The Business of Beads: Bookkeeping

by Linda Guzik.

Purple Cha Cha Bracelet

Purple Cha Cha Bracelet

When forming LinnyGirl Designs, I did a lot of research about how to set up my business properly in the state of California. There were several forms to fill out and fees to pay.

I even needed a permit from the city I live in to create my jewelry designs at home, but all in all, it was a fairly easy and financially feasible process.

Now that I am up and running, I realize I need to keep an official set of books beyond the simple spreadsheet I have of the sales I’ve made, but where and how to start seems just a little bit daunting.

I have been making jewelry for over six years, but just officially took it from a hobby to a homebased business just a few months ago, so how far back do I need to go to track my bead and supply purchases?

The truth is, I don’t have receipts going that far back, simply because I didn’t have an official business at the time, so there was no need to keep receipts once I knew I wasn’t going to return the product.

Also, not keeping receipts meant I could keep the costs of my beading obsession from my husband. I could simply say, “We’re so ahead of the game. We would’ve gotten stuck paying $50 for a birthday gift for Aunt Margie, but this necklace only cost $12 to make!”

So here I am, four months into my new business with a stack of neatly filed receipts and a list in MS Word of the sales I’ve made.

I also have a fairly decent inventory of necklaces, bracelets and earrings here at home in storage, and another decent supply of jewelry inventory at a boutique in Sherman Oaks, CA.

The bead and findings inventory? I shudder to think about having to do any kind of actual count.

I may not have receipts going farther back than July 2008, but I have beads and supplies going as far back as 2002! A quick eyeballing of my stash leads me to believe I have beads numbering in the tens of thousands.

The truth is, I simply don’t want to count them all and I’ve been avoiding doing so like the plague.

So where to begin? I do have Quickbooks Pro 2009 and I’ve been using it for other tax purposes for about 7 years, but not for a company that sells goods or services.

What do you fellow jewelry artists do when it comes to counting beads, keeping inventory and tracking your profits and losses? How detailed is your inventory? What software, if any, do you use to keep your books?

All comments and suggestions are welcome. We beaders are all in this together!

Note from Rena:

Be sure to read Ginger’s comment below. Thanks, Ginger!

Linda Guzik
LinnyGirl Designs


Especially for Jewelry Businesses…
by: Rena

Hi Linda!

You are absolutely not alone with your beads-and-bookkeeping issue.

I think the first thing I would do is to start out by beginning right away with a simple system for tracking everything from this point forward. There are special software programs like Jewelry Designer Manager to help you do that pretty easily.

Regarding your disorganized beading past (which EVERY creative person can relate to!) – I think the best thing is to ask an accounting professional in your state of California.

I use the services of an accountant for my annual business income taxes, and also for various bits of advice and assistance throughout the year.

Her expertise is invaluable to me, and has saved me from many a disastrous mis-step. One phone call to her, and she straightens out whatever my current issue is!

Accountants are surprisingly inexpensive. I recommend finding one who specializes in home businesses.

I’m not a tax or bookkeeping expert – and I’m very happy to rely on a professional who is.

Mine also sets up my quarterly estimated payment forms for me and other assorted things.

I’m also interested to hear what other jewelry artists do!


I’m NOT a lawyer or an accountant, so please note that while I’ve researched this information carefully, NONE of the information in the website is intended to be legal or financial advice.

Please use your own good judgment in determining when the services of a lawyer, accountant, or other professional would be appropriate to your situation. 🙂

I highly recommend that you have a session with a professional accountant who specializes in home businesses.

Explain what you do, and ask the accountant to outline a simple system for tracking the things you need to track.

That way you’re not wasting time tracking the wrong things, or coming up at the end of the year without the info you need.

Depending on where you live and how much jewelry you sell, the whole accounting / record-keeping procedure may be surprisingly simple.

Also where you live, there may be tax deadlines you need to know about.

It’s well worth it to get a professional account’s input, especially when you’re starting out.

by: Bev Carlson

I have used Jewelry Designer Manager for keeping my books and then do a “quick” physical count at years end. The secret to any accounting method is keeping up with purchase, piece making and sales. I also use Turbo Tax. I agree with asking the advice of a professional accountant. I had one “set me up” when I first started and have used his philosophy ever since.I have not used the home office feature you can sometimes use as it would be hard to “prove” use in our house.

dealing with existing materials
by: Chris

I can definitely relate to your situation – and lots of artisans can, so don’t feel alone!

Over the past several years I’ve learned to deal with things like this by first identifying the reasons *why* I want to track something. We usually track our jewelry-making materials – and keep the receipts – for two primary reasons: 1) So that we can deduct Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) as an expense on our taxes, and 2) to help us price each piece of jewelry we make.

As far as taxes go, if you wanted to be ultra-conservative and avoid all possible trouble, you could simply not claim any tax deduction for the cost of the beads that you no longer have receipts for. For example, if you made a bracelet entirely from those “older” materials, you could claim zero COGS when you sell that piece, and report its entire sale price as income.

