Off to a Good Start – But Then Overwhelmed and Exhausted

by Sherry.
(Edmonton, Canada)

Jewelry by Sherry  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Okay photo – a lot of my pictures are like this

I am feeling so discouraged about my new, almost-but-not-quite jewellery business.

I LOVE making jewellery, and since I am allergic to most metals, it makes sense to me to try to find homes for the 250+ and growing finished pieces I have.

I have a Facebook page, a very basic web site, and an Etsy page.

My sister-in-law had a home party for me last month and not only was it a fantastic learning experience, but everyone bought something, and sales were over $300 between 6 guests.

Everyone, at some point that night, told me how beautiful they thought my jewellery was, and about 3 of them began to follow my Facebook page.

That’s all very encouraging but… right now I sort of want to throw in the towel.

Jewelry by Sherry  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Horrible photo of a really lovely set – at least 1/4 look like this

I have Bipolar Disorder, and am overcoming a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis. I don’t drive and I experience a great deal of anxiety.

My husband and I live in a 500 sq ft condo with our three cats.

My “studio” is about 5 or 6 square feet of space in the corner of the dining room – and I must share some of that room with my husband’s astrophotography hobby.

Jewelry by Sherry  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

About as good as the pictures get, but extremely limiting

I have been following a lot of the advice here on Jewelry Making Journal. I’m using Rena’s pricing formula, I had printed business cards and thank you cards and found a lot of inexpensive items for packaging at the dollar store.

I used a number of Rena’s suggestions at the home party and I think they made a big difference. I have a couple of spreadsheets I’m using and I think I’m taking the right first steps.

At the moment, however, I feel so exhausted. I can’t even be bothered to unpack and put away the nice supply of jump rings that just arrived.

I’m not making any sales on Etsy. I believe my photographs are one of several reasons, and that’s the biggest stumbling block right now.

The photography is what has me feeling like giving up. I’m a decent photographer, but most of my jewellery photography is terrible.

Jewelry by Sherry  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Trying something different, but took forever to set up and I don’t think it’s much better.

I came across a post here that outlined such a simple set up for photographing jewellery and I was so excited.

Today, it feels like more work than I can stomach and I actually don’t have any room in my home to set up the very small display that was described.

Additionally, the idea of re-photographing all that jewellery makes me feel a little sick.

A friend offered to host another home party for me, but I haven’t made arrangements with her. Perhaps I need to work in that direction than perfecting my online skills?

Does anyone have any ideas, or has anyone had a similar experience who could share what they did to get past it?

MacRose Jewellery
Mac Rose Jewellery, Art, and Design

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  • Andrea says:

    Hi Sherry,
    Well, I think your pieces are just lovely! I looked at your Etsy site and I don’t personally think your pictures are terrible at all. When I did take some photos of a few of my pieces, I just put my camera on ‘macro’ and that seemed to do the trick. I might suggest you have a little more contrast between the piece and the background, and you might try using small ‘props’. Sometimes just a simple small flower or bud, or a shell or a pretty piece of fabric or stone, can make a difference.
    I do think we need to sometimes just step away from our interests and distract ourselves with another interest for awhile.
    I hope you can take a breath and keep creating: I think time and patience are the key to a creative mind πŸ™‚

  • Hi Sherry, Great advice from Andrea!

    Also, maybe you would feel less discouraged and exhausted if you start out by just working on one thing at a time. For example, jewelry parties seem to be working for you now – with at least one successful party under your belt, and another hostess ready to have a party. So you might focus on just jewelry parties for a bit – and use those as an opportunity to learn what your customers love, how you can help them, ways to display your jewelry, and generally how you want to run your business.

    With jewelry parties, photographing your work isn’t much of an issue – and for many people parties are an excellent way to shop for gifts.

    Then when you have some downtime between parties, you could work on polishing your photography skills.

    In this “hurry up” world, we often feel pressured to do everything – all at the same time! πŸ™‚ But it’s not necessary in your jewelry business. Choose the jewelry business things you enjoy and that work well for you, and put the rest aside for later.

    For now pick just one or two things to do (or to work on) – and know that you’ll get to the other stuff whenever the time is right for you.

