How to Make a Living Selling Pottery: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re passionate about Pottery, you must have pondered about making Pottery your full-time job many times. Most of the time, you shrug it off as the idea sounds unlikely. Making a Living Selling Pottery is actually easier than you think.
Here is A Step-by-Step Guide that will help you Make a Living Selling Pottery
In this step-by-step guide, we’ll discuss each of these steps in detail, including how you can take action and what benefits following each step provides. So let’s dive in and read about the first step.
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Step 1: Motivate Yourself and Build Confidence
First and foremost, you have to have confidence, motivation, dedication, and passion in your arsenal. With distrust in your skills, lack of passion, and no motivation, it’s impossible to achieve any goal.
Your approach to pottery making has to be both optimistic and realistic. If you’re too optimistic, it’s likely that you’ll be disappointed and demotivated quickly. Always keep in mind that once you’ve made the decision to become a professional Potter, the ladder that reaches your goals isn’t an easy one to climb.
You’ll have to wait patiently for your first few orders. Think about who relies on you, and contemplate whether it’s a good idea to make Pottery as a source of income instead of a casual hobby or part-time work.
The best way to motivate yourself is to find the actual cause of any demotivation and procrastination.
Ask yourself these few questions:
Once you know what the hurdle in your plans may be, you can motivate yourself to overcome that particular hurdle. If you think your pottery pieces aren’t great, post them online. Make a social media account or start a thread on some forum.
You’re usually going to get the right constructive criticism from the internet, in contrast to your friends and family, who will always appreciate your efforts and will refrain from criticizing. Look at other popular Potter’s work and notice the beautiful imperfections they have.
Can you take pieces to Art Stores?
Ask the owners if they find your pottery work interesting. It’s even better if a professional potter is willing to help you out.
Keep in mind that flaws are part of the handmade Pottery. Anyone can go to a pottery barn and pick up a flawless, mass-produced mug or plate. Also, know that Pottery is a subjective form of art.
Secondly. Is it illogical to think of loss before starting a business?
Yes, it is. However, you also can expect rapid growth and immediate response. If you’re making wonderful pieces and marketing them right, people will buy from you. It’s just harder to get your first few customers. But with dedication, you’ll soon have enough orders that you’ll find fulfilling the demands rewarding.
Finally. Is choosing Pottery as a living source a waste of money or time?
No. It may start out slow at first, but then you’ll start earning a good income. If being a Potter didn’t pay your bills, people wouldn’t be Potters!
On average, potters who earn from their own studios can make anywhere from $20 to $50 an hour depending on what you make, which is well above the minimum wage. On special occasions like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc., your earning will increase. People have earned over $40/hour during holiday season sales!
Step 2: Gain Experience
The next step to starting your life as a professional potter should be to gain experience. Now you might be thinking you know your way around Pottery. But in truth, there’s never enough experience one can gain in any work.
If you’ve decided to make a living as a Potter, become dedicated to the craft. This means that you should be willing to learn. Even if you have an Art Major from your college, there’s still plenty to learn out there in the real world.
Working for Potters:
Try to work for potters and artists. Become an apprentice of a Potter whose work sells. You can work both part-time or full-time, the latter being a better choice.
Quit your job if you can and just work for different Potters. Notice their techniques, their styles, how they achieve their goals. Know every step of creating Pottery, from making Greenware to Glazing to Firing.
Be careful not to be too intrusive. Keep in mind there are potters that don’t want anyone to know their secrets, which is understandable (like a secret recipe.) Feel them out. Don’t waste your time if you can’t learn anything from that particular Potter.
Once you’re free from work, practice at home as well. You are, of course, making Pottery there, but returning home and practicing on what you have learned really helps. You can make a couple of changes and apply some of your newly learned techniques to make it your own.
You don’t need to get high-end materials for this, try to make the best of what you have. Spend a little on the bulk quantity of pottery-making items when you’re out of supplies.
