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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

For Artists. (And anyone else who sells stuff online).

Six things I’ve learned while buying your art. Or trying to.

I’ve been realizing lately that our magical Hoppy House needs some Beautiful Things on its empty, empty walls.

And since I know my “extended network” (ew ew ew, I just said extended network) includes about a gazillion talented, creative people who live to make such things, I set out on a grand adventure across the internet.

Well, not really a grand one, but it has been pretty entertaining.

I’ve gotten some gorgeous pieces. Met some interesting people. Plus I have the joy of supporting people who create. Which I LOVE.

But the interesting part — to me at least — was observing the process.

I am completely fascinated with figuring out what makes me buy one thing as opposed to another. What makes me want to buy from you instead of from somebody else.

And I have thoughts. Oh, the understatement. It hurts.

So if you’re an artist or an Etsy person, take notes. And if you’re not, believe me — most of this is applicable in some form or another anyway.

Six important [substitute a word for “marketing” that doesn’t make you want to throw up] lessons.

And three tiny little bonus points. Let’s go.

Be around. Hang out online. Talk to people. Write stuff.

This one is not exactly news. Every marketing book/class/blog on the planet will force-feed you the whole “people buy from people they like, know and trust” thing until you can’t stand it anymore.

But ohmygod it is so true. Everyone I bought from? Either people I know on Twitter or people I heard about while I was on Twitter.

It was so much easier to fall in love with something, after having been guided there by someone I like. Does this make me a horribly shallow person? Possibly. But really, it’s just proof that I’m a human being.

If you’re an artist or you’re craft-ey or even if you’re a service professional, you might as well take advantage of this.

People who come to you through friends and connections are going to be more likely to feel comfortable throwing money at you. So be around. Be visible, so that people I know can mention you.

It’s the only way I’m going to find you.

Tell me stories.

I must have gone to dozens of sites and looked at paintings.

And all the paintings that spoke to me had stories attached to them. Leah Piken Kolidas has a lovely way of telling you about the elements of her work as well as sharing bits of her own creative process. Totally not preachy or over-intellectualized — it just gives you a sense of who she is.

Some artists tell stories about some of their pieces and not about others. Everything I bought except for one piece had some sort of story attached to it.

It doesn’t even have to be a painting. My wonderful friend Miya (whose Etsy store is down right now, argh) names all of her gorgeous little plates and bowls and tells you these hilarious stories about them and the goofy things they do or think.

Your story can be funny or serious. It can be about you or about the thing you’ve created. But let me in on the inner life of your art. Or at least let me peek.

It’s sexy. It makes me want to know more about what you do. And it makes what you do seem both more real and more valuable.

Make it easy.

I bought a painting that I love. But I almost didn’t get it.

Because the artist didn’t have a shopping cart or any way that I could buy online.

So we had to arrange for me to send a check and give her my address. And I had to get her address to send the check. And find the checkbook. Which meant all this back and forth.

Meanwhile, she sent the information as a Direct Message on Twitter. I get about a thousand of those a minute, so it got buried and lost for quite a while.

At least a dozen things had to accidentally go right just for me to end up with the painting.

If I hadn’t loved it and I hadn’t remembered and I hadn’t double-checked my buried messages and all these other things, she wouldn’t have sold the painting.

One PayPal button could have fixed that. And you might as well make it easier for people who kind of want your art and mostly want your art and want it right now but might forget later to buy it too.

I know those aren’t necessarily your all-time ideal Right People, but at this point? You might as well be selling your stuff so that you can keep making more of it.

Have stuff that I can’t buy.

You want at least a couple things that have already sold.

Whenever I’m on Sarah Marie Lacy’s site, there are always a couple of things I love that I can’t get. Because someone else has already bought them. I can’t even tell you how hot this is. HOT!

If you’ve sold stuff*, keep it up there — with the price — so that I’ll know that I was too late. That other people want this too. Give me a little urgency.

You don’t have to shout “Buy now!” or anything because you know, ick. Just remind me that people buy stuff.

*Even if it was just to your mother’s best friend or something. Even if you bartered it for something. I don’t care. Stick a big SOLD tag underneath it.

Surprise me.

I have to mention Leah Piken Kolidas (who also has a terrific About Page, by the way) again because she did something super smart.

She sent a lovely thank-you note on a card. A “this card is so pretty that I need more of them” kind of card, a card that just so happened to feature one of her paintings.

It wasn’t an upsell (because it was just her being sweet and wonderful), but it totally worked as one in the most subtle way ever.

Uh huh. I’d been on her site and hadn’t noticed that you could get gift card versions of her paintings. Now I know.

