Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Art of Fair Trade

As an artist who needs to pay bills, I've never been a fan of trading artwork with another artist.  I didn't quite see the point unless it was someone whose artwork I really admired. (I think I have made one, maybe two, of those trades.)  My standard answer when asked to trade was "I need the money, sorry."  I do buy artwork of some of my favorite artists when I can afford it.

Then last summer as I was in the middle of my "daily painting" craze, I rediscovered the fine art of trading - not artwork but other cool things.  On Etsy we have the functionality to "Favorite" items.  If someone favorites my art it shows up in my activity feed.  It's a very helpful function and gives you a good idea of what paintings people are responding to. (Most online galleries and shopping sites also give you this ability.)

I hate shopping in a brick and mortar store. Believe it or not my husband has to bribe me with lunch to get me to go to Kohls. I will, however, spend some "TV-Watching" time browsing jewelry and clothing online.  I came across some custom tops on Etsy one night, made from recycled t-shirts and knit tops, that prompted me to hit the "Favorite" button.  I loved the idea of recycling and reconstructing, and I thought the designs would be flattering on my "short hippy" figure.  They were quite expensive though. Remember - I'm a Kohl's shopper.

Next day, my fellow Etsian and creator of the tops, sent me a convo (short for conversation.) Her message was short and sweet..."I love this painting! I see you have favorited several of my items. If you ever are in the market to trade please let me know."  Aaaahhhh!  I jumped on that.  I now have 3 (soon to be 4) of her tops and she has 2 (soon to be 3) of my paintings.  I've also traded for some stunning silver jewelry, and luxurious bath products. 

While I still don't trade art for art, I love trading art for something I value, need and don't already have.  The fun part is realizing your art is also valued and "needed."

Today's Nitty Gritty Nugget:
     Explore trading as a way of receiving value for your art. 

Some things to remember:

1.  When someone favorites your items, take a look at their shop and see what they are selling.
2.  Be polite when "feeling out" the other seller.
3.  Don't take it personally if the other seller is not interested in trading.
4.  Some sellers will put "trade-friendly" in their bios.
5.  It may not be an even financial trade but it should be within the ballpark. 
6.  Rather than removing your item from Etsy (or wherever you sell), accept "other" as payment.  This keeps your sales records intact, but there doesn't need to be an exchange of funds.

"Pears on Blue Plate"
5 x 5 Oil on Gessobord

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ten Ways to Get Ready for Sales!

I tend to sell fewer oil and pastel paintings during the summer months, how about you? 

Instead of worrying....instead of wasting time whining....instead of posting in the Etsy and other forums that you don't have any sales...use this time to get ready! 

"Lemon and Cranberries"
6 x 6 Oil on Gessobord

Here are 10 Nitty-Gritty Nuggets you can tackle to get ready for the upcoming buying season. 

Flip over your OPEN sign with confidence this fall. Sales will be here before you know it! 

1.  Spruce up your gallery - Change your banner.

2.  Freshen up your inventory - Archive/remove old paintings.

3.  Work on your brand - Choose a tag line.

4.  Get a facelift - Take a new profile picture.

5.  Dot the I's and cross the T's  - Update your policies on shipping, refunds, payments.

6.  Ready yourself to just paint - stock up on art supplies and shipping supplies.

7.  Meet the Press - order new marketing materials like postcards and business cards.

8.  Be social - Start a blog or a Twitter account.

9.  Stock your shelves - build your inventory (think ahead to seasonal paintings, especially if you are a still life painter.)

10. Improve your skills - go to art critiques, take a class, study a new art concept.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nitty-Gritty Nugget Bonanza

I had great feedback on my June 15, 2012 post where I shared lots of little Nitty-Gritty Nuggets.  Today is a Nitty-Gritty Nugget Bonanza!

Super new Etsy Seller Handbook just posted on the Etsy Blog on June 20, 2012.  I highly recommend reading it.  These are the sections you will find.

I. New SellersVIII. Customer Service
II. PhotographyIX. Shipping & Packaging
III. Get Found in SearchX. Pricing
IV. BrandingXI. Finances & Taxes
V. PromotionXII. Category Specific
VI. Get FeaturedXIII. Craft Shows & Wholesale
VII. Inspiration, Motivation & CreativityXIV. Legal Info

My favorite section is How to Create A Cohesive Shop in the Branding section (IV.)  Even if you only sell art this is worth a read.  Think of your Etsy Art shop as a gallery exhibit which needs to be curated, or a juried competition where you expect to see good, if not great, art.  (This is not just advice for artists selling on Etsy, but anywhere on the internet.)

