HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 8

Here’s a little experiment for you.    Type your product into a search engine and see where you appear.    If you make red ceramic mugs and you type in “red ceramic mugs” and it appears on page one, you are cooking on gas.    Hover over the image of your product in google “images” and a tag should appear for buyers to quickly access your website.

Once in a while I google “thistle canvas”, “thistle art” or “thistle painting” to make sure that my thistle image remains at or near the top of page both in images and in the listings as this ensures I pick up quite a lot of custom through organic searches.   ‘Tis all about making sure your website gets noticed.

Put your website in the main thoroughfare

In blog 3 of How to Sell Art Online I strongly recommended that you employ a professional website designer but even with the funkiest website in the world it is still up to you to promote it like crazy.  Think of your website as your shop –  do you want to place it in an ill-lit back street or do you want it fully illuminated in the main thoroughfare?     Metaphorically speaking you need to be standing at the end of the road with a loud hailer drawing folk’s attention to what you are selling.

When you upload product onto your website you will see sections marked  “tags”, “meta tags”  and “meta description/data”.   It is here that you try and think of keywords relevant to your product.     Your website has 2 audiences i.e. users and search engines.    The meta tags will not be visible to your users whereas your tags are.    The meta tags however will be visible to the search engine so its worth paying attention to both.     Meta description (or meta data) are usually 150 – 250 characters long and you may find it easier to write the website content for your web page first then extract the main idea of your text to create your Meta description.

Going back to the red ceramic mug, it is best to put your key words in as soon as possible so instead of “Brighten up those mornings at work or home with our glossy red ceramic mug.”  write “Our glossy red ceramic mug will brighten up those mornings at work or home”.       Here is an example for my Highland Dance Shoes print –  “Highland Dance Shoes,  high quality print by Pauline James-Paterson, artist of contemporary Scottish images.”   Its only 105 characters long so I could add a bit more if I felt the product warranted it.  If you don’t include a meta description it isn’t a massive problem as google will just take the first 250 words or so of your product description.

We have been looking here at digital promotion but there are other ways of  bringing your website to the attention of potential customers:

Printed promotional material

Printed material can be expensive but well worth the investment.    If nothing else it is worth having some groovy business cards printed.    I think you can do a lot better than vista print but if you are not up to designing a bit of graphics yourself you can always contact a freelance designer on www.fiverr.com.  The fiverr website will put you in touch with (literally) the world of creative people who will do a first class job for an incredibly low budget and  £7.19 will buy you a business card design – yes honestly, have a look!    Although I haven’t tried fiverr myself, I do know quite a few folk who have and who rate it highly.

I have a very basic photoshop package (Elements 10) but it is pretty user friendly and great for putting together a bit of artwork.   I do all graphics on  photoshop and ping the jpeg to J&B Print of Newton Stewart for printing.     I started with a business card and a while later came up with the idea of business card with a blank box, on the reverse side, on which I can write a message.   These I leave in coffee shops, hotel bedrooms, visitor attractions……… in fact anywhere where I can say “thank you” for the service and fingers crossed  that the recipient will look at my website.

I also invested in an A5 leaflet which I enclose with a product if it is bought from a platform other than my website eg Etsy, Ebay or Amazon in the hopes that any repeat trade will be via my website.   Since I rebranded these are redundant but I will get more printed with Thistle HeART Print.

If you do craft fayres it is worth promoting your business via a roller banner which is very portable and makes a nice backdrop to your stall.    These are a surprisingly cheap and very effective form of advertising.   I have three and ordered mine off ebay for approximately £25 each.     This will be more if you can’t supply the artwork but again have a look at seeing what you can get designed for you via a freelance designer on www.fiverr.com

 

 

Sponsorship

A highly publicised event is a great opportunity to promote what you are about and it is rewarding to support a local initiative.     All events have sponsorship packages and you may find one to suit your budget as not all rely on investments of thousands of pounds.   Last year I sponsored an event at the Oyster Festival in Stranraer which for £399 gave me 3 roller banners in prime position, an advert in the brochure and 4 tickets to an event.   It is always possible to tweak a sponsorship package with the organisers of an event – the original deal with the Oyster Festival was for £299 and one roller banner but I wanted more exposure and a better position at the event so negotiated a bespoke package.        At the time I didn’t have a huge market in Dumfries and Galloway so it was a way of bringing my website to the attention of my local community.    This year I have approached two more organisations with a view to sponsoring an event later on in the year.

 

 

Making your product look good

It is worth looking critically at the photographs of your product before committing to the expense of promotional material.      If you make a gorgeous artisan product, you need to have gorgeous photographs of this product to put on any leaflets/business cards or social media posts and for this it is well worth employing a professional photographer.   Product often looks better if you show how it is to be used so in the case of the red ceramic mug, it looks a whole lot better when filled with coffee, tea or hot chocolate.    If you are a painter you can “place” your paintings in a sumptuous interior for a small licence to photo stock companies (see How to Sell Online 6 for a link to istock).

 

Promoting yourself on social media

To get to grips with social media a few years ago,  I attended 3 digital workshops.    In my very first digital workshop I remember the instructor asking us to imagine being at a party when a stranger approaches.   If that stranger immediately launches into his sales pitch you would feel annoyed, irritated and would probably look for a quick escape route.  If however that same stranger approaches and his/her conversation is interesting, humorous, engaging  and it is a conversation in which you were invited to participate,  you would be happy to hang around.      That is how it is on social media.   If you continuously bombard your followers with prices and links to product, your potential customers will quickly disconnect and may well “unlike” your page.  (see facebook tips in my How to Sell Online 3).   Instead you need to post up interesting content and ask plenty of open ended questions to engage your audience.

Promote yourself and/or your product on video

On the home page of my website www.thistleheartprints.com  is the video that I  had created for me by a local video company Airborne Ltd.    It is an amazing piece of filming with footage of my studio and the surrounding countryside.   There are beautifully lit close up shots and stunning panoramic views of Galloway filmed with a drone.   The video has so far racked up over 140,000 viewers, so my investment of £1,500 has paid off handsomely because, if my maths is correct, that only amounts to just over 1p per view. 

You may now be thinking that all this promotional lark is time consuming and eats into your day.   It does and if that doesn’t float your boat, it may mean a shift in thinking…………

Is this your job?

Do you get up on a Monday morning, with a list of tasks that need doing?     Do you put on work clothes?  Do you have a separate working space?  Do you work “office” hours?  If the answer is yes to all, or most, of these then it is your job, you are a professional and have a fair chance of making a living from your creative endeavours.    It is still possible, of course, to sell product and earn a few thousand a year with a more relaxed outlook but you are probably either very very thrifty or have the luxury of a second income.      It is part of the job to upload content on social media, arrange promotional material, update a website,  update listings on other selling platforms, seek out new markets, engage with customers,  order materials, dispatch orders, update accounts, stock take……and that is before you have a chance to be creative.   Like any job, there are boring bits and rather than resent this, it is best to embrace it as tasks to be accomplished to get you to a better place.   Despite all of this I still managed a bit of creativity this week and finished off my painting of The Titan Crane at Clydebank which is now available as prints on my website.    I am well chuffed with it.  

