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It’s here! Haunted on Bourbon Street Marble

Best. Hubby. Ever! I asked Greg a while ago to make some murrine of the image on the cover of my book. He did make it and it’s been sitting on the work bench waiting for me to get time to make something with it. I did of course ask him to make a marble,but he balked and sort of ignored my request.

Okay. No problem.

So, imagine my surprise when he pulled this out of the kiln this morning:

 

I love it! It is pretty much exactly what I was hoping for when I asked him to make me one a month ago. One side has the silhouette image and the other side has houses with silhouette ghost people.  The bottom has skulls and flowers.

 

And on the top: The word Bourbon.

Again, I have to say, I love it! Thanks, Greg.

I’ve put it on eBay with the other marbles and have included a signed copy of the book  in the listing. You can check it out here.

eBay–Chapter 5 The Business of lampworking

Ten years ago eBay was the big game in town for lampwork beads. It really seemed to be list it and they will come. These days, not so much. But if you’re willing to be patient, it can pay off.

Why should you use eBay when you’ve been told (or experienced in the past) other sites like Etsy and Artifre are so much cheaper to use? I’ve got secret for you. The final listings fees vs sold items in my eBay store is often cheaper than my Etsy stores. Last time I looked, sales to fees ratio on eBay was 8.5% and Etsy across both stores was 9%. That is because eBay is now offering fifty free auction listings a month. You only pay final value fees when the item sells. This seems to be a permanent deal, but you never know when eBay is going to change things.

Fifty free listings a month! That’s a huge bonus for someone trying to start a following there, because it takes a while to get noticed.

Greg and I have five different internet stores and eBay continues to dominate our sales numbers. We have over the years tried many different sales strategies, but the one thing we have never changed is listing new stuff consistently. If you can listing something every day, that will mean you will always have an item listed under newest and one under ending soonest in the search categories. And customers will always be able to find you because your store never goes dark.

Got that?

The number one way to drive business on eBay is to list new stuff consistently.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some ways to be seen on eBay. Have a few items listed at over $50. Many people start their search in lampwork beads by highest price in order to weed out the imported stuff. Go take a look using that search feature. At what page do you burn out and stop looking? Now look at what price those beads are going for. Strive to always have something listed above that price.

Consider adding the Buy it Now feature. Some people really dislike the auction format. They see what they want and would rather just click through to buy it. On the other hand, some people get a high off of auctions. So have a mix of listings if you can.

Here is how I handle it. All of my beads have a set retail price. For eBay I set my BINs at the retail price and the auctions start at my designer wholesale price. Around 25% off.

Every once in a while if I have a new design I feel strongly about, I won’t set a BIN on the auction, just to see what the market thinks of them. If I get lots of bids, it helps me set the retail price.

We also use the Buy it Now feature (no auction format) with the or Best Offer. I set these all at my retail price and entertain offers when they come .  Some of them are ridiculously low. Like $22 for a marble listed at $100. At that point my options are to either accept the offer, counter offer, or decline. Usually when the offer isn’t even close I will just decline it. But most of the time I will counter and we play let’s make a deal. It’s kind of fun, but you have to be prepared that if you counter, the buyer may walk. And that is perfectly okay with us. We already know how much we will accept for something. If the offer is too low, it’s just too low. Try not be insulted by low ball offers. Everyone likes a great deal.

99 cent auctions. I confess, I’ve tried this and I hate it. If you’re going to run a 99 cent auction, be prepared you may very well end up selling your item for 99 cents. I always think of the 99 cent auction as an advertising expense. But I’m not sure it’s effective among the sea of hundreds of other 99 cent auctions. I’d try to use it in conjunction with some other kind of advertising. Something like a month-long ad on a jewelry makers forum, or a blog event like 99 cent Fridays where you run one every week. Something that can help you build a following around it.

Now, if you are constantly making one of a kind items 99 cent auctions may work for you. Or if you have a huge following. Or if you are brand new and trying to build a following. I know many beadmakers who have used this strategy and have had it work for them. It doesn’t work for me. I do a lot of production work and in order to preserve my pricing the 99 cent auction just doesn’t work.

Speaking of preserving pricing, if you sell wholesale to beads stores or galleries, they are not going to like it if you are undercutting their prices on eBay. This is why I go with my retail prices and a designer wholesale start price. If I listed everything at 99 cents, that would be a huge conflict.

Sets or focals? Everyone wants to know what sells better. I can’t answer that for you. I sell both and marbles. So I think it all depends on the work you put out there. I can tell you, often what sells online does not sell as well in person and vice versa. So try different things until you find your niche.

Pictures, pictures, pictures! eBay used to charge for added pictures. Now you can add a bunch for free. I’m not certain how many because I host my own on my website. I just like having sole control over my content in case an image is hot-linked somewhere. But that’s just a personal thing. Use up as many picture slots as possible. Most customers will not read your entire description, so try to get your pictures as clear and accurate as possible.

And as always, link up your auctions on Facebook, Twitter, Lampworketc. Let people know your auctions exist. Put your link in your email signature. Send a newsletter letting your customer know you’ve started a new venue. Don’t have one yet? Time to start. Spread the word, but don’t be obnoxious about it. One post in each place is enough.