This next link is from my favorite blog, Copyblogger, the best for content marketing.  It was founded by Brian Clark. (I would really encourage you to subscribe to the blog.)

The Best Times to Tweet and Post to Facebook.  Who knew?

Another good blog to follow, although I'm not crazy about the artist features, is ArtProMotivate by Graham Matthews.  But, today there was a link to a unique site, Paintings I Love, where you can get your artwork critiqued.  I haven't tried it yet.  Here is the link to Graham's review of the site.  He provides a link to check it out for yourself.  (I would suggest artists on Etsy who are not attracting buyers to get some feedback.  It could be your marketing, but it could also be your art.)

Last but not least for today is artist, Keri Keene's, blogpost How Do You Ship Art?  Of particular interest is the topic of glassine, which I love and highly recommend for shipping pastel paintings.  Keri also uses it for shipping oils, acrylics, drawings, etc.  Thanks Keri!

I hope you found something in today's Nitty-Gritty Nugget Bonanza that was helpful.  Happy painting!

"Vintage Bottle and Tea Roses"
8 x 8 Pastel on Paper

Monday, June 18, 2012

5 Ways Customers Go Bye-Bye

Five Things (Nitty Gritty Nuggets in Disguise)

I'm fascinated with what makes people buy (or not buy) fine crafts and especially art. 

Follow these five recommendations.  I guarantee your potential customers and collectors will go "bye-bye" and "buy" somewhere else. 

Recommendation #1.  Refer to your work as "stuff" or "happy accidents."
Use the line "I love making stuff" in your marketing materials. My favorite for artists is "I create happy accidents." Often when leading a critique, I'll ask the artist about their concept for the painting.  "Oh, it was just a happy accident." 

I try not to waste my time critiquing those. I cringe.  Most collectors will cringe.  Speak respectfully, and lovingly, about your work and career, especially in your bios.

Recommendation #2.  Share overly personal information about the dramas in your life (deaths, addictions, diseases.)
Everyone has had their share of personal drama and trauma, but noone has had as much as you - try using it as a marketing theme.

Don't go there - your customers want beauty and elegance, or maybe quirky, but not funereal.  After my dad passed on, I worked in white Prismacolor on black illustration board for almost a year. When the first drawing sold, I shared the story of my dad and how I was grieving. The look on my customer's face said plenty. "Thanks ever so much, Cindy, for oversharing. I will now think of death when I gaze upon this drawing gracing my home - beautiful but fatal."

Recommendation #3.  Market yourself as a craftmaker.
Fill your shop with lots of different kinds of crafty things.  Pain-relievers on aisle 9, household goods and paintings Aisle 12.  When a potential customer asks you what you do, you say "All kinds of things!"  That's helpful and narrows it down quite well. I'm sure they are getting out their checkbook. 

I look at tons of websites for colored pencil, pastel and oil painters.  My very favorite sites are those that have artwork on their homepage with advertising for their dog-sitting business right underneath the art. Handy!

Customers HAVE to know what you do, what you sell.  Don't make them guess or have to play 20 questions - they won't.  Market ONE line of fine art or craft in your gallery or on your website (two if you must, but they MUST be related.)

Recommendation #4.  Have an obscure shop/gallery/website name and url.
Wouldn't it be a great idea to name your shop after your favorite pet?  "Augie's Playground" or "Phoebe's Cathouse" both have a nice ring to them. Or how about something equally as descriptive, "Cindy's Creative Designs."

If you are a fine artist, use your name along with "fine art". If you make fine crafts like jewelry, pottery, glass - use those descriptors in your title.  Non-cutesy is best.

Recommendation #5.  Open an online shop and hope people will stumble across your work.
Don't have a Facebook page, or a blog, or Twitter, and for heaven's sake don't use Pinterest.  Keep your gallery/artwork secreted away on your website or online shop.  Customers will find you and your special talents, right?

The Etsy forums are full of talented people who don't understand why they aren't getting views or sales. Put out your OPEN sign and provide as much exposure for your work as possible.  You're selling products (paintings are products).  You have to work it. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Curated Blogs may be the Cure

I knew I liked them and found them informative, blogs filled with little pieces of wisdom rewarding me on the other end of a clicked link.  One blog shares marketing wisdom, one art, one daily inspiration - the term for these is "curated blogs."  The writer of a curated blog will often share a bit about why the link is important - even more helpful.  So today, I'm going to share little bits of information on selling art that I have found in my voracious reading sessions.  (I still don't have either one of my computers that have my data loaded on them.  Using borrowed computers is less than ideal.)

