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Part 1- Selling to a Distributor
This is the first in a series of 5 episodes covering the different areas of selling and pricing your work. The goal with this series is to discuss and help you find ways to sell your art, create consistent revenue, and build relationships with the outlets you sell your art through. Whether distributor or retailer.
I personally sell my work through 2-distributors and several retailers directly. The benefits of both allow for a consistent income without putting all your eggs in one basket. On one hand you have a catalog that has a broader reach of distribution allowing more exposure for your line of work.
Most distributors take a 15-25% fee off the top of the wholesale. If you sell an item for $10.00 wholesale the distributor will then pay you $7.75 per item. If you calculate your time and gas that it takes to drive around and hope to sell orders it is way more beneficial to work with a distributor. When you first start out I recommend starting off selling to a select few shops and have then help you find the right pricing based on their customers feedback. In the long run you can then fine tune your line and become more consistent which you can then approach the catalog companies.
When you begin building relationships with distributors it is important to know that you will need to mail off FREE samples giving them a physical sample of your work. This allows them to settle on pricing and then if they accept the item they have it for photographing it for their catalog.
If you decide to go this route there are a few details to take into consideration.
1. distribution companies tend to buy in bulk which means you will need to be able to keep up with orders if your lines sell well.
2. purchase materials in bulk which will save you a ton in overhead. if you order 6 or more cases then freight will be an option to ship saving you tons of cash in the long run. Wait till companies like mountain glass have a monthly sale on clear or a color company.
Whether you buy your material in bulk or single cases always estimate your cost to manufacture based on regular pricing, not the sale price as well as always include shipping in the cost of the case. if you buy a case of 1" hvy wall and it costs 130.00 before shipping then the actual cost will be around 165.00- then divide that cost by the number of tubes in the case.
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Part 2- Selling Wholesale in a New Territory
In today's episode we will be discussing the topic of Getting established in a new territory. Have you ever moved to a new city, state or country and felt lost when it came to reestablishing yourself in the local market place? This episode is going to cover some simple ideas to introduce yourself to your local retailers, figure out what your local market is like and create long lasting relationships that will help support your business now and in the future, even if you move again.
As an artists we have the ability to pick up and move to almost anywhere in the world. Having a bag of tools to use when getting yourself reestablished is the key to a successful transition. Many times the idea of having to become re established can cause many to not want to move at all due to the fear of having to start all over.
Having a clear understanding of where your business is now and where you'd like it to go will make it easier to approach your new territory with your product line in a confident, proud manner. You dont want to be cocky and over confident as this can turn off a lot of shop owners. Having a humble, proud attitude will pay dividends for years to come as your line of work grows with your techniques. With todays technology its easier then ever to promote and sell your work internationally, however the relationships you develop on a personal level with your local retailers and their customers will be a more rewarding experience both spiritually and financially. These 5-steps will ease the stress that can lead to sales paralysis. These can be implemented now to begin the process of establishing and selling in new territories whether your new to glass, new to the area or just new to selling your own work
Before we begin lets remember first and foremost that you much know your local and state paraphernalia laws. Every city and state has different laws when it come to cannabis and this is crucial to not only help you fine tune your product lines but also to keep your ass out of jail.
1- locate at least 6-smoke shops in your area.
Try to keep these shops under an hour drive, time equals money. Not every town or city has a bundle of smoke shops so this may be a challenge however if this means you need to travel further then an hour do it.. once you get a good relationship with a smoke shops you can always take orders over the phone or through email. this i why its important to have a consistent, well developed line of work. Once you have located your local smoke shops its time to go on a re-con mission.
2- the re-con mission
Step 2 will give you the chance to visit these shops and get an idea of what type of shops they are. Not everyone is going to be high end or low end. This will help you to figure out how to fine tune the needs of each shop. Take mental notes. as well as create a note in your phone... before walking in the door you should have prepped a note for each shop you're visiting with the name and location written down. ask to see products and take notes in your phone of pricing with being obvious about it and don't let them know you're an artist. This may seem deceptive at first but of you walk into a new smoke shop and start talking about yourself you'll more then likely cause them employee or shop owner to put up a mental block and not be as "open" to show you prices. BY finding out the retail of their items you can do the math and figure out the wholesale most shops will mark up their items 2-2.5 times. some mark up 3 times but don't let this discourage you. If for instance you see a bubbler priced at $55.00 then you can assume that the wholesale was around $22-$25.00. Really take notice of what the shop carries and if customers come in while you're there pay attention to what they are asking for and potentially purchase.Ask questions about the artists they purchase from and jot their names down.
