The Power of Wholesale | Artsy Shark

by Carolyn Edlund

Are you selling your creative work in the wholesale marketplace? You probably have more control than you think.

Artists can sell handmade work at trade shows.

If you wholesale your work you might have question about your obligations and choices in that market. Do you have to offer everything you make at wholesale? How often do you have to offer new products? What about dealing with difficult buyers?

In your own business, you make the decisions. You have an enormous amount of power as a business owner, including the right to say “No” to those things that don’t work for you.

What do you have control over?

  • What you want to make and offer for sale. You design the collection you want to sell at wholesale, and decide what items, if any, will not be wholesaled. You can design different collections under different brand names, and with different websites if you like. You can design a custom collection for a store if requested, under their brand name.
  • How you earn your income. Want to wholesale and retail? Interested in doing commission work? Want to sell online, at fairs and festivals, through studio events, trunk shows or through referrals? You know what you do best, and what works in your own situation. Choose those forms of commerce that fit best for you, and decline the rest.
  • The customers you approach. As a business owner, you are free to choose the customer base that you want to attract. You can do this through the marketplaces where you choose to sell, the price points you charge, the packaging you use and the marketing messages that you create.
  • The prices you charge. There is no reason not to charge whatever prices you feel you can get for your work. You don’t have to keep prices low, or follow a particular formula if you feel the perceived value of your work can carry a higher price. It’s up to you.
  • Whether you are willing to donate. Besieged by requests to donate work for auctions, charities, etc.? You can always say no, or you can counter with different terms if you like. Remember, as the artist you cannot deduct the retail value of work that you contribute, only the cost of your materials.
  • Your terms. Do you want to sell your work on a pre-paid basis only? That’s perfectly fine. Will you accept checks, or not? Your decision. It’s OK to say no to orders that are less than your minimum opening or reorder amount. You can change your minimums when it makes sense for you, too.
  • Whether to say yes or no to a sale or an offer. You can walk away from opportunities or sales that your studio cannot accommodate with your production capabilities, or that may be custom work that doesn’t interest you. If you have a wholesale account or even a private commission customer who is too difficult to work with, it’s your right to have an honest discussion and let them know that you won’t be able to accept orders in the future.
  • Whether to ramp up your business, or tone it down. As an entrepreneur, you do the planning for your business. Want to take a sabbatical? Interested in retiring or selling your business? Want to take your current collection into an entirely new direction? That’s up to you. No one else makes these choices for you.

Being self-employed means that you have lots of latitude in your business. It’s one of the perks, like making your own hours or working from your home. Take a look at what is working for you and what is not. You have the power to make all of the decisions that affect how you do business and what you offer in the marketplace.

What are you obligated to do?

  • Be upfront and honest with people. Your business approach and your customer service comes from integrity. It’s the right thing to do.
  • Not discriminate. You can’t refuse to do business with anyone based on race, religion, disability or other factors; discrimination is illegal.
  • Make sure your terms are fair and clear. Communicate these to your customers, and work to resolve any problems as they come up. Having comprehensive written terms on your website and in your materials helps.
  • Honor your contracts. If you have an agreement, then keep it. If you have issues or need to renegotiate, get in touch with the other party to discuss.
  • Follow through. Your word is your bond; make sure you are trustworthy and dependable, ship on time or make a phone call if extenuating circumstances wreak havoc with your schedule. Communication is key to building strong relationships.

Bottom line, as the business owner, you have a lot of latitude in the way you run your business. With clear goals and strong foundational principles in place, you can structure your small business to suit the way you want to work.

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