LEARNING TO SEE #15: Not All Advice Is Equal

My latest marketing insight? Long-time customers are REALLY interested in NEW work. I get a little hung up on the horses and bears, but foxes, dogs, and owls are getting lots of comments!

LEARNING TO SEE #15: Not All Advice Is Equal

And even bad advice can help us move forward!

(6 minute read)

Last week, I signed up for my very first Art Marketing Program (AMP) webinar, hosted by FASO’s marketing guy, Dave Geada.

These sessions are long, which makes it hard to fit into my work day. Unlike the rest of my family, I don’t do podcasts well. Listening to them, that is. When I’m creating, words interrupt my concentration, even words in songs.

But I made the time, and I’m glad I did!

If you haven’t worked with Dave, or tried any of those recorded videos, do try them. He’s focused, insightful, explains all the ‘why’s’ behind it all, and even how important the ‘WHY’ behind the art we make, is. (Hint: Because it’s the heart of everything we do.)

I’m already overloaded with those action steps, so much that I almost wrote my column about ‘little steps forward’ today. Next time! Because I also dropped in on my first conversation in the (art marketing discussion forum), and found what needs to be addressed first:

Not all advice is equal. And not all advice works for everyone.

There is fact-based data, there are expert opinions based on experience, and then there’s advice.

Fact-based data comes from someone actually measuring results for any given marketing strategy. This was former Fine Art Views columnist Lori Woodward’s superpower. She would dig in and test a strategy, then share her findings.

But not all fact-based date is equal, either. Let’s take search engine optimization (SEO.) We are hammered constantly to pay/hire someone to show us how we can improve our ranking in search engine results. One of Dave’s strongest points is that most SEO suggestions work for retailers: People who sell stuff. Their strategy is to get billions of ‘hits’, hoping a small fraction of those people will click and actually buy something.

But artists are makers. We don’t need a billion clicks. We need a passionate following, people who love our work, to buy from us over and over again. That may be a small percentage of our audience, which is also much smaller than say, Amazon. So the numbers aren’t as relevant, and SEO is less important. Whew! That’s about a jillion SEO marketing ‘come-on’ emails I can delete from my inbox today!

Next, the expert opinion. This is usually from someone who’s had success in whatever we’re involved in. When we needed a babysitter for our kids, who do we ask to find one? Other people with kids. There are ‘experts’ in every aspect of our lives, ranging from car mechanics, doctors, marketing gurus, and other artists.

But even expert advice may not work for everyone. First, goals may be different. Second, their experience may be different. Someone who is a famous oil painter may not actually have good insights into me selling my assemblages or jewelry. Or the way that person achieved fame and fortune may go against my principles, time available, and my budget.

And of course, it’s highly possible that person isn’t really as successful as they seem to be. (My favorite Anne Lamott quote: “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.) Years ago, when I was doing fine craft wholesale shows, there were some folks who asserted that they made a great living with their work. Another craftsperson did some deep research and found some interesting results: Many of those people a) inherited wealth; b) had a spouse who was in highly-paid profession; c) or they had a second ‘career’ on the side, like flipping houses, for example. Famous writers sometimes reveal their income doesn’t all come from their books being published. Their income also relies on teaching workshops and speaking engagements. Many artists do the same!

And last, there’s just plain ol’ advice. The random things people will tell us that have nothing to do with our story, our preferred medium, work process, style, aesthetic.

Me? I get a lot of advice, especially when I don’t ask for it! Sometimes it’s so off-base, it’s gob-smacking. And yet sometimes, it’s intriguing, and pulls something new out of me, maybe even something completely different than what the advice-giver was thinking.

In the end, we get to pick what works for us.

In my humble experience, if it resonates with me, that’s my signal that I should at least try it. And if my shoulders try to cover my ears, that’s my signal that I should just set it aside. Not all advice is perfect for every single situation/person. Nobody is right all the time.

As I said, even “bad” advice may still provide a powerful insight. First, it’s good to recognize that most advice comes from others wanting to help us do better. Knowing others care is sweet!

