Monday, April 16, 2012

April 21st: Guest Lecturing at the Visual Art Exchange

        This week, I will be downtown speaking at the Visual Art Exchange on Saturday, April 21st at 3:30 pm on selling online, specifically on Etsy and our local Acorn to Oak Handmade Team which is dedicated to helping local artists and craftsmen make a living selling online. A lot of people as me why I created a local team for this purpose and why I mention Etsy repeatedly as a good venue for up and coming artists to get started on making a living.
         Mostly, it gets down to money and time. Of the 24 some places I opened an online shop the first year I had a design company, the only place I ever sold art or crafts online was Etsy. There's a saying that without money, artists disappear. I don't know if it's true, but I do know that hunger is a great driver both into and out of a given field. As a designer, in a wonderful co-op, surrounded by great talent, I feel it is part of my job to help my fellow friends and companions grow. Since 1994, online sales are the only venue that's growing. That means for the last 20 years, the only pie that's growing is the internet pie. Having spent a decade in sales before starting Li Sashay, I can tell you that the internet is having a pervasive, eroding effect on traditional sales outlets. Traditional sales associates are being slashed out of the process as it becomes cheaper and easier to market to the online crowd. Why give 70% of the profit away when you can reduce it to 5-8% online?
        And therein, lies the problem, most artists find when they set up their webpage. You can set-up a store now for under $100 a yr. that will be interesting, well-designed, and protected. It will not however, get you traffic or sales. It is simply too easy and the bar too low for most people to be effectively heard online at this venture. Even with buying advertising on google, facebook, or starting a blog is generally useless for getting direct sales. So where can you be heard? In general there are three main selling platforms: Amazon, eBay, and Etsy for an artist to be heard on from a financial aspect. Of these, Amazon and eBay are so big, they are controlled mostly by larger corporations. 38% of eBay's income comes from a mere 14 companies. That leaves 1 place for an up and coming artist to be heard effectively: Etsy.
      No system is perfect, of the available platforms, this is the best at this time for getting traffic if you make unique or handmade items. Two years ago, a person needed between 25-50 items in their shop to make consistent sales. Today most people have increased the number to 100-300 items in a shop to sell effectively. I would place the number closer to the 200-300 mark if you want daily sales. For many part-time designers...this may represent a year or two of work, but still doable if you are willing to be patient. Etsy is a great place to get started and I highly recommend it. Alright, stop in Sat for the full lecture if you want specifics. I will have hand-outs with websites, names, and contact info for people who are looking for details. Hopefully this will help some of my fellow artists in the area. I won't claim to know it all, but am happy to offer up some wisdom from what has and has not worked for me. Please be aware that there are much more talented designers and artists in the area making a lot more than I am on Etsy at the moment. If you want to know more, I suggest talking to/contacting some of the other forum members if you want to find a good mentor or coming to one of our Tuesday night meetings.

Visual Art Exchange
309 West Martin Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

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