All this work takes a whopping amount of energy.  When I first started this business I was working 8 am to 6 pm, 6 days a week but gradually have managed to trim this to a more manageable 8 am to 3.30 pm 5 days a week.   I had to make the decision last year about whether I wanted to upscale this enterprise and take on large premises, staff etc but, after much deliberation, decided against it and am content to have a  “lifestyle” business.  I can recommend it.    Happy endeavours and see you next week for the penultimate blog.      Pauline

 

 

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 7

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !  that was me at the beginning of the week.  Boy oh boy it was quiet with only orders for a few prints each day and only a couple of canvases.    There was a time when I used to hyperventilate when sales were low and start to fret, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it all kicks off again and, sure enough, canvas orders started to pop into my website from Wednesday onwards.    To avoid stressing about orders it is worth doing a few sums to calculate what you need to turn over in your business.   You may be surprised as to how little you need to get by.

How much do you need to earn?

If you are an artist or craftsperson, happily doing open exhibitions, selling via craft fayres etc and generally happy with your lot then don’t change.   You  perhaps have another source of income and are in the enviable position of being able to create what you want, when you want because your next meal doesn’t depend on it!  Enjoy being creative and enjoy giving pleasure to others with the fruits of your creativity.   This blog though is if, like me, you need a good healthy turnover in order to support yourself and maintain a reasonable standard of living.    It is perfectly possible to turnover in excess of £50,000 a year selling your work on line and with good margins, that makes for a decent income.    That takes time though but if you know what you need to earn it can be a highly motivating factor.

Calculate your monthly household bills.    Let’s say £300 per month and with a working month of, say on average,  21 days, you  need to earn £14.28 per day.       Depending on your overheads, reckon on a turnover of £25 – £30 a day to achieve this £14.28, which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility is it?       Let’s add food to that of again £300 per month, your earnings need to be £28.56 and your turnover £50-£60 per day.   Ok, that is only going to give you an annual income of £7,200 but that is where I was 5 years ago when I turned my back on selling art through traditional channels to concentrate on ecommerce.  That was my peanut butter and banana sandwiches year, I survived, it was very character forming and made me massively determined to succeed.  The next year I worked ridiculous hours, sometimes 16 hours a day but it shifted my business up a gear and I’ve not looked back since.

I remember standing in the post office queue with a pile of prints chatting to the guy behind me.   He revealed that he too was an artist but was finding it difficult to motivate himself.   “What motivates you?” he asked, “Food” I replied honestly.     Basically if I didn’t sell I didn’t eat,  it’s was easy as that!

It is all very well talking about earnings but you, of course, need something to sell.

 

What is your product?

Are you happy with the product(s) that you are currently offering.   Is there a demand?   That may seem as bit of a daft question but if you have said to yourself “no-one else is painting/making this” then it may be that there isn’t a demand.    There are certain general images which are always in demand – poppies, trees and sunsets being three.   Some animals have more universal appeal than others e.g. cows, chickens, pigs, hares, dogs and cats (and at the moment unicorns) I picked up on the poppy thing quite a while ago and the image still sells , and I do admit to doing the chicken thing also. And sunsets?  ‘fraid so, done that one as well.     There are better artists of cats and dogs so I’ve left well alone.

If you want to exploit the home decor market (a much more lucrative market than the art or craft market) keep an eye on what folk are buying in places like Dunelm, Ikea and other furniture outlets.     It is definitely worth subscribing to a monthly magazine to keep an eye on trends.   If the colour of the moment is aqua and you can see a way of exploiting this, then go for it.    This doesn’t always mean that you have to start all over again with something new as there may be an opportunity to tweak an existing product.

I did this a couple of years back when the magazines that I were looking at were very much promoting “grey with a splash of colour”.     I had on my website an image of umbrellas in the rain and, as it was very much a grey image, I thought it had potential to add a splash of colour.      Via the powers of photoshop I was able to add a choice of red, orange, teal, purple, green or turquoise to one of the brollies.     I went a bit further with this when I designed a digital image of a poppy in a field and offered my customers any colour of poppy.      Usually a swatch of colour was sent digitally but I do remember a customer asking me to match the lemon towels in Dunelm.    This I was able to do by accessing the Dunelm website and colour picking via photoshop.      I felt, though, that I was drifting too far away from my market so gave myself a good talking to and returned to supply the market that I had identified.    (more about marketing in blog 5 of How to Sell Online and Live Happily Ever After).

What is your USP?

Have you looked critically at your product and thought about it’s unique selling point?    Are there zillions of similar products out there and if so can you tweak yours to make it a bit different?  I suggest getting together with a friend and over a bottle of wine brainstorming ways in which your product can become the next big thing – a change of format/material/colour/function.    If you are an artist, can you frame it in a different way, make the image out of something unusual,  reformat it, cut it up and re-arrange it?   I remember seeing a ceramic artist who specialised in smashing up her fired pots and rearranging the pieces into something incredibly groovy with wonderful textures and colours.

My own slant is to  take popular subject, sunsets, trees etc and add “halation” i.e. the way an outline dissolves directly in front of the light source.

As an artist it may be about your style which is unique.   My own style is colourful and looks a bit out of control with splashes and textures created with salt and gin (yes gin!).  It is in fact very controlled but shhh don’t tell anyone!    I don’t think you can force a style and if you are an artist who excels at detail don’t allow others to tell you to “free up”, instead exploit that ability to its fullest.

Beware being a “me too” though.   By all means go to an art gallery or have a rattle around Pinterest if you are lacking inspiration but try to retain your originality.

 

Protecting yourself against me toos

There are plenty of folk out there who haven’t got the talent or the imagination to come up with anything new and will steal your work.      If you put images out on the internet you must make sure that they are of low resolution – 72 dpi.     I have found that the smallest I can get away with digitally is converting an A4 300 dpi image (which is usually 297mm x 210mm) to 72 dpi 177mm x 125mm.    This looks great on screen but pixellates like crazy if you try to enlarge it.       I further protect my images by adding a watermark via photoshop.

I think most people know that it is an infringement of copyright to copy another artist’s work but not everyone realises that this extends to photographers’ work.      A photograph is the property of the photographer and he/she is protected by the 1988 Copyright, Design and Patents Act.   You cannot use photographs that you have sourced via google, flickr or social media sites.   That is a big no no.   Either take your own photographs or use a photo stock company (see my How to Sell Art Online Blog 6).

Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to contact the photographer and ask him/her if you can use their work.     The umbrella painting above, came about because I saw a fantastic photograph on Flickr of Glasgow in the rain taken from the Central Hotel bedroom window.   I contacted the photographer and offered him a licence deal, we negotiated a fee and instead of a licence deal he was happy to sign over his copyright for the image.

What is your back story?

I recently read a survey about paintings and art.     A  sample of the population were asked to name an artist and many confidently said “Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Salvador Dali etc”.   That same sample were asked to name a work of art  and many struggled to name even one work of art.    The lesson here is that it is important to promote yourself as the artist or the craftsman/woman as it will be that which is remembered and not necessarily your work.      If you are the shy, retiring type then create a persona to hide behind but don’t just fade into the background.    The difference between an artist achieving massive sales in a top London gallery and a similarly talented artist struggling to make ends meet is often down to the back story that their agent is using as a promotional tool.      Social media gives you the opportunity to let the world know what you do, your struggles, your achievements, your successes and your failures – it’s all good content.   I look forward to reading all about you!

Bye for now

Pauline

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 6

 

It is inevitable when running a busy e-commerce business that things go wrong from time to time.   Everyone makes mistakes and in my business, carelessness may lead to dispatching the wrong size of print or the wrong number of prints – or, on a bad day, both!   This usually leads to a customer complaint.