This has another advantage besides the experience:
The connections. Senior potters are constantly in touch with their customers. People who order their Pottery can include shop owners as well.
Through your potters’ source, you can make valuable friends and connections that’ll help grow your business. Professional potters can also recommend pottery and business classes that you can take to educate yourself further.
After working with professional potters, you’ll have enough knowledge to run your own business.
Step 3: Strategize your Business Plan
The key to any successful business is a strategy.
First, what makes you stand out?
What is it that you, a new business, is offering that an already established one isn’t? Think to yourself and find a valid answer. If you live in a small town or a suburban area, maybe there aren’t many potters. If you live near a city or town, then you probably have some competition, and you must find a way to make your brand stand out.
You can do this by strategizing
You’re probably not going to find a product that no one else is making, so what can you do? The answer is originality. People are attracted to your work if it’s original. You can add your style to already existing products.
For example, if you’re making a mug, make an interesting handle design. Glaze with various colors. Make some artwork on mugs, and if you make a set, make sure each of them resembles and differs from the other in some ways.
Keep in mind what the popular demand is, but do make your pottery original. Come up with different designs. Play with textures. We’ll talk about this more in step 5.
Business strategy also includes where to sell
You can either turn your studio into a shop (if you have enough space), make a deal with shopkeepers who sell Pottery, start an online delivery service, or become a seller on sites like Amazon or Etsy. You could also set up a booth.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at a few:
Turning your studio into a shop:
This sounds like a wonderful idea. You’re working there, so there’s not much traveling that you need to do. You can handle your business on your own as you’re nearly always present.
Your work will be near your family, which is great if you have kids. You also have the freedom to decorate the studio display however you want.
On the downside, however, you need a good amount of space for this. It’s also important that the location of your house is an area where you can do business (If you are in a residential area that is not zoned for any stores, or you have an HOA that also does not allow it.)
You don’t want to be too far away from a main town or city. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time trying to get customers and will have to rely on deliveries, which are an added cost but still doable.
You can also rent your own shop, but that costs a lot and isn’t a good idea for beginner potters.
The next option is to sell to pottery retailers:
You can sell your Pottery to Stores, local Coffee Shops, Markets, and Furniture Stores (for vases and decors). This is an easy option. You can go to various stores that sell Pottery, decor items, furniture, and dinnerware and ask them to sell your pieces for commission.
There are a couple of cons of this, the first being giving the store owner commission. Now the rates will go up higher a little bit, depending upon the store, so this shouldn’t be an issue. You don’t get the freedom to choose display style in most of cases. You might have to look for various stores to find a good deal too.
You can also work with interior designers. They’ll use some of your Pottery in the next house they furnish if it goes well with the theme. Designers typically charge a commission.
Go for online delivery:
You can do this by setting up a website or taking orders through Facebook Messenger, Instagram, or by a call. In this case, you have complete liberty of everything, and you don’t have to have much space in your house. It’s also much more convenient for customers, and online businesses flourish faster.
If you’re opting to become an Amazon or Etsy seller, then most of your worries regarding marketing and delivery are gone. The site will have its own delivery service, and your products will show up in search when people look for a ceramic item.
You can even make custom products for people through Amazon Custom. You just can’t make deliveries yourself and your schedule has to be made around the pick-up time.
Set up a booth:
You can attend flea markets, roadside sales, and festivals to sell your products, especially the ones you’ve had in storage for a while.
So now that you know the basic ways to sell your product, you can pick which way to sell that suits you. As you grow, you can choose to sell through a number of methods or do all four to increase your income.
Now Let’s Focus on Business Planning
First of all, how much money do you need to invest in? You’re familiar with the prices of clay, glazes, wax resists, etc. by now. You probably already own a kiln. There aren’t any big investments you have to make if you already have Pottery to sell.
