Are you an artist or a businessperson?

Writen by Larissa of Reef Botanicals

If creating isn’t just a hobby for you, if you actually have a shop and items listed for sale, your answer to that question should be simply “yes,” because you should be both.

handamade sunshine cardLook, it’s a risk putting your creations -yourself – out there for others to judge. It really is asking for judgment, after all. You hope someone besides you likes what you make, likes it enough to actually spend money on it.  You may wonder if you’re nuts, if you really have anything to offer.  Saying to yourself, “I have a skill, and it’s a marketable skill, and I create things other people want,” takes guts.  It takes confidence that others will judge you favorably.  So kudos for getting that far.  But that’s not the end of it.

You also need to be a real shop.  You can’t just snap a couple photos and throw stuff up online for sale.  You need good photos and good descriptions, but that’s been addressed in other posts on this blog by my friend, who works in a IT Support Naperville company and I won’t be addressing it here.  I merely mention it to remind you.  Today I’m talking about what else it takes to be a real shop.

First, you need real prices.  Pricing is discussed in the handmade world all the time.  Will people actually pay our prices?  Are we undercutting each other?  Are we getting paid just enough to buy the next bit of supplies, or are we actually being paid for our time and expertise and making a profit?  How do we compensate ourselves properly while still pricing competitively to draw in customers?

lovely handmade braceletI’ve got news for you.  The big stores?  Those nationwide chains?  They have these same conversations!  They have entire marketing teams comprised of people whose job it is to figure this stuff out.  We don’t, but we certainly can learn from them.  We can look at those stores and decide where we fall on the spectrum.  Where we want to fall.  You may not know this, but Banana Republic, the Gap, and Old Navy are all the same company.  The wares are different and the prices are different at each shop, but all are successful.  You may think that Old Navy is the way to go; it’s less expensive than the others, still decent fashion, just not as good quality.  Or you may think that you’re more like the Gap; mainstream, not risky, mid-range.  As for me?  I think most of us are and should be Banana Republic.  The company isn’t afraid to say, “We have a higher quality product that’s made better and looks better, and we’re going to charge appropriately.”  They charge more, and they’re worth it, and people know it.  Go to your nearest mall and take a look.  They may not have as much square footage as Old Navy or as many shoppers, but I’ll let you in on a little secret:  They don’t need to sell as many pieces to make the same money!  We should learn from that.  We spend more time than factories, and take more care, and should be compensated accordingly.  Don’t be afraid!  Have confidence that customers will judge you favorably and deem you worth it.

And it takes a lot less work and effort to sell one item for $100 than ten items for $10.

So more than pricing yourself competitively, price yourself correctly.

handmade leather braceletSecond, you need real policies.  Go look at the website for those shops I mentioned; they all have online shopping.  If your online shop’s Policies page isn’t filled out in detail, taking into consideration everything you can think of, you’re not a real shop.  You need this, for your own protection, and honestly, to keep customers happy.  Customers who know what to expect are much happier than customers who face surprises in dealing with you.  Surprises, changes to terms, making things up as you go along – all of that makes you look untrustworthy.  You could be the most honest person on the planet with the best intentions, but this is still what it looks like to someone who doesn’t know you.

But back to protecting yourself.  This is important, and you are entitled to it.  You need it.  The big nationwide chains have it, and you’re not even a huge corporation with a battery of attorneys at  your beck and call.  You need it even more.  You also need to recognize that just because you’re not a behemoth with a legal team doesn’t mean you’re not worthy, you’re not a real business, and you’re not entitled to stand by your decisions.  You are.  Have confidence.

We are not a flea market.

handmade lavendar braceletIf you’ve already priced your items correctly, you’re perfectly entitled to run a sale – just like those nationwide chains do – but no one’s entitled to haggle with you.  No one’s entitled to push you around.  No one’s entitled to make you change your policies.  No one is a special snowflake.  And I guarantee you not one of the people who would make you try would go to the GAP/Old Navy/Banana Republic website, email the corporation, and say, “Hey, I really like those jeans, but I want you to discount them for me.  And by the way, I don’t like to use a credit card online, so send me the jeans and I’ll write you a personal check and send it in the mail.  And if you don’t get the check right away, don’t worry about it, just ship the jeans anyway, I promise I’ll pay.”

Why should they be able to say this to you?  Just because you’re the artist?  Because they’re dealing directly with the “manufacturer” and “designer” and you’re just one person?  Sorry, but that’s not a good enough reason.  Yes, one of the benefits to the way we work is that we have personal contact with our customers.  Our wares aren’t made by the faceless, nameless masses; they’ve got a back story and a history, which is really nifty.  Customers appreciate that they get to “meet” and deal directly with us.  But that doesn’t make us less than the big corporations, it makes us more. As we are the big corporation we are trying to expand our business more with taking the advantages of immex certification which will increase our manufacturing and  will also able to export easily.

