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It's here! Haunted on Bourbon Street Marble

Best. Hubby. Ever! I asked Greg a while ago to make some murrine of the image on the cover of my book. He did make it and it’s been sitting on the work bench waiting for me to get time to make something with it. I did of course ask him to make a marble,but he balked and sort of ignored my request.

Okay. No problem.

So, imagine my surprise when he pulled this out of the kiln this morning:

 

I love it! It is pretty much exactly what I was hoping for when I asked him to make me one a month ago. One side has the silhouette image and the other side has houses with silhouette ghost people.  The bottom has skulls and flowers.

 

And on the top: The word Bourbon.

Again, I have to say, I love it! Thanks, Greg.

I’ve put it on eBay with the other marbles and have included a signed copy of the book  in the listing. You can check it out here.

eBay--Chapter 5 The Business of lampworking

Ten years ago eBay was the big game in town for lampwork beads. It really seemed to be list it and they will come. These days, not so much. But if you’re willing to be patient, it can pay off.

Why should you use eBay when you’ve been told (or experienced in the past) other sites like Etsy and Artifre are so much cheaper to use? I’ve got secret for you. The final listings fees vs sold items in my eBay store is often cheaper than my Etsy stores. Last time I looked, sales to fees ratio on eBay was 8.5% and Etsy across both stores was 9%. That is because eBay is now offering fifty free auction listings a month. You only pay final value fees when the item sells. This seems to be a permanent deal, but you never know when eBay is going to change things.

Fifty free listings a month! That’s a huge bonus for someone trying to start a following there, because it takes a while to get noticed.

Greg and I have five different internet stores and eBay continues to dominate our sales numbers. We have over the years tried many different sales strategies, but the one thing we have never changed is listing new stuff consistently. If you can listing something every day, that will mean you will always have an item listed under newest and one under ending soonest in the search categories. And customers will always be able to find you because your store never goes dark.

Got that?

The number one way to drive business on eBay is to list new stuff consistently.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some ways to be seen on eBay. Have a few items listed at over $50. Many people start their search in lampwork beads by highest price in order to weed out the imported stuff. Go take a look using that search feature. At what page do you burn out and stop looking? Now look at what price those beads are going for. Strive to always have something listed above that price.

Consider adding the Buy it Now feature. Some people really dislike the auction format. They see what they want and would rather just click through to buy it. On the other hand, some people get a high off of auctions. So have a mix of listings if you can.

Here is how I handle it. All of my beads have a set retail price. For eBay I set my BINs at the retail price and the auctions start at my designer wholesale price. Around 25% off.

Every once in a while if I have a new design I feel strongly about, I won’t set a BIN on the auction, just to see what the market thinks of them. If I get lots of bids, it helps me set the retail price.

We also use the Buy it Now feature (no auction format) with the or Best Offer. I set these all at my retail price and entertain offers when they come .  Some of them are ridiculously low. Like $22 for a marble listed at $100. At that point my options are to either accept the offer, counter offer, or decline. Usually when the offer isn’t even close I will just decline it. But most of the time I will counter and we play let’s make a deal. It’s kind of fun, but you have to be prepared that if you counter, the buyer may walk. And that is perfectly okay with us. We already know how much we will accept for something. If the offer is too low, it’s just too low. Try not be insulted by low ball offers. Everyone likes a great deal.

99 cent auctions. I confess, I’ve tried this and I hate it. If you’re going to run a 99 cent auction, be prepared you may very well end up selling your item for 99 cents. I always think of the 99 cent auction as an advertising expense. But I’m not sure it’s effective among the sea of hundreds of other 99 cent auctions. I’d try to use it in conjunction with some other kind of advertising. Something like a month-long ad on a jewelry makers forum, or a blog event like 99 cent Fridays where you run one every week. Something that can help you build a following around it.

Now, if you are constantly making one of a kind items 99 cent auctions may work for you. Or if you have a huge following. Or if you are brand new and trying to build a following. I know many beadmakers who have used this strategy and have had it work for them. It doesn’t work for me. I do a lot of production work and in order to preserve my pricing the 99 cent auction just doesn’t work.

Speaking of preserving pricing, if you sell wholesale to beads stores or galleries, they are not going to like it if you are undercutting their prices on eBay. This is why I go with my retail prices and a designer wholesale start price. If I listed everything at 99 cents, that would be a huge conflict.