Moving on to Earning:
What should your salary expectations be? Well, a beginner-level potter makes a little over the minimum wage, with the average earnings being $15/hour. The growth is gradual, depending on how many hours you work, how many products you sell, and how big your name is.
Your earnings per hour will increase with your experience. Mid-level potters earn about $20/hour while senior potters earn $25/hour. The most experienced potters can earn over $30/hour!
After you determine how much your time is worth look at the cost of your raw materials and the cost of firing your kiln.
Let’s say the cost of your clay, glaze, and firing of 30 pieces is X amount. Divide the amount by 30, and now you know how much it costs to make a single piece. This will help you to determine how much you want to sell your Pottery for. Never undercut your work. Remember, mass-produced Pottery is always cheaper than hand-made.
Finally, the last thing you have to consider is the time of the year. Some products sell really well during one part of the year while others don’t. For example, you might see more people buying soup bowls and spoons during the fall season as compared to spring or summer. During the Christmas season, you’re going to receive more orders as people are buying gifts for each other.
Now, you can use this to your advantage. You can sell Christmas-themed mugs and wall art during November as people are decorating their homes and are getting into the holiday spirit.
Similarly, you can make Easter egg decoration pieces in late March. If Mother’s Day is coming up, you can make themed items. Before Halloween, you can sell pottery lanterns carved like pumpkins and so on.
Step 4: Set Up a Workspace
This is a prep step. Once you’ve worked on a business strategy, you can move on to setting up your workspace.
You probably already own most of the basic tools. You’ll be fine using the pottery tools you used when practicing, don’t spend too much right off the bat. Instead, buy some glaze and underglaze sets.
Dry glazes are better since they are more convenient to store and make larger batches. Make sure you have all the items you need to create wonderful pieces.
Working on your selling method is the next step
For those who are selling on a commission basis:
If you haven’t already, talk to a couple of shop owners, interior designers and decide the commission rate and discuss other aspects of your business.
For those who are selling online:
Make a website or social media account where you can sell your pottery pieces. If you’re selling through Amazon or Etsy, set up a seller account. We’ll talk more about selling online in step 6.
For those who want a physical store:
When renting a store, do you want your store to have a section where can make Pottery and have a few Pottery Wheels also, or just sell your Pottery?
If you want a studio and selling store, make renovations. See if you can have a kiln. Having your kiln at the store would be more convenient, but if not, you can also fire your Kiln at another location.
Step 5: Create Pottery Pieces
It’s finally time to create!
You need to create some pottery pieces before your first order comes in. These pieces go to the shop owners, and the designers, on your website, your social media, and on your store’s display.
Creating different kinds of pieces is important. You should make sample mugs, vases, plates, bowls, and various other pieces. All your designs can be similar to one another, like crystal-themed or flower-themed, or you can make each one different. Make sure all pieces of a set match or complement each other.
Make sure to make these the best pieces, and the designs attract customers. Play with textures and designs. Make your Pottery stand out. If it’s a special season, make themed pottery pieces, for example, a Christmas mug or a spring-themed vase. These will boost your sales.
You don’t have to create many pieces like if you’re making a mug with a specific design, make 4-5 at first. After you start getting orders, notice which product is popular and make more of that. If you get a bulk order and you can’t meet the delivery date, let the buyer know.
Step 6: Market your Brand
Now, we’re going to talk about one of the most important steps in your journey to becoming a professional potter — that being marketing. Without proper marketing of your products, people wouldn’t be able to reach you.
Now, marketing is necessary when you either deliver online or have your own shop. There’s no need to market if you’re giving your Pottery to different stores on a commission basis or when you’re working with interior designers.
Your task is to find stores that are willing to sell your products or decorators who want to work with you. Marketing to them as customers isn’t needed. Similarly, if you’re a seller on online sites like Amazon or Etsy, marketing shouldn’t be your focus.
