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Online Feedback-Lampworking Business Extras

If you’ve ever bought or sold anything online you know each seller and buyer has a feedback rating. It’s expected once the transaction is completed, both parties leave feedback.

I’ve seen sellers ask when they should leave feedback. Right after the customer pays? After they receive the item? After the buyer leaves feedback for the seller?

In my opinion, after the customer pays, they have completed the transaction. Anytime after that, I will leave feedback. To me, it doesn’t matter if a situation arises later. I worry about it then, and because my policy is I will accept a return for any reason within a certain amount of time, it just doesn’t matter. Problems arise so seldom it isn’t something I worry about. Plus, it’s rude to hold feedback hostage.

As a buyer, I think it is important that if a situation arises, to give the seller a chance to make it right. Feedback is usually the first indicator of a seller’s reputation. Most professional sellers I know will happily address any problems. Just please don’t leave feedback as a way to get their attention without an email first. That said, if they don’t acknowledge you or handle the situation to your satisfaction, you have every right to leave an honest account of your experience.

On another note, leaving feedback is optional. Hounding buyers or sellers to leave it is annoying. Sellers, I strongly recommend not asking your buyers to leave you feedback. If you must, put it in your thank you email and word it something like this: If you’re happy with your purchase, please consider leaving me feedback (insert link to online retailer’s feedback page). Then leave it alone. Hounding them will only result in an annoyed customer.

Personally, I leave feedback once a month for all my online venues. It’s more time efficient for me. So if you buy something and I don’t leave feedback right away, it’s only because I haven’t gotten to it. But I will, don’t worry.

Live Murrina Cane Demo Today Online

My hubby, Greg, is going to be demoing a butterfly murrina cane online today at 2 pm CST.

http://www.livestream.com/chasedesigns

I’ll be in chat to field any questions to him. Should be fun. There is a test video already stored there that we ran a few days ago. If you miss today’s demo, don’t worry, the video will be stored in our library for future viewing.

Custom Orders--Lampworking Business Extras

You fire up the computer, take a look at your email and there it is in the subject line: Custom order.

Now what?

When I say custom, I mean custom. Something totally new, that isn’t just a small variation on something you already know how to do. If someone asks me to make a peacock bead in pink instead of blue, that is not custom. That’s just a made to order item. Okay now that we have that straight on with the post.

I’m going to be totally honest. Most lampworkers I know hate doing custom orders. Sure, there are a few out there that like it. I can only assume they enjoy the challenge or the opportunity to work on something they hadn’t thought of doing before. But from a purely profit standpoint, we almost always lose money on custom orders. At least on that particular order.

Here is how I handle the custom order question:

If the item in question is something I think I can do and I want to do it, then I tell the customer to give me a few days (a week or whatever) to come up with something. Once I have something I like, I email a picture to the customer. At that time we talk pricing.

If it isn’t something I think I can do, or if I just plain don’t want to then I politely decline. If I know of another artist who I think can do it or likes custom orders, I will point the client to them.

Notice how I don’t ask for a deposit or even give a price until I complete the piece. This is because if it’s truly custom, I often don’t even know if I can make whatever it is the customer is asking for.

I also will only consent to trying a custom order if I think it’s something I can sell if the original buyer backs out. Or if it’s a design I might want to add to my bead line.

Look, custom orders usually take ten times the amount of time to complete than something I already know how to do. Usually it takes anywhere from five to ten beads to get the design right and that’s if I started out on the right track. So if someone wants me to make something for ten bucks that I have no idea how to do and it’s going to take me three torch sessions to figure out, it isn’t exactly the best short term business move as far as profit goes.

Now, if I want to spend some time learning and it’s a design I’m excited about, then there are more benefits than that first initial custom order. You can’t put a price on development. A few of my beads came about because I explored ideas brought to me by customers. My peacock beads are one of them.

There are lampworkers out there that require a deposit to do custom  orders. It’s a sound business move. But for me, if I don’t know if I can fill the order, I’m not comfortable taking any money in.

For my made to order stuff, items I know I can make over and over again, if a customer places an order, I do require payment up front. In full.The customer pays. I make it, then I send it out. Usually within a few days.

Custom work can be fun if it’s the right project. Greg once had a request from the adult children of one of our long time marble buyers. It was a custom marble for their parents fiftieth wedding anniversary. The style was one Greg felt comfortable with and he went ahead and took on the order. The marble came out beautiful and the family was very pleased. Greg got a lot of joy out of making that piece and I know he felt honored to have been asked to make it.

I’ve heard many lampworkers groan over custom work. I’ve done it myself. But since I started picking and choosing what I want to do and politely declining those I don’t think I can successfully pull off, I no longer cringe at the ‘Do you do custom work?’ email.

Books--Favorite Things Monday

Happy Fourth of July! Even though it’s a holiday, Greg and I are still working. So on to Favorite Things Monday.

I managed to drag Greg to the bookstore two Fridays in a row. And this is what I came home with.

Okay, I already had the Nook, but it’s on the stack because I have at least ten books downloaded to it I haven’t read yet.

Obviously, this is one of my to-be-read piles.  It makes me happy every time I look at it. Having lots of books to read makes me feel warm and content. I get a little panicky when the book pile gets low. Of course, I’m really not in any danger of that since I have another stack of books I received in a book exchange. But these are brand new, never been cracked open books. Fresh spines, fresh paper. Ahh!

Okay, so the Ebooks don’t have that same newness feel, but the joy of the instant download is not lost on me.

Speaking of books, my book HAUNTED ON BOURBON STREET, went off to my book designer on Friday to get formatted. Which means in a few weeks or so, it will be ready for prime time on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Yay!

To celebrate, on release day I’ll be giving away a few copies. To be entered in the drawing, please sign up for my newsletter here. For those of you who have already signed up, don’t worry, you are already entered into the drawing.

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?

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