How Do I Know if It’s Time to Quit?

by Donna Jadis.
(Antioch, CA)

This past weekend was about the WORST show I’ve had since I started my business, more than 10 years ago.

I’ve watched the same show decrease in gross sales for me every year that I’ve done it (about 5 years, now, I think.)

This year was half of last year’s gross and a mere pittance towards my costs for going there.

Recent design based on a rainbow tassel that I made by Donna Jadis  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Recent design based on a rainbow tassel that I made

How do I figure out if it’s time to quit?

I’ve had a very loose definition of ‘successful’ for shows since I started because mine is a hobby business and “sell jewelry, buy more beads” was the “success” I sought… it’s mostly worked, but not if I really make a strict accounting of all costs involved in doing a show, any individual show.

Gold Chain Maille bracelet by Donna Jadis  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Gold Chain Maille bracelet

I KNOW I have an audience. There are people who find me each year at shows I return to, they’re looking for me because they like my work.

Some years they buy big, others, not so much.

How do I know if it’s time to quit?

Silver wire macrame with Amethyst by Donna Jadis  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Silver wire macrame with Amethyst

Quitting would be hard because I have huge inventory of supplies… and because I LOVE my creative process and outlet.

I just wonder and doubt myself after weekends like this past… is this worth doing?

Who else has struggled with this? Have you quit? Have you figured out a way, method, rationale to keep your business going?

Thanks!

Donna Jadis
Artisans at Mooseworks

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Comments

  1. I wish I had an answer for you, but I am going through the exact same thing right now.

    In 2015 I gambled on a very expensive show targeting my dream audience, and it was a financial killer for me. I got back 1/4 the cost of the booth and not one single response to my follow-up after the show. This was sandwiched by two craft fair seasons which included shows where I would literally make zero sales, and I was not the only vendor making zero sales. My website and my Etsy store have yielded less than 5 sales per year.

    I’m subscribing to this thread in the hopes that someone has some insight. I’ve been making jewelry for 20 years, I have plural boxes of dead inventory, I’m tired of people being insulted by the fact that I charge more than Target does for jewelry, and I am so ready to just donate it all to charity and move on. And yet…I still love beads.

  2. Donna, if you still love creating jewelry, and you know you have an audience – it sounds like it’s time to find new venues. Other shows or opportunities that are a better fit for your jewelry, and for the people who would be most interested in your work. Your jewelry is interesting, meticulously made and high quality. There are customers for what you do. You’re right that it’s probably time to quit the specific shows that are decreasingly successful for you, but that doesn’t mean you have to quit altogether. I would be sad to see you throw in the towel completely when you still love what you do.

  3. Colleen says:

    Last fall was the first time I did a show and it was scary for me. I’ve done two more since then. The first show was all by myself and I did great, the second show was with other vendors of different products, I did ok, the third was again with different vendors of different products, that one was not so hot. The good thing was, I didn’t have to pay for my spot! It really deflated my thoughts on selling, BUT, I too love making jewelry and other crafts and have amassed quite the inventory. I will try doing another sale all by myself (at a no cost location) and see how things go, I really don’t want to throw in the towel. Donna, your work is very nice, don’t give up yet!! Maybe try a private sale. Good luck!

  4. Donna, I struggle with the same issue. I, too, have a regular job and making jewelry is my outlet for decompressing and almost a meditation for me. I’m convinced that my love for making jewelry makes me a better person. I sell on consignment at a yoga studio and have sold at some craft shows with variable success, but in the end I’m petty sure it costs more than I make. In those moments of doubt, I go back to how happy it makes me to create jewelry, and I try not to get attached to the outcome of a particular venue. I’m hoping you can find new opportunities where people appreciate your artistry, because your jewelry is really gorgeous!

  5. I started 6 years ago by doing shows then went over to weekly farmer’s markets and now I have a showcase shop inside a brewery/marketplace. I have seen up and down years and this year is on a decline from last year. What I have found to be true always is that you must be willing to change things up a bit but stay true to your style. People like to get new trends. If your designs look too much like the last few years, you may not get as much attention. Is there a way to “remake” some of your pieces to update them?

    I constantly check a few websights for what the current jewelry trends are. (Anthropologie, Sundance, etc) and that has helped me adjust my designs a little each year. I also know that any type of personalization has stayed popular no matter what.

    Lastly, look at some new venues/outlets as the other suggested. Old designs to you, but new to these customers. I actually just sold a piece that I had displayed off and on for over 2 years and a lady just bought it and was thrilled. so don’t give up!

  6. We have gone through this as well. We have been making jewelry for more than 8 years and have done shows from small craft shows to large rock and gem shows. What has worked well for us is to “weed out” the shows that didn’t do well for us and have stayed in the ones that have, on average, been worth staying with. Because of the type of jewelry we do (we cut and polish our own stones and wrap), we are sticking with Rock and Gem Shows because they are a better fit for us and we do well. Your jewelry is beautiful and maybe only concentrating on the shows that are a “good fit” for your jewelry may work well. I see you do chain maille, have you checked our Rennaisance Fairs in your area? Also, do you have a website or Etsy, etc? that has been a good addition for us along with the 3 shows we do a year. I wouldn’t give up on your passion for making jewelry, there are lots of options out there. Good luck!

