Selling Your Handmade Jewellery from Home!
Jewellery parties are a great way to start selling your handmade jewellery. Even if you have never hosted a party before, or you don’t consider yourself a natural “saleswoman” – fear not! Below we look at some of the factors involved in throwing a successful jewellery party.
You can organise parties at home, selling to your own friends and family, or invite others to host parties for you. Whichever you choose (and you will probably do both,) the better you plan the event, the more likely you are to encourage sales.
Hosting your own party can be rewarding and confidence-building. You will relax easily with your own friends and family and they will welcome the chance to support your new business.
So, it makes sense to hold your own jewellery parties quite regularly. Just don’t hold them too regularly. Don’t try selling the same jewellery to them over and over again. Be seasonal, holding maybe 4 home parties a year and introduce new styles so there is always something fresh to see.
Be sure to take photos at your first party too, to use on future promotional material.
.... Or Yours?
When others host parties for you, it can be more nerve-wracking. Strangers won’t make the allowances your friends and family might, so you have to be on the ball. However don’t let this worry you. With proper organisation, there is nothing to fear and everything to gain as you reach new markets for your work. After all, some people make a full time living selling their work this way – so parties are well worth serious consideration.
First Things First.....
your first party, there are certain laws and other
issues that need consideration. My article,
Selling Your Handmade Jewellery
covers this subject in more detail. Remember to check with your insurers that
you have adequate Public and Product Liability cover and that your policy covers
you for selling at parties. Once the boring stuff is out of the way, you are set
Should I Take Samples or Stock?
You can make sales one of two ways. By selling the actual jewellery you take with you or by using this as samples, making your sales in the form of custom orders to be delivered later.
I prefer the first approach. I like that customers get to take away their jewellery on the night. I also don’t want the hassle of delivering all those custom orders days or weeks later. If certain items prove popular and sell out - no matter. I can still take custom orders for those where necessary.
Think what would work best for you.
Selling from samples means less immediate outlay on stock. Once made, your samples will be good for several parties and you studio time is spent solely on making jewellery you already have confirmed orders for.
On the downside, those samples might look over-handled after a few months and need replacing or repairing. Or they might simply go out of season and not be styles you wish to sell anymore.
How Much Jewellery Should I Take?
Much will depend on how many guests are expected. If you are selling from stock, you will want enough for everyone to take home a purchase or two. The general consensus is 'take as much as you can' just remember you needn’t put it all out at once and overcrowd your display.
If selling from samples – think how wide a range you want to offer and how it will look on the table. You don’t want your display to look cluttered, but neither should it look sparse.
However you sell, you will need variety. You need to cater to an array of tastes and budgets but still offer jewellery that looks like it 'belongs together', infused with your own design style.
Always include some 'reassuringly expensive' pieces. These are the more elaborate, costly designs where you make something amazing just for the joy of it without worrying too much about the high price tag it will inevitably wear.
These show-stopping pieces act as advertising, helping to sell your other work and showing off just how talented you are. They create drama in your display and become the pieces everyone falls in love with. Few customers will be able to justify buying the show stopper itself, but hopefully they will all want to. So encourage the customers to handle these pieces and try them on. Once under the show-stopper's spell they are far more likely to purchase other, more affordable items from the same range and take a little of the magic home with them.
How Long Should a Jewellery Party Last? When Should I Hold it?
A 3 or 4 hour window is usually sufficient for an evening jewellery party, although you will need to be at the venue at least an hour in advance to set up.
Mid-week parties work well in my experience. People are often busy with family at the weekends or they just want to chill after a hard week. Yet finding an hour or two mid-week for a girly chat, to look over beautiful jewellery with a glass of wine in hand? Well, that is altogether a more 'do-able' even for the busiest of us!
Getting People to Come
The job of inviting people naturally falls to the host. But you can do much to help her.
Discuss in advance the practicalities. How much room does she have? Is there adequate seating? Adequate parking etc? Make sure she isn’t putting a cap on the numbers just because of these things. If she has lots of friends she feels would be interested, it is better to stagger their arrival time or even hold two parties rather than cut down the guest list!