Second, we can examine our reactions when it lands badly, asking ourselves, “What is it about that suggestion that makes me cringe?” Exploring why we react the way we do can give us insights into our own blind spots, weaknesses, insecurities.

Third, sometimes advice is a no-brainer. In this particular session, Dave walked through several artists’ websites, pointing out fairly simple ways we can improve our website visitors’ experience. My notebook is filled with notes—hope I can read them! (I was writing pretty fast. So much information!) Yeah, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at all the things I could/should do to improve my site. My next step is figuring out my next step! I’ll be sharing my experience and insights with you along the way. (Which, of course, may work for you, or may not. I’m not even an expert!)

The biggest insight for me was why people are online, on social media, in the first place. (Answer: Boredom, loneliness, connection.) (Unless I messed up my notes….?) He also confirmed Clint Watson’s assertion that our email newsletters are our most powerful tool to grow our audience, and why. (Answer: Because people check their email even more often than they check out their social media.) He noted that we can focus on just Instagram, Facebook, and our email newsletter. (Whew! Goodbye, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Twitter!)

So be sure to check out Dave’s webinars. You can find the basic playbook/eBook under the “Art Marketing” tab on the FASO site. Consider joining FASO for your artist website, because in addition to all the aspects that work for ARTISTS, you will have complete access to these webinars (including recordings of past events.) You can spend as little as $12/month for a FASO website, which I’m guessing would be less than the cost of SEO advice from internet marketers who have no idea what works for artists in the first place.

And remember, begin with advice that works for YOU. Even if you hate it, explore why you hate it. And when you get overwhelmed, remember my advice: Baby steps! One at a time, at your own pace.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it on to someone else. And if someone sent you this article, and you liked it, too, see more at FineArtViews.com, Dave’s articles at same, my articles there, Clint’s insights on email newsletters, other art marketing topics, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

Well, that should keep you busy for a few days! Until next week, take exquisite care of yourself during these trying times.

Starts Today! One-time Sale at My Etsy Shop!

MAKING A DECISION and HUNGRY ART

WAYBACK WEDNESDAY A Few Days Late…
I published this post on 10/26/04. Still true!
Making a Decision

I have to make a hard decision today. I have an opportunity to do a teaching gig that would pay fairly well, a week’s work. Something I would have jumped at a few years ago.Trouble is, I’m an atypical artist. I don’t want to teach other people how to do what I do. I never really wanted to in the first place. As time goes on, and my art is more important to me, I find I’m even less interested in teaching it. I want to do it.

Running a business based on making your art sucks up a lot of time. I spend lots more time on the business side than the making art side. So setting aside time to allow other people to make art while I watch is particularly painful sometimes.

Nevertheless, it is an opportunity. And I can’t make up my mind whether to do it or not.

A friend once said, “When you have a situation you just can’t make up your mind about, make a list of the pros and cons. Otherwise, it’s like doing long division in your head.” (I originally typed “long decision in your head.” Quite Freudian!) The trick then is not how many pro’s vs. con’s. It’s to pay attention to which ones make you cringe.

Here’s what my decision list looks like.

Pros:

1) It’s a thousand dollars.

2) It’s a week’s work. 3)

It’s teaching, and I’ve always liked teaching.

4) I could really use the money.

5) The guy who asked me is really nice and excited about my work. His enthusiasm is infectious.

6) It’s hard for me to say no.

Cons:

1) It’s much, much more than a week’s work. It’s actually 8 classes, 6 per day, for 5 days. That’s 30 different teaching sessions.

2) It also means a lot of preparation time. Probably several weeks’ of preparation time, for presentations, projects, etc.

3) It’s a long drive, too.

4) The last time I did something similar to this proposal, it turned into something awful. It was the most miserable day I’ve had in my entire professional career.

5) For a variety of professional reasons I won’t get into, I don’t want to teach how I make my own artwork. I’ve made a point of not teaching how to make it, and I don’t want to start now. Even in modified form.

6) If I’m going to teach, I want to either introductory skills (with jewelry, polymer clay, stamp-carving, etc.) or professional skills (writing an artist statement, etc.)

