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NOW MY HANDMADE JEWELLERY BUSINESS IS UP AND RUNNING – HERE’S WHAT I’VE LEARNED




I started my jewellery-making journey after a good friend gifted me a day’s jewellery-making workshop followed by the level 1 NJS introductory class. During that summer, I seemed to spend all my spare time browsing online jewellery tool suppliers working out what I would need to be able to do some more silver-smithing at home.


Fast forward six years, when I made the decision to hand my notice in at work (I’d been in Higher Education for many, many years), to run my jewellery business full-time. I still have to pinch myself when I wake up in the morning to check that I really am doing this. Now, rather than sitting in long meetings, and worrying about my team, I spend my days either in the studio creating work to sell, preparing teaching sessions, designing for commissions, or progressing the many, many other tasks required of a creative small business owner.  And I love all of them.


I still feel like I am learning every day, and am certain that this will always be the case. However, if you’re on the brink of making the decision to earn money from your jewellery, or handmade business, or have just decided to take the plunge, I hope that these reflections about my learning thus far, help you on your way!


 

1. INVEST IN YOURSELF


This was piece of advice that I was given very early on in this adventure, and something that has really stuck with me. Of course, between that first day of jewellery-making and now, I have completed many, many classes in silversmithing. These have been courses which have taught a specific skill (many at Nottingham Jewellery School) and regular sessions which have supported work on my own projects. I have also done lots of online courses – some free, some paid. There is SO much information out there.


But just as importantly, I have also completed many courses focussed not on making, but on running a business. I knew nothing about marketing, web design, pricing, social media and so on, so this learning has, and continues to be, invaluable. Shout out here to Alys Power at NJS again who runs one-to-one business support sessions, The Design Trust, and The Jewellers Academy; all of these have been hugely beneficial to me.


At the beginning of the year, I decide how much I am going to put aside for my own professional development; and what the focus for this will be in the months to come. It’s important to do this – you don’t have a boss now to encourage you to use your staff development fund (!) – so you have to do it yourself!


 

2. FIND YOUR COMMUNITY


Moving from employed work to self-employed work means that you will lose your work-place community and regular day-to-day interactions outside the home. For me this felt particularly risky given that my personal circumstances suddenly changed when my partner left. So it’s important that you find a way to engage with fellow-minded folk outside your own small business. I have been able to do this in lots of ways – through developing relationships with local makers whom I’m meeting at markets and fairs, engaging with local businesses in the community, and through the NJS and my online coaching communities. I can’t emphasise how important this has been in my success so far, and how absolutely life-affirming these relationships are!



 

3. MAKE MISTAKES AND EMBRACE THEM


Never have I believed more in the value of making mistakes! If you can find a way of properly knowing that, without having mistakenly taken that step, you wouldn’t have known the right direction to take, this will serve you well. This goes for both your making (for example, picking up a recently soldered – and extremely hot! – piece of jewellery), but also for your business. I have found real joy in knowing that I no longer need to fret about making sure every decision I make is the right one; now I take a (educated) punt, and see what happens. Some of my best learning has come from decisions I have made that turned out quite clearly to be the wrong ones. And that no longer phases me.



 

4. KEEP AN OPEN MIND ABOUT WHERE THE INCOME WILL COME FROM


When I first set out to earn money from my jewellery-making, I had anticipated that this would happen via sales on first Etsy, and then later, my own website. However, I have since discovered, that contrary to my early thoughts, I absolutely love having a stand at art and craft markets; and that these also serve me well financially. Similarly, I hadn’t anticipated being in a position to teach jewellery-making, given that I work from a pretty small studio in my garden. However, with some creative thinking, I’m now successfully running jewellery-making experiences rather like the one that first enticed me into the business, from home. And this has opened a door to teaching at NJS too. Perfect, given my original profession as a teacher.




 

5. TOOL ADDICTION IS A THING


It just is. Accept it. Decide the amount of income you are going to put aside to spend on new tools at the beginning of the year and stick to it. And yes, if you have a particularly good month, spend some more!


 

6. SET OUT YOUR VALUES


There are several reasons why it’s useful, and indeed important, to be really clear about your business values, and set them out explicitly so that you can come back to them whenever you need them. Not only does this help your customer identify you, but it also means that you have something to lean on when you make decisions about an aspect of your business. For me, ethical principles and eco-friendly practices guide much of my work. This aligns to my personal values, and also helps me to steer an appropriate course when I am considering purchases or services for my business. Kindness and collaboration also define my business. My years in Higher Education have taught me to see the very best in people, irrespective of their actions and I strongly believe that generosity of spirit makes all lives happier and more fulfilled. This is where I place my business, and this is what will drive the future of my success.


So, wishing you all the success in your business!


Find my work at www.susannahbrookes.com

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