If possible design and print invites for her so she only needs to fill in the names and hand them out. Give envelopes too in case she needs to mail any. If you can include a good quality image of your work on the invite, so much the better. A picture paints a thousand words after all.
If you feel parties will become a big part of your sales strategy, consider getting postcards printed to work as universal invites.
Find out how the host feels about having strangers in her home? Would she be happy for her guests to bring a friend? Maybe you can even offer an incentive for new faces and mention this on the invite. Small items like bag charms make cost-effective freebies for such promotions.
Lastly – it's a great idea to include the payment methods you accept on the invite. If you are not able to accept credit cards, it is better for people to know in advance so they bring cash or a cheque book. You can even make a joke of it, so people are more likely to remember
“We discreetly only accept cheque and cash payments - so no incriminating evidence will appear on your credit card statements!”
What Do I Actually Do?
Your main job at the party is to mingle, be on hand to talk about your work and help customers decide what to buy. Hopefully you will also be taking custom orders and bookings for other parties.
Some people arrange games, quizzes or other activities for their parties. If this works for you, then don’t let me stop you! I have to be honest though, I find the idea of making potential customers jump through hoops all a little cringe-inducing. I wonder if those forced to participate feel the same?
I suspect the idea of such games filtered down from the Ann Summers business model. And, of course, ice-breaking games are perfectly suited to those parties. They are selling products which some could find embarrassing without the relaxation and carefully constructed mirth of the 'party game' warm-up.
But unless your jewellery is particularly, erm, unique – there is unlikely to be such ice to break. If the environment is warm and friendly, the company good and the jewellery irresistible, I find that usually relaxes people quickly enough.
For me, the informal 'open house' approach has always worked best. People just turn up, have a chat, look at the jewellery and (if all goes to plan) buy lots of it!
Erm, But Emma, They’re All Looking at Me!
Should you find everyone sitting around like well-behaved church mice, just waiting for you to ‘begin’, it does help to have a quick introduction prepared. Else put on the spot, you might risk getting your money’s worth from your TENA Lady.
Keep such introductions brief, light-hearted and to the point. Introduce yourself, thank everyone for coming and thank your host. Of course you should talk about your work and explain everything is handmade, but I would resist the urge to go on too much about your techniques or the obscure lengths you go to in sourcing unique materials. Chances are, the customers won’t care that much about the finer details and believe me, those who do WILL ask.
Let’s Talk About YOU Baby
Instead, when talking (or indeed writing) about your work, try to focus on the customer. Spend any time you have their attention illustrating the benefits to them in owning your work rather than just talking about yourself or what you do. In fact, just use the word 'You' more than 'Me' or 'I' and you won’t go far wrong. People automatically pay more attention to anything that refers to themselves.
“Please relax and enjoy this chance to view unique jewellery you won’t find on any high street.”
“These designs are all one of a kind, so you can express your own individuality rather than being a brand-name sheep"
Phrases like the above engage the customer far more than just droning on about Hill Tribe Silver production or tediously long demonstrations on how the beautiful lampwork glass beads are made.
I’m not saying you must avoid explaining how you create your jewellery. Of course not! You must naturally give an overview on how you work and what makes your jewellery so unique. And if people seem keen to learn more - then of course you should run with that.
But unless you have been booked by a group specifically to do a jewellery making demonstration and talk, don’t assume that all people will be that interested in the minute details. At a regular jewellery party there will be quite a random mix of people, many of whom have no interest in crafts or making - they are just there to shop and chat. Some may even be turned off by too much information, or you remove too much of the magic surrounding your work by over-explaining it.
Drip Feeding Info
Actually, many facts about your work can be introduced quite naturally, framed as a benefit to the customer. For instance, mentioning the quality of your materials and workmanship:
“Everything is made to perfection, with the best quality materials (explain BRIEFLY). So when you buy these necklaces, you know they won’t just last a season, they will be treasured for a lifetime, generations even!”
If you are selling from samples or you just want to promote that you welcome custom work, again present it as a customer benefit:
“Everything can be tailor-made for you. True Haute Couture jewellery - you can have a different size, different colour - whatever works best for you”
These 'You' statements automatically cast the customer as the main character. Your words cause her to picture herself and the jewellery already connected. This just doesn’t happen if she is only made to picture unknown silver workers or a lampwork artist sitting in a spidery shed.
