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Selling your Work

 

Many of my students as 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.
Finding Customers: 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.....
  • Preparing yourself!
    • Business Cards. At first you can print these on your computer but, eventually, you'll want to get quality cards printed.
    • Post Cards. 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.
    • Website. 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; I know, My husband and I do all three of mine plus others. If you want an inexpensive but very good designer you can contact my husband at: Greg Tang. You need to decide if you want to use your website 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.
    • Brochures/Catalogs. 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 like MicroSoft Publisher.
    • Mailing Lists. 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 website. When doing a show DO ask EVERYONE for a business card or to sign your guestbook. Then you can use this list to send postcards, brochures, show announcements etc....
    • Slides. If you are going to apply to shows you'll need jury slides. Select 5 of your products that represent the scope of your work and price range.
  • Doing Shows:
    • 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.
    • Find shows. There are lost of resources for finding shows. Go to show and ask the 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 Early! Most quality shows require you to apply months in advance so you might have to wait till 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.
    • Home Parties - Like a Tupperware or Avon party - get friends to invite friends and show your work. The hostess gets a %'age of sales in cash or in goods.
  • Cold Calling. 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' 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.
  • Selling. If they want to buy don't let them talk you out of your price structure. Once you decide what 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.
Getting Paid: 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 check 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 $$$$. You can use a service like Paypal to take them if you aren't ready for a Merchant account of your own.
  • EPayments - Important if you have a website. Services like CCNOW and GoEmerchant provide shopping cart services.

Payment Policies: 

  • 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 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 collections 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 your 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 cause you can get burned!!

 

Quality, honor & life.....

This is a dangerous subject but one I feel I need to deal with. It's for your own good <smile> and mine! You may have noticed that there is a lot of dichro out there about now. When I started in 1998 there wasn't much but as we educated more and more folks, and other people do too, the number of folks creating dichroic glass pieces is growing. Not only that, but companies in Mexico, China and India have realized there is money in dichroic glass and have started to produce product and ship to the US. I know, I have taught some of these folks!

Artists in other media, seeing that dichroic glass is selling, have started to add it to their work as well.

Lots of folks ask me why I share my knowledge in my How to's! Ain't I afraid of the competition I'm creating? Ain't I afraid folks will steal my ideas? Copy my work? Etc... and so forth?

Well, the answer is, yes and no. I look at it this way - give 10 painters the same brushes, canvas and paints and you'll get 10 different paintings. Dichroic glass isn't all that different... it's just a medium. I tell my students that it's OK to copy in order to learn but we don't reproduce those pieces to sell as the design belongs to someone else. I copied Van Gogh in art class in order to learn a process and technique but I don't copy them and try to sell them as my own. Not all the world is so honest though; I'm not naive but I don't waste my energy on those people who will steal to make a buck. Does it irk me to have my work copied, yes, but I strive to let it go. Life is too short to worry about these people. My belief is that those who steal can't create and as we grow they will always be in our dust trying to catch up. When glass is no longer a fad those people will move on to the next power bracelet or other fad but those of us who are passionate about glass will still be here... creating..... Do what you do best and don't worry about the rest.

Also, it's a big world and there are plenty of customers out there for all. I see lots of drek for sale on eBay but you know, someone is buying it and is happy to have it. I say - good for them and good for the seller! Selling that work allows the maker to purchase supplies, make more stuff and grow and get better! When I look at my early work I realize it was drek too <smile>.... we all start somewhere and hopefully we all continue to strive to grow and improve! Glass is such a flexible medium that one can work with it all ones life and never exhaust all the possibilities!

However, some of us are lazy! Some of us are just doing dichro to cash in on a fad! Anyone can plop some glass in a kiln and fuse it together. Fusing is not difficult as a technique but neither is oil painting. Any fool can splash paint on a canvas. It is not the finished product that is of ultimate importance but the process, the intent and the striving for excellence. Some of us are on that road to perfection; learning and making mistakes and corrections along the way <smile>.... those of us in this group are all on a journey of exploration, full of passion but fouling up and learning everyday! 

Do your best to make the best product you can. Look at lots and lots of artists work. See what is good in the work of others and try to incorporate it into your own work without stealing what is special about that person's work. Strive to find your own voice within the medium. Glass is so flexible a medium that there are 1000's of ways to make it your own.  Finish your pieces! Don't pop them out of the kiln and pronounce them a masterpiece! Do they need grinding, polishing, fire polishing, re-firing with more glass added? Don't be embarrassed with your level of skill; what's important is that you are creating and striving to get better! Don't take short cuts.... do the best you possibly can....and then do a little better than that.... be true to yourself, to others.....  and honest in your endeavors....

 

~Nancy

 

 

More later.....

 

 

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