I know it is really hard to make enough money to live on by jewellery alone.

Here in Manitoba most stores that sell what I make carry various artists jewellery. Most are in the same ballpark price wise. ($75- $180 retail per piece). The stores say they sell an average of 4 pieces of jewellery per artist per month. That means having an awful lot of venues to sell at. Where I live there just aren't that many stores!
I guess the thing to do is get accounts outside of your own cachment area.

Any comments on this? I'm sure many of you sell your jewellery successfully and make a living at it.
Can you share any secrets :)

Sunnybank
08-04-2010, 06:36 PM
I've been wondering this Cathy

geti-titanium
08-04-2010, 07:52 PM
Yes you can.

The potential from your local traders sounds a bit limited so, go global! Learn as much as you can about internet marketing and seo and get your website on page 1 of google - it really isn't difficult, just time consuming. Also whilst your sales are low, try to keep your overheads low as well - search out jewellery websites that offer a yearly membership subscription and has tie ins with manufacturers and suppliers offering a discount to the members, a guild site for example.

Di Sandland
08-04-2010, 08:15 PM
That sounds like a cunning plan Geti - any suggestions?

Sunnybank
08-04-2010, 08:26 PM
I'm all ears .........................

geti-titanium
08-04-2010, 08:27 PM
That sounds like a cunning plan Geti - any suggestions?

I have heard of a guild site, but I can't remember the details. I'll have to have a search around and see if I can find the details somewhere - sounded quite good though. Something about supplier discounts, sharing exhibition space at craft fairs etc. I only had a glance at the flyer.

Sunnybank
08-04-2010, 08:33 PM
Maybe you could post us a link.

geti-titanium
08-04-2010, 08:36 PM
Sorry Sunny - I may have thrown it away. I'll keep looking though :-)

Di Sandland
08-04-2010, 09:29 PM
I'd be really interested to know more, Alan, so get searching

daisychain
08-04-2010, 10:22 PM
I'm not lucky enough to make a living from just selling yet (yet!!), but my business as a whole does help to pay the household bills - I teach jewelley making privately and at a local college and write magazine articles, and these avenues are wonderful at bringing in a steady income, even in the quieter sales times of the year.

Lou
08-04-2010, 10:35 PM
I think you can if you waork hard and have a unique product for example Profile for lulubug on Etsy (http://lulubug.etsy.com) recently quit her day job and does
Etsy full time. It has also helps she was a featured seller on Etsy, lots of exposure. Looks at Etsy's "Quit your Day Job" feature, lots of metalsminths in there Search: quit your day job :: Etsy Blog (http://www.etsy.com/storque/search/tags/quit-your-day-job/)

MuranoSilver
08-04-2010, 11:34 PM
I now earn my living from it, then did have to open my own shop to get my jewellery out there!
My sales are about 20% my own creations, part other British designers, part overseas designers
and about 35% everyday essentials, earrings, chains rings etc (bought from a larger company).

I also teach, write for mags & have an online shop. Murano Silver is "5" in May.
The business was supported in it's first year by me working 2 jobs. The second year I broke even, third was a loss
(due to opening a second shop and it not working) & it's been growing ever since.

I was willing to go out on a limb and take some risks but I guess I could've gone back into sales if it hadn't worked.
The only downside is the higher the risk, the bigger chance that limb will break and you'll land on your bum (like me in my third year)
Only you can work out which path is right for you and how much risk you'll be happy with but I hope you go for it as
doing what you love and loving what you do is wonderful :D
Nic x

Lou
09-04-2010, 10:19 AM
I now earn my living from it, then did have to open my own shop to get my jewellery out there!
My sales are about 20% my own creations, part other British designers, part overseas designers
and about 35% everyday essentials, earrings, chains rings etc (bought from a larger company).

I also teach, write for mags & have an online shop. Murano Silver is "5" in May.
The business was supported in it's first year by me working 2 jobs. The second year I broke even, third was a loss
(due to opening a second shop and it not working) & it's been growing ever since.