How to deal with customer complaints

This is an easy one – if it is your fault it is always best to put your hand up and admit the error.  Apologise and communicate with your customer at the earliest opportunity to let him/her know your intended actions to rectify the situation.   You may now be thinking “oh duh, that’s obvious” but I have been on the receiving end of sellers that don’t give a damn and it made me, as the customer, furious and determined to never buy again from that person.   Also we live in the days of feedback so it is worth solving any problems quickly and efficiently.  Depending on the scale of your error it may be worth considering some small recompense.   I will sometimes send an extra A4 print by way of an apology.

In all the years that I have been selling canvases I have only had one returned and that was via Amazon with a “not what I was expecting for £59 thank you , I could have bought better at a discount store”.  Considering that I use top quality canvas, FSC certified pine frames, top of the range Canon printers and frame each canvas carefully myself in the studio, I was not best chuffed to be compared with a mass produced product.      I became very very shouty indeed and felt like travelling to Aberdeen to give the customer what my mum used to call “a piece of my mind”.   When I had calmed down I had to accept that the framed canvas wasn’t what she wanted and had to respect her opinion, hold my tongue and arrange to recover my canvas (by that stage I didn’t want her to have it anyway!!!!…… but then I’m off again).

Errors are particularly irritating when the fault lies with others, especially if you are paying for a service and the service provider messes up big time.   I use Hermes for my UK deliveries and on the whole they are very good but a nightmare to deal with if a parcel goes astray.

When things go wrong with Hermes and other courier services

I send hundreds and hundreds of canvases each year without incident so I really can’t complain too much about Hermes. I  have a good working relationship with Alex and Jacqui who collect sometimes up to 16 canvases from me and on a cold winter’s night I can only admire their hardiness.     However when canvases go astray, this means hours and hours on “live chat” with Hermes live chat room.    The employees on “live chat” are friendly but are working to a script so don’t expect much.   The most effective way is to prepare your case thoroughly as a word document and get photographs, screen shots etc. lined up ready to attach to this document.   Email it to Hermes who will open up an incident number.  The next day and the next and the next, email in your complaint and each day an incident number with have to be generated and eventually the penny drops that you are NOT going to give in!

It is important to remember that the contract is between you and the courier and not your customer and the courier.   Although I send my customer the tracking number, if there is any problem at all, I assure them that the problem is mine and the issue is between myself and Hermes.  When things go awry, customers can get very heated and I have been in situations where a considerable amount of my day has been taken up liaising with Hermes in trying to nail a delivery time whilst at the same time trying to placate my customer.  Often the incident is caused by a lazy driver at their end who makes no attempt to deliver a parcel until he has more parcels in that locale.   I know that happens and I’m sure Hermes knows that happens but will they admit it!!

Fedex are excellent, especially their International Priority Service which means I can export a canvas to the USA and it will arrive the next day.    Despite the nightmare of the detailed input required on their website to generate all the necessary export documentation, Fedex do the job efficiently unless it means exporting to South Africa.   Both times that I have exported to South Africa I have been left out of pocket as the South African customs demand more money – usually in the region of £40.        There is no problem exporting via Fedex to USA, Australia, Canada or New Zealand so I’m not sure what the situation is with South Africa but in future any orders from my customers will have to carry a £40 excess.

Despite investing in a great website, spending hours and hours thinking of the best phrases to use in listings, preparing postal tariffs that are uncomplicated you can guarantee something will go wrong……..

 

If there is a way to mess things up a customer will find it!

You may thing it is straightforward to type in an address and postcode.   Nope, that is often where the first error lies and only comes to light when you find there is a conflict of addresses and/or postcode on the courier’s data base.   It’s easily rectified but it takes time and energy to contact a customer either by phone or email and on a busy day this isn’t what you want to be doing.

Sometimes your customer is required to follow instructions.  This is at the top of my website listing for the Thistle and Clan Tartan print……

“IMPORTANT:  With your order I will need to know the STA or STWR Ref Number and the name of your clan tartan/plaid from the Scottish Tartan Register.  It’s very easy – just log on to www.tartanregister.gov.uk and type the name of your tartan into their search box. What to do next…..On the checkout page of my website there is a box marked ORDER NOTES and it is here that you can inform me of your tartan name and STA/STWR Ref Number to identify the exact tartan that you require.”

Despite the above I will often receive tartan names without STA numbers, STA numbers without tartan names, attachments of hazy photographs of unidentified tartan samples and requests for help via long strings of communications via facebook.   I have to accept that this is part of my job and do what I can to help, after all it will lead to a sale so it’s best of get on with it and be as helpful as possible. 

One perpetual headache that Chris and I encountered was the confusion caused by the unframed canvas.  There was clearly a problem with the word “unframed”.  The canvases are box framed (i.e. stapled around a wooden frame) but I also sell the canvases unframed and rolled in a tube which are popular if the customer lives overseas.    Despite the “unframed” option on my website being accompanied by a photograph of a rolled canvas, customers would interpret “unframed” as not having an additional frame around the outside of the pine frame so were disappointed to receive a canvas rolled in a tube.  No matter how many times Chris and I changed the wording, there was still confusion, until Chris came up with the brainwave of calling these “rolled” rather than  “unframed” – sorted!

If customers don’t always read the words, photographs can help.    They are also invaluable in another way…..

How to help the customer to visualise your product in their home

There are photo stock companies on the internet which have gorgeous professional  photographs you can use if you pay a licence fee.    I use www.istockphoto.com You can subscribe for £45 per year but I prefer to buy on demand……£25 will buy you 3 photographs, £35 will buy 6, £69 will buy 12.  Once downloaded you can use the photographs again and again so it’s cheap as chips in the long run.   IMPORTANT – don’t ever use photographs off the internet as all photos are the property of the photographer and you will be in deep doo doo if you download someone else’s image without permission.

 

 

 

The classic black dresser and the beautiful lamp on a background of blue wall and striped curtain

Using photoshop I place my canvases on the “wall” of  an Istock interior.  It’s all about life style and aspiration these days and if your customer sees a fabbydabby interior decorated with your product she/he may be tempted to buy.    

Because I sell my A4 and A3 prints unframed I find it leads to more sales if I post the print on social media displayed in a frame.    This I do through photoshop using a photograph that I have taken of readymade frames from discount stores and point my customers towards outlets such as The Range and Wilko where they can obtain a frame for as little as £5.       I also enclose framing slips within the packaging of my A4 and A3 prints in the hope that once the customer sees that a print can be framed quickly and cheaply they will more readily come back for more.

Do you keep a data base and/or send a newsletter?

This is probably going against every other bit of advice regarding running an ecommerce business.  I know you are supposed to keep a data base and bombard your customers with offers/weekly newsletters etc. but personally I find that really annoying!    I hate receiving spammy stuff from businesses and don’t want to know about their latest products/schemes or anything else to do with their business.   I’m sounding very grumpy here and maybe you are into that kind of thing,  but it is not for me.

I am uber grateful for every order that I receive and along with acknowledgement of their order and any tracking details, my customers get a “thank you for your custom – much appreciated”.     That’s it, I  then leave them alone. So this one is very much in your court. You may think keeping a data base and sending latest product information is for you or you may, like me, dislike that kind of intrusion.

Despite all your best efforts you can’t please everyone all of the time….

