“I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.” Duke Ellington
“It, (creativity) requires an inclination to step into the unknown, as well as the ability to persist when there is no end in sight.” Shaun McNiff
While the majority of my clients are now reporting excellent sales, I am getting inquiries from other crafters saying they are getting hits on their sites but that their work isn’t selling as well as they would like. Normally I would first evaluate their marketing. If a site is getting lots of hits but no sales, it’s possible that there is something weak about the site itself, not the aesthetics, necessarily, but likely, the marketing funnel. However, a comprehensive marketing analyses is very time consuming and while I am generous, I am so busy with my paying clients, I can no longer spend hours with an individual who isn’t a client. Still, being curious, I couldn’t help checking out their sites.
We all know that you can make the most gorgeous product but if it isn’t marketed correctly, it won’t sell. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how great your marketing is if you don’t have something people want to buy. I know, this is common sense, but there is much more to having a marketable product than its’ being beautiful or functional. I decided it was time to take a look at what these crafters are making. Maybe there was a common product factor among those who were not making money with their craft. Bingo! Those who were reporting slow or no sales mostly had lovely crafts but their products all had one thing in common. Read more
One of the best ways to market your craft is to find every opportunity to get your work in front of an audience. This seems obvious, but so often artists hide out in their studio. Some of us, myself included, shy away from the spotlight. But, to succeed, it isn’t enough to have your work on a good website. You need to make an effort to do some in person appearances as well.
How do you go about getting your name and face out there as well as your work? (remember, part of the appeal of handmade is knowing the human behind the work. ) Demonstrating every chance you have will begin to establish you as the expert in your medium. Craft supply stores, galleries, workshops and trade shows are all opportunities to demonstrate your craft. Approach the manufacturers of the materials you use, either in person or by sending them a nice professional looking portfolio with examples of different techniques for using their products. Offer to make appearances in stores that carry their products, showing both the staff and customers the benefits of using their products, and at craft trade shows demonstrating to retailers. Not only will this give you Read more
There’s probably never been a better time to test the waters if you dream about your own craft shop or gallery. In a recession, you ask? You bet! Right now is the easiest time to get in with very little capital. So many premium storefronts are vacant and commercial landlords who previously wanted high rents and long leases are anxious to just get some cash flow. For the first time in decades it’s a lessees market and landlords are willing to negotiate like never before. Whether you want to go solo, or co-op with partners, right now you can work out a temporary, even month to month lease on a prime spot with an option to eventually sign a long term lease. Landlords are hungry so it’s never been a better time to realize your dream of having your own gallery. This is a strategy that I normally suggest for the fall holiday shopping season but going into summer is also a an ideal time. If you live in an area that gets summer tourists, find the best vacant spot and approach the landlord directly. Don’t be afraid to Read more
I’ve had a number of inquiries recently from crafters who sell seasonal crafts and are concerned about the off-season. Many fiber artists who craft ”cold weather” garments are worried about the coming slow months. And I’ve also heard the same concern from crafters who make summer-sunshine appropriate crafts. Yes, we are going into a season where it may be tough going if you make only woolen hats, mittens, etc but you have a number of viable, profitable options.
The easiest solution is to design a
This past week, the news was full of more doom and gloom about retail closings and mall bankruptcies. It would be easy to get discouraged, thinking, “If a big department store that’s been in business for generations can’t make it, how will I?” Well, you aren’t in competition with the big box stores. And if you’re comparing yourself to them, it’s time for a major mindset shift.
Your target customer is the discriminating shopper who wants something unique and handcrafted. Yes, people are being more careful with their dollars now and you have the advantage in that when times are tight, consumers want what they are spending on to be special. They may not be shopping for household appliances right now but when it comes time to purchase a gift or a piece of artwork for their home, they are making conscious choices and want something they don’t see everywhere.
Keep sight of who you are and what your work is all about. You are an artist and unless you are not staying ahead of the off-shore knock-offs, you have no reason to be concerned about ‘competition. You have something special that your customers are proud to give. They love to tell the recipient that they met the artist in person-it’s important to know the story behind their purchase.
Right now it’s more important than ever to have your products “shout” of handmade. Take the time to put hangtags on each piece, identifying it as handmade, maybe even talking about the technique. Include a bio and ideally a headshot. Remember, it’s the human connection that makes the difference.
As we are getting into craft fair season, I am hearing from clients and friends that two areas of the art market are doing well in the present economy. The reports are consistent that the very high end and the under twenty five dollar price points are selling. Mid price crafts are suffering. What does this mean for you?