If you do have the opportunity to talk to an accountant as Rena suggests, then he or she will tell you if there is another option – such as using a reasonable estimate of the value of those beads to calculate GOCs — but I agree that you should get that kind of advice from a professional who’s familiar with the tax laws.

As for pricing your work, I absolutely recommend using estimates of the value of those beads. (You generally don’t have to worry about breaking the law when you set a price – it’s just for your own information and planning.) I typically thumb through bead catalogs or run internet searches to help me determine about how much certain materials are worth.

I hope that helps some! 🙂


Same Issue!!!
by: EBCMel

Wow! I was having this same issue when i filed my taxes for the first time this year. What I ended up doing was sucking it up and counted everything. Some were estimations (like seed beads), but for the most part I counted everything.

I also took pictures of everything. This makes it easier when I’m updating how many beads i have left in my spread Sheet (I call it Supplies/Reciepts). What I do is every time I make a piece, I go to this spreadsheet to figure out how much the piece cost me, and as I do that, I update the number of beads… now I say every time, but it’s not really every time… I have a back log of about 30 pieces now that I do have to go in an update – I’ve been procrastinating because it IS a task.

Also making the spreadsheet with the pictures, where I bought it from, how many per package, how many I have left, and the price per bead helps me when I go to make a supplies purchase – so I know I’m making the same purchase as before.

But that’s what I do. Hope that helps.

Earthbound Creations

Keeping Inventory
by: Sheryl

In answer to your question about keeping inventory, I discovered when I started doing my first arts and craft shows last fall, that keeping up with what sold and what didn’t wasn’t going to be a major undertaking.

I have an online shop on Etsy, so when I returned home after a very successful day of selling :-), it took me forever to determine which pieces needed to be returned to my shop and which did not.

I am a fused glass artist, so I do more than jewelry, but what I did may help others.

I developed an excel spreadsheet. On it, I assigned everything a letter (P for pendant, E for earrings, D for dish, etc.) and a number. This number was entered on the price tag or the jewelry card. The number started with the year the piece was created. (Unfortunately, I don’t run out of inventory every year…Wouldn’t that be an accomplishment!?)

The first column of my sheet had the letter, the next the number, the next either the name of the piece or a short description, the next held the price, and a blank column to mark sold. So, the first piece I made in 2009 is P91 and the next may be E92, then P93, D94, E95, etc.

I keep the numbers going, not changing for each type of items. I hope that makes sense.

When I sell a piece, my receipt indicates the inventory number, so when I get home I can easily search it out and mark it sold.

My online entries also have the same number, so I can search the pieces I have remaining and reactivate the listings.

The one thing I learned from this is that I also need to edit the sold listings to indicate they were sold. On Etsy, the listings go into a giant expired repository that can be relisted, and if I haven’t marked them sold I have to go through the process again. 🙁

I hope that’s all clear, and helpful to someone.


Booking with excel
by: Terri

I use excel. I have a spreadsheet that has all my beads by name, shape, size and price and formulas to generate the cost of materials (e.g, jasper, rounds, 6 mm, $8, 60(beads per strand). So, if I make a necklace, I enter all the materials I used and it generates the cost. I use excel also to keep a sales list. On that list, I use an inventory number that tells me the original cost (e.g, a=o, b=1, c=2, d=3). If the original cost of the necklace is $12, the inventory number will begin with “bc.” That way, I can tell tax time how much profit I made just by looking at my inventory number on the sales slips.

A couple of suggestions
by: Jo

I have been making and selling jewelry for about 15 years and declared myself an official business 10 years ago, so I had a lot of inventory at the time. I use a combination of spreadsheet and hand recorded forms in a binder. When I purchase materials, I mark the cost per piece right on the bag with an adhesive label. When I use the beads, findings, wire, etc., in a piece of jewelry, I have a 3-ring binder with a simple form I made to write down every material that I have used in the piece. It is easy to record the cost because it is marked right on the bag. I also give an inventory number to the piece on the same form. I then enter the inventory number, along with the total cost of materials into a spreadsheet, where I track the location of the item (in-house, gallery, wholesale, etc.), cost, date, retail price, sale date, etc.

I don’t do a physical inventory of materials every year, but do it about once every three years, just to make adjustments for unusable materials. It doesn’t take that long because the price per piece is on the bag. Seed beads, I only count the full tubes.

Another thing I do is always add 10% to my materials costs for every piece I make to account for unusable beads – chipped, broken, poorly drilled, ugly, etc. You will always have beads left over that you will never use. I build that into my cost of goods sold.

As for your existing inventory, I agree. First consult with your accountant and then, start now and move forward. Trying to reconcile the past will keep you stuck. Just create the system that fits your style and move forward. It will be easier than you think.

I create my own forms on Excel
by: Lisa W.

I would probably spend some time estimating the cost of your inventory as it stands right now, and consider that an expense for beginning your business. An accountant can tell you how to do that correctly. All businesses have startup expenses, your inventory is part of yours. After that, it’s just a yearly total of income v expenses.

