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Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Being a handcrafted business is a labor of love. And sometimes, love hurts (at least financially).

As I sit here writing my 57th product description, I am slammed in the head with a thought …

How much time, money and effort (or blood, sweat, and tears) actually goes into making a single, affordable pair of earrings? Well, it turns out it’s a lot more than I thought. I’m pretty sure it’s way below minimum wage. It’s a good thing I enjoy it. ?

Below you’ll find a step-by-step accounting of the effort. It sure opened my eyes up and gives me a lot more appreciation for handcrafted items. If you’d like to join along…


Now, many people have their favorite thing to shop for. My passion is shiny objects from a craft store, but I am also addicted to online beads and baubles. That may sound fun (and it is), but there’s a lot more to it than that. Here’s a rundown:

  • Drive to the nearest bead store (20 miles away).
  • Pick a string of beads (and another, and another … and charms, findings, pendants, wire, etc.).
  • Wait in line.
  • Hope I have a coupon.
  • Use my credit card ? (I keep forgetting I’m retired. ?)
  • Drive my new goodies home.
  • Run my fingers through their shiny goodness and dream of all the possibilities.

Now What?

I can’t leave the beads sitting in a pile, right? (Although I’ll admit, sometimes I do.)

Beads, beads, and more beads.

So I have to:

  • Count the number of beads on the string.
  • Make a label that includes the price, the number of beads, and a description of the beads.
  • Put the beads in a tiny plastic bag.
  • Enter the beads into a database (with the 7700+ other beads), so I can price out the piece of jewelry that I make later.
  • Put the beads (organized by color) into one of the tiny warehouses covering my wall. Include a string of beads to the front of the drawer for i.d.
  • Pay the credit card bill. ?
  • Regret buying more beads in the middle of the night. ?

Dawn's Wall Full of Beads

Lights … Camera … (In)action!

It’s pretty easy to pick out the focal point for earrings (or necklaces). Fun even. I go through my containers and get inspired. Okay, more beads need to be added.

So now I:

  • Stand in front of a wall of beads. And stand there. And try to pick a color that complements the focal piece.
  • Yay, I found something!
  • I cut the craft wire to 4″.
  • Using the Wubbers (roundy pliers), I prepare an end for wrapping up the focal piece. Bend. Twist. Wrap. Cut. Crimp.
  • Damn, I forgot to add the focal piece. Got distracted. Start over. (Luckily, that doesn’t happen too often.)
  • Add the complementary beads. Yuck. I don’t like it. Start over.
  • Yay, I found something!
  • Finish up the ear wire side. Bend. Twist. Wrap. Cut. Crimp.
  • Add an ear wire.
  • Now do the other earring. Can’t wear just one! Well, I guess you could.
  • Keep track of all the part numbers (bead identification) and how many I used. This goes on a 3×5 card. The earrings get a name (not always easy). Place them in a snack-size Ziplock bag for safekeeping (and to keep them shiny) until I can price them out.

Price It Out

One of my least favorite things to do. There are so many suggestions out there on how to price jewelry. I try to be systematic about it. Like any other product you buy at the store, some beads are expensive, and some are not. I use a database (that I designed) to enter all the information.

  • SKU number.
  • Name of the piece.
  • Type of piece.
  • Length of the piece.
  • Then I have to call up each bead, crimp, wire, etc., that I used.
  • From there, I get my cost. Then I have to figure out the price.
  • Get out an earring card and label it with the SKU, name, and price. Add the ear nuts.

Lights … Camera … Photography!

Oh, my gosh. This has been the hardest part! I bought a nice Canon DSLR. I bought a fancy light umbrella and a boom to hold it. I watched webinars and classes on jewelry photography. The hardest part? Getting the white balance correct so the jewelry comes out the correct color.

So I have to:

  • Get out the camera and make sure the battery is charged. Charge the extra batteries, as well.
  • Set up the boom with the light source.
  • Iron the backdrops.
  • Hook up the camera and computer to each other.
  • Shoot the product pictures.
  • Then, set up the props and shoot the lifestyle photos.
  • Edit the pictures in Photoshop:
    • Rename the images
    • Crop the images
    • Resize the images
    • Save as .jpg
    • Load up on my server

Add the Created Jewelry to my Website

I thought this was going to be the easy part. Until I started doing it. I need to:

  • Add the tags, categories, main image, gallery images, related product images, attributes (color, length, materials used, price, etc.).
  • Write a catchy short description (the hard part).
  • Write a long description that includes describing all the beads and charms used in the earrings (the harder part).

And Then do Some Marketing …

… and advertising. Perhaps I should …

  • Post on Facebook.
  • Post on Instagram.
  • Post on Pinterest.
  • Email my Bead Wild Tribe.
  • Hope they open the email.
  • Hope they are happy and like my new products (and buy some!).

And if I Sell a Piece of Jewelry …

… that’s awesome! And THEN I get to:

  • Wrap the jewelry in a box with tissue paper, business card, free gift(!).
  • Put it in the shipping box; tape it up; address it.
  • Drive to the post office.
  • Email the purchaser.
  • Hope it gets there.
  • Hope they are happy.

And that’s probably not all there is … but you get the idea.

Thank you for listening ?

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

by | September 8, 2018

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

by | September 8, 2018


About Dawn

Dawn is a jewelry designer, retired outdoor ed educator and Zoo tour guide, animal lover, loving mom of a fur child, long-time vegetarian, and devoted daughter.

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About Dawn

Dawn is a jewelry designer, retired outdoor ed educator and Zoo tour guide, animal lover, loving mom of a fur child, long-time vegetarian, and devoted daughter.

Follow the News...