Successful jewelry-maker, Lena Gott, owner of Milan Jewelry Design, markets jewelry through her website, a print catalog, using an online catalog hosted by Issuu and has been featured in other online shopping catalogs. Her company also creates customized jewelry to customer specs - sometimes a very hard task.
Lena took some time from her busy day to answer questions about three topics important to every arts / crafts business: meeting customer deadlines, self-promotion and handling criticism. Each of these topics affects the non-creative side of running your business. Of the three, in my experience, self-promotion seems to be a major sticking point with artisans. I think it harkens back to when we were children and were told that it wasn’t polite to boast.
A few words on the importance of establishing a daily schedule to meet customer deadlines.
Meeting customer deadlines can be difficult when you are trying to juggle multiple demands. Every customer is almost like another “boss” whose needs are more important than everyone else’s. It’s highly important to have a daily schedule when you have multiple orders to fill. However, jewelry artists are creative people, and creative people don’t often work well on a schedule.
It’s easy to get off track, but one way to stay on schedule is to set certain milestones each day. Let’s say you have ten orders to fill this week – you could simply make it a priority to fill at least two orders a day, and get them all done without stressing over how in the heck you are going to make & package ten orders all on the same day.
A tip – don’t over promise when it comes to deadlines. If you know it will take you two days to fill an order and the customer is willing to wait a week for it to ship, then let the customer know you will get the order in the mail within seven days. If they receive it ahead of time, then that’s great. If other priorities pop up unknowingly, at least you have built in some buffer time for yourself.
How high do you rate the ability to self-promote your jewelry and accept criticism from customers?
Self promoting jewelry: For me, this is the hardest thing about being a jewelry designer. I would love it if I could just focus on making jewelry and let someone else do all the selling, but that doesn’t happen too often. I think your ability to self-promote is highly important, but depends on your business model. There are people who like to interact with customers and sell their jewelry one-on-one, then there are others who simply enjoy the art of creating new pieces and don’t really desire to sell jewelry in person.
Let me illustrate:
- Someone who likes to interact with customers face-to-face: Let’s suppose you are an independent designer who sells primarily at craft or jewelry shows. In this case, self-promotion is integral to your success because when you see a customer at the show, you must be able to convince them that the jewelry is worth their money.
Someone who prefers to make the jewelry and let someone else worry about promotion: Let’s suppose you don’t consider yourself a salesperson and would rather not base your success on your ability to sell the jewelry face-to-face. I know this scenario all too well because this describes me exactly. Since I don’t particularly like to sell face-to-face, I’ve molded my business in that fashion.
First, I hired a web designer to create a website for the jewelry line. Second, I signed on with SHOP.com, an online shopping portal that delivers orders to you in exchange for a commission. Finally, I worked with a graphic designer to create a color catalog and signed on several independent sales reps that will spread the word about the jewelry on my behalf in exchange for commission. Any would-be designer who would rather not self-promote should consider ways to make others do it on their behalf.
Accepting criticism from customers
A jewelry designer’s ability to accept criticism from customers is very important. I work very hard to avoid negative feedback in the first place; I try to meet or exceed all customer deadlines, and because I sell primarily online, I work hard to make sure what the customer sees on the screen is exactly what they receive in hand unless otherwise stated in the product description. However, there are times when you just can’t seem to make a customer happy. You may even encounter customers who think your product isn’t worth the price (not fun and very demoralizing).
Regardless of the customer’s complaint, I try to make them happy, whether it be accepting a return and refunding their money or just smiling and letting them move on (if the criticism was in person). The last thing you want is for a customer to spread negative news about you online or by word of mouth. It’s good to just let any bad feedback roll off your back because there will be many more customers who are extremely satisfied with your customer service and designs.
Of course, if you actually made a mistake, it’s important to do what you can to remedy the situation. I’ve found that when it comes to shipping deadlines, customers are happiest when they are updated frequently.
A tip for those who make online sales - send a confirmation email after you receive an order with an anticipated ship date so your customer has something to refer back to and won’t make incorrect assumptions about when the jewelry will arrive. Even better – send a shipping notice so the customer knows that the item is on its way.
Thank you, Lena. Very good advice regardless if your company is brand new or you’ve been selling arts / crafts for years.