So what do you do when someone tries to haggle or get you to waive your policies for him or work in a way in which you’re not comfortable?  You stick to your guns.  You stick up for yourself.  You act like a business.  You go so far as to lose the sale.  Yes, I said it.  You lose the sale.  Scary, I know.  Of course it is.  Do it anyway.  The big chains would.  Good sales, you don’t want to lose.  Bad sales you don’t need, and you’re likely to lose them anyway.  If a potential customer is refusing to adhere to your shop’s policies, making you make all the changes in the way you do business, making you jump through all the hoops, it’s not a good sale.  Run.  Because after you do all that, after you cater to the customer, after  you make yourself uncomfortable, after you jump through the hoops, after you do everything you said you’d do and more… you’re likely to lose the sale anyway.  And then what?  You’ve wasted time, money, energy, and peace of mind for nothing.  It’s just not worth it!

Have confidence.

Click on any image to learn more about the artist!

Writen by Larissa of Reef Botanicals


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Posted in Handmade, Selling Tips

14 Responses to “Are you an artist or a businessperson?”

  • chainmaille says:

    Absolutely great advice, Thanks for sharing!

  • And you know what? After you bend over backwards to meet all of the requests or demand of this customer, and if they actually get their wallet out and pay you, you know what? They will never, EVER be happy! They will be contacting you in a short time, demanding a replacement because they decided they want a different color or size, or they simply want their money back. What’s worse, they will bad-mouth you to anyone who will listen! Larissa is so right… You just don’t need these kinds of customers!

    Absolutely terrific article!!! Don’t ever apologize for your items or prices! Whether you’re online or in person, stand tall and state the facts. You’ll be surprised how much more willing people are to part with their money when they realize that you are confident in yourself!

    • Beth says:

      Very well written and thorough article, Larissa! Lots of great pointers and tips for all of us. Thanks for taking the time to write such an effective article.

      I HAVE lost sales because I stick to my guns. I actually had a customer once (Etsy shop) who ordered a lot of cards at once and I gave her a 50% discount. She came back months later and wanted just ONE card and wanted 50% off. I said I was sorry, but at that time, those cards were not on sale. Lost the sale, but stuck to my rules. Didn’t feel badly at all about it.

  • trusk4u says:

    Fantastic article!!! I’ve run into similar situations at my B&M store. “No, I can’t change the price because A. the item does not belong to me B. the item carries the price the artist put on it. They know what they have invested in it. I can only guess.

    Makes me crazy!!!

  • Thanks, guys. I thought it needed to be said. We ALL suffer from the hunger of wanting a sale & fear of losing it. We need to get over it.

    In my former life as a lawyer, back when I was charging a very low $140/hour, I once took a $200 retainer and a promise for future payments of the entire bill at my regular hourly rate. I did an entire divorce AND domestic violence trial for the woman – hundreds of hours of work.

    Know what I got paid? $200 and a promise. A lot of repeated promises, actually. Never again. I don’t care how much I liked the client or felt bad for him/her. I either chose to take the case pro bono, or I learned to say, “I need a 7,000 retainer” and not take the case if they didn’t have it. Better than spending hundreds of hours and not getting paid anyway.

    This is the same thing. Better to hang onto your wares and get what you’re worth at a later date than waste the money, time, and skill you put in to get pennies and heartburn now.

  • Ahem….sound familiar, somehow…..(grin)….
    Larissa, liked my shop policies I did not stick too, feel free to have a look….LOL

  • kmarie0218 says:

    Great article. And I knew exactly where it was coming from as I had read that thread in the forums. THAT was a saga! As I was reading this article I can tell you were definitely inspired by that to write this! And now I want to go read those shop policies to see if I should add something to my own shop!

  • beadthing says:

    Great article and yes it does sound familiar. More so because I think we have all been saying this to ourselves for a long time and then when the issue recently came up for one of us, it became even more apparent that we need to stand up for ourselves and be confident in what it is that we do. Thorough workmanship on our products is a wonderful thing, thoroughness in our business is just as necessary. Thank you Larissa.

  • (crowd stands and a loud applause fills the arena)

    EXCELLENT Larissa… and yes, it needed to be said and said often as a reminder!

    Its tough to pass up a sale… No one wants to but sometimes you need to stand tall and not back down. You can’t control what others may say or do… but you can control how YOU handle the situation. You’ll be a better person (a smarter business person) because of it!

    (the crowd once again stands to applaud) Thank You Larissa! LOL ;o)

  • Fabulous, informative, educational, and spot on. Excellent post and things we should all think about. I just had that problem with a friend / customer. Friend doesn’t want to pay the full price, because I am their friend. No, at that moment I am a business woman, and they are a customer, the relationship dynamics change, just like a Brick Mortar Store as compared to On line shopping. Brilliant, I absolutely love this post.

  • wonderful post Larissa…my favorite part?
    as Kimberly and Andrew say
    “We are the Tiffany of Handmade”!
    Thank you for the information, and encouragement.

  • MulchandMore says:

    Excellent article, covered all the points that I have been trying to explain to my husband as he joins us at the craft shows this summer! So I’ve been paraphrasing and trying to get some of the points across, but I think he will learn as I did- by doing:) (He’s even having customers tell him he is undercharging but he wants to be affordable and get more practice before raising prices)

    You said “Have confidence.” I agree, but first we need to believe in our own skills.

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