One of the most useful things I have found this week is a small but vibrant Facebook group, Critique Our Etsy Shops with Love. You submit your link to your Etsy, Ebay, Artfire or other online shop for critique by the group.  As always, good FB etiquette is to find out how the group works before jumping in with "what about me????" posts.
             Critique Our Etsy Shops with Love  moderated by Laura Collins. (COESwL)

As a result of hanging out in the COESwL group I discovered this way cool Etsy app. The Etsy Shoptimizer App is based on the Etsy Seller Handbook and is designed to help you "Shoptimize" your Etsy shop.   I ran it on my shop, took seconds to complete and it gave me a report card of my shop areas (I also received an email of the report card - handy!)
              Etsy Shoptimizer  (Beta) by Aaron Hall of Tailored

I've had an Etsy shop since September of 2008 and honestly, I have never paid attention to the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  I know the implications of SEO, but it hurt my creative brain to think about it.  Until - I started asking small questions and receiving understandable answers (just this week, mind you.)  In the COESwL group we were talking about the Shop Announcement section of our shops and a couple of brilliant SEO folks explained that the first 160 characters is used in the major search engines.  LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!!!  Check out my shop announcement in the link to see how I've used the upright slash (over the forward slash on your keyboard - yeah, that took me about an hour to figure out.)  The upright slash is evidently a good delimiter for Google.  The shop announcement is right over featured items near the top of the page.
              Cynthia Haase Fine Art on Etsy  

Now that I know SEO does not require a mathematics degree, I searched for and found a great pdf called "Etsy Guide to SEO".  Here's a link to the page, the pdf download is a little ways down the page.
              Etsy Guide to SEO

And finally, one last link to share, Silver Magpies on Etsy.  She has studied SEO and it's implications. Her shop appears third on the list for Vintage Silver in the Google Search Engine (I copied her tactic for shop announcement construction.)  But the thing I love most about her shop is the one thing we have been talking about.  What is the benefit for buying your product.  Check out her banner....brilliant....pun intended!
              Silver Magpies

Today's Nitty Gritty Nugget:     Overwhelmed? Look for curated blogs in your interest areas.

What's Next?

1.  It's up to you...but I'd be learning about SEO.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Surrender Dorothy!

Last Friday my Samsung laptop died.  Well, I’m not sure if it’s really dead, but it wasn’t getting any power – no battery charge, no electrical charge.  The “experts” at the Geek Squad told me they couldn’t tell if it was the computer or the AC adapter.  What??  Can’t you just plug it in with another adapter and check it out?

The answer was no – Samsung is a very proprietary company which evidently extends to their adapters.  You can’t just select one off the shelf.  So instead of a 10 minute diagnostic of a computer, the laptop has to be shipped to Kentucky for two to four weeks.  I felt a meltdown coming on.

I was beginning to scare the other customers so they offered me a loaner.  That means you buy a cheap computer to use while your expensive one is being repaired.  You get a full refund at the end of that period.  Fair enough, I was even considering keeping the loaner to use at the art studio….

……Until my 30-day free virus protection on the loaner, McAfee, sprang a leak and let a virus through.  Here’s the ironic part.  I’m pretty sure I picked up the virus from a customized wall d├ęcor website which was a link sent to me from as a perk.  Klout is a site that rates your online influence, and periodically you are offered free perks as an “influencer.”  Last month I received packets of herbal iced tea – this month a virus.  What a deal.

The loaner laptop is now at the shop and I’m at the mercy of the Geek Squad gods and how quickly they feel like removing the virus on my loaner.  This morning I kludged together some free software on my husband’s computer.  He is more of a gamer, iTunes and movie- watching computer user…no Adobe Reader, Microsoft Office, or photo imaging software.  (I know he’s secretly praying at work that I don’t make his computer blow up.)
I have completely surrendered to whatever the universe has in store for me today.
While spending my weekend at Best Buy, holding back my temper tantrums, I found it helpful to read.  Fortunately, the Kindle app on my Smartphone is working and I was able to catch up on some good books. 

Here are two I highly recommend:

The Purple Cow - Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin (2009).  Seth describes how the old approaches to marketing don’t work anymore.  It’s a very readable book, and as an artist selling your own work, you do need to understand how the new marketing works.

Branding Yourself – How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself by Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy (2010).  Another highly readable book on how to “…. create the right kind of emotional response you want people to have when they hear your name, see you online, or meet you in person.”  Most people are confused about what and what not to share about their lives.  They either want it to be JUST about their art or they feel compelled to share TMI (too much information.)

