Jewellery making has been a hobby for people for decades, but before the rise of ecommerce, very few people managed to turn their hobby into a successful business – it was simply harder to get products in front of customers. Today though, website builders and marketplaces allow for more people than ever to start selling laser cut, and 3D printed jewellery, more people than ever are wondering if they should too. While the market for jewellery might already appear to be crowded, there is still plenty of scope for you to create a business and sell the jewellery that you have designed and created with your laser cutter, or your 3D printer.
Why create a jewellery business with your laser cutter and 3D printer?
There are so many reasons that you might want to start a business making jewellery – but a laser cutter, and a 3D printer provide additional benefits to jewellery makers too, even if your jewellery making is only a hobby at present.
For a creative outlet
For many people that start a jewellery making business, they do so because their career (or maybe just the job they currently do) doesn’t allow them to be creative. Maybe their work is precise, and only has single correct ways of doing things, or maybe they simply want to be able to express their creativity in a different way to the way they do in their job. If you’re working with your laser cutter or 3D printer for other business reasons, but you love to design as well, a jewellery making business can be a great option.
To reach a bigger audience
Although we’re all taught from a young age that it is the thought that counts in a gift, there are only so many pieces that you can make and give to friends and family as gifts. But if you love being creative and designing new items of jewellery, the thought that you’ll have pieces that never get worn probably makes you feel a little sad. So if you’re able to sell your 3D printed, and laser cut designs, you’ll have the satisfaction that people are wearing – and loving – your designs as much as you do.
Predicting costs is simple
When you’ve created your designs, it is relatively simple to establish how much your costs are likely to be for each piece – which will help you to establish how much you should charge, once you have added a profit margin on top. However, you’ll need to remember that your pricing can (and should) change over time, especially as your costs fluctuate based on the price of raw materials.
It (probably) isn’t necessary to create large amounts of stock
For the most part, the stock you’re going to need to keep is going to be your raw materials – because once you’ve designed your piece and created one item to photograph for your online listings, you can create each piece on demand, as orders come in.
Although you might not need to keep large numbers of pieces, there are some situations where you might need to create more than usual. If you’re going to be selling at a local event, or you’re going to be placing your range in a local store, you will (of course) need enough stock to cover those sales.
Customers want unique jewellery
Everyone loves a moment when someone praises something about them – and that is why customers want unique, eye-catching, and conversational pieces of jewellery. That is particularly the case with costume jewellery, which is what many people that are making jewellery with their laser cutters and 3D printers are making.
Your equipment provides opportunities
Whether you have a laser cutter, a 3D printer, or both, they afford you a lot of flexibility to create new and interesting concepts. Your laser cutter can also be used for etching onto pieces that you may not be able to cut with – glass, stainless steel, many semi-precious stones, and anode metals can be etched with our Beamo laser cutter, for example.
Free design software means that you won’t have to spend excessively on creating your designs. Whether you draw by hand initially, or you jump straight into a 3D design package, you’ll be able to create effects that are really difficult to make with traditional methods of jewellery making.
In addition, you’ll be able to offer customers personalisation opportunities. You can choose the amount of, and style of personalisation that you are prepared to create, but if you can offer that personalisation as part of the purchase, customers are likely to love it. Think about milestone birthdays, Christmas gifts, and tokens of love or friendship – those personal messages go a long way on a piece of jewellery.
Challenges to know about when starting a jewellery business
Although there are some incredible reasons to start your jewellery business with your laser cutter and 3D printer, no business is without difficulties, and while you might encounter other challenges, these are some of the biggest challenges that jewellery business owners encounter.
Your ideas are likely to be copied
Marketplaces share items that are currently trending, and there are lots of unscrupulous manufacturers that will take your design and create their own versions of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to fashion, that happens all the time – you only have to look at how quickly the big fashion houses see designs that are ‘inspired by’ runway looks reach the high street, and online fast fashion retailers. For those big fashion houses, that may not be important for their profits, and Coco Chanel is often quoted as saying “If you want to be original, be ready to be copied” – but for a small business, that can be catastrophic.
But when the success of your business depends on customers buying from you, it can be frustrating to see that overseas manufacturers are turning out your designs at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, while you can register a design, there isn’t any way to prevent those overseas manufacturers from taking your work and replicating it. Rather than attempting to take legal action (which is going to be costly and unlikely to be successful) put your efforts into highlighting why customers should buy from you instead.