Sets or focals? Everyone wants to know what sells better. I can’t answer that for you. I sell both and marbles. So I think it all depends on the work you put out there. I can tell you, often what sells online does not sell as well in person and vice versa. So try different things until you find your niche.

Pictures, pictures, pictures! eBay used to charge for added pictures. Now you can add a bunch for free. I’m not certain how many because I host my own on my website. I just like having sole control over my content in case an image is hot-linked somewhere. But that’s just a personal thing. Use up as many picture slots as possible. Most customers will not read your entire description, so try to get your pictures as clear and accurate as possible.

And as always, link up your auctions on Facebook, Twitter, Lampworketc. Let people know your auctions exist. Put your link in your email signature. Send a newsletter letting your customer know you’ve started a new venue. Don’t have one yet? Time to start. Spread the word, but don’t be obnoxious about it. One post in each place is enough.

Etsy Online Sales--Ch 4 The Business of Lampworking

Have you decided to open an Etsy store? Or maybe you opened one a while ago, and you listed a few things, but you’ve yet to sell anything except a bead or two to your mother or sister. Or worse, nothing at all. Now you’re wondering, what’s wrong with my beads?

Likely, the answer is nothing is wrong with your beads. Nothing at all. It’s your approach that needs help. Etsy is not the Field of Dreams. It’s not the case of build it and they will come. You need to work for it.

Let’s start with the basics.

Are you’re pictures clear? Bright and focused? Do you show multiple views of the bead? One picture is not enough. People want to see every angle and the bead holes if at all possible. Also include a few close-ups on the detail. You get five pictures. See if you can fill them up.  If you’re not aware of the macro feature on your camera, look into it. It’s what helps you get clear crisp closeups with your digital.

Okay, now work on content. For optimum results, try to build up your store to over two hundred listings. People like variety when they shop. Don’t have them leave your store to go to another one. Get them to spend a ton of time in yours. Obviously, this will take some time. If you’re just starting out with your store, work on a build up. But for goodness sake, do not open you shop, list ten things and then sit back and wait to see how it goes. If you offer made to order items, this will help with your overall listing count.

That leads me right into frequent, consistent listings of items. Set yourself a schedule of when you list and how many items and stick to it. I am a full-time lampworker, so when I’m home (as opposed to out at a show) working, I try to list at least one new thing a day. Two or three on good days. Now that doesn’t always happen, but it’s the goal. Shoppers like to browse new things. If your store doesn’t change, why would they come back regularly? I just checked and I listed twelve new items last week. That’s pretty dang good. I also relisted some expired stuff.

Some people like to renew existing listings on Etsy, with the idea that the items will show up first in the category search. I personally have not used this strategy, but I have heard from various other people that it seems to work. It is 20 cents each time you do that though, so be sure to add the extra cost into your marketing budget.

Variety. Do you have a variety of items to choose from? Do you have lower cost items? I’ve found the twenty-dollar and under mark moves a lot faster. If you don’t make any beads under twenty dollars, consider developing something that would work for that price point. I still sell the higher priced work, but the lower cost items move a lot faster.

Shipping. Are your shipping costs reasonable? Do you ship worldwide? I know of some sellers who will only ship within the US due to some Paypal policies (I will get into that in my post on shipping). However, if you are excluding the rest of the world, you’re missing out on a lot of sales. If you’re worried about tracking, insurance, or packages going missing, think of anything that may go wrong as shrink. All businesses have it, and I rarely have an issue with international packages. I’d sure hate to think about how many sales I would have missed out on if I didn’t ship worldwide.

Marketing? What do you do to market your work? Anything? Here are some ideas. Post your work on Lampworketc in the gallery. Advertise it in the self-promotion section also on LE. Become a member of jewelry making forums and post your work there in the appropriate places. Share your listings on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Build a website and/or start a free blog. If you blog, be sure to do it regularly or no one will follow you. Start a newsletter and have a link on your blog, website, and in your email signature line where customers can sign up. Let them know when you’re running a sale or when a new design is being launched. Familiarize yourself with SEO.  I’ll be perfectly honest, I know almost nothing about SEO, so I’ll point you to Susan Sheehan who has already complied the links to read up on it.

