Think Art Loud

Inspiring, Encouraging, and Promoting the Handmade Arts and Artists

Posts Tagged ‘selling online’

I know this should go without saying, but when selling your work online it is extremely important to have excellent product photography. Since your potential customers can’t see and feel the piece in person, your description and the product photography are all they have to help them make their decision. Your photography can, and often will, be the difference between being able to sell your work online or seemingly endless frustration of wondering why your work is not selling. They say a picture says a thousand words, so ask yourself, what is your product photography saying about you and your work? You may be an amazing artist, but if you don’t have great photographs of your work then potential customers can’t see that. And even worse, your product photography can also give the impression that you don’t really care and aren’t all that serious about what you do. If the photographs of your work are suffering in quality, then, in all likelihood, many people will not even bother to read the descriptions let alone consider buying. I have been to a number of online stores where I left straight away without looking at anything because of the poor photography. However, despite the fact that we all know that we need great images of our work if we are going to sell it online, how many of us actually do? This is particularly an issue when you are just starting to try and sell online. Sometimes, I think we get in such a hurry to get our work listed in our stores as quickly as possible that we make due with lesser quality images than we should.

But great product photography is about more than just whether or not the piece is in focus or that you have the right lighting, it’s also about how it is presented in the photograph. What kind of background are you using to photograph on? Is it distracting/detracting from the piece being photographed? And, unless, you are using props, there should never be objects other than the piece being photographed in the picture. I have seen a lot of product photography where the photographer was not careful about what was in the background of the picture and it really hurts the presentation of what you are trying to show. People will focus their attention on the distractions in the background, rather than on the artwork being photographed. Some people will tell you to never use any props in your product photography to ensure that there are no distractions and your work is presented as professionally as possible, however, I really think that it depends on what you are photographing. I use a lot of props when I photograph my jewelry (usually rocks and shells), and I do this for several reasons. One, I like the aesthetic of the photographs when it’s done right, but also because of the nature of what I photograph. I do a lot of work with chainmaille, however, chainmaille is not always the easiest thing to photograph in terms of getting enough of the piece in the image while also getting the small details of the weaves in focus. By using props, I am able to photograph a larger area of the jewelry in a smaller amount of actual space. It allows me to be able to get most, if not all, of the piece in the picture without having to have the camera so far from the piece that the details of the piece become too difficult to see (particularly in the case of micromaille). However, if you choose to use props in your product photography, be careful as they can just as easily hurt your photography as they can help it.

Product photography will never be easy. It just has too many variables that can mess it up, (incorrect lighting, distracting background, poor choice/unnecessary use of props, difficulty focusing, camera shake, etc.). However, despite all of its headaches it is well worth taking the extra time to make sure that it is done as best as you possibly can, and will help eliminate, or at least reduce, one of the common hurdles and frustrations with online selling. Remember that they represent more than just the pieces being photographed, but also the professionalism and quality of your business itself so put your best foot forward!

Last week I blogged about some of the major issues with Etsy and why they are no longer necessarily the best choice for selling your artwork. So I that maybe this week it would be a good idea to go over what some of the Etsy alternatives are.

Artfire:

One of the first Etsy alternatives that you will likely hear of is Artfire. Some people love it and have been doing well there. Artfire, like Etsy, started well. It provided an alternative to Etsy for handmade artists that were tired of all the fee of Etsy. However, again just like Etsy, the site has begun to have problems and the same exact problems of Etsy: manufactured products and reselling of someone else’s handmade work.

Zibbet:

Zibbet is one of the newer Etsy alternatives out there. I haven’t tried this one, so I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I do know a number of people that have set up shop on Zibbit and so far I’ve been hearing good things about them. Zibbet has two types of seller memberships: a free basic package and a paid premium. You can have up to 50 store listings with the free membership and unlimited with the paid premium membership. A premium membership costs $9.95 a month or you can choose a yearly subscription of $89 and save $30.

Handmade Artists:

I love Handmade Artists and have had a store on there for years now. Handmade Artists does not have the same kind of traffic that Etsy has, but it is still a fairly young site and it is growing and will continue to grow. The administrators of the site are Etsy exiles and have been careful to keep the site handmade and create a site that address all the other issues that people did not like about Etsy. A store on Handmade Artists costs $5 a month or you can choose a yearly subscription of $50, making it also one of the lowest cost Etsy alternatives.

