Monday, April 30, 2012

How Much?

Nitty Gritty Nugget
The paradigm for pricing that I started with is:

- Sell your art for the least amount you can bear (told to me by a successful gallery director.)

- Once you are selling faster than you can produce, you can increase your prices (don’t know where this piece of advice came from, but it’s fairly common sense.)

Am I in the Painting or Shipping Business?
My first 4 x 4” oil paintings (which at that point were my practice pieces) were listed for $13 (free shipping in the US).  So you figure a couple of dollars for fees and $2.80 for shipping and I was getting $8.  Figure in supply costs and I was making enough to buy a cheap cup of coffee. They sold like awesome organic blueberry hotcakes.  I spent so much time shipping paintings that I barely had time to paint. 

I increased the price of the 4 x 4’s to $19 - a more expensive cup of coffee, and maybe Starbuck’s perfect oatmeal on the way to the studio.  The sales slowed down a bit, but I was still painting at a fever pitch.

In a really bold move I shot up to $25, and then….in a blinding flash of confidence went to $30.  And while I was at it, I added in the selling fees, for a nice round $33.  I began to set my sights on paying my studio rent with my sales. 

To my 4 x 4’s I’ve added 5 x 5’s, 5 x 7’s and 6 x 6’s.  I’ve come up with a standard pricing so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel as I go forward.  I don’t go back and change old listings in my shop.  My thought is if it hasn’t sold by now, raising the price is not going to help.  At some point I have considered taking the old paintings off and letting them breathe for a while, and then relist them as a totally new item.

I also work in pastels and I have added pastels to my “impulse buy” category.  They are 6 x 6” paintings and take a while longer to complete.  I just added them in the last month, and have sold two at $60 apiece.  In about 6 months I will review my sales and decide if I want to increase the price on my pastels.
6 x 6 Pastel on Paper
Click Here to Purchase Painting

What’s the Competition Doing?

There are a million and one daily painter artists these days, and prices are all over the board.  Some prices are way too high, some way too low.  I try to compare my paintings with similar styles and sizes, and maybe price a hair lower.  As always, those with name recognition can ask higher prices.  (There’s a subtle piece of advice for you, build a following.)
What's Next?
1.  For each product you are going to sell, what is the lowest price you can bear? Remember this is not about what YOU think it's worth.  It's about what others are willing to pay.  Be sure to remember your selling fees and shipping costs.
2.  Check out what others who paint/create similar products are charging.  As in real estate, price a hair lower.  If a buyer has similar products to choose from, one factor in the sale is the lower price.
3.  Have a plan for when you are selling alot and working too hard, that's the time to increase your prices.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are You Serious?

I know people think it, but most will not ask "So if you are selling online, on Etsy, are you really a serious artist?" Like somehow making money to pay the bills is counterproductive to being a “true” artist.

No, I don't have an art degree. (I wanted one, and secretly part of me still does...or maybe it's the college experience I think I missed.) Too few boundaries in my youth, allowed me to be a mother at barely 20 and again at 24. In retrospect I wouldn't change a thing, I have two fine men I am proud to call my sons, not to mention four grandchildren from 18-3 years old. You know that old line "You can't scare me, I'm a mother", that's my mantra. 

I did spend 30 years in the corporate world which taught me good work habits, critical thinking, a real hunger for learning, and how to run a business.  I left in 1992 to pursue my creative dreams, however, as I began my self-directed art education there was that voice that said “the bills are piling up, pay them now!”  I come from a long line of entrepreneurs: my paternal grandfather sold popcorn balls and candied apples at a roadside stand in Florence, NE to support a family of 10, as a single mother of 2, my maternal grandmother owned her own beauty shop, my father owned his own home-building business to support a family of 6.  We know how to pay the bills.

That voice remains with me now, which is why I create “impulse buy” art along with my “serious” art.  I belong to the Pastel Society of Colorado, Missouri Valley Impressionist Society, American Impressionist Society, Colored Pencil Society of America (where I serve as the national president) and quite a few local Denver groups.  I was also a juried member of the International Guild of Realism for several years, accepted into their exhibition in Santa Fe in 2007.  My larger art is priced from $500-$1500.

To pay the bills: I teach pastel and colored pencil workshops, I create “impulse buy” art, I’ve been a paid staff member of our local arts council to perform website maintenance, marketing and outreach duties, and I RARELY take commissions (they are soul-suckers for me!)  I paint what I want to paint, small or large, and if someone wants to buy it then I’m a happy camper. 

"Chopsticks and Tulip Bowl"
12 x 16 Pastel on Paper
Click Here to Purchase Painting

Would I like a brick and mortar gallery for my larger art?  The jury’s out on that.  It would have to be a really stupendous relationship for that to happen.  I do have a gallery in Fort Wayne, IN that buys my smaller works 10-15 at a time for their gift shop, payment up front with shipping included.  Handy money when the rent is due the first of the month on my art studio.  The gallery owner found me on E-Bay when I was doing some experimenting with auction/buy now listings.  She bought a 4 x 4” painting for $9 and I have now sold her almost $700 worth of art over the last year and a half.  Not a bad return.