Social Networking. I’ve already recommended posting your listings to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but don’t stop there. Actually social network with people. If all you do is spam people, you will likely get blocked and/or unfriended, unfollowed, and uncircled. The same is true for Lampworketc. Be part of the community and people will come to know you and your work.

Consider joining an Etsy team. I have belonged to a few of them, but ultimately they both went by the wayside. I did, however, learn a lot about marketing from my fellow team members. Check them out and see if any work for you.

The most important piece of advice I can give you (if you’ve followed everything I’ve listed, and your pricing isn’t out of line) is the last thing you need to do is be patient. It takes time to build a customer base. Give it at least six months. Six months of constant listings, promoting, social networking, and new designs, should lead you to a solid customer base.

Sounds like a lot of work right? Well, it is. But starting any business takes a great deal of output and effort before you’ll see results. Even if you’re established elsewhere say eBay or another venue, unless you plan to point your existing clients to the Etsy store, you’re basically starting fresh.

Please note, I used my frequency of listing as an example. As I noted, I do this full-time. If you’re a part-timer, then by all means, adjust your frequency, but still make it consistent. Two, three, four times a week. Whatever works for you. I’d advise against listing a batch once a week. Spread them out a little. It will help in searches on Etsy.

Please leave me any questions you have and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.

Choosing Your Venue--Chapter 3 part 1 The Business of Lampworking

Have you defined success and gotten legal? Are you ready to start selling your lampwork creations? If so, you have some decisions to make. Where do you sell your work?

Online venues:

eBay
Etsy
Artfire
Personal Website
Wholesalecrafts.com

FYI: These are the ones I am most familiar with and the ones I have personally used. And the ones I know other sellers have used successfully. If you know of other successful online markets, please let me know.

Major Bead Shows:

Whole Bead
Best Bead
Bead Fest
Bead and Button
Bay Area Bead Extravaganza

Regional Bead Society Shows

Often areas have a regional bead society and once a year those groups will hold a show. I know there is one in Houston, Denver, Oakland and many more. These local shows usually cost less to do (lower table fees and no travel if you’re lucky) and are very friendly. Check your own area for more opportunities.

Local Craft shows:

Almost everyone has local craft show opportunities to them to sell their work. I personally do not do any of these shows even though there are many, many opportunities available to us. New Orleans has an Arts in the Park program that runs three weekends a month at three different parks in the city. On top of that, there is a festival almost every weekend somewhere around here and a happening Farmers Market in Baton Rouge.

You see, other than the marbles, we do not sell finished work. I can, but do not enjoy making jewelry. I prefer to make the beads and leave that task to my talented jewelry designer customers. As for the marbles, well, that is  a specialized market and not quite right for craft/art shows.

However, if you do sell a finished product, these types of shows can be advantageous. Just be sure to check out the venue first and get a feel for what sells well there.  If you make one-hundred dollar bracelets and the gal next to you is selling two dollar import, base metal earrings, it may not be the best fit.  Use your judgement or you could end up in ninety degree heat for two days with nothing to show for it but a sunburn.

Galleries:

Again for galleries, you are going to need a finished product. You are also going to need to sell wholesale or on consignment or both.

Bead Stores:

Bead stores are great if you can find ones that want to carry artisan lampwork beads. A lot of them do carry imports, but don’t let that scare you off. There is a market for both (more on this later). Again, for bead stores be prepared for wholesale and/or consignment.

Home Parties:

We’ve all been to them. Creative Memories, The Pampered Chef, Tubberware, Naughty lady parties, Mary Kay, etc. Why not one for your beads and jewelry? Work it the same way you would one of those Creative Memory parties. Set everyone up to make a simple piece of jewelry, designate a reward program for the hostess, bring some wine, and lay out your wonderful creations for sale.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be going over the pros and cons for each selling model and give you some tips on how to be most successful for which ever direction you choose. In the mean time, be asking yourself these questions:

Do I like engaging with customers?

Do I want to travel  once or twice a month?

Can I take decent photos or am I willing to learn?

Do I have the confidence to approach bead stores/gallery owners?

Do I have the technical skills to run a website or other online venue? Am I willing to learn?

And finally the most import question: Do I have the  motivation to stick with whatever direction I plan to go?

Newest 9.99 offerings on ebay.

Today is the last day of my 9.99 ebay auctions.  I have run them for a full week and there are great deals to be had.  Don’t miss out.  Here are the lastest ones.

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061209set1a

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