And the next time I need a birthday present for someone, that’s where I’ll be getting it.

Be human.

Man, I talk about this so much. Really mostly just so I can keep linking to that one Betty Boop video with the cow-punching episode, but I cannot overemphasize how important this is.

Okay. So I bought five small pieces of art last month.

Four of them came with warm, friendly, personal little handwritten notes. And the other one had “We appreciate your business” written on the invoice.

Seriously? We appreciate your business?

You’re not — gott sei dank — BlandCorp USA or anything. You’re an artist. In a basement. In Eugene. Which is great. That’s why I’m buying from you. So what’s the deal?

It is so easy when you’re an itty biz to take the extra effort to connect. It can be a hand-drawn smiley face. A warm email (or just a template that sounds like you’re really nice). SOMETHING.

Make it easy for me to think of you as a person (you in all of your quirky fabulousness!) and not as some faceless website, and I’ll tell the whole world about you.

Bonus advice. I’ll make this fast.

1. Tell me what’s going to happen next.

It’s easier for me to press the buy button if I know what’s going to happen. You’re going to mail it to me? It already includes shipping? It doesn’t? Your prices are in Canadian so this is going to SAVE ME MONEY?

Let me know.

2. Don’t price by size.

I know galleries do this. But that doesn’t make it not stupid. Plus, the internet is not a gallery. You have space.

If you set things up so that big paintings cost more and small paintings cost less, you are educating me as a consumer to believe that the value of what you create has to do with how big it is or how long it takes to make it. Which is Bolsheviks.*

*That’s Stu, my voice-to-text software, who refuses to say “bullshit”.

3. Blog about your process.

I love reading Barbara J. Carter’s blog. She’s a painter who also has a PhD in astrophysics. So she does cool geometric science-inspired wackiness and tells you about it.

Which is so, so great. She blogs about the process of creating and then you can buy what she’s just made. Smart smart smart.

I’m done.

Not buying art. But I’m getting off my soapbox now.

It’s not that I want to rant all day about business-related stuff. It’s more that I want to give you money. I want your art. I want to be a part of your business.

And it’s not just me. Honest. There are plenty of us out there who want your paintings and your crafted bits of genius and your whatever-it-is you have for us. We think about you. A lot.

And then something happens that keeps us from remembering why it is that we need your stuff right this second.

So everything you can do to remove those somethings makes us happier.

And it makes it easier for you to keep on doing your art and sharing it with the rest of us. Please?

55 Responses to For Artists. (And anyone else who sells stuff online).

  1. All week I have been struggling with how to more personalize the sales listings for my photography…wondering if I should, if it would be goofy, if the details there (clear sizes, materials, and shipping info) are enough. My sales are lower than I would like, but my traffic is good, so I obviously need to work on something.

    I just found your blog the other day and started reading through the archives. This post is the inspirational post I needed to get to work on spicing up my descriptions. I am still not exactly sure what to say, but I determined to say something that makes each more personal.

    Terry McClarys last blog post..Protea – Art Photo ACEO 2.5×3.5 – Free Shipping

  2. Jen M. says:

    Terry, maybe start by putting in a sentence or two about where the photo was taken, why a particular composition struck you.

    I normally put in up to 3 sentences about the location and what I like about this particular piece. I keep it brief, but I try to get across to the potential buyer why I like my photo and why they might, too.

    I hope this helps. We’re all learning. :)

    Jen M.
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

    Jen M.s last blog post..Learning that it’s OK to say "no."

  3. stacy di says:

    What a great perspective! As a independent stationer and blogger who supports indie artisans, I totally appreciate your insight.

    I think the only way the small survive in a big-box world is by making personal connections with their customers…

    I have bought many things by learning about them on Twitter, and by making online connections with other artists and crafters.

  4. Jeanne says:

    This is just what I needed to get me to my next sale. I’ve had some success and TONS of “I want that.. maybe next summer.” or “hold it for me and let me know if you get an offer.” It’s frustrating. I’ve got a few pieces in a few places and the firms take 50% and keep asking me to lower my price and I tell them “I’m getting close to my COST in the piece.” Can’t help but think “why don’t you lower your percentage?”

    I sent a personal note to one buyer with my art on it. I DO believe in doing that. He appreciated it and told me “I’m a big fan.” … probably my favorite compliment so far.

    If you see something you like on my site, I’ll throw in the shipping because I just got what I needed from this article to paint today.
    http://www.yessy.com/forsythedesign
    Thanks for looking.

  5. […] 6 things I learned while trying to buy your stuff online by The Fluent Self […]

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