One of the greatest joys of being an artist is sharing your work with the world. Jewelry designers in particular understand that, as jewelry can become especially sentimental to their customers. Starting a jewelry business is the best way to get your work out there and forge new connections with grateful clients.
It’s likely that you think of yourself as a jewelry designer first, and an entrepreneur second — if you think of yourself as an entrepreneur at all! But learning how to start a jewelry business is not as difficult as you may fear: It’s mostly a matter of time, effort and perseverance (and a few technicalities, too). We’ve broken down the process into seven essential steps to starting a jewelry business.
1. Define your line
Before you get into the nuts and bolts (or beads and clasps) of creating your jewelry and starting your business, you need to get clear about what, exactly, your jewelry business is. The best way to do this is in writing — or, more specifically, by writing a business plan.
You may balk at the prospect of writing out a business plan, but in truth, this plan doesn’t need to be nearly as complex or jargon-y as you may think. At its core, a business plan is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to organize their thoughts about their business, take stock of their finances and resources, start to build a marketing strategy, define their business goals and create a game plan about how to achieve those goals in the short term.
In your business plan, start by answering at least the following questions:
Are you selling fine jewelry or trend pieces?
Are your pieces handmade or outsourced to a premium manufacturer?
Will you operate from your home, or will you need to rent an office space?
Are you going it alone, or do you need to hire staff — either now or in the near future?
How will you price your products?
How is your jewelry different from your competitors’?
Who is your target audience?
How much cash do you need to get yourself off the ground?
How do you plan on marketing your business?
Where will you sell your products?
Keep in mind that your business plan is a living document. Once you launch your business, get hands-on experience as a jewelry business owner and become better informed about the costs attendant to running a business and your audience’s buying behaviors, you can fill in whatever gaps you’ve left in your preliminary plan — or create a new one entirely.
Create a business budget
Right alongside your business plan, you should be sketching out a business budget. First, make a detailed list of your preliminary startup costs, like tools and equipment; marketing material; licenses, permits, or educational courses; office or coworking space; wages for any staff you may be hiring; and your expected daily expenses.
Then, take stock of how much cash you have available and how much additional funding (if any) you’ll need to launch and operate over the next few months. Also, know that there are tons of small-business budget templates available if you need more guidance.
Learn from your competitors
During this pre-launch phase, it’s a good idea to do a bit of market research. Take a look at other, successful jewelry businesses that you admire and would like to emulate in some way: What’s their angle, and why is it successful? Who is their audience, and what’s their marketing tactic? How and where do they sell their goods — do they rely solely on their website or another selling platform (like eBay or Amazon), or do they also sell in brick-and-mortar shops? Market research is also critical in determining how to price your jewelry appropriately for your audience.
2. Legalize your business
Next, you’ll need to cover all legal bases to ensure you’re running your jewelry business aboveboard. First, if you plan on running your business from your home, check with your local clerk’s office about licensing and permit requirements for home businesses.
Once you’ve created your business name, you’ll next decide on a business entity and register your business accordingly with your secretary of state (if there’s an existing business in your state operating under your chosen name, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board). The easiest route to go is as a sole proprietorship, which actually doesn’t require that you register with your state; in this instance, you’ll only need to file your business name as a “doing business as,” or DBA, unless you’re operating your business under your legal name. However, a sole proprietorship won’t offer you protection if your business runs into any legal issues.
The safest route to go is to register your business as an LLC. Registering as an LLC is an easy process, which you can do in a matter of minutes online; you can take a look at the SBA’s step-by-step guide to registering your business for some more guidance. What’s more, LLCs protect your personal assets from business-related legal issues, but filing taxes as an LLC is relatively simple.
At this point, you may also consider taking out business insurance to further protect yourself. Start by looking into product liability insurance, which protects businesses from legal fallout in case their product causes injury to a customer or other third party; and general liability insurance, which protects businesses against a slew of common legal claims. If you hire employees, you’ll need to look into other types of insurance like workers’ compensation, unemployment and state disability insurance.
Finally, you might want to register a trademark for your business name, logo or designs through the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which you can do easily online.
3. Separate your business and personal finances
Now that you’re a legally operating enterprise, it’s a good idea to start separating your business and personal finances. This is crucial for a number of reasons. For starters, this separation will help keep your personal finances safe from business-related legal issues; and, more practically, it’ll simplify your tax-filing processes.
Open a business bank account (most new businesses just need to start out with a business checking account) and be sure only to deposit business earnings into that account. You can also consider signing up for a business credit card, which you can use for your business’s smaller, daily expenses. Plus, depending on the card you sign up for, you can earn valuable points, rewards or cash back that you can redeem and put right back into your business.