Today’s Nitty Gritty Nuggets:

“A brand is an emotional response to the image or name of a particular company, product, or person.”   (Excerpt from Branding Yourself)

“If an audience doesn’t have the time to listen to and understand your pitch, you’ll be treated as if you were invisible.” (Excerpt from The Purple Cow)

What’s Next?

1.     Backup the data on your computer for your sanity.  Buy a computer with a universal adapter so it can be easily replaced.  Learn to live without your computer for a couple of days…I dare you!

2.     When you hit a brick wall – surrender - and check the sky for flying monkeys.

3.    Read the suggested books, if you only read one, read (and absorb) Branding Yourself.

4.     Let me know how you liked the books.
P.S.  I have an emotional response to Samsung, Best Buy and Geek Squad right now, but I'm not sure it's the kind of emotional response/brand they would like me to have.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Home Away From Home

Today’s topic is in response to a request from an artist friend who is considering a studio and wanted more information. 

The Basics
I share my studio, Golden Point One, with my good friend June (JunieB).  We inked the 6-month lease back in 2010 on a 10 x 17’ refurbished motel unit.  We were the first tenants in what was to become studio apartments for students at the Colorado School of Mines.  Our space is one of the two office units. We are a working studio rather than a gallery/retail studio.

We have a small kitchen with a mini fridge and sink, and our bathroom is a toilet and a sink.  The original owner made the shower into shelving units for storage after we assured him we would never be taking a shower at the studio.

The one drawback is that we don’t have a/c but we usually paint in the morning and the elevation of Golden keeps it rather cool.  We do get cross ventilation.  It’s best if you can control the heat/air in your own space, but always have a fan and a space heater on hand.

For us, we can park right outside our front door.  We have assigned (sort-of) parking spaces.  When we have visitors there are places for them to park short-term (about 20 minutes), but the bowling alley is right across the side street and there is plenty of long-term parking available for free.

Nearby we have a coffee shop, The Fifth Ring, which becomes our entertainment place when we have company.  Our studio is only big enough to work in.  There are several restaurants nearby, however, I have found it best to eat a good breakfast and then work until about 1pm and then have lunch.  If I take a break for lunch, I’m done working for the day.

The $$
We have had two super landlords (we both had a crush on the first one, Henry, who was young enough to be - well, let’s just say a much younger brother.)  Our rent hasn’t been raised since we moved in, and we have a verbal promise that as long as we stay the rent will stay the same.  Our lease is now for 1 year at a time.
My share of the rent is $225, and I’m sure that won’t translate to the cost of living in other areas, but we are in Golden, CO which is fairly pricey in terms of real estate for the Denver region.  All of our utilities are covered in the rent. (Gas, electric, water, wi-fi, trash pick-up)

We don’t carry liability insurance, and have yet to purchase a policy for the belongings in our studio.   Our little budget just won’t stretch that far yet.  This is a topic for your insurance agent. 
June’s dad, Ted, was the owner of a sign company in upstate NY and still works at 90-something.  He donated our awesome sign.  (My dad, Grant, has passed on but he still makes his presence known.  Many called my dad, Mr. G, and after we moved in and had time to view the surroundings I noticed the mesa seen above our studio has a big “G” on it.  All is well with the world.)

As for ongoing shop expenses such as supplies, we just trade off bringing in paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, trash bags, Kleenex and other necessities.  I hate cleaning so most of it is done by June and I try to trade other things of value when she cleans.
When tax time rolls around I claim all the expenses (my share) on my Schedule C.  We have our taxes prepared for us, so that’s about all I know. 

We don’t have a sales tax license and any sales we make from the studio proper (which hasn’t happened yet) we will sell through our local co-op gallery.  We are both members and they will collect sales tax for us.  My sales are 99.9% online.

Today’s Nitty Gritty Nugget:
      Don’t let the prospect of a studio scare you. Be cautious, not scared.

What’s Next?

1.       Write out how you plan to use the space, this will help you make other decisions.

2.       Decide whether you’re going to go it alone.  There are pros and cons to that.  It depends on your idea of how you want to use the space and who you are considering as a partner.

3.       If you have a partner, find an easy out for both of you if it doesn’t work.

4.       Find something affordable.  Paying the rent becomes your top priority.

5.       Your space must also feel safe and a good place to be.  It will be hard enough getting yourself there, you don’t want bad ju-ju to be a reason not to go.

