As I mentioned in my previous blog post, things have been pretty busy over the last year for my business. It’s been a year of changes, of experiments, of progress and lessons learned. So in catching up and in the spirit of once more posting more often, here’s some highlights from the last year.
Good Shows, Bad Shows, and the In Between
I did a lot more in person shows in the last year than I had done in a while. Some were amazing, some not so much.
- Awesome Con exceeded all of my expectations in their expansions from year 1 to year 2. I can not compliment them enough, and am thrilled that I’ll be back there selling again in two months. Here’s to an awesome year three!
- No more travelling far to first year conventions. Indy Pop Con was a bust well beyond its cost, poorly planned and… just bad. Plus a flat tire on the way home on top of it. That was a weekend from Hell.
- Started into the world of Renaissance Festivals! I split a booth with Malhanch Armouries for two small medieval fairs last year and both went wonderfully and were a lot of fun. This is an area of expansion for the future.
- 2014 was likely the last year with craft shows on my calendar. I did several small ones, plus the Fairfax Fall Festival (in the rain now for two years running), and there was not enough return for the trouble. There is more of my target audience at faires and conventions.
Online sales on Etsy were definitely part of my 2014 highlights. Putting more energy into my Etsy store turned into nearly five times the sales I had seen previously. The most popular items? My Shakespeare necklaces.
There was one technique in particular I found to work well. Last year, I started offering Made to Order items. These are items that are often customizable, and that I do not have to hold in stock premade all the time. There are a couple of particularly good reasons to do this. One, it means that I don’t have some of the inventory management issues I’ve had in the past, of keeping separate what is in my online store versus what can be sold at shows. But it also improves my views on Etsy, because of how their search algorithms work. Each time one of these made to order items sells, it automatically renews, keeping it fresh in the searches and constantly giving the items more views.
So, this year I am working on weeding out some of my ready made inventory and adding more options for made to order. Already there are new necklace styles and new dice jewelry up there ready to go, so take a look!
Then there was the excitement over my packing tape ghost. It was found by MAKE magazine online, and suddenly my views on that post exploded. So hello again to everyone who found my blog because of that! There will be more fun tutorials coming in the coming months as soon as I take good in progress photos for them.
I love making jewelry. I truly do. But as I do more and more shows, it gets frustrating how many people sell jewelry at the same shows. A lot of it is that there is a low barrier to entry compared to some other crafts. You don’t need large equipment to get started. So as I try to expand my business, I run into shows I can’t get into because “we already have a jewelry vendor.”
While thinking about this, I started to remember some of the other things I like making and doing. Particularly at the Renaissance Festivals, I’ve started offering other items for sale. My cloaks drew great attention at both faires and I’ve made wood burned rune sets that have started selling nicely. But then I remembered something I used to love and never invested in the tools and materials to do myself – leatherwork. I’m working on my rusty skills to see what I can do and what response pieces get. Right now I have almost finished a new vendor apron for myself, and have cut out the pieces for a prototype bag design I’m working on. If all goes well, you’ll see some of these items at shows in the future, and eventually online as well.
The Year to Come
I’m really excited for what the next year has in store. We got into the Virginia Renaissance Faire, which with be my first multi weekend event. So I’m madly working on getting inventory ready for that. Several new conventions have also been added to my schedule this year, and there’s the possibility of some pagan festivals being added by the end of the year. It’s a big expansion, but changes I am really looking forward to.
And next week I will return you to the regular scheduled blog posts!