3- talk to other local artists
The local artists in your area that have been their for a while will be able to give you a heads up about sops that they've dealt with. not every artists is going to be willing to spill the beans so take their input lightly bit still pay attention. ask about what they sell and how the owner or mgr of the shop buys.. DO they haggle prices? do they buy in bulk? discounts for bulk? are they a higher end gallery/retail that isn't afraid to drop god money on great glass.? if you're a newer artist ask other artists in the area if they collab if so the artists you collab with cold sell the piece to the local smoke shop and help introduce you to the area through your work. ask your local artists f they ever demo at the shops? etc.. Most artists in your community are willing to share info compared to 10-years ago so don't be afraid to reach out.
4-Meet the buyers
Once you introduce yourself to your local artists and have a decent idea of what your local shops offer and what their prices are like its time to introduce yourself as an artist to the shops This can be intimidating and keep you from even leaving your studio. The fear of rejection can be debilitating but just remember that if you make this part of the process fun, not only will you find that your fears can actually fuel your fire but also that few every"no" you get you will be one "no" closer to a bigger "yes". Learning how to deal with rejection is going to be key to your success as a sales person but it will also create a confidence in yourself that will lead to other successes in life. heres how you can make this a ton of fun... Give Your Glass Away!! yep thats all you have to do.... make samples of all your work.. no mater how big or small your line of work is make up a case full of samples. Now if you've been following the podcast for sometime you'll remember that as part of figuring out your base line calculations for your lines of product one step is creating a timed sample which you should keep for a reference. These samples are ideal to carry with you when you go to shops to show them what you make. Along with the sample make sure you have a price list with a high quality colored photo of each item next its respective price. That way you can leave this with each shop so they can call you when they need to reorder of when you call they have a reference to know what you are talking about. Now as far as the giveaways go heres what you can do. Make Pendants and spoons. These will be your freebies. When introducing yourself make sure you keep the names of these contacts in the note file you originally created during your re-con mission. If the shop is a franchise or is run by a manager and not the owner make sure to get their name and contact info. They may be open to give you their personal cell number which will make it easier to get in contact with them but don't abuse this. If upon your visit you only have an employee working make sure to still get the info of the buyer but also create a good repor with the employee, they can be your best advocate when it comes to getting your work in the shop. If you do just have a employee then bring them 1- pipe sample and 2- pendants. 1 for them and 1 for the mgr/owner. If you can give the shop owner or buyer one of each it will give them a physical reference and a gift to boot. tell them the pendant is for them to have and the pipe is for them to sell and give them your MSRP for both. The MSRP is the manufactures suggested retail price which if you did your research of that shop, your pricing will fit right in with other items that are similar in style and pricing. Try to keep your prices consistent across the board but yo will fin that some shops that r higher end and have a higher end demographic in their area will be willing to pay more for your work then say an area that isn't a financially wealthy. Along with your glass gifts and samples, its important that you also have marketing material
5- stickers, fliers and business cards
Along with your gifted pendant and sample hand pipe you will also need to bring along your marketing material This is the best way to spread the word through out your community that YOU HAVE ARRIVED. When it comes to stickers one thing I recommend you get made is a larger sticker that the shop can put on their front door or cases. Besides smaller stickers for the shops customers the larger stickers have the ability to become a semi-permanent marketing strategy giving you a longer advertising effect when it comes to branding yourself. If you don't have a logo or brand yet just a simple sticker made using a high quality photo of your glass and add your artists name will suffice. There's many outlets for purchasing custom stickers which as always I recommend going local but if you cant ill post links to several companies you can choose from That I recommend an use.. along with your stickers make sure you have business cards made. This is a cheap and simple way to give the shops and their customers a way to get in touch and follow you on your social platforms. its important to include your website or marketplace(if you have one)contact info including email.. if your on a social platform don't forget to include everyone of them from your titter handle to your IG acct. this will give your followers a chance to stay up to date with you and your newer items along with a personal side to you and all your wackiness. In a past episode I discussed why you should use your social media platforms as tool and to not rely on them to sell your work.
