After years of being a fibre artist who runs a social media platform and sells pieces across a number of online and in person platforms, I would say that I've learnt many lessons the hard and painful way. It was tough when they happened, but I am grateful for these lessons now as they have made me so much stronger, smarter and confident.
If you want to eventually sell your pieces, are already selling, or trying too, you will need to learn these lessons at some point in your journey too. So, let me save you some time, heartache, and money. After all, I want my hindsight to be your path forward.
Here are some of the hardest lessons I had to learn
● Lesson 1. I am not over charging!
URGH, the most difficult and scary thing when it comes to selling your artwork is working out price. We all know we are our own worst critics and can often find it hard to really value our own work, especially when you are often faced with critics of the handmade world. Critics who:
1. Don’t understand the actual time it takes to make a handmade item
2. Don’t know how much skill is involved and how many hours of learning and perfecting you have put into your creations
3. Have no idea the cost of quality materials.
These same people love to tell you how much they can pay for a similar piece from Cheap as Chips or Kmart… Now, honestly there isn’t anything wrong with Cheap as Chips and Kmart (especially Kmart, I love Kmart. I mean who doesn’t!) these stores have their purpose, but you know what, these people are just not our buyers and they never will be. They are not someone who is going to appreciate all our hard work and as much as they think they might, they are certainly never going to get a “similar” piece from any of these stores. This is their loss and their bad luck!
What we need to do is stop worrying about what they think. Or what price they think they should be paying and stop trying to please those who can’t value our skill.
Easier said than done, I know.
I soon realized that, what I am doing is actually a skill, not everyone can do it and do it well, especially without practice. I accepted that my pieces are truly one of a kind and handmade with love. They are not commercially made in other countries for cheap labor and cheaper materials. My materials are the best of the best, my pieces are made with all my love and passion and my buyer will receive a piece that is uniquely theirs.
The truth is that once I backed myself and increased my prices, my sales didn’t drop, they actually stayed the same, and in some cases, they increased!
Here comes the turning point for me, and a face palm moment at that … when finalizing payment for a wall hanging (with a price I was actually ok with) I got told “Oh that’s great, I had actually budgeted for more than that”
This happened twice! I realized then that there are people out there willing to pay. I just needed to focus more energy on finding those people then worrying about those who won’t!
Lesson 2. Friends and family don’t always need discount!
This one is super hard. I know! (I hope I don’t sound mean)
When I was starting out I was big on giving discounts. Why, because I felt that
1. It was the right/nice thing to do. Nothing like a good old family/friend discount.
2. They expected it, maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but that’s how I felt (and in come instances, they did actually ask)
Looking back, I know I was so desperate to make them something they loved I would do it, even though it didn’t always sit right with me.
I realized that If I was becoming stressed at having to do a piece for someone I knew at a cheap price, then it wasn’t worth it. Once I accepted my worth, see lesson 1, it was easier to explain to those family and friends that this is actually a business for me and I had to draw the line. That my time and materials were precious. If I gave away free or cheap pieces to everyone one I knew, I would have no business. It was that simple.
So when family or friends hinted at a piece they would love me to make them, I would suggest they wait until their birthdays or Christmas and maybe they would get lucky, or, I would just tell them the price. If they want it, they will pay… and honestly shouldn’t these people be our biggest supporters anyway.
This made the biggest difference. Soon family and friends accepted this was a business and understood that I couldn't just give my precious time away from my family to make freebies. They now purchase the items they love for themselves, and they gift others my work as well, just as they would from any other store or maker.
PS: It is ok to actually do something nice for someone occasionally, but remember there has to be a line somewhere and its always better when we get to choose that time or the piece ourselves.
Lesson 3. The fibre community is AMAZING!
I am super proud to be a part of a thriving, exciting, kind and supportive community of makers across many fibre arts. It took me a good year to really start reaching out to other makers, making connections both business and personal. Many I now consider friends.
At first I thought it would be weird to contact my “competition” but you know what, there is enough for all of us, and me and my new fibre buddies have helped each other learn new skills, find second hand tools, swap fibres, referred customers and can chat macramé, weaving, spinning all day long. Its not weird, its wonderful.
The only thing to remember is that there is so much knowledge out there to be shared, but giving is just as important as taking. Don't wait a year like me, reach out to those makers local to you, you just don’t know the things you could learn.
Can you relate to any of the above lessons?
I really do hope that this has helped you to understand the crazy journey it takes to selling your pieces. Even just a little. What I hope resonates with you, is that what we do as makers, no matter the art form, is a skill and that skill deserves appreciation and acknowledgment.
Just think, if we all continued to drop our prices, do freebies etc, then where does that leave the appreciation for the skill? It completely devalues it!
Think about that for a moment, I will touch base on this further another day.