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?