I was willing to go out on a limb and take some risks but I guess I could've gone back into sales if it hadn't worked.
The only downside is the higher the risk, the bigger chance that limb will break and you'll land on your bum (like me in my third year)
Only you can work out which path is right for you and how much risk you'll be happy with but I hope you go for it as
doing what you love and loving what you do is wonderful :D
Nic x

Very inspirational, I want to be like you when I grow up :)

I wish I had the confidence to teach though, maybe one day.

L x

disorganised
09-04-2010, 11:08 AM
Nic - how long have you been making jewellery for? And how long after you started learning did you start selling, and then how long was it before you were making your living from it? Basically, I'm looking for your complete career history! :).

I have only just started silversmithing, but I have never loved doing anything as much as I love this, and if there were a way to make a living at it one day, I would be so happy. I have an old endowment policy that matures in 7 years, and it would enable me to take a year or 2 sabbatical from work. I could spend that time really trying to make a go of this, and if I fall flat on my face, I've got the option of returning to my current job, so I'm probably in the best situation possible.

So, I guess my queestion is, is it possible to get good enough (at silversmithing, marketing, selling, web design, running a small business etc etc....) in 7 years worth of spare time for this to be a realistic goal?

Ta

Claire

Cathy at the Beach
09-04-2010, 12:47 PM
Fabulous replies!! Thank you all. I'll search for discount offers...never even thought of that.
As far as Etsy goes- I think I'll pass that by for the time being. I did have a couple of goes at it but found it was a full time job just keeping up with photography and uploading listings daily. I'd rather make jewellery. (I know lots of people are very successful at etsy- I just think it will be low on my list)
I agree with the comment of go global. I have to do this. Right now I sell in each area of the city and I feel if I go into any more stores in Winnipeg I will over exposing myself. (feel like a flasher when I say that)

I don't need to make a fortune. Just enough.

Neti
09-04-2010, 03:17 PM
Hello Everyone

I am new to this forum and to be honest new to using a forum so be patient with me...
I would really like to make a living out of jewellery making but not sure how.
I put stuff on ebay have sold stuff but not as much as I would like also got a couple of returning customers but still not enough to make a living usually just enough to cover to cost to buy new beads...
I read that going on craft fairs (I just found a website which gives you locations) but I don't think that I can right now with having my 1 year old...

Aslo heard that jewellery competitions are good too. I have entered a couple but not in the UK. ( I cannot find any let me know if you know where and when ...) One of my bracelet is in a huuuuuggggee catalouge which I am so proud of and an other is in the final and waiting for the results.

I was thinking about finding someone who wants to work with me (ideally who has her/his own business as I haven't got my own) not much luck so far....

And I have no idea how to set up a business. I mean if i do it and won't pay tax at the begining I can get in trouble if I do it properly will probably loose the house as I don't think will make enogh money to start with....

any sugestions

Thanks

x

MuranoSilver
11-04-2010, 04:02 PM
Nic - how long have you been making jewellery for? And how long after you started learning did you start selling, and then how long was it before you were making your living from it? Basically, I'm looking for your complete career history! :).

I have only just started silver smithing, but I have never loved doing anything as much as I love this, and if there were a way to make a living at it one day, I would be so happy. I have an old endowment policy that matures in 7 years, and it would enable me to take a year or 2 sabbatical from work. I could spend that time really trying to make a go of this, and if I fall flat on my face, I've got the option of returning to my current job, so I'm probably in the best situation possible.

So, I guess my question is, is it possible to get good enough (at silver smithing, marketing, selling, web design, running a small business etc etc....) in 7 years worth of spare time for this to be a realistic goal?

