Unlike brick-and-mortar shops, E-shops do not have the luxury of walk-in customers. While it is possible to be randomly discovered on the web, creating a successful business requires a bit more marketing.
Fortunately for the online artist, a majority of E-shops have systems in place to allow the right customer to find you. Learning how to use these systems to suit your needs is an important part of your internet storefront. The most common organizational system is a tagging system, which utilizes certain keywords or phrases. These tags are linked to your product listing or your store and allow it to be shown when that specific keyword is searched. Etsy utilizes a tagging system with multiple categories, one for the style of the item and one for its materials. This allows for a better range of search discoveries and creates a web that connect your work with that of other artists to raise awareness of their work.
Another important resource that should be utilized is that vast network of social media that has become such a large part of our culture. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram lend themselves especially well to daily output and awareness of artists. A quick picture of you in studio and a little blurb now and then about what you're working on does wonders to increase your following as an artist. Facebook makes it wonderfully easy to create a corporate page for a business on the same account as your personal one without them being connected at all. Creating this type of page allows you to post casual news and updates and have them be easily accessible to like and share. An added bonus that comes with creating a Facebook page is its ability to be found easily in search engines due to Facebook being such a well-established company.
For more on-the-go social media users, Twitter is an equally viable news sharing network. Twitter is much more focused on quick snippets of news or ideas, as the character count for each message is only 140 characters. Twitter also uses a tagging system to help spread related ideas or themes to the people interested in them. These hashtags are integrated into the message but can be searched or followed as a kind of buzzword. Another version of these same social media ideas can be found in Instagram, which is a more artsy, photo based mobile app. Instagram accounts are entirely based around photos, with extensive software built into the app for editing and stylizing photos to post. For many users it is a more vibrant way of posting about their thoughts and experiences, but many artists use it as an update system. By posting in-progress shots or picture tours of your studio spaces you can build a more day-by-day relationship with the people who buy your work. Viewers have the opportunity to find work they like before it even gets put up for sale and can be informed of a new product or service available from you without it seeming like a commercial. Building relationships with your customer base has never been easier with the help of social media, so it is important to take advantage of every new possibility for connection.
Deny Designs – founded in 2013 –
Deny Designs is the upscale furniture version of Redbubble. Where Redbubble can print your designs of handy cell phone cases or graphic tees, Deny Designs produces hand built furniture and home goods to display your work. The site is be a useful way for graphic design or pattern based artists to have a more ornate way of displaying their work then a straightforward print or product.
Unfortunately, having your work produced by the Deny artists is not as simple as just signing up. Your work must be approved by the team but once your work is accepted into the DENY Artist Gallery, your designs will be available on the selection of products offered by DENY Designs. Then the entire creation process is in their hands. Then they build, package and ship the product to the customer and make sure to promote your art along the way.
Redbubble – founded in 2006 –
Redbubble is a unique new take on the online art market. Independent artists who have wonderful work online but no way to manufacture it have often been left out of the mainstream retail market. However, through Redbubble, they can upload their art and have it produced on shirts, stickers, phone cases, posters, prints and more. This is a wonderful service site to help artists who don’t have the system or the means to create the products they want to create. The artwork uploaded to the site is kept completely under the control and copyright of the artist.The pricing system is for Redbubble is controlled by users and the site working together. Due to their unique situation of the creation of goods, the site has base prices set up for what it costs to make their product and the artist has the option to add the margin they want to make in profit, usually around 10-30%. This final total combines to form the retail price that goes out to the public.
Crossover Retail –
Retail shops that are not necessarily geared toward an art market can still benefit from art in their shops. The walls and shelves of every furniture or appliance shop can benefit from unique art. Retail shops normally feature artists on a basis similar to consignment shops, in which they take a portion of the profit made from selling your work. Some shops will differ from this system and directly buy work from artists to furnish their stores. This is a much less common practice but can be very desirable for an artist wishing to build a connection with a professional corporation.
Artist Co-op’s –
Co-op’s are legal entities that are communally owned by a group of artists with a board of directors. The board facilities the group and sets the policies and procedures of how they exhibit and sell work. While the Co-op might not have a specific place where they make or show art, every artist takes turns staffing any physical locations. They also aid in the promotion of the space and the group as a whole. If you are interested in building yourself within a community of artists, working in close quarters with other creatives and supporting and growing together, a co-op is the right option for you.
Physical shops are often the first thing that come to mind when it comes to creating a business involving retail. This is with good reason, as there are many positive things about having a physical space to work with. Yet while the reach of a website is exponentially larger than that of a physical space, it doesn’t have the walk-in, passing-by capability that a storefront has. There is much less opportunity to meet your customers face to face with a webstore. It is hard to build an experience out of visiting a website, whereas a shop can become a destination location that people can bring their friends to or drop by in the midst of an errand run to relax. It also allows the customer to physically interact with the art before deciding to purchase it, which can be key for jewelry or clothing artists who count on having the right fit for each customer.
