Recently I heard from a gal who is planning to set herself up in the self-designed note card business when her full time employment ends within the next year or so. She contacted me for some advice as to how to go about some of the basics. I’ll start by addressing some of her questions.

Marketing Yourself

Q: These are the things I don’t want to deal with but understand it’s all part of marketing yourself. I know that when I get to the point of selling that I want to do it online mainly because that seems to be the most simple way of marketing products.

A: She uses the phrase “marketing yourself” which is an awesome starting point because as we who have been doing this for awhile know – it is all about marketing yourself. There are a zillion super talented artists out there in the world so one of the major tasks of any successful artist is to find a way to get noticed and separate yourself out. This is accomplished using a matrix of available tools not the least of which is building your own tribe of ardent followers.

Hello shows, competitions, fundraisers and social networks; face-time and online versions. As with any new product seeking entry into an overloaded world of buying opportunities what sets your work apart from the rest, what makes it unique and tempting usually has a lot to do with the back story of the product; its promise. Your Mission with it.

Simple? Ummmmm…..

The other word that caught my fancy was “simple”. When done properly and well coordinating your online presence probably couldn’t be characterized as simple. Able to be done in one’s pajamas, yes. Simple, not so much. 🙂

Set up an Etsy Shop

Use Etsy Well

Q: One area I get stuck on is where to market online, do I open an Etsy account or create my own website

A: Yes! Both. Without question. Esty is a nice interface for creating a safe shopping experience for your potential customers. It’s also hugely popular and thus jammed with page after page of awesome items created by others! But no matter who you are or what you’re selling you can’t count on your Etsy store doing all the work for you.

Happily there is a network devoted to sharing insights as to how you can maximize your potential selling experience on this super-popular art buying site. Check out: the Estypreneur site. Join it and start learning from successful Etsy artists immediately. Also, friend me there when you join! I’m Songpony.

Join Etsypreneur!

Same name as my Etsy store. (Why Songpony? I market several of my creative existences via that store – and quite frankly wasn’t entirely sure where Etsy was headed when it first came to my attention several years ago. I didn’t want to devalue my work if that’s where it was headed – much like I think eBay did to artists early on. Songpony was a pseudonym – I got HappyArtStudio later on – my dog is using it currently.)

Your Own Site

But Esty isn’t your only solution – you need to design a beautiful website where you can:

  • tell your story,
  • add layers to the experience of buying your work for your customers and
  • personally connect with them.

On your own site you can control how your customers view your work and interact with you. There are so many options for creating gorgeous fully integrated experiences these days – I won’t get into them all here. I will say I use a self hosted site with WordPress and a ton of widgets installed to integrate my multiple online HappyArt presences with each other.

Here I can show people my new work, give them access to some of my archived things as well as create a sense of depth to the commitment I’ve made to my art through my lists of accomplishments, shows and upcoming plans.

Why blog?

To keep your information freshly updated for practical human and search engine reasons. Be real, timely and entertaining or informative when you can. Again we’re talking about creating legitimacy for your message and mission with your work.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Beyond

Facebook has become the king of all the social networking sites for artists (and just about everyone else) to connect with their tribe. I only just started using it for my re-entry back into the art career so I’m still in the beginning stage of gaining followers for my HappyArt Facebook page. Set up a page for yourself right away. Do not use your personal presence for your business.You want to keep your personal self sacrosanct and part from your professional self. Keeps your messaging better targeted and clear for your customers.

My Merry Horses account is a whole other story! She’s been at the Facebook thing for about a year and a half and has over 5000+ followers now. These are people who pay attention when this persona of mine mentions things. It is among my goals for HappyArt to eventually create a similar following.

Twitter is a bit wanky. It’s a great tool for keeping some buzz going – but you have to keep up with it and know that what your tweet slides down the feeds fairly quickly. There’s all sorts of interesting articles available about how best to use your Twitter account. Again it’s all about relationship creation, building and maintenance. Do avoid overtweeting your sales pitches. Big turn off. Instead Tweet about the behind the scenes entertaining aspects of your work, your travels and other relevant content that helps build your work as a brand.