Ta
Claire
Hi Claire
Sorry I didn't answer sooner but I've been away for three days at the guild of enamellers conference..
(which was bloomin amazing and fantastic! :Y:)
I'm been making jewellery and twiddling since I was 16 but making jewellery to sell for about 5 years..
My first pieces were beaded works ~ more stringing and arranging than "making" but the proceeds of those creations helped fund courses, equipment and the time needed to add to my skill set.

Seven years is a good long time to not only add to your skill set with short courses but also to find the "thing" that sets you on fire..with me it was discovering precious metal clays for you it may be something different.
The great part is that when your discover your creational muse it makes the other skills you learn even more exciting...
As you've asked for it this is my "career history" ~ all of which could be easily taken as courses & developed within your 7 year period (though you'll possibly have a different muse) :)
1) Started with Beading & wire work....
2) Moved to Chain Maille
3) Discovered Silver Clay *(GOT very enthused about it)
4) Learnt Soldering and traditional metal working techniques to add to my silver clay options
(also got interested in other silver working techniques because of this)
5) Learnt casting - to understand where that may be better for me and how I might replicate silver clay pieces
6) Learnt Polymer Clay to add colour to my pieces
7) Learnt Resin Clay to add colour to my pieces
8) Learnt Enamelling to add colour to my pieces
9) Learnt Dichroic Glass making to add colour & design to my pieces
(NB when I say learnt I mean took a course not became a master, lol)
I'm still constantly learning new techniques in all these areas & adding more design elements and areas into work.

So YES - my suggestion would be start the journey, find your creative fuel and go for it!
Nic xx

amazingbabe
12-04-2010, 10:36 AM
I have been making jewellery for 3yrs now... thankfully i have lots of returning customers but where i make lots of money is from jewellery parties xx

LillyTea
13-04-2010, 03:16 PM
MuranoSilver you story is really inspirational!

I would love to make the main staple of my career art and jewellery based but don’t know how to go about really doing it!

I’m from a Fine Art background and started making jewellery last year – more like putting things together than proper silversmithing. I have only just got my act together with my website but am really slow at updating and putting new products on.

I use Google analytics which ticks away in the background of my website (I would recommend it to everyone!) – it’s really interesting and I do have quite a lot of views of my site but very few sales. Can anyone suggest why this might be? I find it really strange particularly as whenever I do craft shows with my stuff I do pretty well but struggle online even though as I said I get quite a few hits.

Any advice would be welcomed!

ps: I know lots of things on my site say "sold out" but they are currently in the Created in Birmingham shop on a sale or return basis and are not sold at the moment - but fingers crossed! LOL

Carl Martin
13-04-2010, 10:48 PM
In agreeance with Nic,You certainly can earn a good living from it - Some know my story, others don't I won't bore you to death but in a relatively short amount of time I have my own studio, I teach probably 90% of the time and the people that come along literally come from all over the UK. I make to commission only. In addition to silver ,gold, and platinum work I'm also heavily into lampworking and fused glass. I've just secured a number of prestigious brand names to supply materials and tools and a brand new website along with all the lovelly supplies is due to be launched in June.
It's incredibly hard work, sometimes frustrating but never boring and wouldn't change a thing.

Cathy at the Beach
14-04-2010, 09:43 PM
Very cool info on this thread. Thanks to all of you.

My next question is kind of personal, but I'll ask it and if any one wishes to answer great- if not I sure do understand.

What kind of profit margin do you work on?
I have been using 10% on my retail.... so I calculate my wholesale and double it (most stores on this side of the pond keystone so doubling my wholesale is how I get there.

so----

wholesale is cost of materials +shipping+ taxes +overhead+labour ($12 an hour for me)
retail is double the wholesale + 10% profit for an absolute minimum (if it looks low I raise the price- most items I do raise)

I just find I have to sell to a lot of stores and they have to sell to a lot of customers for me to make a substanance income!!

what should I change???

caroleallen
14-04-2010, 10:05 PM
That sounds about right to me Cathy.