Providing customer service
Even if you were selling products that are the best possible quality, and you never encountered any delays with delivery, there will still be customer service issues to deal with, especially for customers that are buying online. When you think about it, the reasons are simple, with many variations:
The item isn’t as the customer expected
The order didn’t arrive on time
The product arrived broken, or another quality control issue
The package wasn’t delivered
The product didn’t fit
That perfect world where all you need to do is to send out orders and only receive great reviews – unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. If you ignore messages from customers, or don’t deal with service requests promptly, you’re going to find customers complaining about your business online, which is going to result in fewer purchases from other potential customers.
Before you even start listing your products online, be certain that you know how you are going to receive contact from customers. An email address is the simple way to start with, but as you add sales channels, you may need a shared inbox to ensure that messages from marketplaces don’t get missed.
While we’re talking about customer service and support, it is important to manage the expectations of your customers too – so get your policies, and terms and conditions in place before you start selling.
Buying materials upfront
Although you don’t need to keep a certain number of products in stock when you are working with a 3D printer and a laser cutter, you will definitely need the materials to be able to create orders when they come in. Customers want their orders as soon as possible, and so having a delay while you source more filament or materials is likely to lead to complaints and order cancellations.
Having enough money to get your business off the ground can be a tricky thing, especially if you haven’t received any orders yet – so you may need to be creative when making your first products, such as recycling materials, or using offcuts. Here is a good range of acrylic suitable for jewellery making.
Keeping your equipment in working order
When your business depends on your equipment to be in perfect working order, you need to have your contingency plan in place, just in case something goes wrong. Having a service plan for your equipment means that you can ensure your laser cutter will always be in working order.
Types of jewellery to make
Although there are probably more types of jewellery available today than there ever has been, there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking about traditional jewellery that you can make with your laser cutter and 3D printer. Jewellery that are worn on the fingers, wrists, neck, and ears are most in demand – although you may be able to identify other, more specialist types of jewellery too.
Creating ring designs can be a lot of fun, from dainty rings that can be stacked, to chunky cocktail rings – and there are a whole lot of other styles in between!
Because of the range of sizes that you’ll need to offer, you’ll need to have design files ready with different sizes, but that is relatively simple to do with 3D design software. Because you’ll be creating rings on demand with your 3D printer, you can offer a wide range of ring sizes, without finding yourself stuck with larger, or smaller sizes that won’t sell.
Bracelets, cuffs, bangles, and charm bracelets are all possibilities for jewellery making businesses. Not only are you able to design the shape each type of wristwear, but you’ll be able to offer personalisation relatively easily, by etching names and messages onto the pieces. Although you probably won’t be looking at making watches right now, you’ll certainly be able to offer personalisation for your customers with your laser cutter too.
There are so many styles of necklace to think about creating – bibs, chains, chokers, collars, lariat styles, lockets, and pendants – the list goes on! Whether you’re creating necklaces with your laser cutter or your 3D printer, then you may be looking at creating pendants and charms that can be attached to silver or gold chains, as well as creating those bigger neckwear designs.
Earrings and jewellery for piercings
Earrings are great, because you don’t need to offer size options. But today, earlobes are by far not the only places that people choose to pierce, which means you can create jewellery for different ear piercing placements, as well as facial piercings, body piercings and intimate piercings. Before you start creating rings for piercings anywhere other than the ear, be sure to have done enough research – they aren’t the same as earrings! You’ll also need to consider hygiene too.
Jewellery for men
When it comes to jewellery for men, fashions have come and gone. But today, there are more men than ever wearing jewellery to accessorise their choice of clothing, which offers you different customer base, and style of jewellery that you can create.
Materials that can be cut with a laser cutter
We covered all the different types of materials that can be cut with a laser cutter in this post, and the great thing is that many of the stones that you might want to incorporate into your designs can be cut and etched with your laser cutter too. That creates possibilities that you might not have thought about with traditional methods of jewellery making, and opens up new designs.
Popular laser cutting products used for jewellery include Hobarts glitter/galaxy range.
