As a follow-up to Amber Bardell’s guide for selling your artwork, we at !GWAK thought it would be useful to expand on one particular possibility–online stores.
Growing an online store is a time consuming process, one that takes a lot of thought and consideration. Unlike selling through galleries, selling online retains a lot of the responsibilities that would otherwise have been passed on. The following is everything you will need to think about when setting up an online store and what to do afterwards.
This might seem obvious but your store is going to need a name. For traditional artwork (paintings, prints, giclée reproductions) the name will most likely be your own. But for accessories (enamel pins, badges, apparel) you may consider something different entirely. Make sure to give it some thought as it will need to represent and reflect you and your work accurately. Note that online stores are an open market with thousands of new ones opening every day. It could just be as likely that your preferred store name is unavailable so make sure you have some back-ups.
You will also need to take time to make branding for your store; make sure you secure your name before designing any. When designing artwork, the bare minimum should be your store profile picture and the store banner. When designing it, ensure it is readable at different sizes—some people may be viewing your store on their mobile or smart TV. Most store platforms will provide you with the pixel dimensions and resolution for your artwork so make sure to use them: you don’t want to put a ton of work into artwork that is at a too small a resolution.
As I mentioned above, Amber Bardell has already written a piece on pricing your work so I won’t go into it too much. I use a spreadsheet to work out my pricings. On it are all the expenses that I wish to include but the basic formula is: cost of materials (I times this by 2 but you don’t have to) + Labour (time x hourly rate) = price. You might have some other expenses that you want the price to cover so go ahead and add those. When selling online, just like in a gallery, you have to pay commission, unlike in galleries, this commission will be somewhere around 5% however you will need to pay an initial listing fee (Etsy charges $0.20). Also consider any exchange fees incurred by using such services as PayPal: they are convenient, but at a cost. Add those too, because it all adds up in the end.
As well as pricing your listings, you will need to take photos. These are one of those responsibilities that the gallery might have covered you for. The photos need to be good quality, luckily for you, most smart phones are fitted with cameras good enough for the job. Some things to consider when taking the photos are: are they clear, are they well lit, is the background plain (not necessarily boring but does it showcase the item well), do they give a good idea of the scale? You can include a number of photos so make sure to take a couple including a close up.
The last part is the description. This is where you tell the customer about the item. The photos will be the main selling point but make sure to emphasise anything that the photos might not convey. The description should include what it is, the materials used, and the dimensions. Words such as ‘original,’ ‘handmade,’ and ‘limited edition’ are good to use—as long as they’re true.
Shipping is a crucial aspect of your online store and something you need to have established before you start selling. It can be a very personal thing and every store owner will do this differently. They’ll use different packaging, different couriers, offer different delivery options. The bottom line is your shipping should be affordable and efficient. It should be affordable because high prices will deter customers from possible purchases. It should be efficient in that turnaround should be quick and the packaging, secure. The best thing is to experiment with different methods and find what works for you. Every method will have its own set-backs i.e. postal tubes are sturdy and easy to post but you have to roll your artwork, card envelopes are inexpensive and quick to package but are not as secure. You can doll up you packages however you like, include business cards (which is something I do and recommend), add stickers and washi tape, customise postage labels etc. At low volumes, you can spend some time personalising your orders but just remember that as you start to sell more and more, the less time you can take packaging each order. Label printers are an accessory a lot of people fantasise about but when starting out, they will most likely be an unjustifiable expense––hold off on them for now.
One Final Thing
So now that you have set up your online store, it’s time to start getting some footfall. Most store platforms offer the chance to interact with other store owners however, from my experience, this isn’t quite as an effective means of promotion as using your own social media. Ask friends to check out your store, build or use a pre-existing Instagram account, hold sales on your items. At the early stages, business will be slow but just be patient and keep on producing work. Even if people local to you want to purchase something, ask them to go through your online store and reimburse them the shipping cost afterwards. This will mean that they can review your store which brings me on to the next point.
Make sure to ask customers to return to your store and review it once they’ve received their order. If you’ve done everything right, it’s bound to be positive. Customers will judge your store based on how many sales you have and the reviews people have left so make sure to have a couple.
And there you have it. These are some of the things I have found to be most important when taking matters into your own hands and running an online store. Remember to stay organised and persistent. If you have any questions about this piece or any of the other works you find on our website then be sure to get in touch.
Etsy Store: www.etsy.com/shop/SHNGL