Indiemade:

Indiemade is great! Indiemade websites are specifically for artists and so they have all the tools and features that you need to create your own site. They also don’t cost you an arm and a leg! Their packages range from $4.95 to $19.95 (domain names must be purchased separately from a third party) I have a website with them and I love it.

Indiemade is just one of the many options out there for having your own website. Other options are Art span, FASO (Fine Art Studios Online), or of course hiring a web/graphic designer to make you a site. Some have also used free sites like Weebly or Wix for their website. Personally, I’m very hesitant to use a free website for a business site. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m just skeptical that a free site will have everything that a business site will need, look professional, and not have something wrong with it. Websites cost money to start and maintain (domain name fees, hosting fees, etc.) so I’m automatically skeptical about free websites and start thinking about other free web services like Tripod, Anglefire, and (the now dead) GeoCities (which are all awful and should never be used for business!!).

This is just a a small sampling of the Etsy alternatives that are now out there. There are many more options for both the marketplace style websites and for stand-alone websites so don’t feel like you have to choose Etsy just becasue it’s the most known. Also, don’t think you have to limit yourself to just one. If you’re not certain which is the best for you than perhaps try a couple and see how they go and decide from there which one(s) you want to keep. I tried Etsy, Artfire, Ebay, Bonanza, Handmade Artists, The Maille Market (a chainmaille only marketplace), and Indiemade before finding the right fit for me and am happy with my store on Handmade Artists and my stand-alone website through Indiemade.

(Sorry for the late post! I know it’s Saturday and the post title says ‘Friday’ but I started it yesterday and then time conspired against me not allowing me to finish it in time.)

Pretty much every time I get talking with someone about my jewelry business, it’s not long before I get asked if I have an Etsy store. The answer is no. Well, technically, yes I do; in fact I actually have three different Etsy stores, however, every one of them is as barren as the Mojave Desert. Why? Because Etsy has problems. Etsy started off as a great site providing a much needed service for artists who wanted to sell online but were unable to create/run their own website. Unfortunately, Etsy has run into some serious problems and is no longer what it once was.

The first problem with Etsy, is that the site has grown to be too large. There are so many sellers there that, unless you are a master at marketing, promoting, and advertizing (or already have a large following that knows to find you there), you get lost in the shear number of sellers. Now with any store you set up, no matter what site it is on, you are always going to have to do a lot of marketing, promoting, and advertizing to really get it to take off; however, this is made monumentally more difficult when that site is the size of Etsy. But as difficult as the size of Etsy is to overcome, it can be done and this is not the biggest problem with Etsy.

The biggest problem that sellers on Etsy are facing is that Etsy has abandoned their original stand on handmade. Etsy is being flooded with manufactured items and resellers of other people’s handmade work. Now, this doesn’t come as a shock, Etsy’s been having issues with manufactured products for years, however, instead of standing firm, Etsy has caved. Recently, they decided to allow sellers to farm their designs out to manufacturing plants. They called it being “handmade in spirit.” That although the ‘artist’ didn’t make what they are selling, they designed it and so its essence is still handmade. I’m sorry, but when it comes to handmade, it is not the thought that counts.

Because of this, many sellers are leaving Etsy, and, eventually, with them will go the buyers. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone should just abandon ship. There are still those on Etsy that are doing very well and there likely always will be. Unfortunately, this is not the norm, and it’s not likely to get any better. As more artists leave Etsy, more manufacturing will take their place, and those buyers that went there looking for handmade will leave also.

For those that are reading this and are still doing well on Etsy, that’s great, but keep a close watch. Don’t jump ship at the first sign of trouble with your store, but don’t wait until the ship’s underwater before you decide it’s time to bail. I hope you won’t need it, but have an exit strategy ready just in case. And to those that are new to online selling and looking for where to set up shop, before you buy your ticket for the Etsy ship be sure it’s going in the same direction you want to go. While Etsy may be the best known option for selling handmade work, it does not mean it is the best option. There are a lot of other options out there now (Zibbet, Handmade Artists, Indiemade, just to name a few). Also, Etsy has a lot of fees and they add up quickly, so, before you start racking up a bunch of fees, you might want to do some research into the other options that are out there to be sure this is where you want to be.

Happy hunting and I hope you find where you fit best! Be it on or off of Etsy!

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