If you follow these tips you will find that you'll create a strong foundation in your local community and these relationships will be ones to nurture and grow. These can lead to demonstrations at the shops and even the ability to sell work that is experimental as you learn and develop new techniques. Make sure to stay in touch with these shops monthly If you set a call schedule to check in with these shops in a rotation you'll be able to keep consistent orders flying out of your studio and help you grow as an artists while increasing your profits!!
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Part 3- Selling Directly to the Customer
As the functional glass scene continues to evolve with social media taking over a big portion of the landscape in regards to marketing it gives the artist an opportunity to promote themselves. One area that not all artists participate in is customs or commissions. In my opinion this area is one that will give you an opportunity to promote your work in a more intimate way. When you create a one of a kind for a client they are more likely to promote your work not only through their social media feeds but also in person with their friends. Imagine if your client takes your work in the road and share it with others while traveling. The potential first hand exposure and function of your work is exponentially greater then if they shared it in Instagram. Even if say they get 1,000 likes on an image or video of the client using your work the 20-30 friends or aqua intended that they share your work with will be more likely to contact you to purchase their own custom or seek your work out in their local retail spots. Word of mouth is and has always been the greatest form of advertisement.
With all that being said before we get into the detail on how to go about setting up a custom order it is imperative that we give thanks and acknowledge that the retail stores are on the front lines of our industry and shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to selling your work. This episode is dedicated to the process of working with a client for a commission as well as how to set yourself up with your work to give you an easier system to give your clients to follow making the custom order a fun and engaging process from start to finish.
Over the span of my glass career I've had the opportunity to create some amazing works of art for clients creating everything from $20,000.00 chandeliers to $3500.00 rigs and everything in between. By working hard at my craft as well as having been exposed to interior designers and other types of retail entities, I've learned through observation how to go about the process of working with your potential client from the initial consultation to the final install. Every client has their own needs and wants and it's your job to find out exactly what they are looking for and visualizing in their head.
One of the worst thing a client can say to you is "your the artist, have fun!" In the end this can be the worse situation to be in. Finding some form of direction will help you fine-tune the price of the work as well as give yourself and your client an estimated time of completion Start off by asking your client what their budget is. This will give you a guide and a boundary to set based on what you are being asked to make. This will also give you a chance to estimate the time it will take from start to finish making sure you aren't undercharging or overcharging. One way to help you in this process is to fine-tune your lines of work which will give you a baseline to work with Here's how I go about making this work. This is from my personal experiences and a way that had made this process less of a challenge and more of a fun time for both parties involved .
Let's use a custom 14mm WyzGuy water pipe for example:
My baseline retail price for a standard 14mm WyzGuy is $180.00. This model is a clear body with colored accents. Brows and wings and a male joint. If a client asks for a full color WyzGuy my base price is $225.00. If they want opals I charge $25.00 per opal. If they want a full crushed opal body it's an additional $100.00. The wings on the standard WyzGuy are flat against the body. If they want them extended out at its sides it's 25.00 extra. All these extras are my way of up-selling my work. So instead of selling a cheese burger I'm also adding fries and a coke. This gives me a way to fine-tune a price and time to produce. Now another area of commissions is work that is outside of your norm. For instance a specific character or maybe even a style rig you've never made before but maybe always wanted to. Sometimes a commission will give you the opportunity to try and make new items. Whether a character or new model this type of commission can be a little tricky. Based on your skill level don't be ashamed to let a client know tat you are not ready to make something that they are asking. We all have limits it just depends on your time and financial situations to whether or not you can take a risk by trying to make something. There has been several times where a specific custom took 3-4 attempts to get it right without catastrophe. This can get expensive and defeating. So step outside your box but maybe not too far. To get in the same page with your client you'll need to establish a few details beige getting started.
For one before starting find out if they have a budget. This will give you a chance to say no right away of it feels Like they are low balling the work.
Next once a specific budget is established and an idea is formed ask your client to find references for you to go off of and you do the same. This will establish a foundation for the commission and help you fine-tune the price and time
Once above is establish its time to do some sketches. Do a detailed drawing showing what colors your using and where they're being used. Show function. Mouth piece, joint , etc. estimate size as well. If it's not a character that you are familiar with or they want a certain style rig have them tag you in images on Instagram to get a better idea of what they're looking for.
Once you've got this done it's time to establish a deposit. I personally require half down and non-refundable This way they know you are serious and that they are as well. It will also give you some cash to purchase any necessary materials as well as help you float financially if needed while completing the item. Especially if you have other orders pending or have upcoming bills due.
