Think Art Loud

Inspiring, Encouraging, and Promoting the Handmade Arts and Artists

Posts Tagged ‘selling handmade’

Consignment vs wholesale is another of those decisions that is likely never going to be easy to decide, and both have their upsides and their downsides. When it comes to considering consignment vs wholesale, first of all, make sure that you are ready to take either step as both can cause a lot of damage to your business if you rush into either one too fast. You don’t have to wait till you have learned everything there is about your particular art media before you start considering consignment or wholesale (as that is never going to happen! There will also be something new to learn or improve upon no matter how long you’ve been doing it). However, you also shouldn’t just run out to every gift shop/gallery in your area if you’ve really only just started making/selling your art. When looking to interest a retail venue in either consigning or wholesaling your work you need to be confident not just in the quality of your work, but also in your pricing, knowing what your art is about, who your market is, and (particularly in the case of wholesale) your ability to keep up with a demand for more product is your work does well.

If this issue of consignment vs wholesale is new too you, then, once you feel you are ready to pursue it, you should really start with consignment. Consignment is a good entry into the world of third-party sellers. Besides generally being easier to come-by and wholesale, it also helps you to build up your professional resume which can help you down the road should you start looking for wholesale venues. However, there are some definite risks involved with consignment: damage, theft, lost, and, of course, trusting that those you are consigning your work with are honest. Whenever possible, get a consignment contract in writing and signed by all parties involved! First of all, a good consignment contract will explain to you when you get paid, how you get paid, and cover all other relevant issues such as who is liable in case your work is damaged, lost, or stolen (some galleries/stores will compensate you in the event any of those happen, but others will not). And secondly, having a signed consignment contract allows you legal recourse in the event that the consignment venue is acting dishonestly. It’s one of those things that you hope you will never need to use, but best have just in case.

With wholesale, you have the benefit of being paid up front, unlike consignment where you wait, hope, and pray that you make a sale. However, your selling price for wholesale will be lower than that for consignment, and wholesalers can be much harder to find. Also, before considering wholesale, make sure that all your legal business documentation is in order as tax numbers are likely to be required for any wholesale agreement.

When considering consignment vs wholesale, really take into consideration what kind of an artist you are. Do you enjoy making the same designs over and over with only a few modifications, or do you thrive on making completely one-of-a-kind work? Knowing where you stand on this will help you identify whether you are better suited to consignment or to wholesale. If you don’t like making the same or similar thing over and over and over, than wholesale may not be for you. So before you push too far forward with making a decision on consignment vs wholesale, take a minute to consider how well either one fits your business, not just where it is right now, but where you want to take it down the road.

With sites like Handmade Artists, Etsy, Artfire, Zibbet, etc., it’s been made so easy to ‘set up shop’ online that selling offline might get neglected. You sign-up, make your page, and beginning listing and promoting as much as possible and wait (hope) for the sales to come. However, while the Internet is certainly a necessary part of any business, where you are going to get the most sales will almost never be online, but where people can see your artwork for themselves and talk to the artist about it.  If you intend to make a serious business out of your handmade products, selling offline is generally going to be even more critical than making sure you have an online presence. As difficult as it can be to know where online is the best place for you to sell, selling offline is often even more difficult, however, it is a very important part of most any business. Finding the best method/venue for selling offline is not at all an easy task, and can be extremely frustrating in the beginning, but very rewarding.

If you are new to selling offline, you quite possibly find the thought a little overwhelming and may not be sure where to even begin: begin locally. Find out about any craft shows, art fairs, bazaars, farmers markets, etc. that are going on in your area and give a few of them a try. Even if they turn out to not be the right kind of show for you, you will still be able to learn from the experience and it will help you in finding the right shows for your work. Start small, don’t just jump into the deep end of the pool without having learned how to swim.  When I first started selling offline, I started with the small craft shows in my area. They were one-day shows that cost $25-$30 a table. With most of them, I didn’t even make my table cost. Discouraging? Yes, however, I still learned a lot from those shows. I learned how the whole process of apply to and preparing for a show works, how to display your product, interaction with potential customers, and they still got my jewelry out where it could be seen and any amount of exposure gotten from shows (whether they are good or bad shows) is always a good thing. I also got some very valuable feedback about my jewelry because of these shows which helped me to realize that my work wasn’t doing well there not because there was something wrong with my work, but because they simply weren’t the right kind of shows. Both the other vendors, as well as, the patrons at the shows kept telling me that what I needed were not the craft shows, but the art fairs. Once I started trying the fine art shows, I found that they were right. I’ve gone from shows where I couldn’t even make back the $25 booth fee to shows costing between $100-$200 and making in 1 or 2 days the equivalent of 2-3 months of checks at my part-time job.

So, if you are just starting to sell at offline venues, get your feet wet first with the small shows in your area to get a feel for how shows work and what kind of show does well for you.  Local shows, you can often find out about at your chamber of commerce office, or sometimes even posted around town on public bulletin boards.  Once you gotten more comfortable doing shows and have a better feel for what kind of show you need, you can begin looking farther afield from where you live.   There are all sorts of websites out there to help you find shows, as well as, printed publications that can assist you in finding shows.

Other options for selling offline are selling via consignment or wholesale, however, I would really recommend you approach either of these options very carefully and not rush into them before you are ready to.

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