7) It’s a month before my major wholesale fine craft show, which takes a huge amount of time and energy to prepare for. Including the two to three weeks I’d sink into this teaching opportunity if I were to take it on.

8) Other than financial, it doesn’t fulfill a single other professional, business, personal or artistic goal I have.

9) As hard as it is to say “no”, I have to say “no” sometimes in order to make room for other things that are more important to me.

As I look over my reasons, I can see that some of the cons are fear-based, As in, “The last time I did this, it turned out badly.” And there is some good to be gained—some money to put back into my business, and the opportunity to hone my teaching skills.

I can also see, though, that what I could learn from taking this opportunity is something I’ve already learned. And don’t need to do this same thing again to learn the same lesson again.

The teaching skills I want to hone are as a presenter of professional skills. Teaching my methods will not help me with this teaching goal.

I was talking with the same friend about something completely different, and she said something that’s now stuck in my mind.

I’d said I was really excited about teaching the workshops on my schedule now—self-promotion for artists,  wholesaling, writing a powerful artist statement, etc. It could be something that might conflict with my artistic/professional goals. But it didn’t feel that way right now.

I found as I prepared for this seminar, my thoughts clarified. I began to gain more insights into my own processes. While researching press releases, I learned how to make mine even better. I’m actually working out my own roadblocks and obstacles by sharing what I’ve learned along the way with others. I’ve learned more as I prepare to teach.

She said, “I’ve found that I often teach what I want to know.”

Such a simple phrase, but very useful today.

I’m going to have to call that very nice gentleman and refuse his generous offer. I hope I can think of someone else who might be able to fill the slot, someone who would be grateful for such an opportunity, who finds it a better match for where they are in life. As nice as I’d like to be, I need to be kind to myself, the artist, first.

HUNGRY ART (follow-up to the above post.)

A few people e-mailed me after yesterday’s blog entry, to ask how the decision had gone. This is how:

I thanked the person for the opportunity, said no, and offered to pass on the name of another person if possible. And this morning I did just that. I thought of another artist who might work well, and contacted both parties with information about the other. I really hope this works for both of them.

Another e-mail from a former student commented that she was spending a lot of time buying art materials and playing with them, but wasn’t actually making much art. She sounded like she has the right attitude, though—“All in good time, all in good time,” she said.

It’s natural to hit fallow periods where the art doesn’t come easily. Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artist’s Way” calls these periods “filling the well.” They are necessary and can be very productive, healing times. Playing with new materials and new ideas often leads to exciting new developments in our art.

And some people don’t feel the need to go any further than this. Their art is truly a pastime, something pleasant and enjoyable.

If you begin to feel a nagging sensation, though, a “could” rather than a “should”, maybe it’s time to impose a little more structure.

I started to do something this morning, and realized some of our pets hadn’t been fed or given fresh water. I thought, “I’ll get to it after I eat breakfast.” And then stopped. No. They are dependent on me for their physical needs. I need to take care of THEM first. And I did.

Our art has the same dependency on us. The unique vision we have as a unique person, a unique artist, cannot come into the world except through us. It sits and waits, sometimes patiently, sometimes anxiously. If you ignore its need to exist too long, however, it will come crashing through. “FEED ME!!”

Don’t let your art get too hungry today.

FEEL THE FEAR (And Do It Anyway)*

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

FEEL THE FEAR (And Do It Anyway)*

Share your work, your thoughts, yourself on social media, and own it!

(5 minute read)

There’s a hidden underbelly to using social media to promote our creative work. We don’t talk about it much, it’s quite prevalent, and it can’t really be fixed.

There will always be someone who’s happy to tell you what’s wrong with it: Your style, your subject, your technique, your skill level, your choice of color, theme, title, etc. And also what’s wrong with Y*O*U.

If this happens to you, here are some words of comfort and encouragement.

In 1948, Shirley Jackson’s most famous short story, often included in high school reading/literature classes, “The Lottery” was published in the New Yorker magazine. It generated a (quote) “deluge of complaints” to the editor, and a substantial number of cancelled subscriptions. (Just FYI, the new movie about Jackson is not based on her actual life, according to her son, and contains incredible untruths, as does the book it’s based on. The author says it’s fiction, though it can ‘read’ like a true bio. Although I also hear Elizabeth Moss’s performance is amazing!