Most people need to imagine themselves owning and enjoying something before they will actually go ahead and buy it. Your job is to help with the imagining part. Paint lovely pictures in the guests' minds of them already owning and enjoying your jewellery. That is selling!
Rewarding Your Host – Incentives and Commissions
Outside your own circle, few people will hold a jewellery party just to help you out. There has to be something in it for them. So to persuade people to hold parties, it is normal to offer a commission on the evening’s sales as an incentive.
Commissions usually take the form of free jewellery or sometimes even cash. Obviously the first is better for you but cash can also be a fierce motivator!
Be fair with incentives, but not over-generous. They must be affordable and you should factor in their costs to your prices somehow (see Pricing Your Jewellery).
Incentives should also reward higher sales. Don’t just pay someone a flat fee per party or they will have no motive to invite lots of people and encourage them to spend. Instead, make their commission a percentage of the overall sales total. You can even set the percentages on a sliding scale, so higher sales earns a higher commission rate. This way, hosts will involve themselves more and become part of your sales team for the night.
An example commission sliding-scale might be:
Sales totalling £250 or less earn a commission rate of 5 percent
Sales totalling over £250 earn a higher commission rate of 10 percent
Obviously these are figures plucked from the air – you must decide your own thresholds and percentages. Remember also, paying a commission in cash will effectively cost you more than allowing the host to take jewellery to the same value.
Discreetly keep your host informed of the running sales total throughout the evening. Then if she only needs a few more sales to reach a more favourable commission rate, she can get to work drumming up more business. You can even set yourselves targets to reach at certain points throughout the night.
A motivated host is a huge asset to any jewellery party. After all, she knows her friends better than you do. She will know what buttons to push to encourage them to succumb and treat themselves. She’ll also have none of the hang-ups you might have in gushing about your work!
Commissions on Custom Orders?
Think how to approach commission on custom orders. Do unpaid orders count towards the host’s sales total for the evening? Many would say yes, but I disagree.
What if the customer cancels that unpaid order a day or two later? If you included it in the sales total for the night, you paid the host commission on a sale that never was.
Also, imagine an item is ordered at one party but delivered and paid for at a subsequent party, hosted by another of the friends? Whose total does that sale then count towards? You don’t want to pay the commission twice.
This isn’t such an unusual situation. One of your goals for the night is to encourage guests to book their own parties. These people will invite their own friends but there is inevitably some 'guest overlap'. So customers may well request to receive and pay for their order at the next party. It is very awkward to then tell the second host those particular payments don’t count towards her commission.
Therefore to avoid complication, my approach is this: The sales total used to calculate the host's commission is the sum all completed sales only - i.e. the actual payments taken on the night. Until paid, an order doesn’t technically constitute a sale in my view.
And since firm sales are the name of the game, it makes sense to get as many payments upfront as you can for custom orders. This approach brings certain advantages:
- Paying up-front is a good indicator that the customer is serious about their order and not just caught up in the buying atmosphere.
- Up-front payments allow you to buy in materials to make the order without being out of pocket.
- You don’t end up paying commission on cancelled orders or have any awkwardness as to who earned it.
- Your host ends up with a higher sales total overall and therefore more commission = happy host, likely to hold more parties in the future.
If you feel self-conscious asking for payments up-front, try our old trick of framing the request as a benefit - this time to their friend, the host.
“Would you like to pay for your order now? If you pay tonight, Jackie gets the commission and she has put on such a lovely evening for us, don’t you think?”
Also, when your host knows it’s in her own interest for people
to pay on the night, she will likely do her part in getting her friends to cough
up for their orders!
Setting Up on the Night
Encourage your host to provide wine and nibbles for the evening. You might even contribute a bottle yourself, but don’t offer to provide all the refreshments, else you won’t make any profit.
Discuss in advance the options for displaying your work. How much space is available? Where will you set up? Will you need to bring tables? Are there enough power points close by? If this is your first party, practice setting up your display at home first so you are better aware of your needs.