My advise to any artist, craftsperson or retail gallery is always, in any economy, to make sure your line has a variety of price points. Of course this is easier to do in certain medium than in others. In jewelry for example, you may want to produce more of the pieces that you can price in that gift range-work that can be cast in quantity or easily and quickly assembled. With the hand forged, more labor intensive pieces, you may want to use more precious metals (gold, platinum) and gemstones. If you sell midrange paintings, this is a good time to expand into some moderate priced prints, small matted or simply framed card sized prints and also to do a few originals on a larger scale. Any work you can print, cast, or otherwise produce inexpensively is a good idea. Put the originals of these less expensive pieces aside. (Don’t exhibit them at the same shows as your prints.) Then have some other work that you only show the originals of at this time.) Do be sure to scan these for future printing.)
Whether it’s wearable art or home furnishings, try to focus on the two extremes -this is not the time to try to sell mid priced work.
Keep in mind also that with the big box stores closing and manufacturers losing those accounts, this may be a great time to move into having a segment of your line outsourced for licensed production. Printers, casters etc are hungry for work so they are likely to be more flexible with minimums and also willing to give you a price break.
How can you repurpose some of your work to sell well in todays’ economic climate? Are you ready to reach out to a new target customer? It might feel a bit uncomfortable at first if you aren’t used to commanding high prices, but now is the time to see who your collectors are. Not only will it keep your business thriving but you also might just enjoy seeing the fruits of your labor and products of your passion bring in the big bucks. It’s a boost to the ego as well as the wallet. Who will purchase an original piece that is priced significantly above your normal range? Is it time to do some custom work? Id’ love to hear what you are doing to get into a different price point and and a new audience.
In the waiting room at the Mayo Clinic yesterday, I picked up a Forbes Magazine. It’s not typical to see an outdoorsy “Field and Stream” looking image gracing the front of a business publication but the cover of the April 13th edition featured a man with a walking stick surrounded by the most magnificent Retrievers. The headline read, “What Recession?”. While I am hearing these words from my entrepreneurial friends, it was refreshing to see this in the media. The handsome man on the cover , dog breeder MIke Stewart, was one of six featured entrepreneurs whose businesses are thriving in this economic climate. Stewart has a long list of customers waiting to pay him $12,000 for one of his dogs. Also featured in the article was Charles Morgan, grandson of founder HFS Morgan. IN the 100th year of production, Morgan has an 18 month waiting list for the 150,000 Aero 8. Morgan’s sales are up 14% over last year. 32 year old , Sacha White didn’t inherit an auto empire. Vanilla bicycle’s founder started as a bike messenger, saw a need and filled it. White has a 180 unit backlog, a four year wait for his handcrafted bikes which sell for an average of $7000. He says most of his customers are middle class. Ninety year old Stanley Bogdan and his son Stephen have salmon fishermen waiting in line for their handcrafted fishing reels which sell for $1300 to $2300. Samuel Zygmuntowiczhas a five year backlog for his handcrafted violins and cellos which sell for $53,000 to $90,000 and are played by YoYa Ma and have been called superior to a 1686 Stradivari violin in large venues like Carnegie Hall. Zygmuntowicz says he wants to keep his instruments priced low enough that they are sold to musicians as opposed to collectors. He only produces six instruments a year, despite 15 hour work days. He says “you need to understand how the moves you make today will behave further down the line.” And while many people are putting off cosmetic surgery, Dr. Yan Trokel says his signature “Y-lifts” are in demand. He plans to license other surgeons in his procedure but will keep expansion slow “within the limits of quality control.”
So, how are these entrepreneurs thriving in an economic downturn? A common thread appears to be quality control and supply vs demand. Slow, calculated growth and thinking ahead.. Having a distinctive product, staying small and flexible. Morgan made sure to make few enough cars to not have an inventory glut when the great depression hit. And like his grandfather, Charles is focused on “efficiency over expansion.”
What lessons can you take away from these unlikely entrepreneurs? If you are uneasy starting an upscale business in this climate, take it from these entrepreneurs who are thriving in an economic downturn. Decide what what will make your product stand out. How is what you do different or special enough to be exclusive, to be coveted? Take it slow, make calculated decisions and start now.
My story is more about where I came from than where I am now. I don’t for a minute believe that I’d be who I am had my dad not been the oldest child of poor Russian immigrants, with the responsibility of supporting his mother and siblings at fourteen.
The last time I saw him, shortly before he died, my dad gave me a cherished gift. He told me Read more