Many of my students ask me how to go about selling their work. So many that I felt it important to post a little info on getting started here. There are many issues involved but I'll try to cover them all in time.
Pricing your work:
This is a hard one for most people. You need to get a handle on what it costs you to make your pieces. This includes:
Cost of materials used to make your pieces
Cost of materials wasted due to error, etc.
Electric costs and general overhead for your studio space.
Sundries - items you use but don't become a part of your creations. (Kiln wash, brushes, bead release, etc...)
You need to include an hourly wage for yourself. Figure out how many of x you make an hour and add that percentage of wages into the cost of the item. Make sure you include time for all those non-creation things like talking on the phone to buyers, preparing mailings, going to the Post Office, etc... Figure out how many hours a week you spend not-creating and how many you spend creating and average them... if I spend 20 hours creating and 40 hours doing administration (very like the truth, sorry to say) then you spend 60 hours a week working. If you make 100 widgets in the week then each widget takes 1.67 hours to make (even if it takes 10 minutes). So at $10 an hour wage you need to add $16.70 to the cost of production.
Now you have the cost of materials and cost of your time; you need to add profit. If the cost + time= 20.00 and you want to make 30% profit you need to charge: $26.00 BUT this is the wholesale cost.
You should calculate your prices based on the wholesale cost because some day you may want to sell on a wholesale basis and if you don't calculate your cost based on this now it will be hard to raise your prices that much later. Don't make the mistake of underselling yourself because it's easy to lower your prices (have a sale) but not to raise them.
For the Retail price, take the wholesale price and double it ($26 wholesale is $52 Retail). If you don't think your item will sell for $52 retail then either:
Lower your profit margin or wage. Don't sell that item wholesale so you have room to lower the price. Do a LOT of research. Look at a lot of work that is similar and see what others are charging. You'll find a wide range in skill and prices. Try to find a price to quality ratio that fits you and see if your calculations are in line with what others are charging.
Now that you have your prices figured out, how are you going to find folks to buy your work? Well, first you have to do a little prep work...
At first you can print these on your computer but, eventually, you'll want to get quality cards printed.
An inexpensive alternative to a brochure or catalog that you can mail with show announcements, give away at shows or send to a mailing list.
You CAN do this yourself but there is a learning curve; you have to like doing it and it does take a LOT of time. You need to decide if you want to use your Web site just to advertise OR if you want to sell from it too. This involves a shopping cart and is a bit more complex. Make sure your site makes people feel comfortable with you; let them know who you are, where you are and why your site is there.
You need a list of your items, prices and pictures if you want wholesale business. Do it yourself to start, using one of the many software packages available.
You can buy mailing lists with selected criteria but you can also just start collecting names, addresses and emails at shows and/or via your Web site. When doing a show DO ask EVERYONE for a business card or to sign your guest book. Then you can use this list to send postcards, brochures, show announcements etc...
If you are going to apply to shows you'll need jury slides. Select five of your products that represent the scope of your work and price range.
Decide if you are going to do retail shows, wholesale shows or both. If you're just starting out it might be best to start with retail BUT do build your pricing structure in such a way that you can sell wholesale later. Don't be tempted to set your retail prices at just a little over what would be your wholesale. It's tempting because you'll still be making a profit BUT it is almost impossible to raise your prices enough at a later date to allow you to sell wholesale. You CANNOT sell to retail customers at less than 2x your wholesale price... Well, you can, but you'll lose all your wholesale customers and it just isn't cricket.
There are lots of resources for finding shows. Go to shows and ask artists there how the show is. Find the promoter and ask to be put on the list. Call the local chamber of commerce and ask to be put on the list. Look in craft magazines for lists. Look in the paper, etc.
Apply to shows early! Most quality shows require you to apply months in advance so you might have to wait until the following year. You should 'walk the show', i.e. go and see it even if you are too late to get in. Most shows require you to pay, at least partially, up front.
You can start by seeing which stores in your neck of the woods carry work like yours, or at least handmade work. Stop by and see if your work would fit in with the stores' style. If it does, ask for the name and number of the buyer/owner. Follow up by contacting them and asking for an appointment. Don't just walk in with your stuff and expect them to stop running their business to look at your work.
If they want to buy don't let them talk you out of your price structure. Once you decide how much you need to get for your work, do not let anyone, retail or wholesale; make you feel bad so you'll lower your prices. Be firm. It's better to not sell than to set the stage of a relationship by giving in and then being unhappy with the profit margin. Resentment will build and you will not be satisfied. This will color your relationship for the duration and you will eventually walk away from what could have been a win-win relationship with that customer. Of course, you may find that your prices are unrealistic but that is for YOU TO DECIDE. Do research a lot of work in your genre to make sure you are being fair and reasonable. You CAN offer specials to make purchasing from you more attractive.
OK. Now you have customers, prices and inventory to sell!
What kind of payment will you take? Cash, checks, credit cards, electronic payments such as Paypal?
Cash - A given of course. Have change.
Checks - Can be risky but if you take names, addresses, phone numbers and drivers license info and put it on checks that helps. Let your gut instinct work for you here.
Credit Cards - Many folks don't take these at first but it really DOES make a difference in sales $$$.
EPayments - Important if you have a Web site.
Retail - Pay me now.
Wholesale - First order is Proforma (pay before shipment), after that Net30 (pay me 30 days after shipment) if they give you credit references AND you check them AND they are OK. If they are late paying, call them but be nice the first time. Understand that they are busy just as you are. Then when you are late with their order and call them, they will be nice to you too! If you can't get payment, either find a collection agency or take them to small claims court. It's a bummer but better than not getting paid.
The EVIL of consignment!!
Bring up this subject and you're probably going to get slammed by many artists! However, for me, this is a viable way of doing business. BUT, that said, you have to be very selective and careful because you can get burned!!
Permission granted and authored by Nancy Tang. Slight editing by Aberose.