Sunday, August 2, 2009

My version of success

by Barb Macy of Accent Yourself
(republished with permission)

Let me start by saying that my version of "doing well" is probably a lot different from most artists or crafters. I know of a lot of people who make a living at selling their wares. Well, I am definitely not at that point yet, but thankfully, I don't have to support my family by making jewelry (we'd starve!). I also know of a lot of artists and crafters who go into huge debt trying to get a business off the ground. Again, I am thankful, that isn't my situation, either. I find success not only from the financial side of making jewelry, but also from the personal satisfaction I get from creating a piece of jewelry from a pile of metal or beads.

I started my jewelry addiction about 4 years ago with surplus money collected from selling Tastefully Simple products. I wasn't into selling or begging people to host home parties -- I lasted less than a year as a consultant. I was a horrible saleswoman (and still am) - I would even tell people where to buy similar TS products cheaper! Did you know that Trader Joe's sells a similar version of Tastefully Simple's "Oh My Chai" and "Truffle Fudge Brownies"? They cost about 1/3 of what you'd pay at a Tastefully Simple party. So, I quit that about the same time I learned how to make jewelry.

Since then, I haven't had to use any family funds to pay for supplies, equipment, classes, etc. I have paid for everything with my own "hobby/business" funds. Here is how my business operates. . .
  1. I have a separate account just for my jewelry and craft business. Wine bottle supplies and all jewelry-making supplies and equipment are paid out of this account. All payments are collected here, too.

  2. If I don't have funds in my account, I don't buy. It is that simple. If I have a surplus, I usually re-invest my money on new tools, equipment, and silver or beads.

  3. I don't have a credit card. I only pay with cash. A credit card can only get me in trouble!

I do sell jewelry. I sell quite a bit of jewelry. But most of my sales come from consignment and wholesale sales, so my profit is much less than what it would be if I sold outright at a craft fair or from a website. A lot of people gasp at the thought of giving 30-50% of a sale to a shop owner or a gallery. Well, I have several reasons for this . . .
  1. I don't have to spend weekends at craft & art fairs selling my jewelry. I have a family that needs me and weekends together are very valuable. At this point in my life, selling at fairs just isn't in my plan. Maybe I will do that some day when my kids are older and out of the house.

  2. I'm horrible at sales. I don't enjoy doing home parties and pushing my stuff on people. I don't ever want anyone to feel obligated to buy my things. If my jewelry is in a store, I am completely out of the picture.

  3. I don't have the cost & upkeep of a traditional online website. My website is more of a gallery of my work. Since my online sales were pretty much non-existent, I transitioned my website into a tool to showcase my work instead. I don't have the time it requires to promote and constantly attend to a website. And, I don't have the funds to hire a web designer.

As you can see, my version of success is not traditional, but it works for me. After four years, I still enjoy making jewelry. It isn't a chore. I still find joy in creating. My work has evolved over the years, and I sell enough jewelry to fund my hobby, with enough leftover to pay for my new equipment. I don't ever want making jewelry to become dreaded work. If it gets to that point, I won't do it anymore. Even now during the holidays, I'm feeling a bit overloaded and am looking forward to when things slow down.

My future goals are to actually become a real legitimate business and to make a profit. But, now while my kids are young and I'm not able to devote time to a true job or business, I can experiment. I can learn about consignment, wholesaling, and other selling venues. I can participate in a few craft and art fairs and get a taste of what works and what doesn't. I can learn what works in online selling. I can fine tune my craft and learn new skills. I can continue to break even until I feel I'm ready to devote real time and effort into this as a business. Until then, I'm happy to play with fire, silver & beads out in the garage. I'm happy with the occasional sale from my Etsy shop. Life is good.

The photo (above) is an abalone shell pendant with a cluster of freshwater pearls. The necklace comes on a sterling silver snake chain and is available for purchase at The Art Center in Corvallis, OR. To see more of my work, please visit my website at Thanks!

The SATeam blog features artisan handmade creations by the etsy starving artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current etsy shop owner members can be found at


Barb Macy said...

Thanks for using my article. Even though it is an older article, it is still relevant to what I'm doing these days. I'm still very happy to just keep my hobby funded, and donate some extra $$ to worthy causes.

Bonnie said...

I really like your philosophy Barb. I have learned to be careful of losing the joy in the work. I used to paint and sell my work at shows for years. It became another job, getting up early, staying up late, making things in assembly line fashion. I lost the ability to have fun with it. Now if I feel myself becoming stressed with deadlines I drop everything and reevaluate, and take time off if need be. Then again it's an easy choice for me. My day job pays very well so I don't have to count on jewelry money for groceries!