Once you obtain the deposit make sure to give them an invoice showing the details of the order including deposit made. Balance due and estimated time of completion. This will establish a trust which is the first thing we are selling to begin with.
One easy way to accomplish this task is by creating a freshbooks account. The first month is free and after it starts at 10.00/month. For the monthly cost of doing business it will
Keep you organized and your clients happy
As you begin the process of creating the commission bring the client along the journey by taking and sending them profess shots or even short videos. They will love it. They may give feedback which can be helpful but overall this simple gesture will give them insight into what it takes to make their new pride and joy
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Part 4-High Volume Low End VS. Low Volume High End
When it comes to manufacturing and selling production there are many variables that need to be taken into consideration before beginning.
1- do you have an outlet that can move your product lines on a consistent basis and if so is it YOU or a DISTRIBUTOR?
2- how many items and variations of these items do you want to create?
3-Can you keep up with the volume?
4-How diverse are you in regards to these lines and the creation of the styles?
THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO LOOK AT PRODUCTION
..HIGH VOLUME LOW-END VS. LOW VOLUME HIGH-END...
LETS START WITH THE IDEA OF CREATING A PRODUCTION LINE AND THEN WE WILL MOVE INTO THE DIFFERENCES OF THE TWO AREAS OF CONSIDERATION.
1.the action of making or manufacturing from components or raw materials.
The manufacturing process can be a fun and challenging as consistency is the key to any successful production line. In past episodes I've discussed the process of finding the base line calculations for your items.(*see figure below) This is key to running a successful business as a production artist. Without a strong, calculated foundation you'll end up chasing your tail as supplies dry up or run short while making a larger order. The worse case scenario would be if you were half way or 3/4 of the way through the completion of an order and you suddenly realize you don't have enough material to get the order finished by the deadline you set. So make sure you break down and calculate this out before starting. This will also give you a good idea on the estimated time of completion and I say estimated because 95% of the time something will come up that will delay your order. In this situation just make sure you leave an open line of communication with your rep or retailer so you both are on the same page. As the glass industry grows so does innovation and the variety of items that can be made an sold no matter what niche' you reside in. Whether its manufacturing beads, pendants, ornaments, pipes, etc you'll need to create a line that is both diverse and unified with a theme or concept. This will help keep your brain focused on the specifics and not constantly seeking other ways of being creative throughout the manufacturing process. If you can set a schedule for yourself to where either on certain days or a certain times of the day you allow for a bit of free time to play with a new idea which will help you stay fresh with ideas while maintaining a good production schedule keeping you on track. Before you begin putting your line together you'll need to sit down and do some serious soul searching as these decisions will determine how successful you will be in the end. This simple exercise can be used for anything you are going to create, especially in the area of production.
How many different style of what ever niche your in can you make in a timely fashion?(write them down on the downloadable pdf attached)
Of items written down which ones are repeatable in a clean, consistent production line? (note:think of yourself as a catalog. Your items need to consistently match the items in your catalog)
Of said items how many different patterns can you use to diversify the line?
3"spoon- wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
shirlock- wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
hammer bubbler- wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
carb cap-wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
MOST IMPORTANT- If a distributor ordered 100 of just a single item can your soul handle the monotony?(this needs to be asked for each item that you have listed)
Once you get all these areas established then its time to fine tune your line and begin production. Before you begin the actual production you need to produce a sample of each time that you will be adding to your catalog and keep as a reference. Once you have your references in hand then its time for a test run. This means you'll need to create a minimum of 3-per item in a row without stopping to better gauge the estimated time of manufacturing. This will not only help keep you on task but will also make it easier to price your work based on the time and material associated with said piece. (the downloadable pdf includes a chart to input your info) for example say you want to make a simple 3" wrap and rake spoon Referring back to your sample you'll now what material is needed. here's a breakdown of the process:
prep tubing(pull points or attach blowpipes) this item requires 2" extra hvy 25.4 simax, 2" color and 9" 6mm clear(this is the formula for this item. repeat for each item)
with points prepped its time to begin. (The prep has to be calculated into the time of manufacturing. use a stop watch app on your phone and write the times down in the pdf attached) estimated prep time 5-minutes
Now make the three spoons in a row without stopping. 25-min(plus 5-min for prep) 30-minutes total to make 3-3" wrap and rake spoons or 10-minutes each.
