Josephinewadman – Josephine Wadman Handmade Lampwork Beads and Jewellery

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Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…

I am a glass bead and jewelry maker. I started shortly after my daughter did a jewelry club at school. Another mum and I decided to start making jewelry and selling at house parties. After a while, I came across a website explaining how lampwork beads are made. I bought a starter kit and was immediately hooked.

How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?

I opened an Etsy shop years ago and then barely used it. Having started making jewelry I thought I ought to sell online but in practice, I didn’t get my act together to do that until I got going with bead making. Even then for some time, I used all the beads I made myself in my own jewelry. It was only when I was totally happy with the standard of my beads that I started listing them online for sale. Over the years I sold on my own website, then moved to Etsy, then mainly to FB showcases and then back to Etsy alongside my own website. It is only in the last 18 months or so that I have really concentrated on building up my Etsy shop to give a decent, regular income. I have a website too but I tend to list mostly on Etsy due to the larger potential audience, then adding successful designs as Make To Order on both my website and Etsy shop.

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What products do you sell, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?

My beads are made from the glass along with the usual additions such as metal foils and wires, enamels, glass frit, mica powder, etc. . I generally have an idea of what I want to make before I start but not always, and sometimes designs don’t work out as expected. Glass isn’t always predictable, some reacts in the flame, other colors react with each other I make a lot of organic or rustic style beads. I often treat them in the flame to give an aged, pitted appearance, and I also acid etch a lot of my beads to give a frosted or matte finish. A lot of my designs created to look like ancient artifacts or are inspired by nature, such as acorns, leaves, or sea themes.

How was your experience in learning to craft, are you self-taught or did you have a mentor, how long did it take for you to be satisfied with your creations?

I am mainly self-taught although I have taken classes with a number of beatmakers, including Julie Denton, Kate Drew Wilkinson, and Theresa Laliberte.
I spent a long time making sure that my beads were of a good standard before I listed them for sale. Even now I reject beads if I’m not happy with the hole, shape, how well a pair matches, es, etc.

What was your original goal when you opened up an Etsy shop? What impacted your decision to start selling online? Do you consider online selling as a side-job, full-time job, or extra income to pay for your hobby?

To begin with, it was a useful source of extra money while I was at home with my children. In recent years I divorced and have managed to develop my business to give a full-time income, mostly from my Etsy shop but with some jewelry sales in galleries, production bead making, and face to face sales at fairs.

Did you have any fears or reservations before opening up your Etsy shop? Were you worried about profitability or product competitiveness? What are some concerns and questions you had before you got started? How did you overcome them?

I was worried no one would buy from me and then I worried that they would but they wouldn’t be happy with what I made. Ultimately you have to have confidence in your product, make it as good as you can, and pay attention to your customer service. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated, even when you get the odd customer who doesn’t behave that way.

How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever think you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was the goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?

I honestly can’t remember how long it took to get my first sale. I have just had my best ever month on Etsy. I’ve had 46 sales, most of those for multiple items and quite a few large orders between £100-£200.

Do you have a job outside Etsy? If not, are you able to commit full-time to online selling? How does your typical day look like? How do you manage time?

No, I don’t have a job outside Etsy. Well, you could say the production bead making I do is I suppose. I make for Nalu beads. They send me the designs they want to be made along with the glass. Sometimes it can be the best part of a week’s work, sometimes just a couple of days. If I’m working on my Etsy shop I will start by cleaning and checking the previous day’s beads. I will pack orders and post them. Then photograph any new listings to go to my Etsy shop. Sometimes I’ll list them, other times I will try and get a couple of hours making done and then list while I have lunch. Then I will make it all afternoon.

How does your manufacturing process look like for e.g. your best selling product? Do you create products ahead of the orders? Do you customize your products, if so how? What are the tools that you are using in the manufacturing process?

Some items I make are one-offs. I will make, photograph and list, and hopefully sell. Others I will make and photograph and then if it’s something which is easy to repeat and I think it will be popular, once the original sells I edit the listing so that design is available Make to Order. I generally then remake once I get an order, occasionally I may make a few so I have a stock ready for when I have orders. My beads are created in an open flame. I have a torch that runs on oxygen and propane. The end of a glass rod is held in the flame to become molten and then wound around a steel mandrel. Layers of glass are built up and design created with different colors, enamel, etc. Some beads are just shaped by turning the mandrel in the flame, others are formed in a brass press or graphite roller where the glass is turned on the mandrel and forced into a shape such as a bicone, cone, or drop. From the flame, beads go into a hot kiln which will cool gradually later once I have finished working.

What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?