4. Find startup funding
You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to know that starting a business requires money, and you probably also know that it’s tough for brand-new business owners to secure business loans, either from their local banks or from online lenders. With no financial history in hand, lenders have no data off of which to determine a new business’s risk level, which means they can’t come to an informed credit decision.
For that reason, startup funding often comes largely from your own pockets. Many new entrepreneurs bootstrap their way up, using their personal savings, loans from friends and family or personal loans from banks or online lenders whose funds they use toward building their businesses. Another option is to try your hand at crowdfunding, in which generous strangers who believe in your business donate small amounts of funds toward your project.
5. Find suppliers and create your jewelry
Now that you’ve laid the proper legal and financial foundations for your business, you can start creating your jewelry with an eye toward selling.
If you haven’t already, you’ll need to purchase wholesale jewelry-making tools and equipment, including proper safety equipment, as well as the necessary materials to create your jewelry. It can be useful to ask other jewelry designers about trustworthy wholesale suppliers; otherwise, put in a little elbow grease and research, research, research. It can also be useful to get a reseller license so you can forgo paying local sales taxes when you buy in bulk.
6. Sell your jewelry
Once you’ve built up a solid inventory, you’ll need to find somewhere to sell it. Most likely, your primary sales channel will be an online store.
You could consider building your store through a service like Shopify, which makes it easy for entrepreneurs to create and manage their e-commerce stores. These services are often loaded with useful features, like custom sales reports and analytics, customer relationship management tools and built-in marketing tools.
Either before or as you sell your goods on a dedicated online store, you can sell your products on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Etsy or eBay (or a combination of the three). These platforms are especially valuable for new entrepreneurs, as millions of customers are scouring these sites every day for products like yours — so leverage them for their built-in traffic. These sites can also be useful testing grounds to see which of your products sell over others, and at which price points.
Regardless of which platforms you’re using to sell your jewelry online, it’s worth investing in a professional photographer (or a good camera, if you can use it yourself) to photograph your jewelry in good light, at several angles and both on and off a model. Product photography can often make or break a sales decision, so quality photos are integral to creating a trustworthy brand.
You should be selling your jewelry the analog way, too. Start by selling to your friends and family, and let your brand grow via word of mouth. You can also become a vendor at flea markets and crafts fairs, or approach local retailers and ask if you can host a pop-up shop or sell your jewelry on consignment in their stores. Make sure you create business cards, which include links to your online store and social media channels, that you can keep at the till.
7. Establish your brand and start marketing
As you establish your sales channels, you should also start to establish your brand identity and implement a small-business marketing strategy. Creating a logo is a great starting spot, and it’s critical for establishing your business’s aesthetic. If you can’t find a graphic designer in your network to create one for you, there are plenty of logo-making services online.
As you grow you can start to implement paid marketing strategies, like Google Ads. But when you’re first starting out, it’s a better idea to take advantage of all the free marketing strategies at your disposal, and social media marketing is an absolute must. Which platforms will be more successful for your business depends largely upon which platforms your audience engages with the most. But to start, set yourself up with a business Facebook page, Instagram and Pinterest board, and make sure to include links to your online store (or your brick-and-mortar location’s address) in your bio.
In order for prospective customers to find your website via search engines, your site and blog (if you have one) need to be optimized for SEO. Shopify stores come with SEO best practices, but if you’re using another e-commerce or blogging platform, then it’s worth brushing up on some essential SEO tactics, which you can keep in mind every time you create content online.
Remember that building an engaged audience on social media — and, on a larger scale, establishing a brand identity — both take time. But the key is to remain active and engaged. Try to post at least once per day on your social media channels, respond promptly (and kindly) to any comments you receive on your posts and vary the types of content you’re posting.
The bottom line
The work certainly doesn’t stop once you’ve launched your jewelry business; in fact, it’s just the beginning. But don’t get so mired in the business side of things that you lose sight of why you started your jewelry business in the first place: the love of your craft, which the most successful artists never stop honing. So even if you’re a trained jeweler, consider continuing your education with online or in-store classes. If you don’t want to sacrifice a part of your business budget for educational purposes, you can find solid jewelry-making tutorials on YouTube for free.
Keep in mind, too, that starting a business is a time-consuming task, even if it’s just a side hustle. If you’re serious about your venture, make it a priority to carve out enough time in your schedule to dedicate toward launching and managing your business, even if that’s just an hour at the end of the day to work on a piece of jewelry, create a few social media posts or check up on your sales reports or marketing performance.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.