Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good shows and bad

I've known Jill Liles of Liv'nGood Jewelry for three years. She is one of the co-organizers and chainmaille guru of the Triangle Jewelry Makers. Check out the "Grow your business" section of her blog about using twitter, google analytics, and more.

Q: What kind of jewelry do you make?

Chainmaille, steampunk, semi-precious stone beading, whatever catches my eye.

Q: How long have you been making and selling jewelry?

Making for 3.5 years, selling for 2.5 years. I filled up my jewelry box, my mom's, and my sisters. It was either give up the hobby or start selling the stuff.

Q: Is this a full-time biz or a hobby?

Let's go with "hobby plus." I do try to make money at it, but I have a "real" job too that pays the bills.

Q: How many events do you do a year?

Probably 10 or so. That sounds like a lot more than it feels. Usually April-May my weekends are full and then again in Oct-November. I won't do a show in Jun-Aug (too hot) or Dec-Jan (too cold).

Q: What was your first show or event?

The Fuquay-Varina Celebration of the Arts and it was f****g hot!! It was June 4 and 104 degrees. I was in a side street off the main drag between two brick buildings that bounced the heat back and forth like a pizza oven. And I didn't sell diddly.

Q: What are the best and worst shows you've ever done?

Boylan Heights Art Walk in 2009 is still my #1 show from a sales perspective. I did about double my usual sales at that one event. It's a long established art show, so the people coming are looking for art and don't mind paying for it either.

The worst is a toss up between that first Fuquay show above, my last show in Fuquay where I was situated between a politician and a masseuse, and the show at Duke Homestead where I sold nothing, zip, nada.

Q: How do you feel when you have a bad experience at a show? 

It's tough but I try to go into every show thinking I'm just there to give out biz cards, any sales are "gravy." That makes the duds easier. But so far (knocking on wood) I've at least made back my entry fee at every show I've done (at least the Duke Homestead show was a freebie for me).

Q: What is your set up? How long does it take you to set up? Do you have help or do it alone?

I do it all alone now. My husband helped the first few shows, but then I got it down. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour if I'm doing the tent and all. Shows where it's just tables and displays are a little faster. But, I'm a "futzer." I'll move pieces around the whole time if I don't like how it looks. My basic set up is three tables in a U shape, with me sitting at the back behind them.

Q: Have you sold through consignment or galleries?

There's one store in Cary that has bought a few of my pieces wholesale, and I was in the Craftland Market at Scrap Exchange last fall. I forced myself to go into all the little cutesy shops in Apex and ask if they sold jewelry, hated every second of it and got nothing out of it, so I've never tried that route again. 

Q: What's your experience with internet selling?

I have my own website (but few sales there so far). I also have stores on the big two (Etsy and Artfire) and have had a few sales on each. The handmade sites are flooded with jewelry makers, so it's tough to stand out.

If you're just starting with the online stuff, I recommend setting up a free storefront on Artfire. Unlike Etsy, there are no listing fees, so this is an inexpensive way to figure out what you'll need to know about every piece you try to sell (good photos from all angles, price, shipping, tags, description, etc).

My philosophy is to promote myself and my site, not anyone else. So you won't see me advertising my Etsy or Artfire sites on my business cards. When it comes to online presence, you really should get your own domain and website. You can buy your domain name for $10 a year, and set up a basic free site using Blogger, WordPress or a similar service. Even if it only contains your links to an Etsy or Artfire store, having your own domain will pay off in the long run. It is the web address you should use on your business cards, show applications, etc. 

If you take the next step and decide to build an online store, test every single aspect of it as if you had never seen a computer before. I skipped that step on my own site and it was months before I realized that not only was there no way to contact me through the site, but the security settings weren't connecting. So even if you did want to buy something, you couldn't. And since there was no contact form.... I had a big time "doh" moment there!

Thanks, Jill! 
~ Jen

Jen Hilton makes one-of-a-kind jewelry sold through her website She is the founder of the Triangle Jewelry Makers and is featured in the books "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" and "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art" available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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