One of my all-time favorite mystery writers, Sue Grafton, died before completing her famous “alphabet series” (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. and her last one was Y is for Yesterday. No Z.) She’s won almost every mystery award you can think of, multiple times.) Critics have called her one of the top mystery writers in every category, especially her series. I’ve read them all multiple times.

Out of curiosity, I checked some reviews and ratings on Amazon, while buying her last book. I was shocked to see how many 3-stars and below ratings her books got, usually between 17-19%. One longtime reader gave her 1-star and a terrible review, because she “wrote too much”. (Remember “Too many notes” in the movie Amadeus?)

One of my top three favorite advice-givers, Captain Awkward, is hugely popular, known for her wit, in-depth analysis of what’s going on, her insights, etc. She is an advocate for kinds of good causes and movements, all people, all genders, etc. She has thousands, tens of thousands, of followers, maybe more, including thousands of paying supporters on Patreon.

And yet, she has created a special folder for the deluge of hateful, angry, highly-critical comments she receives on a daily basis, which she doesn’t even read. (She also deletes their comments and blocks them forever after their first rant.)

And we wonder why people hesitate to post their thoughts, their writing, their artwork, their stories online….

I actually wrote a series a while back called “Haters Gonna Hate”, about how we can’t focus on who hates us/our work, we just have to get it out there. I received quite a bit of blowback about using the word “hate”. (Can you spell “irony”?) And another series, Mean People Suck, has truly stood the test of time.

We know that Shirley Jackson persisted and began a highly-popular and highly-respected author (faux movie dialog notwithstanding), as did Sue Grafton. Captain Awkward (aka “Jennifer Peepas”) does not let the haters slow her down for a minute.

Neither should YOU let these people slow YOU down.

I used to engage with nay-sayers, until my team/partner/wise people in my life encouraged me not to even try. I still struggled, hoping to convince those toxic people to simply skip over or delete my posts/emails/columns/articles.

Now,in the movements for justice and equality today, people deep in those movements advise the same: Don’t waste time or energy trying to change someone’s mind. Instead, find ways to support the people/communities/organizations who are already working to change the world for the good.

You could do the same. Delete, mute, block. Move on. And get back to your happy place so you can make your art, and get it out into the world.

It took courage to see the artist in yourself. It took courage to take up brush/pencil/clay/a camera/a microphone/dancing shoes and pursue the work you care about.

It will also take courage to put it out into the world.

I’m reminded of this today from another source: Ginger Davis Allman’s email newsletter The Muse. Allman works in polymer clay, but her wisdom and insights apply to almost any creative endeavor. In today’s article, she concludes, “Best is subjective. Because each of us is different, things resonate with us differently and hit us in different ways. So we each have our own idea of “best” or “favorite”. There IS no best.” Yes, in certain instances, the opinions of others are relevant. But in the end, “the only idea of “best” that matters is your own.”

I get it. I dread reading comments. I’ve gotten some doozies, and it can be daunting. But I’ve worked too hard to get where I am today, and I’ll be darned if I let someone who’s having a bad day/hair day/time/life take me down to their level.

Do your work. Do it for yourself. Take a deep breath and share it with the world, however you can. Be proud of where you are, and be excited about where you’re going.

I wrote some of my best articles when I had no audience. Because, I learned even before my favorite “Sally Forth” comic was published, that it’s not about having an audience….

It’s about having a voice.

You can be afraid. You can worry about being judged. You can worry about feeling ‘less than’. It’s human.

We all want our work to be loved, respected, collected, displayed with joy. Once it leaves our hands, it has its own journey. To be loved now, or in a hundred years (like Van Gogh), or in 10,000 years.

Or forgotten, like so many others lost to us in time. No matter. It’s not where it goes that counts.

It’s what it brought YOU, in the making.

Feel the fear (and do it anyway.)

 

*Thanks and a hat-tip to Susan Jeffers for her amazing book, where this title came from!

