Should You Wholesale Your Work or Not?

Wholesaling is a sustainable model that works well for many artists. But there are times when it isn’t right for you.


Wholesale Buyer at a Trade Show Booth


When might wholesaling not be a good idea? Let’s look at some scenarios:

You make only one-of-a-kind work. Artists who make one-of-a-kinds can do some wholesaling, or may be able to combine consignment and wholesale together using some OOAKs. But if this is the way you create everything in your studio, you will probably find that wholesaling really isn’t the perfect vehicle for your sales.

You don’t like the idea of production. Sometimes, artists will say that they get bored or feel uninspired making the same pieces over and over. If you offer a sizeable collection, you will be making a variety of designs in your studio, and you do need to keep designing for future lines – but there is definitely repetition to the work. If that’s not your thing, then you probably shouldn’t pursue wholesaling.

You can’t make the numbers work. To be successful at wholesale, you must have prices which are profitable at the wholesale level. You can add to the perceived value by using certain strategies, but if you cannot make the numbers work to be able to successfully sell your work wholesale profitably, then you have a problem with this model. Take a close look at all the numbers and work out what is right for you.

You aren’t interested in B2B sales. Perhaps you love working with retail customers, either in person, online, or through taking commissions. That’s B2C. The business-to-business model means that you are selling to, and communicating with, people who are business owners. They have certain needs and they also have deadlines to meet. If you aren’t happy working with this crowd, wholesaling isn’t the way to go.

You have many interests and don’t want to commit to offering set lines. Are your interests eclectic? Or are you just starting out and unsure about the direction you want to pursue in your studio work? Then it most likely isn’t a good idea to jump into wholesaling. Develop your techniques, your signature style and your skills first. Then decide how you would like to sell your work.

You cannot devote the time needed to fill store orders. Let’s say you have another job, a busy family life, or you would like to travel all summer, and you only want to commit to making art when it suits your schedule. That could work for retail sales, but wholesale buyers need you to ship when it is convenient for them. That means you have a major commitment to do so. If it just isn’t a fit with your lifestyle, then don’t worry about it. Wholesaling just isn’t for you.

Everyone is different. As an artist, you need to do what’s right for you. If wholesale isn’t a good model, then explore other options such as selling retail at fairs and festivals, teaching, licensing your art, taking special commissions, or other ways that fulfill your needs and your life.



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  1. I had to jump in here to see if there is a line that can be drawn on the term One-of-a-Kind?
    With my jewelry line, I do OOAK in that every piece made from various pieces of scrap metal are made one-by-one and are mostly not repeatable. That is to say, I make a square shaped something or a triangle or whatever, but one surface color might be blue and another green and or one might be green and blue and orange. Using old natural colored copper gutters means I have no control over the surface colors and textures. I truly work with serendipity hand in hand:

    That said, I do control the shape or designs I make with that copper. As long as I am making something similar in general shape and size, the retailers over my nearly 25 years of shipping goods are happy! So if I sell them an earring, like my “Long Dangles”, that is somewhere in the range of 1/2 inch to 3/4’s of an inch wide to 1 inch to 1 3/4 inches long, they have never objected. In fact, they like the randomness of the orders I send them; they love saying that each pair or pendant design is one-of-a-kind.

    On the other hand, if I tried to retail every piece I make at my price points (earrings retail from $29 to $44) I would need to find at least 150 retail (end-user) consumers every month to match my wholesale. On top of that, I would need to put up a picture of every single pair of Long Dangles since no two are ever the same. The clock is ticking! In some cases, I would be spending more time getting pieces uploaded and inserting size descriptions, etc., (remember – each one will be a different length and size since I am using scrap metals) then I spent creating the piece!

    I can’t take that much profit loss even at the retail price point. Add to that, boxing, labeling, and shipping each piece. All this, X’s 150+ pieces each month, would be many hours. Dealing with refunds or back and forth emails and questions would kill me! It’s an issue for all who sell in the under $100 category and sell OOAK direct to the consumer instead of wholesale.

    I would rather make 300 to 400 pieces each month and only need to find or one or 2 new “customers” each year doing wholesale. In the beginning, I needed to add several new wholesale accounts, but after a few years, I was turning away business and could be more selective.
    And I only one picture of ANY design as an “example” photo. That leaves you time to create new designs and market via email or by phone to wholesale accounts every 3 to 6 weeks and well… It’s just so easy much easier to make a living with wholesale.

    As pointed out in the rest of the article, there are other issues that might get in one’s way, but if you want to make a full time living and want to control your income, wholesale can really help make that happen!

    In addition, I totally agree – a mix is great: It’s nice to have some retail fairs or shows in the mix and I am a fan of a little consignment, too. Those two categories help me test market my new designs so my wholesale is a proven and solid seller.

    I know there are some who create OOAK and really won’t or can’t make a “design” or a “line” or a “style” of items, but most people can. I just wanted to make that distinction. If you make hand-painted scarves and no two are alike, the stores will adore you! As long as you keep using the base fabric and sizes they have come to expect, and generally have the same “look” and style, you are good to go. Or, if you are a wood-turner who uses a variety of woods and creates “vessels” in many shapes and sizes, that is something a retail store will gobble up!

    Just sayin’: One-of-a-kind is a more flexible word than many would consider and for many Fine American Craft Galleries, it’s all they want to carry!

    • Agreed! Check our link to the article on Selling One of a Kind Wholesale; your work comes under the category of “sell the concept” which works well. The buyer likes the look and can count on pieces that work with the collection, and which they want. This can become a benefit to the retailer as each piece is “different”. Artists who make vastly different work all the time though (and some people do) would not be able to wholesale easily.

  2. Mckenna,

    I love your comment. It was insightful for me, as a one of a kind jewelry artist, and offered hope that I can make wholesale work for me.

    I wondered if you may be able to answer a few questions or point me in the right direction. I’ve been looking for something more than generic marketing advice for a long time now.

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