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