What to do about negative comments on your website/social media

The most important word here is “transparency”.  It says a lot for your business if you are happy to accept criticism and deal with things out in the open.   If someone leaves a negative message on your social media page you can turn this to your advantage.    It is best to acknowledge the remark and if it is a complaint that requires further investigation, explain what you are going to do.   You can always use humour……when I invited folk to comment on a thistle canvas, one guy wrote “I’ve seen better!”   Personally I thought that was hilarious and the exchange between him and myself became good hearted banter, all out in the open for everyone to enjoy.       Don’t, whatever you do, contact the complainant and ask that the negative comment be removed.   Believe me, hundreds of people will have already read it and will be very suspicious if the comment suddenly disappears.    You will destroy any trust in your or your business in an instant.

Well, hopefully your feedback this week will all have been good……Bye for now

Pauline

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 5

Monday started with me in Glasgow, with a mission!      I wanted to photograph and sketch the Titan crane at Clydebank.     I left my business in safe hands with Chris, enabling me to sally forth with my camera and sketch book.   As usual I “took” my facebook followers with me…..

ENGAGE YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS FROM THE START OF A PROJECT

Don’t be coy about what you are doing.    The behind the scenes stuff is interesting to your followers and is great content for your facebook page.    I found my way to Clydebank only to find that the Titan crane was hidden by an orange crane.       Folk love it when things go awry so I commented on my facebook page and added the photograph of the chuffin great orange crane masking what I had come to photograph.   When I returned to my studio I posted up the drawing that I was in the process of doing, prior to the painting and I will post up a few photos of the painting as it develops.     This engages your followers, its entertaining and they form an emotional connection to your product which is more likely to lead to a sale.

By engaging your customers at these early stages you set up a dialogue which you will find hugely beneficial.   This worked particularly well for me when I visited Paisley.  I had announced my intending visit on facebook and received a lot of messages and posts  from Paisley people with advice on seeking out  the iconic images of their town.   By the time I got there I was invited to numerous cups of coffee and there were continuing enquiries about how I was getting on.    My followers started posting photos of where they lived in Paisley and of course this all appeared on their own facebook feed thus leading to increased followers on mine.  The ensuing painting of the Anchor Mill has been a very successful product and I have an abiding love of Paisley people.

The question I had to ask myself before taking time out of the studio to  photograph the Titan was “does this image fit with my market?”.   I love industrial architecture and there is a lot to be said for satisfying my artistic creativity but the question needed to be asked nonetheless.     So does it? yes, it does and how do I know?

 

WHAT IS MY MARKET?

This is the most fundamental question that you must answer.  If you sell art it can’t just be “people who buy paintings” or if you sell quirky ceramics, it can’t be just “people who buy pots”.  That is far too broad and makes it impossible for you to successfully market your product.      Broadly speaking my market is people with a connection to Scotland either in the UK or further afield.    I am in the open print print market and I don’t sell originals .    I price my goods to that of the “Ikea” market i.e. decorative products for the home which don’t cost a fortune, match the decor and can be replaced in a few years time.     I find that this is a huge market and I am happy to exploit it.   The original art market is much more rarefied and with so many people now claiming to be “artists” you are rather up against it to make your product stand out…..it’s not impossible though!

Do you know who is more likely to buy your product?   You need to think about gender – male or female, location – do you know where they live?  Is it the UK, worldwide, both?  It helps to make up a fictitious profile of your ideal customer.   Mine is Mhaira MacDonald, she lives England but loves her Scottish roots, she lives in a semi-detached and likes to spend money on home decor though not too much as she has a couple of kids…….etc……” This helps when targeting your product.

If you are selling originals through craft fairs and local galleries etc then your market is, of course, local and you have to work extremely hard to promote your product as your target market is very small.   It doesn’t work to put a few pieces on Etsy and declare yourself a global seller if you are not doing anything to further that label.    So how do you find out about your market?

KEEP RECORDS

For any Scottish sales, I keep a note of where my customers live.   This can be done digitally of course, but Chris and I merely put a mark in a map of Scotland defined according to postcode.    As you can see, a lot of my customers are in the central belt and with that in mind I was comfortable that the Titan in Clydebank will attract sales.

Similarly with gender.    Keep a record of the gender of your buyers.    If it is a home decor product your market is predominantly female so bear that in mind when “targeting an audience” on boosting a  post on facebook.   This is not closing the door to male customers but if you are paying for an advertisement you need to be targeting your female buyers to make your advertising budget work best for you.

Records of sales will reveal surprising information.   I have painted the seven cities of Scotland and find that the city of Inverness outsells them all.    A field trip to Inverness to find other images is therefore on the cards for the near future.

For sales further afield this is where Google Analytics comes in…..

 

GOOGLE ANALYTICS

This is a free analytical tool which will help you understand who is using your website.      I can’t pretend to fully understand all of the statistics and at first glance it is mind boggling.   Don’t let that put you off – in the very least look at your “audience” information .   Here you will find your statistics on your active users, demographic information, geographical location and user behaviour ie where do people “land” on your website and how many are new visitors versus returning visitors.   As you can see from my geography statistics the bulk of my website users are in the UK but I attract users in the USA, Australia and a few other countries.    This is backed up by reasonable sales from those areas so I trust the Google Analytics are correct.

Under Acquisitions/all traffic/social you will find out which of the social media sites best drive folk to your website.  As you can see, mine is definitely facebook so I tend to concentrate my activities to this social media site rather than Instagram or Twitter.   You will also be able to gauge what devices your customers are using.    Through this information, I have been able to see that most people engage with my website on smart phones or tablets during the day but tend to order via their pc in the evening.    Luckily my website is set up to cater equally well with all devices but if yours isn’t, then it is something you need to address.   It may mean employing the services of a professional web designer which is money well spent.

The best fun though is looking at your real time/overview which shows who is interacting on your website at that particular time, which pages they are browsing , how many pages etc and whether they go through to checkout – it’s quite exciting and better than a lot of stuff on the telly these days.

What was particularly useful for me recently was that I tried a facebook ad as opposed to “boosting” a post.    I paid £3 a day and at the end of the week analysed the facebook statistics against the google analytic statistics.  Facebook identified over 3,000 hits on my website but when I checked my Google analytics I found that the advert performed poorly against the boosted post.     I didn’t notice any increased sales with the advert but the boosted post on 19-21st January  led to the sales of  18 canvases over that one weekend.    So ads are outs and boosts are in!

 

DOES A CUSTOMER REQUEST FIT WITH YOUR MARKET?

I do a range of Scottish thistle with national flowers and get many requests from customers all across the globe for a thistle with an obscure national flower.    I have to politely refuse if the image of say, Scotland with Puerto Rica, doesn’t fit with my market.      I can’t afford the time and expense to do what amounts to a commission if I know it will only generate one sale.  This is my latest – Thistle with Lady Slipper , the state flower of Minnesota for my American market .

I am happy to personalise products with a discreet name added via photoshop and that is something that may fit with your product.     There is a good market for personalised wares and it may be a way of finding an additional market.   This happened to me with weddings…..

SEEK OUT NEW MARKETS

If you have a successful product, there may be scope for selling this item in another market.   This happened to me with the Thistle and Clan Tartan canvases.  I thought it worth looking at the wedding market and offering to add both clan tartans to the ribbon and personalising further with the bride/groom names and date of marriage.   To be honest I don’t fully exploit the potential here as I feel I am busy enough with my weekly sales but it continues to be a successful foray into the wedding arena.