    And congratulations on the outcome of your first jewelry party – a great start for your jewelry business! πŸ™‚

  • Kerrie Venner says:

    Ah, Sherry, everyone feels overwhelmed at the start. All good advice above from Andrea and Rena. I am in the very overwhelming beginning too. Just repeat your first set up at the next party, maybe tweak the arrangements a little, for your own benefit. Take a picture with your phone. Look at it through a lens. The perspective can give you more insight than standing in front and looking.
    Maybe after, allow yourself some playtime with some ‘found’ items, cheaper materials like shrink plastic, recycled packaging (sometimes box acetate can give fun results), acrylic paints. Spend some fun time looking at what other people are doing with mixed media (Rena’s necklace on this blog), and explore non – metal components. Surprising combinations can pop out of a messy play session. Above all, enjoy the process without worrying about the finished thing. Love what you make, and your fans will come to you. (and I need to take my own advice πŸ™‚ too!) Your work is lovely. good luck! Kerrie

  • Susie K says:

    Don’t give up! In limited space and on a budget and a not so great camera I learned that if I took my jewelry outside on a day with nice light from the sun my picture’s turned out great. Your jewelry is beautiful and congrats on a successful jewelry party!!

  • Robyn says:

    Lots of great advice above. I agree – pick one thing to focus on, and do it well. You had a great party, so work on having more great parties! Think about what worked best, which pieces were the most popular, and what you want to do for the next ones. And in your down time, tinker with your photos.

    My photos were TERRIBLE when I started out. I’ve found good resources online that have improved my photography immensely (search on how to make a DIY light box, for example). In the case of your purple wrap bracelet, for example, you have two different kinds of light shining on your piece, meaning it’s hard to tell what colour it really is. If you have a good window, or decent weather, use natural light as it’ll give you the truest colours for your jewellery.

    Another thing to try is using different backgrounds. Try something plain and white, but also maybe an interesting piece of fabric, or paper, or whatnot. Find what compliments your jewellery without taking over the picture. Pick what suits your style, and then use it. Also, ensure that the background fills the whole background of the photo. If you have a nice necklace on a bust with some fabric background but you can see the table underneath in a corner of the photo, it’ll be very distracting for the viewer and doesn’t look very polished. One thing that seems to do well on Etsy is a common look. The photos don’t all have to be identical, but if they’re all a similar style it gives a very cohesive feel and comes off as fairly professional.

    You may also want to try using a program to edit your photos, like Photoshop, or any of the free online editing tools. You could also try FotoFuze, which is a tool that can give you a plain background to your photos. See if you like something like that.

    Keep experimenting, and you’ll find your photography improves over time. None of us started out with perfect photos. It gets better!

    Best of luck to you!

  • Colleen Hamm says:

    First your work is amazing!! I so totally agree with everyone here on what the are telling you. I too just went through the same, I had to just stop making jewelry, I was getting so frustrated with not selling and putting in so much effort to make it for “selling”, not for the love of creating!! I stopped for almost 1 yr and did other crafts, things I was really missing, like crocheting, sewing and painting. I almost sold all of my supplies!! ( sorry rambling here) Anyways I now make it for me and only make what I want,I continue with my other crafts as well as creating jewelry. Don’t give up something you love and are so talented at, just maybe take a rest or like Rena says work at one thing at a time, as in the party’s. GOOD LUCK, it will work out!!

  • Diane says:

    On your Etsy site, I like the photos where you put the jewelry item against the wood grain. The light is good but not so bright that it looks commercial. I didn’t like the pieces against the fabric. The autumn charm bracelet is gorgeous!

  • Kathy says:

    Trying to do too much at one time and making the sell of a piece of jewelry the objective will wear you out every time. I agree with everyone else. Do it for yourself and don’t worry about what/how/when others are doing. You are a unique person (and you make lovely jewelry). The online jewelry business is very crowded and it is very hard to get noticed there. I haven’t. Like others here, I’ve taken a hiatus but I’m almost ready to start making jewelry again. Chin up and keep going!

