What to consider if you want to start selling handmade work
Our centre administrator and Manchester-based contemporary jewellery designer-maker Stacey Hill has put together a few important areas to consider when you’re starting out selling handmade work to galleries, shops or even online. She studied Jewellery and Applied Arts and is now based in MCDC Divinity Studio. If you’d like to you can follow her on Instagram here.
It is really important to have your own unique and recognisable style of handmade work. Many makers are multi-skilled; however, I really recommend getting to grips with your product and design and produce a collection that truly reflects that before presenting it to sell. You won’t appeal to everyone and that is absolutely fine!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to research and decide who your customer is, focus on that and target them specifically. You should also view potential stockists as customers, Research which stockists would be a good fit for your brand and why, do some research on makers markets to see which ones would be worth doing as these events are hard work and you could have disappointing results if you’re not participating in the right kind of events.
Again, this is so important to get right as a maker. Many artists make the mistake of starting out with their prices too low, without considering the full cost of running a business. This also not only devalues your work, but the work of other makers. There is lots of useful information available online to give you some guidelines on pricing. The Design Trust is a great resource for makers, they also host workshops from time to time, which are well worth seeking out.
In an ideal world you would have this sorted before you start out, but this can be difficult to manage. You may be juggling several jobs at a time (a ‘portfolio career’) and you may not have the skills or funds to get professional branding produced. It can be so tough not to procrastinate over these decisions, so if you are not quite there yet, don’t dismay.
There are some simple and affordable printing websites out there such as Solopress and Moo which have some great templates available. You can easily choose something in-keeping with your brand. You could do other simple things to tie your look and feel together like having a rubber stamp with your brand name made so you can stamp your branding onto simple packaging, I got mine from Vistaprint, but there are plenty of options online.
Approaching stockists can be very daunting indeed! Personalise your email wherever possible, then you can usually find out people’s names with a bit of online research, and pop then a quick email explaining why you think your brand would be a good fit for their blog, shop, gallery or online store.
Send them good quality photos of your work – I can’t stress how important that is! Lastly, avoid cold telephone calling. This can be very off-putting for people, they may feel on the spot which can make them uncomfortable and they are more likely to give you a no than a yes, which is not what you want! There are of course times that it might be appropriate, for example if you get into a natural conversation with a potential stockist and it is relevant to discuss your work, otherwise an email to follow things up later can be a better idea.
it is so beneficial to attend networking events for makers and other creatives, things like exhibition previews, workshops or maker meet ups. Manchester Craft & Design Centre host regular meet ups, as do Arc, and you can sign up to the workshops and creative practice mailing lists to hear about upcoming events. We also share a lot of opportunities on our Facebook Page. Lots of similar events also take place across the country, so do look at organisations local to you. You can make valuable contacts, meet friends, skill swap, mentors, find out about other opportunities and build up your support network in general, which is never a bad thing!
Things to consider here are simple things like having a professional email address, it should be your brand/own name and not for example an email address that you’ve been using for years such as ‘email@example.com’, unless it is of course relevant to your brand 😊
If you were emailing a potential stockist or customer then that is exactly the kind of thing that could put them off and they may not even open your email. It can also be hard to approach people and network, particularly if you’re not particularly confident or a natural public speaker, but practice makes perfect!