Live Marble Demo Sunday at 2pm CST

Yep, we’re back at it. Greg will be demoing a marble tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm CST, and I will be in chat to field any questions. The last two weeks were really fun, so stop by if you have a chance.

That’s 12pm pacific, 1 pm mountain, and 3pm eastern.

http://www.livestream.com/chasedesigns

The marble will be along the lines of this:

Custom Orders–Lampworking Business Extras

You fire up the computer, take a look at your email and there it is in the subject line: Custom order.

Now what?

When I say custom, I mean custom. Something totally new, that isn’t just a small variation on something you already know how to do. If someone asks me to make a peacock bead in pink instead of blue, that is not custom. That’s just a made to order item. Okay now that we have that straight on with the post.

I’m going to be totally honest. Most lampworkers I know hate doing custom orders. Sure, there are a few out there that like it. I can only assume they enjoy the challenge or the opportunity to work on something they hadn’t thought of doing before. But from a purely profit standpoint, we almost always lose money on custom orders. At least on that particular order.

Here is how I handle the custom order question:

If the item in question is something I think I can do and I want to do it, then I tell the customer to give me a few days (a week or whatever) to come up with something. Once I have something I like, I email a picture to the customer. At that time we talk pricing.

If it isn’t something I think I can do, or if I just plain don’t want to then I politely decline. If I know of another artist who I think can do it or likes custom orders, I will point the client to them.

Notice how I don’t ask for a deposit or even give a price until I complete the piece. This is because if it’s truly custom, I often don’t even know if I can make whatever it is the customer is asking for.

I also will only consent to trying a custom order if I think it’s something I can sell if the original buyer backs out. Or if it’s a design I might want to add to my bead line.

Look, custom orders usually take ten times the amount of time to complete than something I already know how to do. Usually it takes anywhere from five to ten beads to get the design right and that’s if I started out on the right track. So if someone wants me to make something for ten bucks that I have no idea how to do and it’s going to take me three torch sessions to figure out, it isn’t exactly the best short term business move as far as profit goes.

Now, if I want to spend some time learning and it’s a design I’m excited about, then there are more benefits than that first initial custom order. You can’t put a price on development. A few of my beads came about because I explored ideas brought to me by customers. My peacock beads are one of them.

There are lampworkers out there that require a deposit to do custom  orders. It’s a sound business move. But for me, if I don’t know if I can fill the order, I’m not comfortable taking any money in.

For my made to order stuff, items I know I can make over and over again, if a customer places an order, I do require payment up front. In full.The customer pays. I make it, then I send it out. Usually within a few days.

Custom work can be fun if it’s the right project. Greg once had a request from the adult children of one of our long time marble buyers. It was a custom marble for their parents fiftieth wedding anniversary. The style was one Greg felt comfortable with and he went ahead and took on the order. The marble came out beautiful and the family was very pleased. Greg got a lot of joy out of making that piece and I know he felt honored to have been asked to make it.

I’ve heard many lampworkers groan over custom work. I’ve done it myself. But since I started picking and choosing what I want to do and politely declining those I don’t think I can successfully pull off, I no longer cringe at the ‘Do you do custom work?’ email.

Bead and Button-The Before Pictures

Writing goal check in: 1174 words written yesterday.

Last week Greg and I spent some time revamping the show table display. For every show we have scheduled we set up a mock table in the dining room so we can decide on inventory we need and what needs to be revamped. With each show we learn what works and what doesn’t and where we want to make changes. This year the table is getting a major overhaul.

I spent a good deal of time looking at other table displays and figuring out what appealed to me in terms of showing off inventory. So far, my favorite has been JC Herrell’s display. If you are a  friend of hers on Facebook, you can  find her display here.  You can see I have borrow heavily from her aesthetic. Thank you, JC!

Ours is still a work in progress. The cream display on the left is being redone, and please ignore the weird thing to the right of the marbles. That’s an idea in the making and will look nothing like what you see there. I need a special display for my ring focals and Greg and I were brain storming. I still don’t know what it will look like, but Greg is mulling it over. He has ideas, which is always kind of dangerous. 😛 No need to worry though. See that light bar? Yeah, he built it. Pretty cool huh? The only other things I need are white inserts for the bead trays. Got to keep everything orderly.

So, for the next few months I will be buckling down and filling this table. Much of what you see on it right now is Greg’s inventory and of course, the murrini. We have a ton more than what you see there, this is just mock up. Man, I have work to do.

On to the show:

Tucson…Here we come!

Yep, that’s right.  I am finally getting Greg out of the house and we are headed off to Best Bead in Tucson, AZ.  We have  booth 31 in Tent A.  If you are coming down to the shows be sure to stop by and say hi. The show runs from Feb 3rd through the 7th.  We are so looking forward to seeing everyone.  Woot!

All online business stuff will resume in Feb 10th.  However, due to our trusty assistant shipping will continue as normal.