When my small business just worked with beads, findings, etc, I counted everything before it went into inventory, and priced it by the piece with a little sticker in the container. That way, I always knew the materials cost of my pieces. When I began to solder, I found that there was no way to keep track of every silver scrap shaved from a pendant, or how much flux, solder, or acetylene went into a piece. I had to get over it. I simply use a percentage now to cover all of this as part of my overhead. Now, my yearly accounting is strictly based on inflow v outflow. Receipts, credit cards, statements, and checkbooks combine to help me record all money spent. These fall into basic categories: travel, materials, office supplies, advertising, etc. I record all money taken in from sales by compiling all online sales, commission sales, and show sales on a form I created in Excel. I usually do this by the month. Its pretty simple, and I created a specific form to record sales for each show I do. This helps me keep track of sales tax as well as income. I record all show expenses on these forms as well, so that gas to and from the show, basic mileage, show fees, jury fees, etc. are all covered. When I tally up my sales records, I can look at the expense record as well, to make sure things are still favorable. If not , I may decide not to do that show again. That’s what I do. Good luck with your new venture!!


Inventory issues
by: Anonymous

I also started a jewelry business after 10 years of hobby-ing at home…I purchased Jewelry Designer Manager Pro when i started my business, and entered my inventory of finding and raw materials. I was lucky to have saved all my invoices from Rio Grande from when I first started to seriously spend, but only entered the items I still had. Occasionally I have to add a product to an item that had not been added to inventory, so I get that item’s info and add it in with as current a price as I can find. The biggest headache for tax-time is the cost of goods sold, and I have been using the following method: I use the gross profit report in JDM which splits my year’s sales into labor, overhead, materials and profit. I add up my receipts for the year (say $4000) and subtract my materials cost (say $2200). The remaining amount ($1800) is my end of year inventory total for COGS. Hopefully I keep the IRS happy using this method!

Thanks for the great comments!
by: Linda Guzik

Thanks to all of you who responded. My head is spinning with all the information you provided.

I do have an accountant. I believe he suggested I keep a spreadsheet of all my sales (retail, wholesale) and the sales tax collected as well as keep track of my expenses for office supplies, printing, beads, ancillary stuff like displays and marketing items, price tags etc. With regards to inventory, he thought a picture of each jewelry piece created along with an estimate of what the average “markup” on each piece was (which means I would have to figure out cost and then do the math and counting!)would be a good start. And then he said something about I could work “backwards” at the end of the year… count what i have left in my inventory…and now it’s all getting foggy!

I think I will just consider my old inventory supplies a wash. Start going through my old receipts to see if I can figure out basic costs of some things. Unfortunately, I haven’t been keeping every particular bead stock in the bag. I have plastic divided storage containers with beads in each slot. Problem is, I might have three strands of the same bead in one of the slots and since they have all been cut from the strand, figuring out how many were there to begin with will be tough.

I may just do what I can and try to start anew and be good about writing it all down prior to opening and unloading all my supplies. I must say, I used to be organized and now… I seem to be anything but. I am impressed by all the organizational skills of you ladies!

Another Helpful Post to Read
by: Rena

Thanks so much to all who are sharing their own great tips and strategies for this bookkeeping issue!

Rita has just posted additional info on this topic in The Kiss Theory. Her jewelry and beads accounting info is toward the second half of that post.

I’ve been in your position!
by: Crystal Allure

I started designing jewelry in 2004 and although I tracked sales receipts and kept copies of all my bead purchases, I did not have an inventory system. I found myself shuffling at the last minute to file taxes and realizing I needed a bead count. I purchases Jewelry Designer Manager Pro and went through the daunting task of counting each and every bead…ugh. BUT, once I got past that it has been smooth sailing ever since. And my life is much easier because of it. I also get the added benefit of the reports that print out from JDM. For me, *definately* worth the investment.

Handcrafted Beaded Jewelry by Crystal Allure

Inventory value of raw materials
by: Linda Stewart

What do you do about raw materials that are given to you, you buy from yard sales and thrift stores, or are found (a la dumpster diving or fresh curbage)? These items most definitely have a dollar value. Also, as in my case, you have significant quantities left at the end of the year. I inherited almost 1/2 a ton of stained glass from my benefactress after she passed away. We’re talking about over $1,000 worth of glass and the other incidental supplies! I did not purchase this but I use it in fusing my glass pieces. I have a lot of other materials that I have obtained in these ways.

bead storage and bookkeeping
by: Helen

I am just starting out with making and designing jewelry from home. I have followed Rena’s advice on setting up a simple cash receipts journal and cash disbursements journal using Excel, and filed the receipts. Having purchased some beads, I find am now terrified to ‘release the beads’ into my storage system, as, for the most part I won’t know which beads were on which receipt. I guess I don’t care personally, but I feel like if I’m ever audited I won’t be able to prove which beads were bought with which receipt. Do I need to relate the beads to the relevant receipt by labeling them in my storage system or is that unnecessary?

Note from Rena:

Be sure to scroll down and read the newest comments below – lots of excellent information there!

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