In a world where everything seems to be increasingly done through an online presence instead of brick and mortar sales, the art world has a foot firmly in both worlds. Artists and makers sell through fairs, shows, exhibits, markets, and galleries as well as Etsy, Amazon Handmade, eBay, and your online stores. Choosing one over the other can be confusing.
This article makes the assumption you are already selling in person. Either through fairs, galleries or pop-ups. You may have a thriving business or maybe you have just started. Either way, you may be thinking, why do I want to add one more thing to my already busy life. Especially if you do not want to deal with selling online, shipping items, returned items and paying state sales tax!
Why would you want to have an online presence as an artist?
First, just because you have a presence online, doesn’t necessitate you also sell online.
If you actively post through Facebook, Instagram or your own website, your customers will know where you will be next. Your posts can simply be to inform them of where you will be at your next show. You can post about new items you have created and let them know where they can find you to purchase them. A save the date if you will.
Second, your customers are looking for you online.
There is an expectation now to be able to Google a company and find out everything we need to know. This goes for artists as well. Your customers expect to be able to find you. The real you and not someone who creates something similar to you. Help them locate you, so they can purchase from you!
Third, social media is free!
Choose a platform that you like, or at least don’t dislike! Make it one where it is easy to post about what you sell and where you will be. Maybe think about where the people who would purchase from you hang out online. Show up there!
Instagram works especially well for creatives. Art is easily highlighted through this visual platform. Customers love seeing your process and your newest creations. Even let them in on the ones which don’t turn out well. All of this helps to create a following of avid customers who will seek you out at your local fairs or will purchase when you put things in your online shop.
One potter mentioned through The Art Biz Success Podcast, that he has grown his business simply by posting on Instagram. He now has a following of over 18k. He sells through both brick and mortar businesses as well as his website.
A couple of other ceramic artists post updates about what they are making. Then also send out an Instagram post letting their followers know the date and time they will be updated their online shops. I have watched some of them sell everything in their shop in less than 30 minutes. One even sold everything within 5 minutes!
Does this happen for all artists? No. They have built up there following over time and their followers are real fans of their work. But if spending time on a platform could create fans of your work who would buy everything in your shop in five minutes, it may be worth an investment of your time into your online presence.
Because, what could be better than selling out items as fast as you can post them.
Facebook would work the same way, post in the same fashion you would with Instagram. Letting your followers see your process, your latest works and let them know where to purchase from you. I won’t repeat the process here.
YouTube is a platform that works well for visual artists as well. You can create videos of your process, those things which work out well, those which don’t. Believe it or not, the failures are sometimes more interesting than your successes. Let your customers in on the time it takes to create your work. It helps them to understand the time, talent and energy it takes to create. You don’t need fancy equipment to get started, using your phone camera will work. Just start where you are and get creating.
Creating an e-commerce store is easier than ever
Sites like Etsy, Amazon, Wix, WordPress, Shopify, Square Space provide an almost instantaneous way to create a store. (We will highlight each of these in the coming weeks.). You no longer need to be a website developer to set up a shop. You could do so in an afternoon.
Of course, if you have the money to hire someone to do this for you, it makes it that much easier to get up and running.
But a few words before you set your art business up online. Note that each platform has its own rules, fees, and limitations. Make sure you follow the rules so you do not get removed from the platform. Also, although it is hard to imagine FB disappearing anytime soon, platforms do come and go. (Think MySpace, Vine, and Periscope. Or is Periscope still here?) Also, online platforms often change their algorithm for how they show content. This goes for Facebook, Instagram as well as Etsy. When this happens, even if you build up a large following, they may not be able to continue to follow or even see what you are posting.
However you choose to interact with your customers, it is important to update your content regularly. This could mean updating your website for your current shows, inventory or recent work. It could mean regularly posting to Instagram to keep your followers actively engaged. (Regularly doesn’t necessarily mean daily. Just consistently.).
From your customer’s standpoint, there is nothing worse than finally finding your website, only to find the content is referencing events from a year or more ago. If you are hiring someone to create your website, please make sure you will have access to update it on your own.
And whatever you decide to do with your online presence, just remember, what you make to sell is what is most important. Do not spend so much time creating content and growing your following that you stop having a thriving business. Make sure your time online is helping to move the needle towards more sales, otherwise, it is just a fun way to spend some time.
What are your thoughts on Facebook, Instagram, and online selling? Leave them in the comments below.
Also, if you are looking for an online community just for you, the artist community is now available to join. Join us for free! Details can be found here.