The stories I have heard from my artist friends about their gallery experiences (not to mention my own stories) is not necessarily making me want to hunt down potential galleries and entice them to review my portfolio.  I like people and business relationships on my own terms, as my studio mate will tell you.

"Lemons and Blue Glass"
12 x 18 Pastel on Paper
Click Here to Purchase Painting

What’s Next?

1.      How do you feel about selling your work online? Do you think that makes you less of an artist? Would you be proud to tell your friends you have an Etsy shop or whatever shop?

2.      How much money do you need to pay the bills? How many reasonably priced impulse buys vs. more expensive art do you need to create to reach the needed money? 

3.     Do you really want gallery representation or are you a do-it-yourself marketer? Under what conditions would you consider gallery representation?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

So Not Practical and Other Traits

Practical Traits?

Last night as I was playing my final round of internet MahJong waiting to get sleepy, I had a thought hit me like a blue bolt out of the heavens.  OMG!  I used the word "practical" in the tag line for my new blog. What part of my history has ever been described as practical?  Yesterday's tag line was "Practical Advice for Online Selling".  Yet, my post was all about having a unique product.  "Practical" is like "nice"...boring!  As you will notice we now have a new tag line "The Nitty-Gritty Nuggets of Selling Art Online".  I'm not sure that is the final tag line, but I couldn't sleep with the word "practical" hovering in my dreams. Watch for future updates.

I'm the kind of "practical" that makes a first trip to the Oregon coast for a weekend, and before the weekend is up has talked my husband into signing on a contract to purchase an expensive ocean-view condo.  (We had no down payment mind you!)  It did fall through after about six months of trying to make it work, but now before we travel anywhere my husband makes me pinky-promise we are not buying property on the first weekend.

Now that we have established practical is not one of my strengths, let me say I am "inquisitive, passionate, a show-off, risk-taker and dreamer".  For selling your artwork online you need to have at least one of these traits, if not all five-that's in addition to creative and artistic.

You need the "what happens if I do this?" or the "can't wait to show what I just painted" mindset, and a little bit of gambler's blood coursing through your veins. Selling your art online is a way of life.

"Back Alley Girls" 6 x 6 Oil on Gessobord

Where I Show Off (we'll talk about social media another time.)

I have two types of sites, "exposure sites" and "selling sites".  I use the exposure sites to drive all my traffic to my selling sites.

My selling sites:

Littleton Studio on Etsy - I've had my shop since September of 2008.  It has evolved over the last four years as I've learned what products sell, and what my marketing strategy is. Etsy is where I sell my smaller and daily paintings.  I sell both oils and pastels in my shop currrently. Etsy charges when you list and sell products, which you pay once a month. This cost varies, but usually runs about $8-10.  I've tried other online markets, some had real promise like 1000 Markets (which later sold to Bonanzle...ugh!), Lollishops (went under), and too many to remember or check to see if they are still functioning.  Etsy has name Xerox or Kleenex.  They promote their site, and you promote your shop.  Works for me.

Cynthia Haase Fine Art - This is my official website which I have through Fine Art Studio Online.  It costs me $28 a month for the Gold Plan. This price includes a free entry into their monthly Bold Brush competition (a $14 value).  My website comes with some cool functionality: blog, email newsletter, statistics, and a killer support staff.  The paintings I offer at my website are my larger, more expensive pastels.  I've not sold anything from the website. (I don't know about you but I would have a hard time buying a $1200 painting online, but they are for sale on the website, nonetheless.)  I don't post all of my smaller and daily paintings on the website, just enough to keep a good portfolio, and those that I do post all have links back to my Etsy shop.

I could sell directly from my blog, Cynthia Haase Fine Art, but after four years I have quite a following on Etsy and there are opportunities for others to promote your work there through "Favorites", "Circles", "Teams" and "Treasuries". Etsy also has seller functions that I would have to reinvent on my blog like shipping notifications, feedback, and tracking.

My exposure sites:

Because I identify my product with the daily painting process, I chose exposure sites with other daily painters.  I tried a few but am most happy with the first two. Carol and David Marine are the brainchilds (or is it brainchildren?) behind Daily Paintworks.  It's a happening place.  Although I have sold about 4 paintings through their auction function as an experiment, I'm not a big fan of the auction process in general. Some obviously have figured it out, but alas, I have not. I've also tried E-Bay, again too much work for not enough return.

Since I paint fruits and vegetable alot in my smaller sizes, I'm thinking of trying to find some exposure on cooking, gardening or organic sites.  I'll report on any findings here in the blog.