Sometimes you will get a choice on where to set up. I love to keep the jewellery and the main socialising fairly separate if I can. Even in a different room. This might sound counter-intuitive, but it has always worked well for me.
Firstly, I hate for customers to feel obliged to buy just because the jewellery is too in their face. If they feel a sub-conscious pressure to make a purchase, it will often be a hurried one and usually quite small. Instead, I prefer that they want to buy. And if people spend time relaxing and chatting first, that is far more likely to happen.
But I don’t want them relaxing and chatting right in front of the jewellery! Or worse still, dragging people already browsing away for a good gossip. The only types of conversation I want to hear in front of the jewellery table are “Oh that looks nice on you” or “you should buy that for your mum’s birthday”
So let people exhaust themselves of all the gossip first, well away from the display. Then, when they do choose to go and look at your jewellery, their mentality will have shifted gear from chin wagging to “right girls, let’s SHOP!”
Presentation – The Jewellery
How you display your jewellery is just as important as where.
Lighting is essential, but often overlooked. Don’t make that mistake. Small clip-on spot lights don’t cost the earth from places like IKEA and can really bring your display to life.
Use plain rather than patterned table coverings or the table cloth might steal attention away from the jewellery. Non-iron fabrics like crushed velvet are great.
Try to display at different levels to catch the customer’s eye. You can hinge cork boards or louver doors together to create great vertical displays. Small mirror tiles, driftwood, beautiful vases - all manner of props can be used to vitalise your table. There are many websites and blogs dedicated to jewellery display ideas. So read up, use your imagination and devise a really eye catching display. It will pay dividends.
Make sure everything is clearly priced. People get embarrassed if they have to keep asking. If you sell sterling or fine silver jewellery, you must also display a hallmarking information notice.
Don’t forget mirrors! Customers will want to try the jewellery on to see if it suits them. Your host may claim to have mirrors but check their suitability before deciding to leave yours at home. You won’t seem very professional if the only mirror available is on the wall in the downstairs loo!
Don’t allow customers to try on earrings for obvious hygiene reasons. Most jewellery display suppliers sell clear plastic earring checkers, allowing the customer to hold the earring to her ear and see if it looks good.
You might wish to prepare a photo album, illustrating any technical details to help you better explain your process if customers ask. If you make Fimo jewellery, you could show pictures of how a Millefiori cane is constructed for example. If you make your own lampwork beads, you could show yourself at the torch.
Presentation of Yourself!
As a designer-maker, how you present yourself to the customers will naturally influence how they view your work – for good or for bad.
You are selling a creative product, so you don’t need to dress like an accountant (unless that is your natural style). But nor should you turn up in joggers and a t-shirt. Find a happy medium and remember to wear some of your own jewellery too!
Whilst you want the guests to relax, you are there to work. So don’t get drunk, don’t take long phone calls, don’t swear at the customers and call them fat old bags when they don't buy enough (however tempting). You know, all those boring 'being professional' things we thought we could leave behind when we started working for ourselves, but soon learned 'nope!'
Most guests won’t know a great deal about you remember - and at a busy party you might not have time to talk to everyone at length. So why not set a framed biography of yourself on the table alongside your business cards and flyers?
A bio should serve to introduce you and your work. Include a small photo of yourself to catch people's attention and put down any key information you think the customer should know. So, if all your work is sterling silver or you only use hypo-allergenic earwires – mention it in the bio. If you have a website or sell at Etsy, again, put it in. You could also discuss how you got started, what motivates you - anything that helps the customer connect to you and your work. Includes relevant brags too, if you have been published or won an award for your jewellery don’t be afraid to say so!
Packaging is another key component to your presentation. Packaging doesn’t only protect your jewellery, it also plays a huge part in creating it's perceived value, confirming it's status as a desirable luxury.
Pretty paper bags and tissue paper make cost-effective packaging and are widely available. You can theme the colours to match your display. Customised boxes and bags are also not that expensive. Places like Potters will print your logo for free on their packaging, although they will charge an initial one-off fee for making up the printing block.
When packing a customer’s order, don’t forget to hand her your business card and a flyer on booking her own jewellery party.