If you are a local producer and wish to expand your sales to take advantage of online sales my advice would be to develop product which is specifically tailored for online sales.    Let’s say you are a creator of original paintings selling via open exhibitions or craft fayres,  I suspect that you are painting on canvases or watercolour paper of all shapes and sizes.   That’s great for an exhibtion space as it gives your customer choice but it would make your website very confusing and a nightmare to upload.     Standardise your online canvases or watercolour paintings to no more than 4 sizes.    I offer A4, A3, A1 and A2 which are available as options for my customers, easily found by the image on my website and easy to pop into the checkout trolley.    Standardising your product in this way makes it  easy peasy to attach standardised prices and postal tariffs .   Perhaps consider a range of 30cm x 30cm paintings which folk can “collect”.  You retain your local market but expand into a new one.       However there is one big no no …….

DON’T DILUTE YOUR MARKET

It is so easy to be seduced by new ideas and selling opportunities.   This happens when you have been running a business for some time and you get led astray by your need for more excitement rather than the day to dayness of running an enterprise.   Business is about speculation but it is also about consolidation and many businesses have gone to the wall by ignoring their successful product in the pursuit of something new and exciting.  One fatal error is to start dabbling in products which don’t fit your market or dabbling in markets that don’t fit your product.     By all means keep your website fresh with new product but make sure it fits with your overall image.     I used to love watching those Mary Portas programmes on the TV where time after time she would find a struggling retailer crowding his selling space with alien product eg a carpet shop selling gift wrap and cards.   This is how your brand becomes confused and your customers go elsewhere.

Well, that’s me for another week.  Good luck in your selling endeavours.

Pauline

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 4

The jury is still out on a facebook advert

Monday is always a bit of a blur as Chris and I have to deal with the weekends orders.       This is usually because I have boosted a post over the weekend but by Wednesday things are tailing off .    I decided this week to have another go at a facebook advert.    My thinking this time is that an advert may be a slow burn rather than a “boost post” leading to an inferno which gets doused fairly rapidly.

I have previously tried an advert which flagged up my website but it was too broad so this time I’m trying something a bit more specific.     I’ve aimed the ad at the UK which is my biggest market and photoshopped 3 canvases to promote my thistle with national flower.   I selected the £3 per day rate and I’m going to give it a week.

For my £3 a day, facebook promised 5-7 clicks on my website which I thought was a bit poor but hey ho “he who dares wins” and all that.  After 2 days I checked the stats and found that the advert had attracted 125 clicks on my website.      I’m suspicious of this as this hasn’t translated into sales so will definitely be checking this out on my Google Analytics when the ad ends.

Personalising a product – do I or don’t I?

“Painted by me, personal to you”  is my strap line.   I don’t want my art to be about me and find it much more rewarding if a customer seems something that resonates with themselves or their situation.     To further this aim I offer a personalisation service (free of charge) and will add, discreetly, to any image a name/date or both.   I get a lot of wedding business this way.    I occasionally get asked to add a name to the forget-my-not flower canvas, if a customer has a relative with Alzheimers, or a cornflower if it is a motor neuron sufferer.    In these cases I am more than happy to oblige and make a 15% donation to the relevant charity in the name of my much beloved late dad.

This week a customer from the USA wanted me to add a heart to a Stirling Castle canvas .  Her husband had proposed under the beech tree in Queen Anne Gardens.    I gave Chris the task of ascertaining which tree on the canvas was the beech tree – Chris is great at research!     The tree was duly located and I added a heart.      It’s always a tricky one because although I am very happy to personalise an image, I don’t want to compromise the image itself.     I managed this one by adding the heart on photoshop, colour picking the colours from the original image and keeping the heart small in size.

One of my best sellers, apart from the single thistle, is the thistle combined with clan tartan.    This can be problematic though, as customers are required to go onto the Tartan Register and locate their relevant tartan with the STA number.   Although the link is clearly visible on the listing of my website, folk don’t always read the listing so I have to field lots of enquiries through facebook.   It is amazing how many customer give me the wrong STA number and experience has taught me to always ask for the “name” of the tartan as well as the STA number.     Do I always read a listing on ebay in its entirety?   Nope, so that’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black!

Do I give a customer what he/she wants?

….or do I tell them what they can have?       Wherever possible try to fulfil a customer’s wish without compromising your art or craft.   This week I was asked if I could add a clan tartan to my Scottish Icons canvas.   My initial thought was nope, as the photoshopped tartan is difficult to blend into the watercolour original, but I had a few spare minutes and I like playing on photoshop so gave it a go.    Well blow me, it looked great and again I kept it discreet, photoshopping the top left hand corner of the image.     The customer got what she wanted, I thanked her for the idea and bunged it up on facebook as a new product.

Beware of the “have you thought of doing………”  It is often a passing whim of a customer who has no intention of buying from you.   You are the artist/craftsperson so trust your own judgement.

All this personalising business takes a bit of organising.    I’ve tried, in the past, a whiteboard, a diary, iphone reminders, spreadsheets, you name it I have tried it, all in the name of organisation and then I discovered……..

Bullet journal – an organic and easy peasy way of organising a business

Oh joys, it suits my way of working and this is my second year of using a bullet journal.   There are lots of lovely examples on Pinterest but mine is horrendously messy . I have no idea how I could now operate without it.     Everything gets bunged down quickly on that day and is “migrated” forward to be added to future days.    Its a fantastic way of keeping track of everything and if a task is continuously migrated it is an indication that it doesn’t need to be done or it is a task that you are better just getting on with to save continually writing it down.     The incentive though is to get most tasks marked as “done” (i.e scribbled out) to save migrating them.

One of the tasks I was continually migrating was “find out about Amazon pro-seller”.   In the end I put an arrow next to the task and a “C” which meant the task was migrated to Chris.   I wonder if I can migrate my house work to Chris?

Is it worth being a pro-seller on Amazon?

I hate hate hate Amazon’s listing tool and thought perhaps being a pro-seller would give me access to something a little easier.    In addition Amazon earn £11 of a £59 canvas sale which is a fair old whack of commission and I was hoping that a pro-seller would attract a better deal.     It appears that the  monthly subscription is £25 plus VAT which does away with the 75p per item sold fee.   This is only a better deal if you sell 34 items a month or 408 a year and I probably only manage 10-15  canvases a month through Amazon.      Even as a pro-seller Amazon would still relieve me of £11 per canvas!   Hmmph!    So back to just buying barcodes and keeping my listings down. (The link to the barcode site that I use is on How to Sell Art Online and Live Happily Ever After 3.)

This week attracted another enquiry re a trade price.

Shall I sell to trade?

This is a tricky one.     A retailer will want to mark up 2.4 so a canvas on my website selling for £59 would attract a trade price of £24.50.    This is no criticism whatsoever of the retail trade because they have shop overheads and staff wages so need to earn a fair wallop of money.     Personally my business is what is known as a “lifestyle” business and I earn enough selling direct without the need to sell via retail outlets, and don’t want the pressure of up-scaling the business to satisfy a different market.   If you manufacture your product easily and in bulk it is well worth pursuing merchandising through retail outlets.    This may mean though that you have to invest a lot of money to get your manufacturing costs down and your margins up.     If you take that plunge then its off to trade fairs for you and you are into a whole new ball game.   Scarey!

The enquiry this week from the retailer was relating to 5 canvases and I have come up with what I think is a good deal which he may or may not agree to.     It is perhaps less discount than expected but is accompanied by a full endorsement of  whatever price he/she wishes to charge for the canvases.      Whether the retailer asks for £59 or £599, bothers me not and I fully encourage trying to get as much profit as can  be achieved.

