Jennifer Carlson’s love for metalwork shines through her handmade chainmaille and metalsmithed jewelry, available on her indie business site, Metal & Maille. Jennifer spoke with IndieMade about pricing for profit, keeping customers informed on her new projects, and why she loves IndieMade’s store features.
What attracted you to the jewelry business? How did your indie business get its start?
I took my first chainmaille class at a bead store and was instantly hooked. After buying supplies, I realized this was an expensive hobby and thought I'd see if I could sell a few pieces. I saw an ad for a local craft show and gave it a try. The intent was to try a craft show or two and make enough to buy more supplies and then stop. But, I was hooked. I only sold one piece at that show, but I loved being out in the public, hearing people comment on my work, and thought I'd try just a few more shows. After six years, I'm still exhibiting at art fairs and this is my only job.
What piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in the jewelry business?
Only buy what you can afford! After six years, I'm still trying to dig out of debt from my startup year. In addition, don't sell yourself short. Price your pieces to make a profit, and don't apologize for your pricing. You aren't catering to the discount shopper. Don't even try or you'll never make enough to pay yourself. You wouldn't work for a company that refused to pay you, would you? Build in an hourly wage into your prices. Hopefully, you'll sell enough to be able to pay yourself. It won't happen right away, but it will eventually.
How did you start selling your products online?
I heard about Etsy from a fellow vendor. It seemed easy and I decided to give it a go. I was hoping for an income stream during the off season and thought this would be a great venue.
Besides on your website, where do you sell your stuff?
Most of my sales come from art fairs. I try to do seven to 10 shows a year. I wish I could do more but I have two active boys who run my life!
Why did you decide to expand beyond Etsy?
I have two shops on Etsy, www.jcwirejewelry.etsy.com and www.metalandmaille.etsy.com. One for my chainmaille pieces, and one for my new venture, fold forming. I have always had a website, though until last year I didn't sell anything on it. My first website was primarily for information only. I felt my customers wanted a way to purchase directly from me so I revamped my website to allow for purchases.
How are you promoting your business online?
I use Facebook as my testing ground. I post new photos of my work, ask my fans which idea they like best, and generally try to keep them updated on happenings with my business.
Do you blog? How does that work for you?
I've written a few posts but that's the extent of it. I use my Facebook fan page more as a blog since I like to keep things short and sweet.
How do you stay in touch with customers?
I have a newsletter through Mailchimp. I post almost daily on my Facebook fan page to keep everyone informed and I use the event page on my website to keep customers updated about my show schedule.
Why did you decide to try IndieMade? Do you have any tips for new users?
I saw a post on [chainmaille supply company] Blue Buddha Boutique's blog about your site. I had been looking for a new web host as my old one wasn't doing the job. I wanted a site similar to Etsy in that I could post multiple pictures of a product. I needed a site that was easy to use, allowed me to use my own URL, and had a great store section. I found that all and more on IndieMade! Check out the blog, browse the FAQ's, and ask questions! Don't be afraid to play with the templates. I've checked out every one of them to see which I liked best.
What's on the horizon for your business?
I've been working on rebranding, choosing new packaging, and had a new logo drawn up. I'll be applying for a celebrity gifting site, have applied for a few out-of-state shows, and am always making jewelry. I'm starting to introduce collections, pieces with a similar theme, to give customers the opportunity to purchase matching items.