The main distinction between the different physical spaces for artists work is commission versus rent. Most often studio spaces are paid to rent out and you are free to do what you want in the space. Some studios are connected to retail opportunities, while some are not open to the public at all. Choosing the right space for your work is important. It is possible to have an enclosed studio space and have the retail portion of your business online. However often times larger galleries will have studios available within their spaces. It’s all a matter of finding the space that best suits your needs as a business and as an artist. With the wide variety of options available, finding the right fit is a matter of looking.
Having proper the proper display unit to showcase your work is important. It’s worth putting in the time to create a unified feel throughout your shop, whether it's online photo references, a physical display table, or in studio wall gallery. Find the correct frames to fit your work’s aesthetic or the right stands to display your earrings in all their glory. Having an inconstant display method creates a casual, hodgepodge feel within your shop. If this is something you are going for by all means display your work in a plethora of styles. However if a more clean retail/gallery space is what you’re going for then it is worth it to invest in the professional look that comes with uniformity.
Finding the price point for your own work for the first time can be a troublesome scenario. The key is to price your work in such a way that it is a reflection of your time and effort while still being affordable to your clientele. The best way to find this medium is to calculate how much you have spent on the supplies used to create the work as well as the time involved. It is important to recognize that your ‘supplies’ are not only the actual clay or paint or wire used to make your piece, but the tools involved as well. Every dollar you spend counts as part of your investment into your art and should be counted. In the same way, every hour you spend should be counted towards your final price point. Decide what you want to be your hourly wages and then keep track of the hours you spend working. Don’t sell your work short, it’s important not to lowball your prices. If you short change your own prices, people will not respect your work.
After creating a logo it’s important to keep a simple design on your business cards, and any tags and pricing cards. Consistency is key with all the paper products associated with your brand. You want to keep the connection and flow throughout your branding. Having a simple motif or design that matches with the overall theme of your logo but can be used more casually can help to enhance your other products and even parts of your website. If you are unsure about printing or designing your own cards, there are sites that can walk you through the process. Vistaprint has an advanced design software system that can help you create exactly what you are looking for and can print the cards as well. They have a wide variety of different styles to choose from that can be repurposed to create simple displays for small scale jewelry or even price tags for large works.
Logos and Branding
The overall branding of a company is one of the most important things to decide during your set up. Firstly you have to address who you want your clientele to be or who you believe they already are. What kind of artist do you want to be and, by extension, what kind of a shop do you want to own? These ideals should be portrayed in the logos, color schemes and the overall branding of your work. If you work mainly in chunky, funky block printing, but have a simple minimalist greyscale logo, it would break the thought connection from your work to your brand. The goal is to keep them united. This can be done through simple color or shape association. Sometimes it might be appropriate to actually use a picture of your art on your branding material to make this connection literally.
One of the best things you can do for your business is to fully realize what kind of brand you want to have. While creating a logo or designing business cards may not be the most exciting portion of entrepreneurship, it will help to elevate you to the professional level.
When first creating a business, you have to decide why you want to create it. What drives you to make your art and what do you want to get out of other people seeing your work? How much involvement do you want to have with the production and promotion of your work? Are you striving to have your name be well known independently or are you looking for a community of artists to grow and share space with?
As an artist, there are many different kinds of outlets both in the world of brick and mortar and in the online world where your work could be displayed or sold. However, finding your niche as an artist can be a daunting task. You have to decide what level of interaction you want to have with your art as well as where your customer clientele base will look for your work.
If what you enjoy making is a hands-on, craft-oriented work, creating personalized things for the home, there is a place for you.
If you are a new artist creating amusing cartoons or comics that people enjoy online and want to create a product to share with fans, there is a place for you.
If you are a well-practiced oil painter who wants to be a part of a large community of artists to better inspire your work, there is a place for you.
It's just a matter of finding it.
~Finding your Niche and Creating your Space~
Often when starting a business it can seem necessary to create your own website, but buying a domain and the set-up involved within building something from scratch can be intimidating. There are other alternatives. Many artists rely on premade shop websites such as Etsy or Redbubble, or blog creation sites such as Tumblr or BlogSpot. However, there are positives of spending the time and energy in completely creating a look of a website as it allows you complete control. You have the ability to add any number of forms or functions you might desire, such as social media attachments, maps, sponsor updates, and newsletters.
On the other hand if the excess of options is not what you’re looking for, the simple playing field of a pre-built online shop can lead to equal results. For artists not working full time, places like Etsy is the best option for a low-maintenance shop that still fulfils the goal of making a profit doing something you love. If your goals are loftier (or just a bit more complicated) it is worth your time to invest in the creation of your own page. However, this still doesn’t have to involve buying your own domain. Other options for making a personal business page exist. Having a blog as your local page to direct customers to is a cheap easy way to make a name for yourself online.
Blogging sites like Tumblr and BlogSpot have their own templates available for free. If you don’t know how to code yourself and are looking for something specific, there are dozens of pre-coded forms available to download online. It is easy enough to plug in your own pictures and paragraphs to make the place yours. However these sites do have their own limits within available pages and search-ability. If your ideas cannot be contained within the parameters provided, then putting the money into your own domain is the option for you.