WAYBACK WEDNESDAY: ART vs. CRAFT: I’m Losing

I’ve decided to publish a blog post on Wednesdays, republishing posts from my now-defunct and hard-to-find blog at Radio Userland.

Hence, Wayback Wednesday!

Yes, it’s just by chance that this blog post first appeared on a Wednesday. 🙂

If you’d like to see the original post (and others!), click on the title below.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I’m feeling bipolar lately. My mood has been up and down, sometimes all at once. SAYING I need to rethink how to get my artwork out into the world sounds very brave and confident. In reality, I just want to hunker down and run away.Today, in between making horse sculptures for some stores, I followed a link to an interesting blog called “Redefining Craft” which you can see here: http://www.redefiningcraft.com/

I really don’t speak academese, so I skipped through some of his entries until I hit the one for February 8 entitled, “Art vs. Craft: Who’s Winning?” In this entry, Dennis Stevens posts two images, one of a Nike shoe on a stick, and one of a mask by glass artist William Morris.

Or rather, according to Mr. Stevens, “non-artist” William Morris. It turns out the Nike shoe is the image that provokes and enlightens, while Morris’s work is merely a hijack of another culture’s imagery for his own gain.

Wonder what Mr. Stevens would say about my Lascaux imagery?

Oh, well, at least it’s possible that Lascaux IS my cultural heritage. It’s possible some of my ancestors were French.

But I have to admit, I felt a certain dismay that as a craftsperson, I’m in danger of being left on the side of the high-culture highway for lack of having anything potent or portent or important to say.

Doesn’t help that I also recently watched the movie “Art School Confidential” which you can read about here: http://imdb.com/title/tt0364955/

It’s a movie about a young art student at college. He finds his beautiful work is totally ignored by his teachers, his peers and the art world while pretentious, self-aggrandizing crap is revered as “true art”. The kid eventually passes himself off as a serial killer so he can attain his ultimate goal of being a famous artist. (Because as soon as he’s arrested, his paintings sell like hotcakes.)

There’s one thought, and one thought only that moves my heart gently back to its rightful place.

I didn’t deliberately choose any of this (except for one thing.)

I didn’t deliberately manufacturer the message of my art.

Call me lazy, call me shallow, call me a clueless craftsperson or a non-artist. All I know is, ten years ago I felt like I was dying inside. And when I hit the lowest point in my life, I make one of the most important decisions of my life.

I decided to make the stuff that made me feel human again.

I tried a lot of different things and a lot of different techniques until I found the ones that felt…that resonated…the most with what was in my heart.

It just FELT right.

Of course I have great hopes for my artwork. And of course I want people to buy it. And of course I hope to be recognized for making beautiful things.

But I didn’t choose what I do to attain that. It chose me.

All the discussions about art vs. craft, about what makes great art, and who is a “real artist” make my head hurt. They always have.

In the end, I’m left at the end of the day with one question.

Did I make something I’m proud of?

And did I put enough of myself into it that it calls to other people?

And did I do at least one thing to get it out into the world for others to experience?

Okay, more than one question at the end of the day.

But these are the questions I CAN answer.

I’ll leave the more academic questions for wiser people than me to answer.

LEARNING TO SEE #13: Eyes on the Wrong Prize

Today, I am slowly transferring my ‘selling’ space from Etsy (since 2008!) to my FASO website at LuannUdell.com.

It will take a while, and I won’t completely give up my Etsy site. I may keep it for my less-expensive work, destash items, discontinued items, etc.

But the insight that a more unified-approach to selling my work online is long overdue.

Part of it comes from a newsletter this week from Clint Watson, owner/developer of the website hosting company Fine Art Studios Online, which also (ta-da!) hosts Fine Art Views, the online art marketing newsletter I’ve written for since 2011. In the article, Clint pleads for artists not to send him off-site when he wants to purchase their work.

So, insight from a long-time artist/gallery owner who now works to maximize artists’ sales and connection with their audience. I’ll take it!

But something else opened my eyes today, too. This is hard to share….

I’ve been distracted my entire career by false measures of my success in the world.

