How to tell if you’re ready to sell your work to shops

Post by Clare Yuille : Part 1 of a 3 Part series for the Kindness in Business series.

photo of Plaisir : Clare’s handmade boutique

How to tell if you’re ready to sell your work to shops

Let’s do a little experiment, shall we?

I’m going to say something and I’d like you to observe what happens to your toes.

Give them a little wiggle to limber them up. Ready, toes?

Okay, here we go:

Pitching your work to a retailer!

How did it go? Ah, those little guys curled up dramatically as soon as I spoke. Interesting.

You know, I think we might be on to something here. Let’s try the experiment again, but instead of your toes I want you to observe what happens to your heart.

I’m going to say a few things in quick succession this time so don’t get spooked, okay?

Man, I don’t know about you but this extremely rigorous scientific enquiry is wearing me out. Let’s get frappucinos when we’re done.


Seeing your work on the shelves of your favourite boutique!

Owning a thriving creative business!

Being your own boss and doing what you love for the rest of your life!

What happened that time? Did your heart curl up in the same way your toes did?


Your heart actually uncurled and got…bigger? And happier? If your heart was a balloon it’d be bobbing along the ceiling right now because it’s so full of joy?


Time to put my cards on the table. I kinda thought that might be the case. You have what I like to call a heart/toes disconnect.

That means that your deepest, wisest self is telling you to grow but you’re fearful or confused about how to make that happen. Your heart wants you to take the next step with your creative biz, perhaps by selling your work to shops, but your toes are frightened.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through years of making a living as an artist and entrepreneur, it’s this: you can’t get far with frightened toes.

The wonderful news is that you’ve already got the will and the passion to make big things happen. How can I tell? Well, does the thought of growing your business makes your heart happy? Does it make you feel more like you?


Sweetie, that’s a big illuminated arrow pointed in the direction you need to go.

You don’t need any help from me on that score. What we’re going to do today is take care of the other side – your toes. Let’s get a pair of cosy socks on those little guys and see if we can help them feel less scared.

Okay. You want to sell your work to shops but you’re not sure if you’re ready. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

1. Do I understand what the heck wholesale actually is?

If the answer’s no, not exactly, ummmm or all of the above that’s okay. Wholesale simply describes the buying relationship between shopkeepers and their suppliers. The process breaks down like this.

You, the artist, make a lovely thing. You sell that lovely thing to a shopkeeper at your wholesale price, then the shopkeeper roughly doubles that price and puts it on sale in their boutique. The new figure is called the retail price, and that’s the amount customers in the shop pay in order to take your lovely thing home.

When you sell at wholesale you’re making less on each item than you do when you sell directly to the public, but here’s the good part: you’re selling much larger quantities of items.

Shopkeepers usually don’t want one or two of a particular product – we want six or twenty-four or three thousand. Wholesale is all about volume. You make less on each item, but you’re selling lots of items.

2. Can I make the figures stack up?

This is the most important question. It’s no exaggeration to say your wholesale business stands or falls on the price you charge retailers for your work.

To work it out, you need to cover all your costs –materials, your time and labour, packaging and all your other overheads. Once you’ve figured out what it costs you to make one item, add in a slice of profit.

Is the figure on your calculator a realistic wholesale price for your lovely thing? When you double it, do you come up with an amount that someone (not your mom) would actually pay in a shop?

Your wholesale price is your rock. It’s the stable foundation on which you build your business, so making sure you get it right is crucial.

3. Do I have the time and space to scale up production?

The next question is whether you can make your lovely thing on a grand scale. As we saw, retailers usually want fairly large quantities. Can you produce them?

Seriously. Can you make that much without hiring help, renting a studio, working every hour in the day, packing in your day job or destroying your marriage? Do you have kids or parents or a particularly demanding Pekinese to look after? How do they fit into your plans?

Like your wholesale price, working out a viable production schedule is essential to your success. Your creative biz should nurture and develop your gifts, not crush them.

So let’s recap.

When you’ve got a heart/toes disconnect, your heart wants to leap forward but your toes are frightened you’ll get hurt. A good way to stop your toes feeling scared is to choose towards your own happiness.

Before you even think about approaching retailers, work out if there’s a way to build the foundations of a wholesale business which protects and rewards you. If you can’t answer these three questions with a good strong “yes!” that’s a pretty good sign you need to re-think.

On the other hand, if you’ve done the calculations, thought long and hard about your schedule and are certain you understand the principles, wholesale might be just the ticket.

Only you can decide. Check in with your toes and heart and you won’t go far wrong.

Clare Yuille is a retail coach for creative types who want their wholesale business to go whoooosh. Want to sell your work to indie retailers but feel overwhelmed, out of your depth or, erm…completely paralysed by fear, doubt and self-criticism? Clare’s blend of insider knowledge and expertise will help you simmer-the-heck-down, plot your course and experience so many biz-related epiphanies you’ll actually enjoy pitching your work to retailers. She takes away the eeeek! and replaces it with aaah.

Ready to get moving? Download her free Indie Retail Starter Kit.

This post is Part 1 of a 3 part series, be sure to check back next week Tuesday for Part 2!


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