Friday, November 1, 2013

Guest Blogger ~ Sharri Moroshok

In chatting with the Mavens about who we wanted as guest bloggers, what we wanted to bring to you and to learn ourselves, one of the things that came up was how to make it work as a business.  There are so many ways to sell what you do, but what works?  We needed some people with experience and first up to share their experience with us is the Queen of the Beaded Bead.....

Sharri Moroshok

I was delighted when Mikki asked me to write a guest blog post for Bead Mavens. The topic is – my adventures as a bead designer/teacher who also sells my finished jewelry.

So, here are my bona fides:                                                         

I began doing beadwork and creating beaded beads in the early 1990’s.  I set about the things we all do as novices – placing jewelry in local galleries and doing local craft fairs. I had a bit of success with this and so I ventured further afield and  traveled the U.S. to many of the major bead shows. This was in the boom times of the mid to late 90’s.  But even then I had to add teaching to my agenda to realize any true profit beyond just paying my show bills and buying materials.
Then came 9/11/2001 and the burst of  the Tech Bubble. In a weaker economy Gallery sales began to diminish. Show sales dropped while expenses relentlessly increased. In response I diversified my booth more. I started selling kits and reselling some beading supplies. I created a website. I advertised in Bead & Button Magazine. My gross sales at shows did increase, but it seemed no matter what I did my expenses always outran my income. 

Tired out from years of travel, in 2007, in partnership with a good friend and fellow jewelry artist, we opened a brick–and-mortar art gallery.  The economy was lack luster in 2007, but still we had enough success to move from our small initial location and expand the Gallery in early 2008.  It was interesting that jewelry sales (especially my own and my partners work) were some of the strongest selling items in the shop. I stopped doing shows completely and I also stopped traveling to teach. Then yet another economic bubble burst in September 2008 followed by The Great Recession. What can I tell you? The art biz fell off the cliff.  We hung in through 2009 and 2010 and finally closed our doors in January of 2011.

So, what to do now? I was now 60 years old and just not loving the idea of schlepping a booth from show to show around the country.  Neither did I want to rely on consignment jewelry sales in struggling galleries.  I could focus on teaching. But, to be honest, I really just wanted to work from home.  I looked around at the landscape I had to work with. And lo and behold – it’s really true! Doors close, doors open.  The internet had really come of age and Social Media had appeared.
Gathering up everything I had learned from all these experiences I decided to open an Etsy shop. Then I started a Facebook Fan Page.  Almost 3 years later I now have a thriving online shop  in which my jewelry as well as my kits and tuts sell well, and a Facebook Fan Page with nearly 5,000 Fans. I can do this from the comfort of my home and studio with the lowest overhead I have ever had.
So I will share with you some of what I think makes my shop work. It may not be a formula for success for all, but maybe there are useful elements for others to consider.

  • You have probably heard this a million times but it bears repeating – the internet is all about visuals.

  • You must have great pictures of your jewelry or it will never sell online.
      You don’t need a fancy camera or photography setup. Do some online research - there is a wealth of information out there.  Edit your pictures. You do not need to learn Photoshop (I am still totally mystified by it).  I use an online photo editor called PicMonkey. It does everything I need to do with pictures.  If you are going to sell finished jewelry online you need to learn to love doing product photography. Period.
  • I know many people have separate online shops for their finished work and their tutorials/kits and supplies.  My experience in my teaching, my show booth and my brick-and-mortar shop taught me that a well curated and interrelated variety of items work to sell each other. So, I keep everything under one roof in my etsy shop. I have many transactions that combine items from all 3 of my sales categories. It’s kind of like a miniature department store. Some people shop around and gather and some are very targeted paying attention to only one shop section. It works for both kinds of customers.
  •  Advertising/marketing of some sort is a must. There is no such thing as “build it and they will come”.  Luckily, if you are doing business online, there are some free things you can do to shout about your work. The first thing I will say is not technically advertising. It is SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  It means having a system of internal links and key words that search engines recognize integrated into your shop item titles, descriptions and tags. Here again, you don’t need to become an expert. You just need to do a little research. Read about it and then do your best to optimize your shop. But you can’t stop there. The next thing is you must engage in social media. Choose your platform – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  etc  – whatever your choice is, make it only 1 or 2 at most.  Then work it!  Don’t simply post about what you have for sale, this is where you get to work that magic that happens at Fairs and Shows or in galleries when you or the gallery sales person tell people something about your art, your process, and you, the artist. Communicate! You now have a targeted audience and a free international platform to do this. How amazing is that??

  • The last thing I will say is – it’s a job, this business of selling your art.  If you want to sell your jewelry online you have to work at it in at least one of the above ways almost every day. I know for me, it’s a labor of love!