by Chelsea Clarey.
When your friends and family members are asking you for free jewelry, and you can’t refuse without causing hurt feelings and potential family drama – what can you do to minimize the dent in your profits?
Family will often see your art as something they can ask for and receive, and rarely understand that they’re causing headaches for a real business.
Follow these tried-and-true tips to keep everyone smiling – including yourself! – by providing for your family’s wishes without getting stuck unwillingly handing out free jewelry:
- Give the requested jewelry as a gift for the next birthday or holiday. Askers enjoy the jewelry just as much if you give it to them for a special occasion, and you’ve saved on a present (even if you lost the time and supplies to make the piece), so you end up breaking even.Slip the bracelet your niece asked for into her Easter basket, make Grandma’s new earrings a Mother’s Day gift, or save that necklace for Christmas or Hannukah.
- Have the asker purchase the components. Next time your cousin asks for a bracelet in a particular color, say, “Find some beads that you like and I’ll be happy to put them together.”Offer to take the asker along on your next trip to the bead store so they can choose elements for themselves. This can be done gracefully and without making the asker feel like you’re putting them off if you’re polite and upbeat.
- Let them do some of the design work. My mother-in-law buys her own beads and pendants and lays the necklaces out for me to finish.I’ve even gotten her to string them and put clothespins on the end of the wire until I have time to finish them with a clasp.
- Forget. It’s a little bit dishonest – but if someone is suggesting new pieces you could make for them every time you see them, and you can’t possibly fulfill the endless requests, let some of them slip your mind.Pieces that they really want, instead of things they just thought of asking for, will be mentioned more than once. Don’t forget everything they ask for or they’ll eventually call you on it, but not every piece has to be crafted as soon as they mention wanting it.
- Barter. Say something like, “While I’m doing the necklace, do you think you could take in this dress for me?”Or, do it more subtly: “That reminds me – I’m teaching a class next week, would you mind watching the kids?” Hopefully they’ll be conscious of having asked you a favor and will agree to do something in return.
- Exchange work for components. I use a lot of vintage beads and pendants in my work, and I’ve developed a tidy little side business restringing jewelry in exchange for the leftover beads!I have beautiful crystals from two necklaces that a relative wanted combined, and some incredible vintage Lucite from an heirloom bracelet that was too long for my aunt’s small wrist.These can become spectacular new designs. Sometimes the value of the beads I get is even more than the cost of restringing, and everyone is happy.
- Be honest. Say something like, “I just want you to know that it will take a while, because I’m very busy with paid commissions at the moment.”Or, “Moonstone is an expensive stone – I can’t afford to do that for free, but I’ll give you a big family discount.”
- Measure your profits in uncountable values. In some families, the bottom line is that you’re going to end up doing free work if you want to keep on good terms with friends and relatives.
Grin and bear it, follow the tips above to minimize your losses, and remember that if nothing else, you’re earning gratitude and family harmony.