by Rena Klingenberg.
When your jewelry business is at the point of needing to hire contract labor, you have some decisions to make.
How Much Will It Cost
to Hire Jewelry-Making Workers?
First, how much will it cost – what is the going rate, and how is it usually paid (by the piece or per hour)?
When it comes to hiring help for your jewelry business, the going rate would depend on the tasks that you’re expecting employees to do for you.
For example, basic bead stringing would obviously be less expensive to hire than if you’re seeking someone who has more advanced skills such as torch work.
I would prefer to hire people on a per-project basis or per-piece-of-jewelry basis, instead of on an hourly basis.
That way, you can be sure of your labor cost per piece.
Particularly if you’re planning to wholesale your jewelry lines, it’s absolutely vital to be able to know and control your costs, which is much harder to do if employees have the flexibility to take as long as they want, and therefore run the cost up or down when creating a piece of jewelry for you.
When setting your rate, it might be best to work backwards – figure how much you can actually afford to pay per piece of jewelry and still turn an adequate profit.
What Kind of Workers
Do You Need for Making Jewelry?
If you don’t need highly skilled employees to help with your jewelry making, one good option is to use a sheltered workshop (sometimes also called a “work center”), or some similar place in your area where people with disabilities can be hired to work in a controlled environment on repetitive products.
If you’re interested in this option, do an online search for “sheltered workshop” or “work center” + your town name, or “disabled” or “disability” + your town name, to find places like these in your area.
Or call your local Social Services Dept. (in your local government phone listings) and ask for assistance with finding such places.
Other possible hired-help options might be hiring high school or college students to work in the afternoon or evening, or moms who can work while their children are in school, or retired people.
One final consideration when working with contract labor, unfortunately, is the possibility of theft of your jewelry making components.
You may want to have your contract workers come over and work in your studio or home where you can keep an eye on what’s going on, as opposed to taking supplies and tools to them and waiting to get finished jewelry in return.
However, check with your insurance company to see whether having workers in your house changes any of your insurance requirements.
And check with your local authority where you got your business license, to see whether there any additional regulations related to having employees working in your home.
Ready for a Larger Scale
of Jewelry Production?
If you’re ready for help with making multiples of your jewelry designs on a larger scale, see my post on Custom Jewelry Manufacturing.
April Owen says:
I have another suggestion on the subject of hiring from sheltered workshops. The disabled are frequently in the community health program.
Rena Klingenberg says:
Thanks so much for that great addition, April! I appreciate your mentioning that.
Kim Klass says:
I think it is best to find contract workers that have experience and do it professionally on their own turf so that they are in charge of the full timeness of themselves and their own labor….they get the work done for you and know how to charge accordingly . That being said, it is always nice to have some help with the organizing and restocking of little parts so I guess you have to have a little of both outside and inside labor.
I have worked with persons with disabilities particularly those with Autism. Most are extremely good with details and once they have learned the steps it is almost impossible to change the steps. I agree if you are going to use persons with disabilities go through the local sheltered workshop in your area. They have the skills and experienced needed to set them up to succeed. This is the population I would target if I wanted to mass produce jewelry.
Rena Klingenberg says:
Yvonne and Kim, thanks so much for adding your experiences to this discussion! Your comments are very helpful.