MuranoSilver
15-04-2010, 09:17 AM
That sounds about right to me too :)
nic xx

disorganised
18-04-2010, 09:29 AM
Nic - apologies for demanding your life story and then essentially abandoning this thread - I've been unable to access the website from work...grr....

Anyway, thank you very much for your reply. That was incredibly useful. It's quite exciting to think that I might actually be able to do this! you know....in a few years... once I actually know what I'm doing.

Cathy at the Beach
18-04-2010, 03:27 PM
Ya...thats how I feel too. I really want to make this into something I can do full time. But-- I need to make some money!

So thanks for all your imput!!

Shaun750
03-07-2010, 11:57 AM
I'm trying to find out this question myself.
I've got a small income from a house I'm renting while looking after my Mum,so hopefully I wont starve.
I don't expect to make a living,but i would like to make some money and justify the time I'm putting in.
I had a retail unit for twelve years and although it's hard work,I made money from the very first day,paid staff bills,my mortgage,a new car,and some nice holidays.
When ever i hear 'I quit my day job' on etsy or ebay,all you've got to do is check there feedback and it takes a second to see it's a lie,they are selling 2 items a day on average. Maybe 20 a day.
7300 a year??,the last one that i read who said they quit their day job,didn't even have a profile anymore.
When i had my shop I could never have made a living just selling,I did repairs,watch batteries,bought scrap gold. As far as i can see there is no 'bread and butter' lines to give you a constant income,while your waiting for Christmas or the odd big sale,handmade.
I can buy wholesale silver/gold jewellery finished and set with stones(cz's) for example 10.it would probably take me all day to make some of them.Still hard to sell.
Selling jewellery to me on ebay and etsy,the web(although i haven't tried this yet) is equivalent to a high street with 100 jewellers down both side of the street. You can walk past every one. All the other shops are looking in every other shops window,and selling the same for a 1 less.
Instead of competing with all the other jewellers,selling the same stuff,I'm trying to make and sell designs that no one else is ( there is a danger that no one wants what I'm selling though!). I also try to add a personalized twist(engraving,nameplate),which makes it slightly more difficult to mass produce,which is my favor(I hope).What I'm selling is relatively expensive,but i might have to make and post one item.That's melt and roll the silver out,buff it,polish it,set up the engraving,cut it out,polish it.Then put it in a box and an envelope(I paid for),then jump in the car(how much does that cost a year to run and wear and tear!!) drive to the post office.Then drive back again.
There are quite a few other things working against us as well.We are in a recession.
Don't wish to be negative, Just got to be realistic,if you enjoy making jewellery then maybe we should be happy with that I'm always experimenting/inventing.I'm lucky if 50% of things work,so that's still half of things work.

caroleallen
03-07-2010, 02:42 PM
It is hard to make a living at making jewellery. I really did "quit my day job" about 3 1/2 years ago to concentrate on my business. I've never made a loss but also never made a really good living until this year. For some reason, things have taken off for me now and the first three months of this financial year have been amazing. I think what happens is that as you go to shows and events around the country and get listed on lots of websites, people start to have confidence in your work. It's an uphill struggle and I work at it 7 days a week but you'll get there in the end. (and I have my very own post-boy who walks down to the post office every day for me - bless!)

andrew_berry
05-07-2010, 05:03 PM
I started in my parents garage with a makeshift bench made out of an old door.

I had a 1000 overdraft and bought a rolling mill and polishing motor which I still have 22 years on.

I put out flyers door to door taking in repairs to start with. I did make up jewellery initially but very disheartened by shops saying no.

I did get my break when a local boutique took a load of stock I made. I put together a 'designer' range in silver and took them to the owner. I spent the next week making the order and it all grew from there.

i moved to a near by village in a back room above an estate agents then a year later took on a shop with enough room for a workshop.

Since then we have extended the workshop and have just recently had a shop refit.