If you are running your own store or providing an online delivery service, then marketing becomes a necessity. If you have a physical shop, then you can print flyers with the address written on it and deliver them to houses or paste them around your neighborhood. You can give a bunch of flyers to shops and designers who can forward it to their customers, although they might charge for it.
Building a presence online is also very important.
First, you can buy a domain through registrars like Namecheap or GoDaddy, which charge a measly fee of $10-15 a year.
Then you can use free website building tools like WordPress, Wix, Elementor or many others Make sure to take great photos of the sample pieces you created, and list the products on your website.
This website can host all the products you make, so people can pick what they have to buy and come to your store or call you. Having a website is even more important when you’re making deliveries as it’s the main source of communication between you and the customer. It can be created like an online store where customers place their orders and chat with you. There is plenty of software that helps you make an online store, e.g., Shopify.
This website of yours also needs to be marketed. You can promote it through Google Ads, and make a profile on Instagram or Facebook. On these social media sites, you could post various photos of the pieces you make and add links to your website. You can run ads on your social media accounts and follow other people who sell similar products. This requires you to be very active on social media, at least when you’re a junior potter.
For more detailed information on selling your Pottery online read this Step-by-Step Starters Guide to Sell Pottery Online.
Step 7: Sell Your Pottery and Grow Your Business
Now that you’ve made a business plan, set up your workspace, created pieces to sell, and marketed them, it’s finally the time to sell & earn!
We’re not going to get into the discussion of actually selling the products, as we’ve talked about it multiple times before. You’ve either started an online store, become an Amazon seller, worked with shops, or opened your own store. In all of these cases, the next few things apply.
Let’s start with setting prices for each item. As a beginner-level potter, your rates shouldn’t be too high. You’re a newly opened brand, so people don’t expect the prices senior potters charge.
The prices do fluctuate depending upon the amount of glaze you used, how crafty the item is, or how long it took. Here’s a general idea:
- A regular mug with just one color should cost $14-20.
- A mug with intricate patterns, textures, or uncommon shapes should be sold for a little more, maybe $25-30.
- A small table vase with a simple design should go for around $20, and price can increase depending on design or time invested.
- A regular-sized or large vase with a basic design and shape can sell for $30. A very expensive-looking one can go for much higher, even $80-90.
- Miniature decoration pieces with patterns go for $5-9.
- Serving bowls start at $20. Bowls with patterns on both the outside and the inside cost around $35-40 on average. Bowls with tougher-to-execute designs can go for $70+.
- Art pieces can vary in prices by a lot. A simple decoration piece goes from as cheap as $10 to as costly as $150 or more.
Once you’ve set the prices for your products, list it on your website or social media as well.
Now, most of the time, you’re selling your own pieces. But keep the option of customers ordering a custom-made product open. If a customer does order an item, say a mug with a name written on it or a vase in a specific color combination, then you can charge more.
Running your own online store
This next part is for those who are running their own online store. Providing an efficient delivery service is an important part of your business. You can charge your customers a shipping fee, but don’t charge too much for it. You can include the shipping fee in the price of the item itself. Delivery charges are basically what the courier service charges you or an average of the time and gas you spend on delivering yourself.
This can be you attending a flea market, lowering the price on the products you give to the store, or having a simple sale on your online or physical store. Occasional sales boost growth. You may have to work more, but you’re going to get new orders, and you can reach new customers.
In these seven steps, we’ve discussed the basics of making a living as a potter. It starts with you motivating yourself, then gaining experience in this field, a bit of advice given by the most successful potters.
The most important parts are definitely planning and marketing. You have to pick the method of selling most convenient to you and market to your customers if necessary. You can eventually broaden the spectrum and various methods together.
Once you have a good strategy, take action, and set up a workspace where you can create samples to market. Eventually, orders will reach you, and you’ll start selling.
Becoming a professional potter needs you to be smart as well as skillful. If you’re smart with your business plan and smart with the execution, you’ll find making Pottery a source of living very fruitful.