Just be certain to avoid the products that can damage your laser cutter that you might be tempted to play with. Again, we covered these in our post about materials for laser cutters, but PVC, vinyl, and artificial leathers, as well as ABS (the plastic that Lego is made from) are some of the products that can catch creators out. There are others that you might be inspired to try, such as HDPE (the plastic that milk bottles are made from) especially if you’re keen on recycling materials. What’s the worst that can happen, you might wonder? Well, damage to your laser cutter bed from dripping materials, damage to the lens, and toxic fumes being released that can cause severe damage to your lungs are just a few of the things that can go wrong. Know your materials, and if you’re unsure, check before you put them in your laser cutter.
Starting your jewellery business
If you already love designing and making jewellery, then getting your business up and running can feel daunting – that is the tricky part. But getting going doesn’t need to be as difficult as it might seem, especially if you plan ahead.
Creating a business plan
There are some entrepreneurs that make their business up as they go along and succeed, but planning what you’re going to do, and the steps that you need to take is likely to mean that your business will achieve better results in the long run. You can find links to business plan templates, and guidance on how to write a business plan here.
If you’re going to be approaching the bank for a loan to get your business off the ground, then you may need a business plan before they will consider your request. But your business plan is there to help you. It’ll help you to hone your business idea, identify your target customer, as well as any potential problems, and it will help you to set goals, and measure your progress as you move on.
Designing your products
If you’re thinking of creating a business making and selling jewellery, this is likely to be the part you’re most enthusiastic about. There are so many aspects of designing jewellery that you’re going to be excited about, and whether you’re looking forward to working with a particular material, creating sophisticated designs, or just making fun pieces, playing with design is just great fun.
Getting the best prices for the materials that you need is key for almost every business on the planet – and your jewellery making business is no different. Typically for your laser cutter, you will need to have access to acrylics (especially for on-trend costume jewellery), but there are other materials that you might want to play with, that you’ll need to buy as and when you’ve created profits from your sales.
Identify where to sell
When you’ve created your range – or even if you’re starting out with a single line of jewellery – you’ll need to decide where there best places for you to sell are. Many businesses sell on more than one sales channel, to maximise the number of customers that they can reach. It is best to start with one sales channel, but remember that as your business grows, you’ll need a way to keep track of your orders than simply seeing them within the admin area for each channel. A great order management system will allow you to see all of your online orders in the same place, no matter which sales channel the order originated from.
Setting up an online store has never been easier – and almost every website builder you might have heard of (and hundreds more that you almost certainly haven’t heard of, too!) now offer ecommerce functionality. That doesn’t mean that each one is right for your business though.
Anyone who has considered setting up an online store before will have heard of Shopify, and since it hit the mainstream, well over a million stores have been launched using the technology. And it makes sense – their website templates, and easy to customise functionality means that a website can be up and running super quickly.
If Shopify isn’t the right solution for your business, you might find that BigCommerce or WooCommerce are great options to consider, but website builders such as Wix and GoDaddy can be used too, without needing to know how to code. Most of these online store builders are.
Be certain to make use of the trial periods most of these websites provide before you commit to one – as not all functionality that you might want as standard may be included, and you may find you have to pay for extra apps or add-ons.
Where do you head to online when you’re looking for something in particular? For most of us, our searches start with either Amazon or eBay – and so it makes sense that you might be thinking that you’ll list your products on these channels. While you can make sales on some of these marketplaces, you’ll need to figure out whether the cost of listing your products on them is worth it. For many small businesses, the listing fee leaves them out of pocket, especially if nobody buys the product.
The other thing to think about when selling on marketplaces is that many customers don’t think about them being marketplaces. So although they trust that if something goes wrong with their purchase they will get the issue resolved (which will encourage them to buy from your business) they won’t learn about your business. When selling on most marketplaces, you can’t build brand awareness – which, for jewellery businesses, means that customers are less likely to return for additional purchases, even if they like your products.
Because you’re selling bespoke items, you’re likely to see better sales on marketplaces that are specifically designed for these types of products. In particular, Etsy, but also Amazon Handmade, and Folksy are good places to start with -especially if you’re selling products that can be customised.