I have made jewellery for local celebrities, band members and Jamie Oliver.

We did think about opening up another shop but this would have cost too much and I would have had to divide myself between two shops so we developed a few online ecommerce websites and have never looked back.

I now write for several magazines and I am in the process of writing two books. Just launched an oline jewellery training website and the shop has never been busier.

LydiaNiz
07-07-2010, 07:21 PM
This is really interesting stuff.
I made a slight loss my first year - a main problem is due to family issues, I am the only one of us working, and instead of putting money back into the business it all tends to disappear into clothes for the kids/bills! I have a list on my wall - i still need my hallmark (as I'm currently limited to small pieces), a rolling mill, and I'd like a go at simple casting (Andrew, I think it was your vids of the delft clay method that has me fancying it!). I am hoping that I can pick things up this year. I've had a nightmare selling through galleries and shops (not being paid for months etc) and prefer to sell directly, but need to promote myself better. I'm not very good at selling myself (or my work!)

andrew_berry
07-07-2010, 09:33 PM
Delft Clay is the biz for small one off pieces.

It take a few goes to understand the logistics of how to set up the sprue and air vents to get the right result each time.

Andrew

Cathy at the Beach
13-07-2010, 04:15 AM
Well, since I last posted I have changed a few things- I raised my prices- didn't seem to matter to the stores that carry my jewellery- they are selling just as well at the higher price.
I decided to stop doing consignment sales (I still have two shops that work on consignment- I am kind of trapped with them- but in a way its not too bad- they pay me 60% rather than the wholesale rate of 50% that the non consignment stores buy the stuff at.) I find the book keeping much easier when they buy the jewellery up front.
I am exploring two shops outside my province- one in Ottawa and one in Vancouver- looks like those may work out.

I retire from my Real Estate job on Thursday- full time jewellery after that!
So thank you to all for the great advice.
I will either starve or not starve- the die is cast!

caroleallen
13-07-2010, 07:10 AM
Congratulations on the retirement Cathy and good luck with the jewellery. I'm sure you won't be needing Red Cross parcels!

snow_imp
13-07-2010, 07:36 AM
Congratulations on moving to jewellery making full time - good luck on that front.

MuranoSilver
13-07-2010, 09:00 AM
Congratulations and goodluck with your new career :)

lorraineflee
13-07-2010, 10:57 AM
Good luck with the new full-time jewellery venture Cathy - I'm sure that you'll do really well!
Lorraine

jille
13-07-2010, 05:28 PM
Best wishes with the new venture Cathy
jill

andrew_berry
14-07-2010, 11:47 AM
Good luck. It will be the best decision you made yet.

Andrew

Petal
15-07-2010, 08:40 AM
Oh Cathy, that's wonderful news and I'm so pleased for you - you must be really excited. I'm sure you'll go far and Ottowa and Vancouver are such fab places that they'll love your stuff. Let us know how you get on.

lesley
15-07-2010, 09:07 AM
Good luck with it all, Cathy. I love your attitude.

Arborvita
01-01-2011, 03:09 PM
It certainly seems that we need to be thinking 'outside the box' to make a living. Plus some serious hard work.

I think having a business plan and constantly developing it is really supportive when aiming for growth. It gives a sense of direction, purpose and targets to go for.

That being said, I should probably get on with some work :)

diamondboy
14-02-2011, 12:27 PM
One should remember that a freelancer is quite like businessman/woman..he/she has talent for assets..so the talent should be leveraged to make benefit monetarily..I have been a businessman for a few years now and earn enough to be able to buy a Porsche:-) ..did not mean to brag, but with persistence and hardwork, one can really achieve ones goals..

I congratulate Cathy for her brave decision..however, its upto her how she can promote her skills and make the best out of her talents...All the best!

meriah
20-04-2011, 07:23 AM
I'm absolutely only an amateur and make jewellery as hobby. But who knows if some day it turns to be something more than a hobby...