Like everybody else, I believe my work and story to be unique to ME. And being the center of my own universe, I think it’s the best in the world. Not bragging. Just human nature. (Okay, a lot of us swing from “I’m the best!” to “I suck!” We should form a club. It would be huge.)

Oh, I’ve got a humble side, too. I can see every error, every misstep along the way. Sometimes they’re so obvious in hindsight, I cringe. (See what I mean about the swing part?)

And yet I also know the power of my work, how strongly my customers connect to it, and how it has not only widened, but deepened my own life in so many ways. Even the work that now seems not-up-to-snuff had passionate collectors, people who even today beg me to replace/restore/replace a treasured piece they love.

And like everyone else, I want those awards, prizes, (and M*O*N*E*Y that comes with those prizes), the proof that I am who I say I am, that I’m as good as I like to think I am. I want the publicity that comes with those awards, too.

The latest is the Etsy Design Awards, which applications are being accepted for now.

Unfortunately, such honors have been few and far between, and none of them really affected my sales or popularity. And in hindsight, I can see why not.

My work is out of the box. I barely fit into even a ‘mixed-media’ category for shows, exhibits, etc. let alone more specialized ones.

Although my entire body of work is connected with a powerful story, stories aren’t often a factor in selection. (The Etsy one does, but just wait…) Even after 30 years of making, I still recognize the awe–and confusion–many first-time visitors experience when they see my work. “What is this made of?? Is it real ivory?” (The most frequent comment is, “It’s absolutely beautiful, and I have no idea what I’m looking at…”)

Here’s the origin story that led to today’s insights:

For decades, the League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair was half my annual income. Besides that, it’s a prestigious and respected fine crafts organization, one I’m proud to me a member of.

And every year at the Fair, I dreamed of being selected for the Best Booth Award.

Almost every year, I’d come this close to winning. Well, okay, not THAT close. But I was often listed as a runner-up or also-ran.

I had a beautiful booth, and some of the judges would tell me later that they were appalled I hadn’t won. It helped, but I constantly wondered why I couldn’t nail it.

Until finally, years later, I realized I was shooting for the wrong star. Eyes on the wrong prize.

Holy cow! What do I care if my booth isn’t the prettiest?? That is NOT why I make the work I do.

Yes, I strive to display my work to its best. I work hard to have a professional booth at shows. I work hard at every professional aspect of my art biz, as a matter of fact, from process, to display, to marketing, to customer care.

And yet, somehow I landed on “best booth” as a measure of my worth?!

We all can fall victim to some imagined “measure of success” that actually has nothing to do with our own definition of “success”.

Years ago, I talked with a talented, well-known fiber artist. We talked about goals, and they shared theirs with me: “I want to have my work represented in at least one gallery in every one of the 50 states!”

My first question was, “Why???”

To me, the absurdity of this goal was obvious. Who needs 50 galleries, some chosen only for their being in Arkansas, or Alaska? Especially when what we SHOULD have as a goal. is having some number of excellent galleries that are a perfect fit for our work, and have staff that are ardent representatives for us.

When I gently pointed this out, it landed well, fortunately. Later, they confessed this goal had helped keep them motivated, to a point (which is great!) But they realized it had outlived its purpose: Getting them outside their ‘comfort zone’ and into exploring galleries outside of our region.

Second origin story: Decades ago, at a major wholesale show, someone mocked me for remaining cheerful about the new opportunities offered to me (publicity, galleries, a chance to write articles in the future) during the show, despite low sales. And here I thought I was being mature, looking for the good in the sad times. I thought, “Yeah, I guess it wasn’t such a good show…”

Until the show coordinator and now a valued friend, brought me back to my higher, chosen reality. They asked, “Is money the only measure of your success?” (Thank you, Alisha Vincent, forever!)

Since then, I steadily wobble from clarity to confusion, grounded to lost (and found again), just like….everybody else!

The Etsy Design Awards re-stirred this bubbling pot for me. They are looking for a great product, a great story, and great images.

Unfortunately, I’m realizing (finally!!) that neither my current phone nor my old camera are capable of high-res images.