Daily Paintworks  $12.95 a month
Daily Painter Originals $7.00 a month

Christine Sharp, is the owner of this online gallery, and she is a big promoter of the arts. She has a Facebook presence and I appreciate her efforts, so I stay with her.  It's one of those "maybe a good opportunity will come of this" places.
Sharp Art Gallery  $10.00 a month

What Next?

1.  What strengths do you have to make selling your art online part of your life? Be honest.
2.  Decide on your main selling site(s) .  (Don't have more than's too much work.)
3.  What exposure sites are right for your product? Be creative. What's your budget for exposure sites?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Product is the Thing!

Whenever other artists find out I am selling my artwork online, they want to know the what, where, when, why and how of it all.  At gatherings, they start asking questions, as if there is a three-word magic incantation I can give them, that if repeated will work for them.

I've done several round table discussions and mini-workshops on the process, but it's so little time for such a big subject, and I have a lot to say on the subject.

Soon, I hope to write a book on this topic and make enough money to travel to exotic places, but for now the purpose of this blog is to organize my thoughts and to get feedback.  I'd love to hear if you think my points are helpful or my ideas could be more concise.

This is my one and only disclaimer:

My Nitty-Gritty Nuggets of advice come from my experience and my experience alone.  What else can I write about except what is true for me?

So what qualifies me to write this blog?

- For several years I tried every online marketplace I could find or afford...some that had promise, some well established sites, and some real bozos.
- I've sold everything from vintage items, to quilts, to supplies, to artwork.
- In 2011 I painted 165 small paintings and sold 145 of them, 99% of them sold online.
- I've had an shop for four years and have tried most of the bells and whistles.  Some are winners and some are losers.
- I've scored some great opportunities; interviews, gallery representation, featured artist spots and loyal collectors from selling online.
- I'm able to pay my studio rent each month from my sales, buy my art supplies, and feed my expensive Starbucks habit.  Is this a get-rich fast approach?  No, but I'm not aiming to get rich quickly. My goal is to enjoy my art and my life, and what I make is enough for now.  Maybe you and your product/art will be on the fast-track, who knows?

Let's get started!

You have a product, or so you think.  Your friends and family have all encouraged you to sell this creation, that you're a fabulous artist or knitter, or jeweler, or photographer or bug collector (yes I have seen actual dead bugs for sale in a shop.)  Not sooooooo fast.  You need real-world feedback.  Of course you've all watched the singing competition shows where, when asked the horrible singer says "All my friends tell me I'm great!" Don't get me wrong, support from your family and friends is very precious, but not necessarily an indicator of whether you are going to sell your product or not.

Here are a few starter questions to answer about your product:

- Would I buy it?  There is mind-boggling competition online to get people to part with their dollars.  Don't we all see things in the marketplace that we'd like to have but when it comes to parting with our hard-earned funds we think twice, maybe it's not "ALL that" after all.

- What would I pay for it?  Not to be confused with how much you think it's worth. Reasonably priced is always your best bet. And unless you have a rock star name, a reputation a mile long, and raving feedback from your customers, online buyers are generally not going to part with hundreds of dollars sight-unseen.  There is a price point (what people are willing to pay for your item.) 

- Is it unique?  How are you going to compete with the thousands of artists (excellent and talented...not to mention good, mediocre and downright bad) in the online marketplace?  What sets your product apart, what need does it fill, what emotion does it evoke, what problem does it solve?  What are you really selling???  Let me ask it again..What are you really selling??

My favorite example of "what are you really selling" is an artist named Brian Burt.  He is a well-known and talented artist/daily painter, who also has a blog called "Art 4 Diapers".  Brian sells his work a couple of places online, but what I love about his blog (so much so that I own three of his paintings..all around $15) is his simple request "Buy a painting, and help me provide diapers for my new baby."  Nothing esoteric, nothing gimmicky, just authentic..."I'm a dad providing for my child. Can you help by buying one of my cool paintings?"  And I'm a mother and a grandmother, how could I say no?

In my case, I paint fruits and vegetables primarily, and always tag them as kitchen art, food art, cuisine art (more on tagging down the road.)  No surprise that among my collectors are: a family-owned seed business and a private chef in Maui.  I sell my very small paintings 4 x 4", 5 x 5", and 6 x 6" for $33, $40 and $50/$60 (unframed). 

"Not Easy Being Green"
6 x 6 Pastel on Sanded Paper
Click Here to Purchase Item

What's Next?

Sit down with a pad of paper and a pencil and write about your product.
1. Imagine a friend gave it to you, would you be excited? or ho-hum? 
2. Imagine paying $100 for it, would you feel gypped? or like you bought the deal of the century?
3. Describe your product, technically specific and then as a thing of beauty.
4. Who do you think will buy your product? Be creative...the butcher? the baker? the candlestick-maker? Chefs? Gardeners? Nostalgia lovers? Athletes? and on and on. 
5. What feeling are you selling? (Joy, humor, nostalgia, intimacy, tension, peace)