  7. i love what I do. The money is secondary. I have a ceiling on how much I am willing to invest in booth space, thus how much I am willing to lose in case of flat sales. Also, how far I am willing to travel(no overnights). You will learn which shows to avoid as you go along. Best of luck, use your supplies, travel and meet other like minded people, and keep creating your beautiful pieces. And btw, my sales increased when I set a mental goal for sales. Don’t know how this works, but it does.

  8. Irene Vrbensky says:

    I just checked out your website and really like your designs! Here are my thoughts: Prices seem low for handmade items. Maybe you need to find who your target market is. It is more than likely those who appreciate handmade and are willing to pay for it. I see you have mastered so many different forms of jewellery creation. Maybe pick one or two methods and spend time on them only to make you the expert! I hope this helps. I am a newbie so maybe I am totally off. Good luck and keep it up!

  9. Last fall after 3 disappointing shows in a row I asked myself the same questions. Craft shows were over for the season and due to other more pressings projects at home I put it all aside and didn’t even go in my studio until this week. I would pass by and throw a few guilty looks in at my boxes of props from the last show and my workbench gathering dust. I really tried to make this a positive experience by deliberately not thinking about what to do with my jewelry hobby/business,and especially by not feeling guilty about the money invested in my huge inventory of supplies and finished pieces. This week when a friend and her young daughter came over for a jewelry lesson I gave them my entire supply of acrylic and more kid oriented beads and findings…a huge amount, but I knew I wasn’t ever going to use them again as my style has evolved. This was so freeing! To get ready for their visit I had cleaned and organized my studio,which prepared me for a fresh start, both mentally and physically. I’ve decided to focus on two things…first, finding the best venues for sales in my area and online, and second, determining which one or two types of jeweler I will focus on making so I can establish a more definite and recognizable brand. My final decision has been to continue doing what I love and not to worry about the final outcome.

  10. Patrice, what a good idea to let go of the things that no longer fit your jewelry activities, to make room for your new evolution. All the best to you in your new directions, and please keep us posted! 🙂

  11. Christine Stewart says:

    Since this is something you LOVE, why would you quit? As long as your income from the business doesn’t play a contributing factor into whether or not you may end up living under a bridge in an appliance box, keep moving forward. What can you learn from this? Is it your products or the show? Is it the economy in your area? Do the people come to this show to spend money or just “get out of the house”? What did people positively comment on even if they didn’t buy?

    Remember, keep moving forward.

  12. HI Donna!

    I feel you. I have a shop at etsy (kreativnurse.etsy.com) that I registered last October 2015. It is very slow but I sell more in person. Quitting comes to my mind sometimes but creating jewelry made me more calm, at peace and I listen to the bible and praise songs as I create so I feel great about it! Also, I opened this hobby/business when I was diagnosed with cancer last year. Creating kept my mind away from the distress of having such diagnosis. I pledge to give a portion of my proceeds to a patient fund that supports women dealing with the same I had. I know it is tough not to have much sales but I think positive that I’ll get my breakthrough and be able to reach my goal.

    Don’t quit, stay creative!

  13. Chula Camp says:

    Hi Donna,
    Sorry to hear that you are bummed and thinking of throwing in the towel. Don’t do it. It has happened to all of us. Hang in there !!!

    You may want to look for other avenues/venues that you may not have thought of. Perhaps a Trunk Show at the home of one of your loyal customers is in order. You may also want to approach some of the hair and manicure shops in your area to see if they would consider a trunk show. You will need to evaluate your pricing since you will need to pay them a commission or in the case of a Trunk Show a credit towards merchandise based on sales.

    I stopped doing craft fairs long ago. They are expensive and a lot of work to schlep all of your inventory, set up and then packing it all up with often a long drive home. I have found that the higher end Art, Craft and Wine Fairs are a better fit for hand made items. But…they often cost more and it can be a gamble.
    When I find myself feeling sad about not making enough sales I go into volunteer mode. I always manage to find an organization that will let me teach earring making (a valuable skill) to a group. I have taught women transitioning from prison to society. What they learned was so helpful. Many of them made gifts for family and friends. Some of the women told me it gave them a feeling of accomplishment they had never experienced. Plus they were able to give gifts when they were so low on funds. I find that teaching what I know to people in need re-charges me.

    I wish there was a jewelry club here in the SF Bay Area. Would be fun to meet once every 3-4 months to share ideas, trade beads, encourage each other and learn new tricks. Jewelry making is often a solo experience. Would be nice to get feed back from fellow beaders now and then in person.