YouTube is a great place to build depth to your process or inspiration to embed into your blog. Also if you’re a natural born teacher with something to teach you can set yourself up as the go-to expert on your particular subject via this fabulous medium. Lots of artists have which has turned into new ways to monetize their creativity!

Pricing and Marketing Logistics

Q; The other thing I get stuck on is how much to charge for my note cards and if I sell one card or a group of cards?

A: This is a biggie. Let’s break it down.

How Much to Charge

Ah, the age-old question. Materials + Time + Related Expenses (marketing time, packaging time, shopping and shipping, time to get materials in, professional services, taxes, etc etc etc) + profit. It’s as easy and as tricky as that. Oh and don’t forget to research what the typical price range is for what you’re selling! You don’t want to go too much over what people typically pay for something like yours – nor do you want to under price your work. Do your research! And do be sure to compare apples to apples. If your note cards are giclee printed on acid-free recycled paper with earth-friendly soy inks – you can definitely get away with charging more. AND you’ve identified some very marketable selling points for your work!

You can work your equation backwards or forwards depending on your expectations for this new career. If you intend to clear $50,000 annually you have a number you can work backwards from as to how to identify how many sales that needs to be. If you’re clearing $1 a card that’s 50,000 cards or an average of 136 a day. You get the idea.

So now she gets to decide how she wants to package them! As a group you probably want to put them in some sort of attractive display. These can be had – but they’re not free. Depending on how many you buy at once a note card display box can add as much as a dollar or more to your expenses. Again work your numbers – see what makes sense!

Building Your Tribe

Making money as a professional self-employed entrepreneur artist is a lot about being a successful small business person in addition to harnessing your creative excellence. To do so consistently is more about perseverance than it is about luck. You need to make your work known, make it available and stand behind it every step of the way. You have to be fearless, you’re working without a net. You have to make it accessible and available! Sometimes this means taking it to the streets. With this in mind street fairs are a wonderful way to spread the word about what you’re doing! Art Fair Insiders is an awesome network that connects artists with opportunities in this realm. Join! It’s free too. Friend me there as well.

Look for competitions – enter and when you win announce it! Again, it’s another way to build buzz for your ‘brand’ and add to your list of accomplishments – something customers love hearing about. Makes you all look smart with impeccable taste!

You will be absolutely delighted to discover how nice and helpful other artists are. It is the one thing you can always rely on in this otherwise very challenging business. These are Your People. They are on your side.

Shows

Selling at outdoor or other venues with other artisans or at farmer’s markets, fundraisers, etc, requires a lot of thought and pre-planning. Just as an intro to what this entails you’ll need:

  • a tent
  • tent anchors (for wind)
  • displays for your note cards
  • will you accept credit cards? You’ll need to set that up
  • receipts
  • inventory (you have to know what will sell and bring a lot of it!)
  • business cards, etc etc

There’s a whole lot of planning that goes into creating an acceptable and attractive booth for a show. If you intend to try for juried shows – then you need to look at a whole other set of accoutrements too – not the least of which would be the original art presented to the jury in gorgeous photos along with your jury fees etc. Farmer’s markets work for some people – especially if your subject mater can be related to that crowd and your price point is snappy.

A Whole Different Approach

If all of that seems overwhelming – luckily for you there’s a whole different way you can generate some income with awesome cool designs. Hello Zazzle and CafePress! On sites like these you can upload your designs and offer them for sale with a small mark up that goes into your own pocket. They’ll produce things like t-shirts, calenders, mugs and note cards, as well as a bevy of other temptations.

The Wrap Up

So creating a successful business for your art is a challenging but hugely rewarding line of work. For me having to wear so many hats to maintain relevance is actually one of the bonuses. It is hard to get bored! It’s risky, exhausting and very very challenging – which is why successes are so dang sweet!

I wish you much luck with your journey. And stay in touch when you start building your presence!