In my opinion if you want to be a successful artist then you will need to have a few lines of mass produced items that will be your bread and butter while also maintaining a line of lesser produced higher end items giving you a diverse line for everyone to afford. Now depending on how you sell your work will determine what you actually make in regards to the items and price points. If you sell directly to retailers then your price point will be higher then if you sold to a distributor and this will also determine the amount of volume you will need to create. Most distributors have a large customer base that they wll need to keep fullfilled with items they are carrying including yours.This means you will need to create few models but higher volume of them. If you sell directly to the retailers then you wont need to create a high volume of a few items. Instead you'll need to create a diverse line of work giving the retailers a nice variety of styles and price points to choose from. This concept in manufacturing also goes for those who attend and sell at trade shows. As your own distributor you are representing yourself as an artist which means that it is crucial for you to find your voice through a diverse product line that says "This is (artist name) glass" and have it viewed as such in a good light. Just because something is mass produced in high volume doesn't mean it needs to be lesser quality. Even low end items should still be manufactured to a high level of quality. A 3" wrap and rake spoon should be given the same detail that a $1000.00 rig is given. The difference between the two is the lower end item is made faster and with less material where the higher end item might take 2-days to create and $150.00 worth of material. This is where the concept of low end vs high end comes in.
Locally made glass whether low end or high end should live up to the standards that higher end glass is held to. If you are a novice or hobbyist that is trying to create higher end work while your lower end work still looks like garbage then you need to take a step back and fine tune your skills before stepping up and attempting to create something you would consider a higher end line. Having a foundation of fine tuned skills will help you move forward towards creating the higher end lines more naturally and not feel so forced. There's a ton of garbage in the glass art world that is being passed as high quality work and only puts a light on the crap instead of shining on the highly refined developed artists. So if your skills aren't up to par just yet stay within your realm of skills while still moving forward to the ultimate destination of being a well rounded, fundamentally sound glass artist. By starting off as a low end production artist you'll give yourself opportune time to fine tune your skills, create a diverse line of work all the while supporting yourself as you continue to grow as an artist. If you're at the point in your career where your skills are diverse then you can create an larger diverse line of work ranging in many styles and price points giving yourself a voice through your work. I truly hope this helps you to understand and differentiate the different sides of production. This is all bare bones info as Ill be delving into the higher end lines of work in a future episode.
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Part 5- Selling Your Work During the Holidays This is the time to begin gearing up for the holiday rush As we all know time disappears even faster this time of year between the studio time, holiday parties, family get togethers and trying to find sleep amongst the chaos. Ideally if you are able to continue the momentum created throughout the year the holidays can be highly successful allowing you to add new items to an already large catalog, try new items as well as create and continue an annual limited edition series or item. Personally I make and sell a limited edition ornament. Platforms like Etsy are a great place to sell and promote these items. Each platform has its own algorithm helping you promote yourself as an artist. They are flooded with a sea of others but with persistence and time dedicated to this process as well as consistancy you can find success. Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram allow you to promote the items you are focused on selling during the holidays. As you drive up interest in these items it is important to think about promotional sales for Black Friday and cyber Monday. Personally I hold a Instagram only sale for cyber Monday and use my Etsy account for Black Friday. Even though blackfridau is generally a brick and mortar retail sale day you can still take advantage with online platforms. It is important to remember to promote heavily for at least a month in advance driving up the interest. Each day before the Skar launches you should promote the sale and items. If you are selling different items you can showcase them individually throughout the weeks as well as promote the sales giving your tribe an advanced notice. Another important idea is to think of supply and demand or scarcity of your item. Let your tribe know that you are only making 20 or 50 of a specific item and that they are numbered and dated and signed. This adds to the hype and the need for your tribe to own your limited edition items. Remember if you do go this route that you have to stay true to your word and if you say you are only
Making 20 of said item then you have to stick to that number. The item can change and vary over the years and seasons to keep this item a consistent collectors edition item and keep the scaricity mindset associated with it which will drive your tribe to feel the need to buy it now since they'll never be able to get that item again. This is why it is so important to stay up with your social media and stay consistent with your word and posts......
Here's a few tips when it comes to selling wholesale orders to your retailers
Shops are busy
Visit or call in advance to see what the shop needs. Not wants. Make an appointment and hold shop to it
Always make a few extra items that you want to sell
Think retail 20-50.00 stocking stuffers.
Put together a Christmas or holiday pack. Stockings with goodies
Follow up before going to confirm appointment made
Platforms to sell retail
- Social feeds