Well, the sun is shining outside and a trip to the post office beckons.   Bye for now.

Pauline

 

 

 

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 3

I checked my orders on Sunday afternoon and things were very slow, as is often the case in January, so I gave the competition that I am running on facebook a bit of a welly.

When is it worth boosting a post?

If one of your posts is attracting quite a lot of attention it will probably be worth gambling a bit of money by boosting it to attract even more attention. (more about boosting on facebook in How to Sell Art Online and Live Happily Ever After 1 )   A while ago I did try a facebook advert, rather than boosting a post, but it didn’t work at all for me at the time.   I’ll have a look at this again but at the moment am sticking with what works.   Boost a competition especially if you are asking folk to comment and share.    It is the comments and shares that are useful and not the “likes”.   (and the “reached” aren’t worth a light) . I felt my usual £8 a day boosting fee wasn’t quite working for me this time so decided to bang in another £12 on Sunday evening and hope for the best.  It was a gamble!

It worked and I woke up on Monday to find 10 further orders on my website and 2 on etsy.    There wasn’t anything on Amazon which is unusual.  The downside of this is an earlier start, 7 am rather than 8 am  as there is always a lot to do at the start of the week and one of the orders was for Australia, which meant booking out with fedex before 10.30am to get a pick up in the afternoon by Bobo.    Bill and Ben, my Canon canvas printers chugged away noisily most of the morning as most of the orders were for the thistle canvas. 

Monday is also a day when either Chris or I schedule facebook for the week, so out comes the timely diary.

Keep a “Timely Diary”

I have a desk diary and at the beginning of the year we trawl through the internet and find events, flowers of the month, festival dates, quirky facts etc which can be used as content on my facebook page.      I link one of my prints with an amusing or interesting fact which hopefully informs and entertains.     It’s a great way of exposing product to followers and a fun way to engage with potential customers.

Don’t spam on facebook

There’s a difference between engaging with your followers and pestering them to buy.  Avoid putting up your wares with prices and where to buy etc as that is quite irritating and more than likely result in driving folk away from your page.   Wait until folk ask you about your product either by commenting on the post or via messages, and at that point send a link to the item on your website/etsy/ebay etc.       Don’t get overly excited though as you will soon discover that the  enthusiasm of customers doesn’t often translate into sales despite you giving a link, prices, advice etc.

A nice picture for a virtual home!

I was constantly puzzled that customers would trip over themselves with superlatives “amazing picture” “definitely want to buy” “just what I have been looking for” “I know the exact spot to hang this print” and that enthusiasm wouldn’t translate into sales.   I asked at a digital workshop and learned that many people have a “virtual house”.     They pin stuff to their Pinterest boards and enthusiastically enquiry about items that they would like in their “house”.   That is enough to convince themselves that they have “bought it”.    Okay, that’s a bit weird and I don’t pretend to get it, but hey ho, I suppose you have to go along with it and try not to see them as time wasters.       The reason that I mention this is that it is far too easy to convince yourself that you are onto a winner with a product, when reading people’s encouraging comments, only to find it sits there unloved on your website.

Just a few tippety top Facebook Tips

Through the knowledge gained by attending a few digital workshops and with a lot of trial and error I find a few things work well.

Always put up a picture with your post as that will attract far more attention.  It works to make the first sentence really punchy and attention grabbing.

It’s best to keep any content short as most folk can’t be bothered to press the READ MORE prompt so don’t ramble on too much.   Apparently short posts of between 100-250 characters get 60% more likes.   Less is more!

Asking open ended questions is also good as it engages your followers and, should they reply to your question, it will pop up on their page for their friends to see.  Hopefully you will pick up more followers. A good one is to put up two pictures of products and ask “which one do you like best”, or “If I bought this print/painting/piece of furniture I would display it………” things like that.  This worked well for me recently  – “Today is the birthday of Dolly Parton, who was born in the state of Tennessee in 19** (guess!) While you’re pondering that, here’s a thistle entwined with Dolly’s state flower, the iris.”   It accompanied the Thistle and Iris print and attracted lots of comments.

Personally I don’t like hashtags on facebook and don’t use them but that is a personal preference.  I feel that they get in the way of the content and are a bit “spammy” but that’s just me.

If you are an artist, craftsperson, artisan, baker etc people love to see behind the scene photos.   What works particularly well is to show a project as it develops.   In my case that will be the sketches, half-finished paintings, any errors (people love hearing about when things go awry) and the finished work.   By the time that the task is done, customers will have emotionally engaged with the product and will be more likely to buy.     Not all of my working life is spent in creative loveliness and a large proportion of my day  is spent in the canvas stretching room so I show this also as part of my behind the scenes stuff.

It stands to reason though that if you spend a lot of time attracting customers, you have to make it really easy peasy lemon squeezy for people to buy your wares.

 

What are the best selling platforms?

Please, please, pretty please invest in a professionally produced website.  It won’t be cheap but it will pay for itself in the long run and  it is, after all,  your shop window.   My  website cost £1,000 and there is a modest annual maintenance charge but I couldn’t operate efficiently without it.   To me it is an absolute must.  Barry Russell of Kirkcudbright constructed mine and he did a first class job http://www.barryrussell.co.uk/ .  A website has to work just as well on an iphone as a pc so any layout has to take this into consideration – hence my employing a professional.    My website is user friendly, very secure and easy for a techno dunce, such as myself, to operate.      The vast majority of my total sales (80%) are placed on my website so I consider it the lynch pin of my whole enterprise.     If it goes wrong or if I press a few wrong buttons (which is more likely) the solution is only a phone call away and Barry fixes it in a trice.   He also updates it for me and does routine maintenance which leaves me to do what I am good at (and that’s not sprucing up a website).

There are other selling platforms – Etsy is very good with a nice easy listing tool.    I earn approximately £100-£150 per week through Etsy so it’s definitely worth a punt.    Ebay is slightly less but worth considering and again the listing tool is a piece of cake.

Amazon (groan) can’t be ignored . I hate their listing tool but I achieve regular sales so just have to put up with it.   Amazon require you to provide your products with barcodes but these can be bought off the internet.   The site I use is www.buyeanbarcodes.co.uk and the barcodes are approx. £1 each. I also list on Made In Wigtownshire which is a local initiative that I like to support and have achieved some sales.

You need to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to buy and most people have a favourite site.  Not everyone can be bothered to type in their address, contact details etc into a website and will defer to ebay or Amazon.      Obviously sales from a website are better as they don’t incur charges but it’s the customer that you have to consider and respect their choice.  A sale less commission to Etsy, Ebay or Amazon is still a sale!

It’s all very well having lots of opportunities for customers to buy but when the internet fails, as it did last week,  running an e-commerce becomes fraught with difficulty.     A fault on the line was identified and thankfully the Openreach engineer fixed the problem on Monday.    Back in business!

Pretty much everyday this week orders have been placed  for my thistle print.    It’s the best selling print on my website by a county mile.

Try and come up with a pot boiler

The thistle print pays all my bills and when all is quiet on the order front,  I can guarantee that it won’t be long before a thistle order appears on my website.    A pot boiler gives you quite a bit of creative freedom because all of your outgoings are covered, leaving you to explore other ideas which may not necessarily generate a return.     It’s a tricky one because you will want to keep your integrity as an artist/artisan/craftsman but at the same time you need to eat.