Credit Card Payments
People may spend more or succumb to impulse buys if you can accept their payment by card. However, getting set up to take card payments is usually quite expensive, so you may not feel the need immediately.
Traditionally, to take credit card payments at jewellery parties, you must set up a merchant account and buy/ hire a mobile chip and pin terminal. You will usually be charged a set up fee and each transaction will also incur a fee. Here is some useful info on merchant accounts and taking card payments the traditional way
Some trade organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Market Traders Federation also offer deals on merchant facilities. Companies like Adelante offer ways to use your smart phone or PDA as a terminal to process card payments, although you will still need a merchant account.
Some people get by using PayPal with their smart phone or laptop and mobile broadband. PayPal has itself edged into the merchant account arena with its Virtual Terminal service. VT allows you to log into your account and charge payments to a customer's credit card as a 'customer not present' transaction. This does attract a monthly fee plus the usual PayPal transaction fees and your application will need to be approved by PayPal first. The Virtual Terminal service is officially only meant for phone, post and fax orders though and not those conducted face-to-face.
Cheques remain a popular payment method at parties. Just bear in mind they can 'bounce' if the customer has insufficient funds. Even if the money shows in your account sooner, it takes 6 working days for a cheque to clear definitively and for you know the money is yours to keep.
The Cheque Guarantee Scheme in the UK is due to end in June 2011, so after that time you cannot use a customer's cheque guarantee card to endorse cheque payments either.
It is up to you how you handle cheques. Will you trust that the customer is 'good' for the money? Or will you hold on to their jewellery and deliver it once their payment clears?
Cash is still your best payment option by far. Be sure to take a good cash float, so you have enough change for your first few transactions.
One small risk with cash is the possibility of forged notes. Anyone handling a lot of cash should check out this excellent advice from the Bank of England. It is easy in the relaxed atmosphere to let your guard down. But you need to remain vigilant as forged notes are completely worthless to you. If you suspect a note is not genuine, do NOT accept it. It is better to lose a sale and keep hold of your jewellery.
Likewise, be aware of your personal safety when carrying cash. Use common sense and be discreet - if you had a fantastic evening for sales, it is easy to forget your street smarts in all the excitement. So don't get carried away, jabbering on your mobile phone about how much money you took on the way back to the car - you never know who could be listening. Use a locked cash box and keep it out of sight in the boot of your car when driving. Be especially careful when packing up the car that you don't leave your cash box unattended.
Getting More Bookings
Towards the end of the evening, always ask the host if she would like to book another party for the next season. If possible, even fix the date there and then before her guests leave so they can mark it in their diaries.
Hand out flyers to all the guests with your contact details and information about booking their own parties. Include photos on the flyer, maybe of your display or scenes of happy customers at previous parties. Remember to emphasise the benefits in hosting their own party - a chance to earn free jewellery, shopping in the comfort of their own home, a girl’s night in and so on.
Ideally you want to target people with a different, but equally wide group of friends. So look to the periphery. Are there any guests not part of the main crowd, likely to be from a different social circle? You should always take extra care of these guests anyway, so they feel included and welcome. But it goes without saying these people can often make for the best party bookings too!
Some people offer small incentives on the night to encourage party bookings, such as a discount on that evening’s purchases. I am not really wedded to this idea. I feel anyone booking a party will get their reward on their night. I also fear people might fake interest in holding their own party just to get the immediate incentive. But it is certainly an idea you should consider and come to your own decision about.
When the Party’s Over
When the last guests have gone, sit down with your host and tot up her final commission. Don’t neglect to spend time with her over her jewellery purchases – she is a customer too after all, even if all she is spending is her commission.
Hopefully the evening will have been a fantastic success and you will both be buzzing. But even if it wasn’t all you had hoped for – don’t lose heart. Every party is a learning experience and can teach you something valuable and we all have good parties and the not-so-good ones. Discuss with your host how she felt the party went. Ask for feedback about what she felt worked, what didn’t so you can learn for the next time and adapt your approach if necessary.
I hope you found this article useful. If there is anything you feel I have missed out, do get in touch - I would love to hear your Jewellery Party experiences and tips!
© Emma Ralph 2010. May not be printed, distributed or copied in any form without the author’s written permission.