6.       Have a friend (preferably good with legalese) review your lease before signing.

7.       Talk with an insurance agent about how you’re going to use the space.

8.       Divvy up the daily tasks of running the studio: cleaning, providing supplies, etc.

9.       Keep track of your expenses for tax purposes (even if it’s a shoebox.)

10.   Then get in there and paint and create!  There’s rent to pay!

Junie B
My Space - the one with the Starbucks!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Purple Pool

Two weeks ago while I was attending an art workshop, my husband, affectionately known to our youngest granddaughter as Papa, bought her a wading pool.   We have her over on Tuesdays and are always looking for something to entertain her boundless 3 year-old energy.

Emma arrived the next Tuesday and while out on the patio, we thought it would be a good time to bring out the “surprise.”  She yelped “I hope it’s a pool!”  Well, it was and even though to us it was a hunk of hard purple plastic which cost all of $12.99 she thought it was beautiful.  She kept telling us, over and over and over.  And yes, Papa couldn’t resist when she asked him to get in the pool, too.  That Tuesday will be a memory I won’t forget – it’s treasured.  Who wouldn’t buy a precious memory at any price.

The Barbara Newton Painting
Earlier this year I discovered Barbara Benedetti Newton had a small 5 x 7 pastel painting up for sale. She was experimenting with the Daily Paintworks website.  As a sometimes colored pencil artist, and president of the Colored Pencil Society of America, I’ve been familiar with Barbara’s work since her colored pencil days.  She now specializes in gorgeous pastel and oil landscapes. 

I snatched that baby up.  When I received it carefully packaged with a nice note from Barbara I popped it into a gold frame that same day.  I wrote her and told her I feel “elegant” every time I look at the painting.  She said she would remember elegance the next time she was walking her dog with the plastic pooper-bag at the ready.  I just had to laugh.  So now I have several feelings wrapped up in that painting – elegance and lightheartedness.  These feelings are so much more valued than the $35, plus shipping, I paid for the painting. 

My newest book on Kindle is The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way you Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. He writes about comparing product features (descriptive) to product benefits (emotional).  “Overall, the more a business can focus on core benefits instead of boring features, the more customers will connect….and purchase.”

Today’s Nitty Gritty Nugget:
     Focus more on the benefits of your art than the features. (Thanks Chris!)!

Whats Next?

1.      Make a list of the features of your art.  You know….oil, Masonite board, still life, fruit.  The features of the pool are: plastic, round, purple, small, shallow.  The features of the painting are: pastel, landscape, Pastelbord, 5 x 7.
2.      Make a list of the benefits of your art.  Harder, I know.  Try feelings like dramatic, elegant, restful, angst-ridden (not something I would buy, but someone probably will.)  The benefits of the pool: treasured memories and one happy little 3-year old and proud Papa.  The benefits of the painting: lighthearted story, feeling of elegance.

3.      Experiment with the descriptions you write for your art work.  Sell the benefits rather than describing your art.  Could be as simple as “After a hard day at the office, come home to gaze upon one of my abstracts and wash away the cares of the day.”  That’s a bit corny but you get the picture….pun intended.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Egg on My Face...And the Winner Is!

Let me share how I picked the winner.  Then I'll share a little about the “egg on my face”.

How I Picked the Winner

I cut up little squares and numbered them 1-53 (the number of followers), mixed them up in my favorite little hobnail bowl. (No, that is not a stray number in the back of the photo.  It’s an extra.)

I assigned a number to each of my followers starting at the first ones on the list.  Then I pulled out the awesome number thirty-seven.

Looking at my list, number thirty-seven.... and the big winner is.... Talie Bagley from Abilene, TX.  Links to Talie's artwork:

Here is one of my favorites from Talie's paintings.

Original Acrylic Ladybug Daisy 16x20 Painting

Congratulations Talie!  Thank you so much for following my blog, and here’s to your success.

Egg on My Face

I was so excited this morning to give away the painting, and trying to still figure out Instagram that I was a wee bit distracted.  I clicked on Talie’s avatar and it took me to her profile page on Blogger.  Why I didn’t see her blogspot url there, I don’t know.  But I ended up clicking on the blog she follows called 71 Toes.  So my first blog post, which I have deleted, was about a family with a daughter named Lucy who has a rare syndrome.  It is a very touching story and I encourage you to check out 71 Toes and the I Love Lucy Project.  However, 71 Toes, doesn’t follow this blog and is not the winner of the painting.  Lucky for the real Talie!
Today’s Nitty Gritty Nugget:
     You’ll make mistakes. Get over it.

What’s Next?

1.     What are two of your favorite blunders having to do with selling your art?

2.     What did you learn from them?  (I learned to check facts, and try not to be so      distracted.)

3.      Now have a good laugh!