If you are worried about your ability to create your visionary website, do not fret. Many domain companies have their own easy to use website developer available alongside purchase of a domain. Godaddy.com, a wonderful way to acquire domain names, has this feature. This developer is chock full of templates and is very easy to use. The support staff is incredibly helpful with smoothing out any troubles minor or major you may have in creating your desired website.
In physical retail spaces you are presented with the incredible opportunity to meet the people who want to buy your work. In actuality you are not only selling your paintings or your jewelry, you are selling yourself as an artist and as a person. Meeting customers and having them recognize you and your style of work is important for building a business. Creating relationships with customers is a good way to positively affect their reactions to your work. If the space that you have has any kind of social event opportunities for you to interact with the client base, it is absolutely worth your time and money to attend them. As an added bonus you will get to know people involved in the shop overall and enjoy a nice evening out.
Besides the social times, if the shop has opportunities for you to work in the store, be it behind the register or in some variety of studio space, take advantage of the opportunity. Being able to understand how the shop operates and also getting a read on its daily customers will help you better understand what they are looking for. If you can be present in the space you are selling in, then you can find the best way to work your art toward the individual shops clientele. It’s also important to be able to recognize and connect to other local business in the area. The neighboring community of small businesses are important friends to have through the growth of your business. Well-established businesses already know the area and their customers and can help to promote your new endeavors and offer helpful tips you may have never considered. Some communities even have city wide events, that link up all the local businesses for an event of celebrations or sales. It is vital to be aware of all the opportunities available to you, and to utilize as many as you can.
Shops that work on consignment depend on a large group of different people to provide things to fill their shop. The store then takes a percentage of from the final sale price. Consignment shops are a widespread and varied retail outlet that can often be utilized for artists just starting out. They can have a range of different themes and price points, finding the right place for your work just takes some dedication and investigation. Different shops will also have different percentage splits. Usually shops will require from 20 to 50% of the money made from the sale. Pricing your work to get the profit you want out of the split from the shop is important to consider as part of your business plan.
Craft Shows –
Craft shows are a staple of American art fairs. While they aren’t the place for everybody, they provide a simple space to set up temporary shop. Most shows have a set entrance fee that gets you a standard size space within the show to do what you wish with. Craft shows can have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of different artists shops depending on the scale and location of shows. The price for entry can change based on the popularity and promotion values of the show as well as the scope of its artists. Local craft fairs inside the residential community center are going to be more affordable than national stocked markets such as the Brooklyn flea.
Another smaller scale alternative to a weekend craft show is something called a trunk show. These will often be hosted by smaller artistic shops and consist of a single artist coming in for a set number of days and setting up a mini shop within the store. You would be charged by commission or by the day and provide a quick and easy way to get immediate feedback on your work. By having a trunk show you can test out new lines or ideas on the customer base with a much lower risk factor and it is also a good way to test if the shop and its clientele are the right fit for you.
Gallery spaces seem to be the most obvious place to show and sell artwork. They are often well-established clean spaces that operate specifically for artists and art-lovers. Galleries often offer a range of services to the artists they are hosting. This could include anything from the simple display of art to promotional help and assistance with matting and hanging of work. However, these services do not come cheap. Running a gallery takes immense time and dedication, and while the outcome is usually wonderful for artists, there is a cost involved. It’s common for galleries to take anywhere from 30 to 60% commission of the total price of sales.
Amazon – founded in 1994 –
Amazon is one of the first and most well-known place for internet commerce and retail. While Amazon is highly regarded as a company and product producer in its own right, it can also be an excellent platform to sell for a smaller business.Sites like Esty have a more user driven interface that allows you to be an intense or casual of a user as is necessary for you and your shop. Amazon separates these into two different accounts, Individual and Professional. The Individual Accounts work on a per-item fee of $0.99 per item, useful for the selling of larger items on a less regular basis. Professional Accounts are charged $40 a month, which is better suited to a large constant stream of commerce. If you have a less consistent stream of business, it would not be cost-effective to have the higher end account. Not to say that both plans couldn’t works for a range of different shops, but it is important to measure the pros and cons of both pricing plans before creating your shop and as your business grows and progresses.
Etsy – founded in 2005 –
Etsy is a peer to peer internet commerce website that focuses on the sales of unique and quirky handmade and vintage items. The site has a feel akin to that of a craft fair. Each user is able to cultivate their own account with a dashboard of favorites and create an equally unique shops with individual storefronts and dozens of options for specialized sales. From made-to-order designs to manufactured pieces with various customizable options, Etsy covers a multitude of different varieties of artists and shops. The personal nature of Etsy allows for the creation of specialized teams and groups for specific arts or brands. There are many opportunities for joining together in communities set up for distinct mediums. This allows for cross promotion within other users’ shops and on their favorites streams.
All Etsy accounts have the same standard pricing and listing fees, meaning there is no difference in the charges for a shop with 5 sales a month or 500. For each item for sale there is a $0.20 listing fee for having the sale available on the site. This fee is issued whether or not the items sell. If you do have sales, Etsy also takes a 3.5% commission charge off the entire sales total at the end of each month.