And so even my current ‘best images’ get kinda blurry in full-scale view. (I didn’t realize this until I looked at my site as the judges would. Ouch!!)

Even great photography doesn’t capture the entire beauty of my work. Despite having had amazing photographers over the years, many people, including other artisans I respect, have told me that. There’s something that can only be felt, and touched, that a photo can’t capture, and unfortunately, that ineffable quality is the mainstay of my work.

Etsy shoppers aren’t even my target audience. My best customers are people who a) have seen my work in person; b) have come to respect who I strive to be in every aspect as a human and an artist. I use Etsy as a place for these folks to purchase my work, because people unfamiliar with my work usually consider my work to be too expensive. (Those who know it come to believe it’s worth every penny!)

In the interest of not overloading folks who subscribe both to my blog (on WordPress, that can no longer accommodate new subscribers), my website’s email newsletter, and the ‘new work’ email alert, I’m trying to combine more of these functions on my website. Unified field theory in action! (Moving/giving up WP will be much harder…)

Hence, my desire to slowly wean myself from Etsy.

Etsy’s been good to me, over the years. I love it, I love shopping there, and it’s been easy to upload and sell my work there, too.

But wanting a chance to ‘be Etsy’s ideal seller’ so tempting, when it’s sooooo out of reach, does not serve me.

So wish me luck! Let me know which YOU would prefer, too. If you can prove Clint right, that you’d prefer NOT to be directed off-site to purchase my work, let me know. I’ll do my best to replicate the Etsy experience: More images available for each item, better images, etc.

There’s a lot of work I need to get started on, and it will take time. How will the site (or PayPal?) handle shipping labels? (I can purchase First Class shipping labels on Etsy, but not the USPS site.) Will FASO calculate and collect sales tax? (Etsy does that automatically.) Many, many questions ahead!

But consolidating my website’s capacities, and my own sense of purpose in the world, is underway!

What was YOUR moment of clarity about YOUR art goals? Please tell me I’m not the only one who keeps forgetting what’s really important in our winding journey through life!

 

 

LEARNING TO SEE #12: BEST. FASO WEBSITE FEATURE. EVER!!!!

My current best-selling artifact necklace. Which I never would have realized, except for this amazing FASO feature!

This article first appeared on Fine Art Views, an online art marketing newsletter hosted by Fine Art Studios Online, a website dedicated to artists and creatives. If you have trouble commenting here, try commenting there! 

LEARNING TO SEE #12: BEST. FASO WEBSITE FEATURE. EVER!!!!

(6 minute read)

It’s been right under my nose, but I just found it a few weeks ago. And I’m kicking myself I didn’t ‘get it’ sooner, but I’m glad I finally have!

Backstory: I have faithfully market my work online. I have a separate, professional page on Facebook. I’ve blogged since 2002. I have an Instagram account (which I set up to repost on Facebook), and my blog posts repost on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler. I’m on LinkedIn, and I’m diligent about updating my artist profiles on the websites of the professional organizations I belong to. I’ve been on Etsy since 2008, with the philosophy that I am not marketing to Etsy buyers, I’m giving my own customers a place to see and buy new work.

But overall, my online sales have been pretty meager. Most of my sales, even gallery sales, don’t measure up to my open studio events and the top shows I used to do.

I’d come to believe that my sales soar only when people meet me, and my work, in person. I believe in my ability to create connection on whatever level someone feels comfortable with, when people actually visit my booth or studio.

And moving to California five years ago felt like starting over, in every way. Finding a new studio, finding those important, respected art events, finding new galleries for my work, was a little daunting.

But I found the events that have slowly rebuilt a new audience, and I’ve been accepted by some great galleries here in Sonoma County.

And then the pandemic hit. Everything that was anything is now kinda nothin’.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve always thought of my website as a billboard on the internet highway. Full of art images, a place where people can go to find out who I am and what I do, if they make the time. But sales? Nah.

Etsy makes it easy for me to print mailing labels and ship my work, so why do I need that on my website? I used my FASO site for my newsletter (which had a learning curve, but I think I’ve got it down now.) But that’s about it.