    JMJ is a great platform for ideas, inspiration and to help each other. I am grateful for all that Rena has done for the independent jewelry artist. Rena created a much needed newsletter and has been very forth coming with her own experiences and tutorials for many years. All of this while managing her own jewelry business !!! That is a lot of dedication. So here’s a shout out to Rena. Many Thanks !!!
    Chula
    Chula Productions
    San Francisco CA 94107

  14. Rosemary Zamecnik says:

    I have been in the same thought process this past year. Been making and selling jewelry on Ebay, Etsy, Facebook, have done some shows years ago. I recently emptied my Etsy shop after 10 years. Sales are so slow, really slow, and I have a hobby room overflowing with supplies, tools, you name it. When my church started having fundraisers for different causes and groups and asking for donations, I decided to donate my jewelry to the cause. I have gotten more enjoyment out of doing this and have had several people comment on how great my jewelry is, that I have decided to keep creating my jewelry and donating it to church fundraisers. Since I really do not create anything all Summer, i have stockpiles projects for late Fall and Winter, months I am snowbound or not out much. I also have a daughter in law and couple of friends that I make jewelry for and of course, Christmas gifts for friends and family. Hope you come to a decision that is right for you. As for me, I am very comfortable with mine. Good luck.

  15. Hi Donna, i think its safe to say that anyone doing the craft show circuit has been where you are. I’ve read other’s responses and come away with this. Someone mentioned your prices seemed low. I’d really take that to heart, Girlfriend! Check on Etsy for similar types of pieces you make and see what they’re asking. People’s perceived value of a piece is directly related to what you charge. There comes a time when we just start out and use a “formula” by adding the cost of supplies, mutiply it by 3.2765 and divide by Pi. Or whatever?. Then there comes a time where we devise a price depending what the market will bear. Much of this is intuitive but far more is research.

    There are some shows where I’ve really been burned. American Legion Craft Shows where no advertising was done- not even to put a sign out front! Another town heritage days where the vendors were placed in Outer Mongolia. Research your choices in shows. Look for shows where the promoters are organized and take care of vendors. You may pay more; but by advertising, the crowds will be there too.

    So I’ve shared my thoughts on your pricing and your choice of venues. Now about your jewelry! As another responder noted, your pieces are flawless! But you need to find a niche. Something that no one else is doing. It took me over a decade to find mine. One responder suggested renaissance chain mail items. There’s something i doubt too many people are doing. You can’t be all things to all people!

    Read every article you can find about marketing, trends, etc. You will always learn something useful that’ll apply!

    Remember, usually after a storm you’ll have clear skies! Ride this storm through! It’ll make you a better person and will stretch your imagination coming up with answers! This too shall pass my friend, this too will pass!

  16. When I feel like this, I always return to the reason I started making jewelry. For the past 5 years, the reason was like yours, as a serious hobby to bring in a bit of income, but more as a creative outlet and something I love doing. I often reminded myself that if I wasn’t having fun and the stress was too high (focused too much on sales and market success) then it was time to go back to the reason I started: to have fun. Sales or not, I started out to enjoy the process and the journey.

    Five years later, my goal has changed, I am now focusing on making it a business, which means I must go over all my processes and ways to sell and re-define the entire thing. Doing it as a business is a whole different thing entirely, and I’m still determined to have fun doing it, but am also determined to make it an actual sustainable business.

    I’d say, if the shows are on longer profitable, review the reason you do them and decide from there how to proceed. Do you do them for fun or do you do them for sales? If they are for fun, then enjoy the time at the show and don’t worry about the other, but if for sales, then sit down and add up costs and profits and see if it’s really worth it.

    I’m doing this right now with my Etsy shop. Sales there have dropped dramatically even though I put in a good couple of hours of promotion/shop work there 4-5 days a week. I’m not really seeing a good ROI for the time I put into it, and am debating to just let it be, not close it, but not work on it either, and start focusing on other ways to market and sell my work.

  17. I had a horrible show this past weekend. It was the third time I’ve been to this same venue. Fortunately, they didn’t charge a fee. I was there with a wide range of artists. We saw very few people and those who came by were only looking, if barely that. It took me an hour to set up and fully realized that the air conditioner was not working. All of us were sweaty messes by the time we called it quits, 2 hours before it was supposed to end. I also do this as a hobby and as my “therapy”. I have during this past year decided that I will make what I want, keep what I like and give away the rest. I belong to an artists guild, so we do have many free or inexpensive venues. We even exhibit at the public libraries. To me, the most important thing is doing something I love doing. There is rarely a large profit with hand-crafted items. People would rather go to the mall and buy junk than buy an original piece. I say, keep doing what you love, have business cards to hand out to anyone who compliments you and be happy you have found this great outlet for your creativity.

  18. Make what you most enjoy and sell what you can. I make jewelry for fun and relaxation. If it sells I buy more materials. I expect to sell more once the weather cools.

  19. If you enjoy the making, why not carry on? Maybe don’t do the shows if they make you feel down but why would you stop if you like the making, still have inventory and have people wanting to buy your work?
    One teeny thought, your work is lovely, but – and this is just my opinion – the colours you use on your website set my teeth on edge. Green and mauve don’t do it for me and I don’t think they show off your beautiful jewellery to its best advantage. What do others think?

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