Lampworking in these tough economic times

Over the last few months I have read more and more posts by my lampworking collegues, informing us they are closing shop, taking a hiatus, or *gasp* headed out to find the JOB. It makes me sad. Yep, times are tough. It isn’t like it was two or three years ago when all you had to do was list it and buyers will come.  Everyone has needed to take a good long hard look at their marketing plan and really evaluate where they are at.  I have, multiple times in the last few years.

A few weeks ago I read a blog post by a literary agent.  He basically said eighty percent of the problem was just showing up. For writers if you just show up and write everyday, strive to learn everyday, and keep going no matter what, you are eighty percent there.  I have completed my manuscript and am just testing the waters on finding an agent, so my opinion on this pertaining to writers is juvenile at best.  However, when it comes to lampworking as a business, I am going to agree one thousand percent.

In order to succeed it is my firm belief you have to keep moving forward everyday, no matter what. But, just listing beads on ebay or etsy whenever you feel like it isn’t going to cut it.  To really make this a business you need to show up everyday with something to sell. At least this has been what has worked for me. I show up every single day with something.  It may not be a new design, it may not be the fanciest design, and it may not be the most innovative, but gosh darn it, I list new stuff six days a week (unless I am backlogged with orders like I am now).

Just like in publishing, this is a business.  You have to make something people want to buy. If I write a novel I have feed my soul and have accomplished something very few people have.  Many people talk about writing a novel, but out of all those people, very few actually complete one. It’s an accomplishment and one I should feel proud of.  But if it’s on a subject no one wants to read, then it isn’t good business. Many of my colleagues make gorgeous, technically challenging beads, but if they can’t find a market for it, it isn’t good business. Good for the creative soul yes, good for the pocket book, not so much.

I do know what I am talking about here. Greg, my hubby and business partner, makes pretty much what he wants to make when he wants to make it.  It isn’t the best business practice. Sometimes his marbles remain unsold for weeks, even months. But it is what he loves, so he shows up every day and makes something new. (Well six days a week.) He is eighty percent there.  He shows up. And yes he has success. Some months his marbles sell fabulously and others, well…lets just say we have a lot of marbles rolling around. As a compromise, I do a lot of production, made to order stuff, and custom orders. To be honest this is what keeps us going and in business. I don’t mind. It makes me feel good when people like my stuff enough to buy it. Plus, you know, I like to keep the mortgage paid.

Still, we each keep trying new stuff and adding new designs to our repertoire. It really is true that if something isn’t selling, its time to move on to something else.  Even if what you sold before was hugely popular. Here is what I do in that situation. I move on to a new design, but I keep the old design as an option for a made to order item.  It works! I promise. We also try different venues.  Currently I have four. The more exposure the better. But they all take effort. Make no mistake. This is a six or seven day a week job.

My advice to you, my fellow lampworkers:

Figure out what it is you make that sells well and focus on it.

Do market research and find out what is simular to that and the price points they seem to be moving out. Figure out if you can compete.

Keep designers in mind. I’ve learned my designers like to know they can come back and reorder beads that sold well for them.  Reliablity is huge. Think about your own favorite vendors. Don’t you always go there first? Make it easy on them.

Try new things and keep trying new things until it sticks.

One of a kind is fabulous, but if you have ten people bidding on a set of beads, isn’t it better to sell ten sets for a decent price than just one for a great price? Remake what you can sell. Don’t get caught up in OOAK. They are beads people, not the Mona Lisa.

So if you made it this far my advice is geared toward the lampworker in it as a business.  If you are just making beads for artist expression and joy of it and happy to wait for the sale on etsy whenever it may be, then carry on.

**Full disclosure, I have been making my sole living as a lampworker for five years.  I do not consider myself to be an “artist”. I’d say crafts person and I am just fine with that. Greg, he’s the artist around here.

Happy Holidays!

I know, I have been a terrible blogger lately.  Please don’t hate me.  Seriously, I have been one busy girl these last six months. First, let me start by thanking all of you, my loyal customers, since part of the reason I have been silent is all the time I have spent making beads.  Business is still strong enough to keep us going and more times than not I have custom orders to fill.  In these economic times, Greg and I both feel very lucky and blessed to have such wonderful and caring clients.

I bet you didn’t know that come December 29th it will be our five year anniversary of making beads and marbles full time.  That’s right, in the last five years we haven’t worked for anyone but ourselves.  And you of course. So Thank You! The time has flown by and we were just remarking today about how our time spent at our last jobs, which was roughly about five years also, seemed like an enternity while we were there. Neither of us could imagine going back.  So here’s to the next five years.  Catch ya online (or if you are in Tuscon this February at Best Bead stop by and say hi.  We’d love to meet you).

SALE!

Happy Week before Thanksgiving Week!  Greg and I have been busy doing shows and we are done for the year, so it seems like a good time to run a sale.

I am running at 20% off all items on etsy, artfire, and the website.  Just write in my message to seller section “Thanksgiving Sale” and I’ll either send a revised invoice or refund the difference from your paypal payment.

www.cdlampwork.etsy.com

www.cdlampwork.artfire.com/

www.chase-designs.com/

And marbles are included too:

www.chasedesigns.etsy.com/

Last day of the sale is Sunday the 22nd.  Happy shopping!

Deanna