Selling on eBay vs. shows…Part I

Cube Pillar Glass BeadsI was recently asked to blog a little about my experiences and findings regarding selling on eBay and selling at shows, since I’ve done both.  Thank you…I love suggestions!  While I’m not a pro at either, I have been somewhat successful doing both.  My overally impression is that you can do well at either, or any venue for that matter, if you just work it and work it and work it.  While some sales venues just stink, many can depend on the effort you’re willing to put into it too.

Ok, on to specific areas…

What sells.
I found that most anything on eBay will sell, if you’re at least a mediocre beadmaker…and you’re willing to start your items low.  I see eBay as the place where people look for bargains, or that diamond-in-the-rough beadmaker that no one has discovered yet and their prices are still really reasonable.  I’m leaving out here the beadmakers that get big dollars for their beads because given the numbers of sellers at any give time there are only a handful of the big price fetchers.  But like I said, if you’re willing to work it, I believe you can gradually get better prices.  By working it I don’t mean just on auction, I mean posting on forums, advertising, promoting yourself, getting your name out there, etc.  This is going to sound strange but what sells for me best on eBay is all of the stuff that I don’t like to make.  The stuff I love to make sells least.  I think many beadmakers find that to be true and it baffles me.

What sells at shows?  In my experience, the stuff that I’ve put my heart into.  Whereas on eBay anything glitzy seems to sell (maybe that’s what come across most in photos) at shows I find that my more well thought-out, from-the-heart pieces really get recognized.  Something that is distinctly me and not like everything else around me.  My Monet beads sold great when I debuted them and then my Stitched beads were a hit at this last show and the one before it.  Whereas brightly colored beads tend to sell on eBay too, I had some really reasonably priced small, brightly colored lentil beads at two of my most recent shows and I don’t think I sold one.

I won’t even begin to try and understand eBay pricing and what people get for their auctions.  Some go way low and some go way high.  Name recognition definitely has something to do with it but not how well known you are but how well known you are and how much your beads are known to sell for seem to be part of the equation.  Of course, nice beads are part of that equation too.  I’ve heard it said that you should make your minimum bid only as low as you’re willing to let go of your beads for without feeling burned because if you start at $.99, there is a chance that they will sell for $2.49…and that is an awful feeling.  Again, if you’re willing to work it as your business venue, you can build up your ending auction prices over time. 

At shows I can only speak again, from my own experience.  While I feel that some of my designs could command higher prices (and I’ve been told that by other beadmakers as well as customers) I believe in earning what I deserve for the time I put into the work .  As with any business, I will allow supply and demand to determine my pricing as time goes on…that is, when the day comes that I can’t keep up and my lead times get too long, I will raise my labor costs and thus, my bead prices.  I like to make it affordable for jewelry designers and shop owners to be able to purchase and resell at a good markup for them.  I also work in wholesale pricing at certain amounts.  If you have a good product (uniqueness really helps in this) and price this way, serious buyers recognize it and jump all over it…and they come back for more.

Customer Expectations.
eBay can be very impersonal and I don’t really know what customer expectations are.  I’ve had some strange interactions regarding auctions and also web site sales, all via email.  I have heard many stories and have encountered a couple myself where someone emails or posts on a forum of their dissatisfaction with a set of beads and it’s written in a really personal way…rather than just saying, ‘these are different than the color I thought they were’ which is fine and I understand…monitors are different, but behind a keyboard they say things like ‘I’m really disappointed in your work…you usually are much better than this’ which they would never say in person…that is, at a show.  So, I don’t really know what customer expectations are. 

While on eBay you can only tell what some people like based on what they buy or maybe a nice email here and there, you can see what people like at shows right up close, whether they buy or not.  You can see what people struggle with if they have to choose between pieces.  You can hear their conversations of why they don’t buy something or what they’d want more of.  They will actually talk to you and you can talk to them about what else you can offer in the way of shape, color, size, etc.

Ok, that covers the specifics I was asked about.  If anyone wants it drilled down further or has any other questions, please let me know.  I’ll continue on in the series as the days go on and let you know what I like and dislike about each, what costs are included and maybe even some surprising things I’ve found that I never expected.