Start your own jewellery design business: from hobby to business
There are many creative people out there, some of them have chosen their medium to be jewellery making and design. It is tricky and not an altogether clear definition to call someone talented in jewellery designing. Creativity does not necessarily mean commercial viability. In deciding whether or not to make the move from jewellery designing as a hobby to a jewellery design business, there are a number of factors to consider and there are some steps to take to help ensure a successful transition.
Part I: Do you actually want to become a jewellery designer as a profession?
This is the most common question a jewellery designer should ask themselves. Some have a great deal of talent, and would have been successful in starting and operating a jewellery design business if they took the plunge, however, they lack the self-confidence and drive to do it. On the other hand, some jewellery designer hobbyists have the drive and enthusiasm, but lack the “creative eye” to translate their designs successfully into a jewellery business. This is an oversimplification, and there are many factors and characteristics one must have to become a successful professional jewellery designer and business operator.
Here are some (an incomplete list) of the characteristics of a successful professional jewellery designer / jewellery business operator, they appear in no particular order of importance:
- Some degree of confidence that her ( I’m going to write in the feminine for simplicity, but all applies equally to men ) jewellery designs would be fairly well received. In other words, some degree of confidence in her jewellery design ability, enough so that she’s willing to invest time and money into growing their hobby into a jewellery business.
- Willingness to make sacrifices in order to create a jewellery design business. These sacrifices are mainly financial because very few actually become rich from designing jewellery. True to the fashion industry, it is a labour of love. However, like they say, if you do what you love, money will follow, eventually…sometimes. There is also the sacrifice of time, and energy, and with that, sometimes friendships and family. At the beginning of a jewellery design business, like any start-up business, you call upon favours and you have little time for casual outings. This can sometimes wear thin on certain relationships. Note from personal experience: be careful not to call on too many favours, these have to be paid back and sometimes certain friends/acquaintances, to no fault of theirs, don’t have 3 or 5 years to wait for those favours to be repaid. It is not that you don’t want to repay them, you simply don’t have the time. A jewellery design business is like a child, and sometimes can even require more time.
- A great deal of optimism is required in order to create a successful business, but especially a jewellery design business. There is a great deal of competition in the jewellery world, if you don’t think you’re going to be an astounding success, you’re already behind. Believing in yourself and having the optimism to overcome setbacks and seeing “falling as a way of learning to pick ourselves up” is a key to creating a successful jewellery design business, or any business.
- Passion. This is an umbrella term which has been overused in many areas and many industries, but I’m going to venture mentioning it for jewellery designing. It is the one thing a jewellery designer must feel, to some degree, for them to be successful professionally. Their love for jewellery designing and sense of purpose is beyond reason and arithmetic. This energy, drive, belief will help overcome many, many obstacles. It will help the jewellery designer embrace many facets of the most difficult obstacles.
- Thick skin. The rejections are harsh, and especially difficult to accept because they are subjective. Because the criticism is about the jewellery design, which is almost always perceived as an extension or projection of the jewellery designer, it is often very personal. A successful jewellery designer must learn early to overcome criticism. Again, from personal experience, and from talking to other jewellery designers I’ve learned a number of tools to do this. I’m an especially shy person, lacking in self-confidence, so these were important tools to master. I will write about these in a later article.
- Financial stability/support. Lacking money is one of the most common crippling factors for any start-up business. Not only do you need seed capital, you need money to sustain your living while you are launching your jewellery design business, and until it becomes profitable. For most businesses, the rule of thumb, and gauge of success is being in the black after 3 years (standard accounting method used to evaluate the value of a business). Fortunately, a jewellery design business requires very little start-up capital, and most people can keep their full-time jobs to finance the start-up of a jewellery design business. A jewellery business is a lot more flexible in terms of location needs and scale, than many other businesses, say a restaurant or spa, to name a couple.
- Some selling ability. Self-promotion and product/idea selling is very important in a jewellery design business, much like any business and life in general. A jewellery designer doesn’t have to have the selling skills of a used car salesman, just enough to get them started. At the beginning, you have to show some people your jewellery designs, be it some retail customers or some boutiques that you want to carry your jewellery. There are some ways to get around poor sales skills, which I will go into more detail another time, but they are: getting a partner, a salesrep, building on non-verbal communication… Nonetheless, you have to sell the partner/salesrep/financial backer/marketer on your ideas and jewellery designs first.
This list of characteristics of a successful jewellery designer is by no means exhaustive, and having them certainly does not guarantee success in the jewellery world. However, they lay a great foundation and each successful jewellery designer I’ve met in the last 15 years certain have all of those characteristics, to a varying degree. The weakness in one can be compensated with strength in another, and the pattern of characteristics will definitely shape the jewellery business.