Dan, regarding your Etsy impressions.....I had EXACTLY the same impression.
Anyway, I think it was two or three years ago that someone posted a link to etsy on the NAIA forum. My first take: I was totally underwhelmed. I didn’t see much work there that….well, I didn’t see much work there that even a charitable jury would accept into the average art fair.
Maybe it’s my age or the length of time I’ve been doing this for a living (33 years) or maybe just that I’m irrationally, undeservedly arrogant (<--prolly that one), but I didn’t want the association with what I saw as “that level of work”. But that summer I really started to feel the need again to fix my website for marketing. I had the sense that my Fall schedule wasn’t something I could have confidence in to get me through the Winter. Still, I had no clue as to how to do what I needed to do.
Some people were telling me “Oh, it’s easy. Just put “Buy It Now” buttons on your website”. Others were telling me that putting a shopping cart on the website was no big deal.
It was a big deal. And a dead end. Again.
But I started looking at other potter’s sites. I’d spend a few hours a day for a while just going from site to site and traveling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Then I googled up the site of a potter acquaintance who (as I remembered it) didn’t used to have a site -- at least not when I was first building mine. “Hmmm” says I, “Richard’s got a site now”. And when I clicked on the link on his site titled “Pots to Buy” it took me to an etsy site. Well, probably because it was Richard, but mostly because I went from Richard’s site to the etsy site, it suddenly dawned on me… …there really was no need for my customers, or the public-at-large who may be following links to and from my site, to ever know (or make any association with) anything of etsy beyond my page there.
My fears (unfounded ANYWAY, as it turns out) of people making qualitative assumptions about my work because of the other work on etsy were allayed.
So I immediately opened an etsy account. But I had show commitments and really didn’t have tons of inventory (as I saw it then) to upload right away. And St James Court Art Show was great that year – causing me to put off uploading even longer.
But when November rolled around I decided to start working on the site. I had sales almost immediately. And here are at least a few of the most gratifying discoveries:
1. The sales came, not by linkage from my site, but directly from the etsy site. So not only was etsy not deserving of my arrogance and condescension – they’ve put together a real market -- and a tremendous internal marketing mechanism.
2. And because the sales were coming from etsy – not from prior customers – I’ve now made sales to areas of the country where I’ve never done art fairs. Of the nearly 100 sales I made in my first month with etsy, most of the pots were shipped to BRAND NEW CUSTOMERS. I've now passed 670 sales and most of them follow that same trend.
3. I found myself making out shipping labels to people named “Brianna” and “Alecia” and “Cara”. In other words, the very demographic that we seem unable to DRAG to art fairs. Younger people. Yay. Hooray.
I have a much different philosophy about how I intend to keep up my etsy site. So far it seems I’m right, even though I’m going counter to what my friends tell me they like in a site. My friends tell me they want a no-muss, no-fuss site with minimal copy to read through, and point and click buying.
I go along with the ease of point and click buying, but I don’t agree with minimal copy.
I’ve always felt that there were several built-in advantages to selling via art fairs, not the least of which was trading on each other’s gravitas. In other words: when someone who might not know pottery sees me at the same art fair set up next to Steve Kostyshyn’s incredible baskets, or Jerry Smith's marvelous landscapes, or paintings done on the masterful level of an Eddie Corkery, or drawings like Don Coons’, the assumption falls to my advantage. The art fair implies to the public that I am quite possibly a craftsman of the same level as those masters (whether true or not).
The other strength of the art fairs is the face-to-face meeting of artist and patron. We get to tell people – beyond just what we are selling – a bit of who and what we are. And I’ve always believed strongly that that was a VERY important marketing factor. I think that for the past thirty years, the art fair patron has been buying what we’re selling, yes – but also buying a little bit of our “story” too…. ”I got this from a guy who does the coolest….” …The art fair patron LOVES a good story to go along with their purchase.
I don’t mean B.S. I mean our real stories.
Sometimes we forget just what a wonderful dream we live out by making our living with our wits, skills, imagination, clay, glazes and fire. It’s magic, I tell you.
When we go off on our own into the ether of the internet, there is no such strength in numbers – nothing giving a point of reference to either my quality or even some hint as to who I am. And there’s no story inherent in a picture of product. I believe strongly in building up a winsome marketplace via my site. I believe in telling my story.
And beyond the initial sale, I think the strength of the internet market is in coming up with SOMETHING about your site -- your story -- that will make one potential patron not only buy, but send a website link to their entire forwarding list with a subject heading…”You ought to see this website! This guy’s got the coolest….tells the funniest…” Whatever you’ve got that you think will move at the speed of light from one email address to another to bring them back to your site for more – more product, yes.
More story? … yeah, that too.
So, yeah, I risk embarrassment by going out of my comfort zone and writing creatively to a bunch of strangers. I’m on a high wire without an editor. It’s scary, and perhaps I’ve embarrassed myself without yet knowing it.
But so far it seems to have worked too. And, yes, it’s been a lot of work. Lots of hours writing and re-writing. Lots of hours shooting photographs that aren’t supposed to appeal to an art fair jury (subject for another rambling, boring post – it occurred to me that jury slides are not good marketing tools). But there’s been a great response. And so far it's kept up for more than two years.
1. You can’t do the simplest codes in your copy – no italic, no bold, no underline. No nothing. In this day and age that’s inexcusable and unnecessary for a site that should be expecting the expressive descriptions that today’s market demands.
2. No linking outside of etsy. That means if you have published articles in periodicals, or a book, or anything else that might help you tell your story to your etsy audience, you can’t link to them.
3. No reverse linking to your own website. I understand etsy's perspective. But it’s limiting enough that it will quite possibly cause a number of successful artists to leave to develop their own sites because of the editorial inflexibility of etsy.
4. You can’t change the order in which your images appear on your etsy page. If you don’t think ahead as to what might look good together – in good layout fashion – you can’t change it if the overall appearance of your page looks less than it could be if you could but change the images around to put your favorite foot forward.
I'd encourage you to at least give etsy another look. Or not. Your call -- you know how you want to sell.