  • Diane says:

    Sherry, I can certainly relate to how you’re feeling. I’m a breast cancer survivor & have thankfully been cancer free for 3 years now, but was very ill during treatment. Making jewellery became my passion while recovering from IV chemotherapy treatments, surgery & radiation. The extreme exhaustion is getting better but I don’t have the strength or stamina that I used to have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because I’m very fortunate to just be alive & I know that designing jewellery helped to keep me positive through treatment. However, now I have an enormous inventory of jewellery & am running out of storage space for all of it. I have given a lot of pieces as gifts, sold some privately & also on consignment at a museum gift shop in my home town in 2014. I also have been waiting for a meeting with an acquaintance who owns a shop to discuss consignment, but don’t know if that will actually happen as no reply yet to my last phone message or email (red flag). I know I must get out & approach another small shop re: consignment, but I just don’t seem to have the energy. My daughter has now suggested I host a pre-Christmas jewelry party for the ladies here at our condo & she will help me with setup & the party. Which is a great idea & I will do that, but I still feel overwhelmed by the whole selling aspect. I do not wish to sell online, so I think consignment & parties are the best for me. Now I just have to get the energy to do it & I need to keep reminding myself about the joy I feel when creating my jewellery. I must keep telling myself to stay positive! So my only advice to you would be to keep creating, as I think it’s great therapy & to concentrate on parties for now. Also I wanted to offer you some encouragement as your jewellery is beautiful.
    All the Best!
    Diane from Calgary, Alberta

  • Sherry says:

    I was nervous about posting such a personal story here but my gut instinct was correct. This is an amazing community of generous, compassionate, and knowledgeable jewellery makers! Thank you all so very much for your advice and encouragement: I really needed it and I honestly feel better after all of your feedback.

    Andrea: you’re right. Time and patience are the key. You’re also absolutely correct about the contrast too. I think the best of my photos are the ones with the wood background. I’ve been using the macro setting on my camera but I think it might work better if I used a tripod. I never really thought about props, but I’ve seen them used in many excellent photos! Finally, thank you for the compliments. πŸ™‚ There’s something about positive feedback from other jewellery makers that is really lifting me up. That is probably related to identity disturbance or something Borderline Personality Disorder-ish but at the moment I don’t much care because it feels good.

    Rena: Thank you for making this place. πŸ™‚ What you’ve said about our “hurry-up” world really resonated with me and makes me feel better about the idea of stepping back from online selling and concentrating on only a couple of things. Also, I really had no idea how to gauge the success of that jewellery party, but your feedback convinces me I was right – I did do well!

    Kerrie: I often get discouraged when I try something and it doesn’t turn out but you’re right, I need to just relax and enjoy the process. πŸ™‚ I have a huge stash of “failed” pieces waiting to be disassembled, but really it’s not a failure, it’s a testament to my tenacity (of which I have little in other areas of my life).

    Susie: Thank you! Honestly I have always found natural light to be my very best friend in photography (I don’t know how my husband has the patience for night photography, I really don’t – but he’s amazing). Sadly, I get almost no natural light in my condo, and only a little on the balcony… which is where I’ve taken my best photos! I live pretty far north and it’s already winter here which means limited time outdoors until April/May. At that point, I might just consider a trip to the park with my jewellery and my camera and see what happens!

    Robyn: Maybe this is bad of me, but hearing that nobody started out with good photos makes me feel better. As I mentioned to Susie, outdoor photography is (mostly) out for the season, but I like the idea of experimenting with backgrounds. With the purple bracelet, I DID have two different kinds of light shining on it! I was trying to diffuse the light through paper but I only had a couple of portable lights I could use. I use an old version of Paint Ship Pro to edit my photos and it seems to work okay but! I’m totally going to check out FotoFuze! I appreciate your advice about Etsy and consistency in photographs. It makes sense and now that you’ve mentioned it I can see it on my own Etsy page. That’s definitely top of the list for when I’m ready to make changes to my online selling business. Finally, I am totally with you on the bit about seeing the table etc in photos: one of the things I’ve been trying to figure out.

    Colleen: I’m glad you didn’t get rid of your jewellery supplies! I just did that with all of my paint and my canvases. :-p Thank you for your encouragement. I am determined NOT to give up.

    Diane: The autumn charm bracelet is one of my favourites too – thank you! I agree with you about the wood background. Those photos were all taken outside on my balcony. The wood is a sort of shelf/perch my husband installed for our cats. It’s the best spot so far, though I do have to put up with the occasional feline photobomb.

    Kathy: My chin is back up, thank you! πŸ™‚ I have decided sales will not be my objective for the time being: I’m just going to create and enjoy myself. And thank you for the compliments.