Sometimes that might be about latching onto a current trend and going for it hell for leather, while the subject is hot.    At the moment it is unicorns and anything and everything emblazoned with a unicorn is in demand.  It’s not my thing at all and I will resist the temptation to do a unicorn print but if you want to exploit this current barmyness, go ahead!     It won’t last of course,  but a 6 month pot boiler is better than no pot boiler at all.

Wednesday attracted a couple of thistle prints and not much else so I turned my attention back to the Thistle and US state flowers range and did a bit of drawing.  My scanner decided it didn’t feel like cooperating which was annoying.

I had plans to go away on family business on Friday so fingers crossed there wouldn’t be any canvas orders to hinder my early departure.  It’s always the way though that when I don’t want orders that’s when they flood it. I woke up to orders for four canvases, one of which needed to be personalised, which necessitated a crack of dawn start to the day.    I managed to catch my train though.    Jeez that was a quick week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 2

Is the customer always right?

Good customer relations are top of my tree, absolutely tippety top, so when this week started with a customer complaint it was like a slap in the face with a cold fish.   Her claim was that I hadn’t personalised the canvas which I had sent overseas direct to a relative.   The personalisation is something I do free of charge, adding a name/date discreetly to the stem of one of my Thistle and Clan Tartan prints.   I was totally baffled as I keep a jpeg of all personalised artwork and the names and dates were clearly added.    I emailed the jpeg to the customer and heard no more.   I’ve no idea if the issue is resolve or not but until I hear further, I can only assume all is okay and there was a miscommunication between the sender and the receiver of the canvas.

Am I irritated?   No, not at all as it’s important that customers can contact me with any issue and know that I will do all I can to resolve it.      My shouting at the screen is only temporary and shows my age – I shout a lot at the television also!

This was all dealt with on the train to Glasgow as my week started with a field trip.   I tend to travel on the train, rather than drive as it enable me to email, read, drink macchiato and, of course, people watch!

 

The need to escape the computer screen and sketch

There is a lot of computer screen time with ecommerce and it’s easy to get bogged down with emails, orders, listing products etc.      This is an art business and relies on….er…. art!    That means regular trips out of the office and escaping on the train to some far flung destination in Scotland to seek inspiration for future prints.

This week I had the Titan Crane at Clydebank in my sights and took the 7.00am train on Monday morning from Stranraer to Glasgow Central.   This means a 5.30 start to get to the station in time – how’s that for dedication!   Industrial architecture really floats my boat so this promised to be an exciting day, however the sleet, wind and intense cold in Glasgow had me heading for the shops instead.     I hang my head in shame!    So no Titan Crane photographs but I did find a lovely new fuchsia pink coat in Debenhams Sale.   I return in two weeks time to Clydebank.

Meanwhile Chris, back in the office was keeping things afloat.   Not that there is much to keep afloat at the moment.    Orders are always poor at this time of year as it coincides with the xmas credit card bill landing on the doormat.      I asked Chris to total up my turnover in order for me to compare it with last year so that I can better calculate what my tax burden is likely to be 2018-2019.

What they don’t tell you about self employment tax

You pay on account on what HMRC “think” you are going to earn!   That’s an absolutely lulu isn’t it?    This is how it goes…….. you jolly along in your business and work out your net profit on which you are taxed.    Fine so far.     You receive a tax demand and that’s okay, we all have to pay tax.    Now, and here’s the rub, let’s say your net profit is up by 30% in your second year, the tax man will assume that your enterprise is expanding at the rate of 30% a year.   Your tax liability will therefore be a demand on account of what the HMRC estimates that you are likely to earn in subsequent years.     This happened to me and I had to pay a whopping amount of tax and continue to do so until such time that I can prove that I am running a static business (or one at a loss) hence asking Chris to tot up my figures.     There is no incentive whatsoever to expand so I’m not!    It may be that I have to cease trading for a week or two as I approach the end of the financial year – just plain daft!!

Apart from tax worries, the  internet has been an absolute nightmare this week owing to a faulty connection at the end of the drive.    I only “rent” (for free) studio space at my husband’s farm so am not in control of phone lines.       I was supposed to announce the winner of my Snowdrop canvas on Sunday night but with communication problems I had to delay until Tuesday.

What is the best wording for facebook competitions

Competitions are a great way of getting orders and I run regular competitions on facebook which I then boost.     With a boost you can target those people who are following you or you can target an audience.   It makes sense to seek out new customers so I always target an audience with tags such as Scotland, Scottish, thistle, Scottish landscape, clan, tartan etc .       The wording is important as it is against Facebook’s terms and conditions to put “comment and share this post”.    I think it’s the word “post” which is the issue as it suggests it is a competition run by facebook but don’t quote me on that.  I usually word it like this  “COMPETITION to win this striking A2 Scottish Thistle canvas. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to leave a comment.  You don’t have to share but it would be appreciated if you did.  Winner will be announced on………. Good luck!”  So far that hasn’t flagged up any problems with facebook .

 

Competitions gain new orders, attract new followers and are a good way of rewarding your current followers with a chance to win a prize.        I usually spend £8 a day on boosting a competition but sometimes can be a bit rash and welly it up with a £20 day.

I’ve just started a further competition – this time for a thistle canvas.   It’s a bit soon after my snowdrop canvas competition but times are hard!

 

 

 

It’s the end of the week and things are backing up owing to the internet problem.  I want to list the next print in my Scottish Thistle with US State flower range, the Thistle and Sagebrush for Nevada but the system keeps crashing.    I have 3 canvases to book out and that’s proving very tricky indeed.   To hinder things further, I’ve put a complicated pork dish in the oven back at home (10 minutes walk away) and I am supposed to turn it every hour.  This is nothing to do with the internet but everything to do with running up and down the hill at frequent intervals.

An order has just popped in for two canvases so I’d better get on with them.   Bye for now.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO SELL ART (OR CRAFT) ONLINE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER 1

 

Do you get that Monday morning feeling?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I get that Monday morning feeling? – no,I don’t thankfully, and I don’t like to pose this question to Christina who works for me on a Monday.   She assures me she loves her work and I would now struggle without her as she cheerily sorts out my admin for me once a week, does my accounts, dispatches orders and arranges art canvas shipments around the globe.      Monday started off with 6 canvas orders to print, frame and pack and a handful of A4 and A3 prints.    This represents a quiet Monday, but it is January and is rather soon after the big spend of Christmas.   The upside of this is that Chris and I can have a lengthy coffee break in which to catch up on family gossip.   Lengthy breaks aside I make a note in my bullet journal to boost something to generate sales.  This, above,  is a photo of the “coal face”.   I admit it doesn’t look much like an artist’s studio  but the business side of my enterprise has rather taken over and all the necessary technology of running a business has invaded my creative space.    Note “Bill” and “Ben” in the foreground which are Canon IPF6400 canvas printers working super efficiently unless displaying the “I am cleaning my nozzles”  of “I’m agitating” alert when all grinds to a halt.

 

How to achieve more sales

I find a competition on facebook is a very effective of generating immediate sales.    If you run a competition be very careful of the wording as you don’t want to fall foul of Facebook’s terms and conditions.   You can’t use “like and share this post” although a lot of people do.   I am not absolutely sure why but it is something to do with the word “post” which implies that facebook is involved in the competition.   I use the following wording and it appears to be acceptable…..

“COMPETITION to win this striking A1 Scottish Thistle canvas. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to leave a comment.  You don’t have to share but it would be appreciated if you did. Winner will be announced on Monday 16th July. Good luck!”