Postage and Etsy fees are both quite significant. I can’t really cut postage costs and while I would like to drive more sales to my website in the long run, Etsy is an excellent way of reaching customers, and compared to the commission a gallery would charge it is cost-effective. Glass itself isn’t too expensive but if I stock up on silver to make jewelry that bumps up my costs.

What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?

It can be hard to keep coming up with new ideas. Sometimes I will just adapt an existing design to use different colors. New colors of glass coming onto the market or a new shaping tool can give a real boost to creativity.

Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?

About half my Etsy orders go to the USA, 30% to customers here in the UK, and the rest mostly to Europe with a few to Australia or elsewhere. I don’t do the free delivery that Etsy has tried so hard to push. It is hard to spread that cost across the price of my beads without pushing up the price significantly which didn’t seem fair to my domestic customers. I did try for a bit, with a sale running for UK customers to try and balance things out but it was a pain, and to be honest, I didn’t find that it made any difference to my sales from the USA. If I get a big order from someone I will upgrade their shipping to tracked without charging for the upgrade. I wrap each set or pair in tissue paper. Then the whole order is wrapped in bubble wrap and packed in a small cardboard box.

Are you worried about competitors? Does it impact your business in any way? If there are a lot of similar products, how do you make your own stand out?

There are a lot of lampworkers but I don’t worry about that. We all have our own styles.

How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?

Thankfully I haven’t had many issues. I do try to keep my customers happy. As I sell supplies I have a lot of repeat custom so it’s worth going the extra mile. I had one lady who was disappointed with her beads recently and I remade them and sent her some more. It is hard not to take criticism personally but as you sell more and your customer base expands the chances are that it will happen. Best if you can try to learn from it and move on. I think selling supplies means you are often selling to people who are also sellers and that can make them more sympathetic to things like delays in the mail system. I had a few packages take longer than normal earlier this year but all my customers waited patiently and only one had to be refunded in the end.

Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever think you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed about dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?

My shop has meant that since my marriage came to an end I have been able to support myself from bead making. Without it, I would have had to go back onto the job market. Sometimes it can be stressful being self-employed. If things go quiet for a few days and the orders don’t come it can be hard not to worry but I am getting to the stage where I worry less. I’ve worked hard at making beads, photographing my work, and trying to make sure my listings are found over the last few years and my shop is steadily growing. I have quite a few regular customers and that helps give me confidence in my products and service when I get the odd complaint or criticism.

How important is social media for your shop? What are some common tactics you use to promote your products? Do you spend money on ads outside of Etsy? How do you generate excitement/hype around your products?

I use FB, Instagram, and Pinterest. I use the Social Media function from Etsy, although the link to Instagram stopped working on my iPhone after an apple update about a year ago and hasn’t come back although I know I’m not the only one who has contacted Etsy. A lot of my customers follow me on FB so that is where I will always promote first. I can add the product links from my IG back to my website so I use that sometimes. I don’t think I’m making the most of IG yet. It is easy to follow other breadmakers and get them to follow me but I need to work more at getting jewelry makers to follow me. Pinterest is something I use but really don’t feel I have got to grips with. I have boards that I save too but I probably need to work on a more organized strategy.

What are some things you don’t like about Etsy? If you could talk to the CEO of Etsy what recommendations would you tell him to improve sellers and customer satisfaction?

I think all of us who rely on Etsy are alarmed when we see stories of people being banned with no right of appeal. I’m sure that most people whose shops are closed have them closed for good reasons but at times it can seem that it could happen to anyone, maybe due to a system error. For myself and many others, this would be a disaster, my income would dry up overnight. If there is a problem with a shop I think Etsy needs to be open about reasons for any action and be prepared to listen to a seller. Those who have knowingly broken rules won’t have a defense but if Etsy has made a mistake then Etsy should accept that and sellers should have confidence that they will listen to in those cases.

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What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?

You need to spend time learning how to write your listings, tags, etc, and photographing your work. Etsy is a great marketplace and can be a very successful venue for selling but there are a lot of sellers and a lot of products so you have to work hard to be seen. I joined a subscription group for a couple of months and took on board advice on SEO, promotion, etc. Believe in your work. Make sure you price to allow for costs, labor, and fees. And add a bit more so you can give a small discount if people are placing a big order, subscribing to your website, etc. Don’t give away your work. Don’t let someone make you doubt yourself by telling you it is too expensive. If no one buys them then maybe you are too expensive but if you have lots of happy customers but the odd person tries to tell you your work costs too much, well that’s their problem, not yours.

What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?

Have a good product at a price that makes sense for you. Make sure your photos do your product justice. Take time to learn how Etsy listings, tags, and titles work. Try to list regularly. I now have a core of Make to Order items that keep my number of listings up and keep my shop visible but I still find that adding and promoting new products most days is the most effective way of boosting my sales.


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