    Diane from Calgary: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Exhaustion can really sap the creativity right out of a person, can’t it? I think your daughter has a good idea, and since she’s willing to help you with the party you should go for it! I don’t know how things work for you with your energy levels, but I need to make sure I only do such things when I know my energy will be at its highest like Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon, and avoid times when I know it will be at its lowest, like Friday evening. Creating is great therapy, isn’t it? And thank you for the encouragement, it helps. I hope you keep it up too. I wish you the best for your continued good health.

    Again everyone, THANK YOU for your wonderful advice and encouragement! I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue two things over the next few months: better organization and storage of my jewellery making supplies, and perfecting my skills in a few areas (there are so many things I want to try though!).

    I have been unemployed since the end of September, and before that had only worked part time for the previous 6 years. Yesterday I accepted a job offer for a 1 year, full time position in my field (libraries) which will pay me more money than I’ve ever made by a considerable margin. This means I will have a lot less time to sell jewellery, so I’ll just concentrate on enjoying myself and make it. It also means that when the year is up, my husband and I will be able to sell our tiny condo and buy a little house where I will have a proper studio! !!! I’ll also have room to store the things needed to attend craft fairs and farmers markets – an avenue I haven’t explored for that very reason.

    Sorry this was so long, I just wanted to thank everyone personally.

  • Mary Janis says:

    Hi Sherry! Everyone here has posted tips & tricks to help you with the jewelry but I would like to address the marketing and bipolar disorder because I sometimes have problems with that issue myself.
    First of all, I realize that I’m going to have up times and down times. I have managed to recognize that it runs in cycles and I can usually pinpoint when they will start & end because I’ve kept track of it on a calendar. So, with this in mind, I can plan to have events & do preparation on my up cycle and take it easy on my down cycle. Also I don’t beat myself up anymore when I’m on a down cycle and can’t get anything accomplished. Instead, I know it’s coming, so I plan for it by just doing the basic chores, daydreaming, planning for the up cycle, and just taking care of myself.
    Next, I changed my diet to be healthier and more nutritious, started taking nutritional supplements and that has helped me so much that my manic/depressed cycles are not as extreme.
    Third, realize that there is so much competition out there, especially on Etsy, Ebay & Amazon…it’s hard to get full value when China and other countries can sell everything so cheap. New approaches to marketing is necessary for us artisans and learning new marketing skills is an absolute must.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself and be happy!

  • Andrea Wellman says:

    Hi Sherry, Rena, and everyone else!

    I’m typically more of a lurker πŸ™‚ and have never posted, but your post just struck such a chord with me. I want to first echo what others have said, you are not alone. And you have a cheering squad here. You are able to make beautiful creations despite the unique challenges various mental health issues produce.
    If I have learned anything in my 30 year struggle with Major Depressive Disorder, severe anxiety and a host of physical issues that put me on disability at 26, it’s that Feelings are Not Facts. (My therapist used to say that to me multiple times an hour, it’s actually the name of my jewelry “line”, so you know I believe it! πŸ˜‰ That is not to say your feelings are not valid, they most certainly are. I know that sometimes (especially lately) my own self doubt can paralyze me and cause me physical pain, stopping me from doing just about anything. I also have an amazing ability to talk myself into a state of dispair on even the best of days, by telling myself I am a failure and I should give up. But just because I feel it, doesnt make it true. And you did such a brave thing and posted about where you are at and asked for help. That in itself shows such a strong spirit, and that part of you knows that those pesky feelings are just that. Feelings. The facts are that you are off to a great start! You had a successful first party, and people love your work. And by writing in and honestly sharing your struggle you have inspired me, and I imagine others, to keep going despite the challenges our disabilities might create.
    I dont, (though I wish I did) have a more solid solution to offer you about how to break the negative cycle of inertia and overwhelm. But I do have a solid belief that a problem shared is a problem lessened, and that I am here rooting for you, and am happy to remind you how strong I think you are, anytime you need to hear it. Thank you for your post.