Jewellery is one of those things that is bought on a whim, and so getting your pieces out in front of customers that are just browsing is definitely a good plan. With that in mind, you might decide to take your jewellery to spring fetes, summer fairs, and Christmas markets, where the stall fee is likely to be covered easily if you sell just a few pieces. This is a great way to get the name of your business known in the local area, and for customers to start seeking you out to see what you have in the way of new products.
If getting into an event for a day isn’t possible – and that might be the case if you’re starting your business as a side gig alongside your day job – then you can still make offline sales by creating arrangements with other local businesses. Tiny gift shops often showcase products from local artisans and creatives in return for a small fee, which means you can reach customers without any effort.
Marketing your products
Getting customers to be interested in your products isn’t just about setting up your online store and listing items on marketplaces. Whatever type of jewellery you are creating, once your customers start to take an interest in your products, they’re going to want to see new items – and that’s especially true if you’re creating inexpensive, fun pieces that they can buy regularly.
Whether you love it or hate it, social media is an essential for a new business. Set up your Instagram and Pinterest accounts (they are the most likely to be successful as they are image-focused) with the same handle as your business name, and start posting regularly. You might show off your equipment, demonstrate some of your design process.
Minimise postage costs
There’s a good chance you’ll have started sending orders the most straightforward way – by popping them into the local Post Office. But as your business starts to receive more orders, if Royal Mail aren’t the most cost effective shipping solution, you might find your profits being impacted. While it might be the sake of a few pence on each order, that can start to eat into your profits when you’re sending hundreds of orders a week.
Parcel shops are becoming more popular as an alternative to using the Post Office, and because they work with a number of couriers and send more packages in bulk, they are able to access much better pricing, offering savings that they pass on to their customers.
All that said, if your workspace is close to the local Post Office, and it is the most convenient solution, then it might be that the convenience it offers is worth paying for – especially if the alternative shipping solutions take up more time for you to get to. You’ll establish the balance that works for your business.
When you’re thinking about minimising your postage costs, you’ll also need to think about your packaging. Once you’re receiving regular orders, buying single mail bags or boxes definitely doesn’t make sense. That’s why there are specialist ecommerce packaging providers, that allow you to buy the right packaging for your business, in bulk. Don’t forget to buy recycled and recyclable packaging products where it is possible to do so.
How to keep your jewellery business growing
If you started your business as a side project so you have a creative outlet alongside your full time career, then you might not want to grow your business that much. But if you want to replace your current work with an income from your jewellery making business, then you’ll need to look at how you can increase sales and diversify. You’ll be doing all the things that we’ve just spoken about – listing on sales channels that make sense to, and doing plenty of marketing – but there are other things you can be doing to grow your business too.
Extend your line
You might have started your jewellery business with a line that included a single design – let’s say, an infinity symbol, for example. That is how many designers start out, with just the one design that gets worked into many pieces, and it becomes part of their signature style. But although that signature motif (whatever you choose) may always be a part of your line, once you have established your business with your initial designs, you’ll be able to increase the pieces that you offer. And really, if you love designing jewellery, then playing with design and creating new things is where it starts to get really fun.
Diversify outside jewellery
While you’ve started out creating rings, pendants, and bracelets, you don’t have to stop with jewellery. When you go into any high street jewellers, there are plenty of other items that can inspire you – even if you don’t create anything that is remotely similar to what you might see in those stores.
Jewellery holders in different shapes – trees, dishes, stands
Items for weddings
Because you have the ability to create each piece on demand, you might only ever create one of each design, so you can photograph it for your website and marketplaces. That means that if customers don’t love your design the way you do, you won’t be out of pocket.
Check your figures
Your business doesn’t need to be running for long before you’ll start to see results – whether they’re good, or not so great. Whichever way those figures look currently, they will help you to identify opportunities, and where things might need to change in order for your business to move forward.
Selling to other businesses
This is the big one – the point that many entrepreneurs hope to get to. If your products are popular enough that other businesses want to buy stock to sell to their customers, that is a pretty incredible endorsement of how good your range really is. If and when you get to this point, you’ll need to think carefully, and get the right legal agreements in place to ensure that all parties are protected.
Our final thoughts
Setting up a business selling jewellery might feel daunting initially due to the amount of competition that is already out there. But if you have unique designs, and you can market your designs well, you really can make the most of creating jewellery with your laser cutter and your 3D printer.