'Well I’m here to say a huge thank you to Sue for setting about her Approaching Galleries series of posts. Shall I tell you why? Oh, go on then...
I have been making jewellery ‘properly’ for around 2 years now. I love it; I get to use hammers and blow torches on a regular basis, and create sparkly goodness which pleases the eye. I was lucky enough to get some of my work in a local gift shop quite early on; a riverside spot, very popular with tourists in the summer, it has been quite successful for me. But I have been thinking for a while that I need to spread my wings and find other stockists in the county. And as I was contemplating this with fear, Sue’s series turned up in my RSS feeder.
Let me tell you, I have never been very good at promoting myself, or just going up to someone and saying “Hey, look at my jewellery, wouldn’t you love to sell it?”. For several months last years I wandered up to shops and galleries, stock in my bag, ready to venture inside... only to walk away without even setting foot through the door, giving myself grief with every step for not being more confident.
However, it seems that I was instinctively doing the right thing. Why? Because the most important thing I learned from the 4 part series Sue produced along with some of her stockists is this: never turn up unannounced at a gallery and expect them to be delighted to see you. Without exception, this was the advice from the gallery owners. Why? They are busy people, they have a business to run, customers to deal with; and they don’t like surprises. If you turn up with a bag full of goodies, they are going to feel put on the spot, uncomfortable; is that really the first impression you want to make?
Instead of cold calling, send an introductory email. I will confess, when I read the email advice from these 4 successful business women, I hung my head temporarily in shame. I had (in the past) committed one of the ‘email sins’, namely sending the briefest of brief emails, with little information and no images; it is hardly surprising that that particular shop owner said “Sorry, but...”. Your email must be eye-catching, informative and professional. It needs pictures of your beautiful wares. It needs to say a little (but not too much!) about you. It needs links to your website. And it definitely needs to show that you have researched carefully, and you really believe that your work will fit with the gallery you are approaching. Oh, and always get a name to address your email to: make it personal. It’s only polite!
So as I say, I read these four posts very, very carefully. I dismissed many of my previous ideas, and implemented new ones. I spent hours (really, hours) trying to get the pictures just right, making sure that they were the right size, that they showed my work off well. I cursed over the way PDFs showed up as attachments when they were emailed, and I finally ended up with a word-processed ‘letter’ which I copied into each individual email, which I addressed to the gallery owner, then included two JPGs of picture compilations in a size which wouldn’t clog the recipients inbox. And then I sent them.
50% didn’t respond. One said thanks, but we’re full. Three said they loved my jewellery and wanted to take a closer look. As a result, I now have 4 new shops stocking my jewellery - and they haven’t all gone for the same things either! One shop owner has even asked for a couple of pieces to be slightly redesigned, so that she can have them as exclusives. And yes, there are already customers out there wearing items purchased in lovely seaside galleries, that would otherwise never have heard of me...
If you want to find out more about Ailsa and her jewellery business you can read her blog here or visit her shop here. You never know you might just see something which catches your eye too!!