How to Keep “Math Issues” from Stopping Your Jewelry Business

by Rena Klingenberg. © 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved

How to Keep Math Issues from Stopping Your Jewelry Business, by Rena Klingenberg  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

A fellow jewelry artist told me about her biggest roadblock:

“I am poor at math-related issues and have been terrified about starting out: taxes, insurance, pricing, etc.”

math issuesI know from my own experience that if you have “math issues” or find mathematical things hard to understand, it can close a lot of doors for you.

I have a math dyslexia where my brain tends to jumble numbers that have more than one digit (19 becomes 91; $19.86 becomes $18.96).

Because of this math dyslexia I often get the wrong answer in simple math problems, I misdial phone numbers, and I write numbers incorrectly unless I really concentrate on what I’m doing. I also can’t make heads or tails of most math word problems.

In addition to that, I have trouble with measuring things. Figuring out how much wire I need for part of a jewelry project often takes longer than actually making the entire project.

Although most of my life I’ve avoided things involving math as much as possible, I’ve never let my math issues keep me from starting and operating my own successful jewelry business.

Instead, I’ve simply developed “work-arounds” that don’t let math get in my way.

It occurred to me that some of the math work-arounds I’ve come up with for my jewelry business may be helpful for other jewelry artists with math issues, so I’m sharing them below.

Even if your particular math issues are different from mine, they shouldn’t prevent you from operating your own successful jewelry business!

Here are some things that have helped me:

My Jewelry Business Math Work-Arounds

See if you can adapt these work-arounds for your own needs:


  • Once you’ve figured out the measurements involved in a specific type of jewelry project, write the measurements down and keep this info in a notebook. Then the next time you make a similar project, you can simply look up the measurements, cut the wire (or whatever you’re using) to the proper length right away, and get on with making the project.
  • For jewelry items you make often, make a measuring template. For example, I use wooden popsicle sticks, measured carefully and marked with a Sharpie pen, as template guides for marking precisely where to bind wire bundles used in making pendants for common cabochon sizes. Now I can simply lay my wire bundle across the appropriate popsicle stick, and draw a Sharpie mark across the wires in each spot where the binding wires will go.

Taxes and Other Business Finances:

  • Business income tax – I use the services of an accountant for my income taxes, and also for various bits of advice and assistance throughout the year. Accountants are surprisingly inexpensive – and worth their weight in gold, especially if you have math issues. I recommend finding an accountant you feel comfortable with, who specializes in home businesses. Ask your accountant to help you devise a simple system for keeping track of the information he/she needs from you at tax time.
  • Sales tax – When starting your jewelry business, contact your state’s Department of Revenue Sales Tax Division (you can find them in the state government section of your phone book). Ask them for the paperwork you’ll need to get set up for collecting and paying sales tax. If this form overwhelms you, take this paperwork to your accountant and ask for his/her help in filling it out. Also ask your accountant to devise an easy system for taking care of your quarterly sales tax.

Pricing Your Jewelry:

  • Simplify pricing by using a pricing formula as a starting point to determine your lowest profitable price for selling a piece of jewelry. Then decide whether to adjust your pricing upward from that minimum price point.
  • Before your jewelry show or party, figure out all of your jewelry prices at home, where you can concentrate and take your time. Then put removable price stickers on each jewelry item (or on its tag) so you don’t have to remember any numbers or do any math when customers want to know how much something costs.
  • Bulk-price similar jewelry items. For example, all similar sterling silver cuff bracelets might be $60; all similarly-sized earrings might be $18. Then place a price sign near these groups of items (“Mini-Gem Earrings – $18”).
  • Price your items in whole dollars, without cents ($49 instead of $49.99). It makes checkout so much easier, with less opportunity for math errors, especially when people purchase more than one item.
  • Even easier: Make all of your prices end in 5 or 0 – for example, $15, $20, $25, $30, etc. Totaling up your transactions will be much simpler!

Handling Jewelry Transactions:

    • Always use a calculator when adding up a sale, and do the calculation at least twice to double-check your total.
  • Don’t try to talk to your customer while you’re writing up their sale. Smile in a friendly way and let their conversation wash over you while you focus on getting the numbers accurate.
  • Use a sales tax chart for quick, accurate calculation of how much sales tax to charge. On the tax chart simply find the dollar amount of your customer’s total jewelry purchase, and charge the amount of sales tax listed next to that number.
  • When you need to write or proofread a multi-digit number, use your finger or a scrap of paper to cover the number as you go, so that you see only one digit at a time. I find this very helpful in keeping numbers from getting jumbled.
  • For busy shows, consider having a trusted friend or relative (who does NOT have math issues) helping in your booth – and assign them to writing up the sales and handling transactions.

If you have math issues, you’re not alone – and there’s no need to let math stop you from achieving your jewelry business dreams!

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