Then recently, I realized I hadn’t updated my “Works” page in quite a while. Things are slow, so I thought I’d spend some time taking care of that.

So I uploaded a few images….

And two items sold immediately.

Wha….?! (In a good way!)

Oddly, I’d seen a few emails as a result of this automatic, alert-your-customers email service. I’d respond to people with a thank you. But I didn’t get how it worked, how they’d found that image. I didn’t even think to inquire about it.

That whack-a-mole sound you hear is me, smacking my head bigtime.

Since then, I now regularly post new work on my FASO, and email alerts are sent to all my email newsletter subscribers. I get wonderful comments, and respond to each one.

And almost everything I’ve uploaded has sold. Sometimes before I can even get it uploaded to Instagram! (I create a new listing on my Etsy page, then upload it to my FASO “new works” section, with a link to my Etsy listing for more images and for purchase, then repost on IG with same, which reposts to Facebook…have I lost you? Trust me, I understand!)

Then I read the Fine Art Views article by Jeanne Rossier Smith about her huge increase in sales, using not just this ‘new work’ email alerts, but also an AMP (Art Marketing Playbook) seminar. AHA! Just found the source for these videos:  https://data.fineartstudioonline.com/boldbrush/video/free And the playbook! https://data.fineartstudioonline.com/offers/amp/?download=y

Re: more information on the automatic alert thingie, I suck at giving step-by-step instructions, except in person, when I’m teaching. In fact, I don’t even know if I signed up for this marketing feature, or if it’s simply part-and-parcel of a FASO website. I finally checked with my editor, and this is what she shared with me:

  1. “The AMP program is free to all FASO paying members (so everyone on a FASO plan, except those with a FREE plan- only used for the contest & ads). You can find all you need to know about AMP and our new marketing platform, right from you FASO control panel by clicking on the Marketing tab and then choosing one of the options. We have free videos on AMP & webinars.
  2. For our art alert featurethis is not extra at this time, most paying plans currently have this feature available during Covid-19. We just sent out a FASO member newsletter about this  https://data.fineartstudioonline.com/nl/?nid=167771

 

Other caveats: I also offer a peek on my website, and republish all the relevant information, but redirect people to my Etsy shop. My jewelry ranges from $75-$350. I know most paintings sell for much more!

I can also offer free shipping for my most of my items, and Etsy allows me to purchase postage and labels for below-market prices. So your results may vary.

But I’m also realize it’s time to educate myself about what advantages my FASO site might offer when it comes to sales and shipping.

I’ve also wondered if the corona virus is making people more aware of their mortality, and ours Maybe they’re afraid I’ll die from Covid-19, and there will be no more little horse necklaces for sale…?? (Morbid, but true?)

But in short, everything Jeanne Rossier Smith said rings true.

When it comes to social marketing, here are some ‘tried and true’ insights to get rid of:

Sales aren’t actually about how many ‘likes’ our posts get. It’s not about ‘branding’, and ‘driving people to our websites’. (Cattle herd terms.) Yes, doing good work helps, but we don’t have to be one of the top ten artists in the country.

We just have to make our work. We have to get it out there. We have to engage meaningfully with our admirers and collectors, with integrity and authenticity.

Maybe I’ll even get a little ‘pushier’. When I’m speaking in person with a potential buyer, I ask that same question Jeanne mentioned: What spoke to you about this piece? It’s time for me to ask that in an email, or even a phone call.

I have started mentioning to people that if they see the dog/fox/otter/bear/horse that speaks to them, they should jump on it, because they’ve been selling quickly. It’s actually true, so I don’t feel like I’m twisting arms (which I HATE.)

And I love that Jeanne had such success and shared that with us, too.

So take advantage of everything a FASO website has to offer. FASO knows what an artist needs, based on the owner’s own experience as an artist, a gallery owner, and a collector. (Thank you, Clint!) And it shows.

If you enjoyed this article, you can read more at Fine Art Views and my blog or email newsletter. If you know someone who enjoyed it, pass it on! And if someone sent this to you, and you enjoyed it, ditto!