Short and to the point!   Don’t be tempted to write a long winded type of post as folk don’t read more than the first four lines.   The important thing is to get folk to comment and I have found that if you ask politely for them to share, they usually will in the hope that it gives them a better chance of winning.    It is worth clicking on the “pin to top” button which you will find if you click on the three dots … which you will find top right of the post.

Your competition may sit there unloved so you have a decision –  do you or don’t you boost your post?   I’ve been to digital workshops where the logic seems to be that you can promote yourself for free on facebook so why pay?    In my world you don’t get owt for nowt and facebook is, after all, a business.     I run a business and look after my customers who pay me for my product in return for which I give them the best service possible.     If I pay facebook by boosting a post I expect something in return.   I am the customer and facebook better deliver – they do!   The boot is on the other foot and I am a demanding customer.

Personally I find boosting works best for me as it enables me to target a particular product.     I don’t do a whopper of a boost, spending squillions, but find £8 a day, coupled with a short competition for a £45 canvas prize, works well.    This generates healthy sales without the tail wagging the dog.

It’s up to you how you choose a winner but I find a number random generator on the internet is the fairest system to use.     Always, always, always announce your winner to build up follower confidence that your competitions are legitimate.

 

A printed canvas of the Wallace Monument type of week

An unusually high demand for Wallace Monument canvases this week, A4 and A3 prints, followed closely by prints of the Falkirk Wheel and Paisley Mill.     The usual thistle and thistle combinations orders arrive daily (sometimes hourly) so business isn’t too bad as I can always rely on my thistle.    My canvases are printed from my original watercolours, the subject matter of which is Scotland and anything Scottish.    (My husband, a proud Scot, accuses me of exploiting the Scottish brand!).   I have a contemporary style which is a bit splashy in a controlled kind of way and my passion is the industrial architecture of Scotland.  Continued sales in my buildings, harbours, bridges, mills, makes me a very happy bunny.     I do other stuff of course, mainly thistle related but that will be a later blog.

 

 

Highland Dance Companies

Another order from a USA Highland Dance Company popped into my inbox on Wednesday.    Last year I sold A4, A3 and A5 prints to Highland Dance Companies in Canada and the USA.    These they frame and award as trophies to the winners in dance competitions.   I don’t generally sell my prints as A5 but an order can be £800 worth of prints so I’m happy to oblige.   This time it was for my Highland Dance Pump print.  I use J&B Print in Newton Stewart so a quick call to John with a grovel grovel “can I collect these tomorrow please” request.

I am keen to cultivate all of these contacts and am considering a trip to Canada next year.   This will be a whopping business expense to reduce my whopping tax demand which I have to find each year and it causes me a whopping headache each January and July.

Fedex and Hermes make me very shouty!

I’ve kept fedex busy every day this week which is unusual as it’s normally only twice or three times a week that I schedule a pick up.  I use Hermes for UK deliveries and Fedex for international shipments.   Despite receiving a fair amount of criticism I find Hermes very good and booking out a parcel on their website is a piece of cake.  The biggest drawback with Hermes though is the length of time that they take to mop up any problems such as mis-deliveries and they will also wriggle out of paying you any type of compensation even if the item is insured.  I find Fedex is very efficient  (I can get a canvas to the USA in 2 days) but their booking out form makes me shout rather a lot at the screen because it is so complicated.    I used to use Parcels2Go but fedex came a-courting and I succumbed.

The overseas sales this week have been mainly rolled canvases.  I print out on “Bill” or “Ben”, roll the canvas into postal tubes, enclose framing instructions and text the fedex driver to collect from my studio.  All the drivers that I deal with are great.

Where shall I sell my art on-line 

My website was busy at the start of this week and then quietened down a bit – only 3 sales this morning, Friday.   Sales on Etsy meanwhile have been good and those, combined with sales on Ebay and Amazon keep the wolves from the door.     I also sell on Made in Wigtownshire, a Highland Dance supplier website and have a range of products selling on RedBubble in the USA.    I recommend that you have as many “income streams” as you can handle and hopefully you end up with a fast flowing river rather than a dried up puddle.  To help you decide on which selling platforms to favour the figures break down as follows

Ebay – you can list up to 20 items a month for free and then it is 0.35p per item and 10% of the transaction fee

Etsy –  you pay 0.20p per listing and then it is 3.5% of the price of the item

Amazon – you pay 0.75p for each item sold plus a whopping 15%

 

Sell your art on-line now

I listen to Radio 4 whilst I stretch canvases and learned today that £1 in every £4 is spent on-line so my advice to any artist is SELL ON-LINE NOW!!!!     If you can’t afford a website then list on Artfinder, Etsy, Ebay and any other selling platform appropriate to your product.      Amazon needs barcodes but that’s easy as you can buy these online for approx. £1 a barcode.   (Amazon’s on-line listing form, like Fedex though, makes me very shouty!)

You have to be committed as customers want their purchases “NOW” and companies such as Next are promising next day delivery for anything ordered before noon the previous day.      I can’t do that and can only be crystal clear in all of my listing as to the time scale of delivery.     For smaller prints that is indeed next day via Royal Mail but the canvases take 3-5 working days.

A chap ordering through Amazon yesterday wanted it for a birthday on Saturday.   Unfortunately I couldn’t guarantee that but we sorted something out between us.   Most customers are reasonable, especially if you meet them half way.

Selling art on-line is a 9-5 job

In my case, its 8-4 (sometimes, if I’m honest its 8-3) and I do treat it as a full-time job.    I’m lucky in that I don’t work from home but commute half a mile up the road to my studio/office.    This means that I am not tempted to watch Homes Under The Hammer or vacuum the curtains during a working day.     I also dress for work.   In my case this is a flowing frock and doc marts and I don’t carry a briefcase.      My commute to work is up a country road where the only hazard is an occasional tractor or stray cow.   I “rent” space in the farm next door at a very reasonable rent i.e. zero.   I married the farmer instead!

Selling art via retail outlets

I had a message on Thursday, through my facebook page, from the owner a shop in the north of Scotland to enquire if I supply the trade.   I get these from time to time.    If this is where you wish to sell your art, you will need a trade price and a recommended retail price.      It’s not my area of expertise but a shop has massive overheads so will want a discount of at least 50% (probably more).  If you are selling online you will be expected to sell at your retail price as its very bad form to undercut your trade customers.        I don’t have a trade price but I do allow retailers to buy from my website (with a modest discount on 10 or more prints) and give them my blessing to generate as much profit as they think they can muster from my work.    That works for me.     Beware though of……..

“Let me hang your work in my hotel/café/shop for free…..

…..and I’ll tell everyone from whom I got the painting!”    Don’t be tempted to allow establishments to put your work up on their wall for free with the promise of it being great publicity for you.   It’s very cheeky and unfortunately all too common.    What do you think the plumber would say if he was asked to fix the overflowing loo for free in return for publicity?    Well, that should be your reply also!    It massively devalues your work so is a very naughty ask.  Tut! Tut!

“I’m running a charity event, can you give me a raffle prize?

With the best will in the world I can’t give a raffle prize to every single person or organisation that contacts me via my website.    I don’t wish to offend or appear offhand and find the following works well (and it is the truth)  “I am sorry that I can’t help you but I receive such requests daily.    I had to make the decision some time ago to limit my charitable donations to fund raising bodies in my local community.   I hope your bingo night to raise funds for cancer research is a success”.