  • Marie says:

    Hi Sherry, thank you for writing this, it really resonates with me, and I enjoyed reading all the comments above as well, thank you! I feel exactly like you do, and from what I can see, a lot of us out there feel exactly like you do. I started a jewelry “business” quite recently, am very excited about the process of creating, I get positive feedback from people but finding customers is a whole different story. And it can be very depressing indeed. Especially in this time of year when one is being told that the holiday season is when you make most of your sales but you have zero of them, and all these successful business women seem to throw their success “in your face” so to say πŸ™‚ I know my jewelry is special and unique, I know I take good photographs, I write good listings, and yet the sales are not taking off. As someone pointed out above, selling online is tricky. It’s all about getting found among literally millions, and that can take forever and can be exhausting. It doesn’t mean anything about the quality or value of your jewelry, and this can be really discouraging. I think everyone goes through this at some point (or all the time) and I read somewhere that perseverance is the key. You seem to have that quality with your passion, so I believe you will get there. In any case never beat yourself up, it’s OK to have down times and breaks from time to time. There are days when I don’t even feel like pinning my own work to my own pinboards because I think it will annoy people to see the same stuff all the time, but that’s ridiculous.
    I don’t think your photography is bad, but if you feel like it check out this site about the use of a (very simple) lightbox for photography:
    I’m using this all the time, outdoors on my tiny balcony (I live in a very small apartment too), it work perfectly, no need for lamps etc.
    Good luck and be creative!

  • Angela Thomas says:

    Hi Sherri…I too give you kudos for having the courage to talk about your diagnosis and the difficulties you’re experiencing with your jewelry business. I have been searching for someone operating a jewelry business and dealing with a mental disability, someone I could identify with and wouldn’t judge me. I was laid off from my part-time job a year ago and I depended on that second income, being a single mom (grandma). I went through a very rough time trying to figure out what to do at that point. I had no fight left. With therapy, the right medication and taking care of my health, I’m pushing through the storm.
    I started selling jewelry as a merchandiser and it cost me more that I was making. I didn’t have the confidence to push for sells. I’m not the aggressive type. I’ve always been artistic and creative, so I decided to make jewelry and do craft shows and festivals. Long story short…I have made all this jewelry, some failed, some okay, but after being laid off so many times, I can’t find the confidence to get out there and sell it. I’ve made a few sales to co-workers and family, but nothing substantial to cover what I spend in supplies.
    A part of my disorder is being very compulsive and obsessive, putting way too much money towards my business. That’s filling my voids with spending. I get involved in way to many projects before I finish the one I working on. When I’m going through a down period, I focus on caring for my grandson to help out my youngest daughter. I do what I can with my business having very little energy, not to mention the physical pain. I know and acknowledge what I deal with and I know only I have the power to fixed it or a least get as close to normal as possible.
    I wanted to base my website on my journey through this struggle, blogging as I go, so that some other single mother struggling in a similar situation can step out of the box and continue to dream, strive and flourish. I’m calling my business “New Journey Designs”. I was raised in a very dysfunctional, but I got all there was to give. I was given life skills but I was taught to be kind and respectful. It saddens me to imagine you women going through a storm and feeling totally alone; not knowing there are resource and skills that can change their lives.
    I struggle with asking for help, I know little about setting up business, but I want to learn as much as I can. My feelings tell me I can’t do this, no one will buy my jewelry and I’m wasting my time, but my heart says don’t give up. I fear the diversity that I look for is not out there in the world of Arts and Crafts and I won’t be accepted and welcomed. I fear pricing, asking too much or too little. That “want to please personality” in me wants to give everything thing away and keep everyone happy.
    I share all this to say, thank you so much for open the door and helping me to find the courage to speak it. You are not alone and I know now that I’m not either. I think that this is a great community and it was great to see very one give you so much support. I thank the creator of this site, Rena, it’s the best resource I’ve come across as far as starting to work with creating and selling jewelry.
    Sherri your jewelry is beautiful and your pictures aren’t bad. I think they’re pretty good. In my class on photography they said to stay away from artificial light and take pictures in the morning when light is at its best. Mine could use some work too. Thank you. I wish you the best and hope I hear more from you.

  • Alice says:

    WOW!!! New to this place, and am blown away by all of the good technical advice, and mostly by the beautiful souls who show such love and compassion and are so supportive of each other. You ROCK!!!
    As a business newbie also – just made my first sales and now have some things on consignment – I can so relate to the new business nervousness, insecurities, blues.
    I have no special issues, just the usual maybe lack of business knowledge plus the every day lack of confidence, like that, but I am learning so much from everyone both technical and personal. Thank you Rena for holding this space, and thank you all for joining in and sharing and actually showing your care and concern and encouragement for others on the same path. Brightest blessings to you all.

  • Alice, welcome! Very glad to have you here. And thank you for your lovely comments! πŸ™‚

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