A Few Considerations to Help a Client Quickly Bring an Arts/Artisan Business Online

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Note: All of the following is semi-anecdotal — it is not meant to be comprehensive nor universal advice.

In early April, someone on the NDIA listserv asked for advice on helping artists quickly create online stores to weather the COVID-19 crisis. The following email response (from DIPNJ member, Andrew Farrelly) was later requested to be published in a more-public format. As this was originally intended to be an email, please excuse the tone and formatting!

  1. An account on Etsy is likely a better short-term (and possibly long-term) solution than a website with a Shopify store (or something similar).
    • Setting up an Etsy page is less time consuming (and is more restrictive – i.e. fewer choices have to be made, smaller chance of doing something weird) than is a website (for which you’d have to not only build (even if using a template) but also market. Given that Etsy is a marketplace itself, simply by being on it allows a vendor to be organically found (though one should not rely on being organically found).
    • Admittedly I am not super well versed in Etsy, but from my understanding, costs are variable (based on sale/listing), an ecommerce platform like Shopify has a fixed cost (between $30-$300/month) + a variable cost per transaction –taking this into consideration is important because if there is no online presence to begin with, it’s likely quite difficult to make an initial sale (or a non-negligible number of sales, depending on the margin size) If you’re not making sales, paying $30 per month adds up really quickly…
    • It might be worth making sure that people understand break even points so that they can weigh the relative benefits of Etsy vs a personal e-commerce site
  1. Instagram is usually better than Facebook for this sort of thing
    • The barrier to entry is lower (easier to set up an Instagram account vs Facebook)
    • People tend to be less selective with whom they follow on Instagram over Facebook
    • People like pretty pictures (the point of Instagram)
    • When setting up social media accounts for business:
      • Know what one’s brand is (Are you happy? Snarky? Fun? – cool! make sure you understand that, and that all content follows the brand.)
        • Being as specific as possible with identifying brand is important so that you can tell whether something is on or off brand
        • That said, brand can and should evolve as people interact/ the seller sees what works/what doesn’t
      • Have a bunch of content ready (well-lit pictures (bright and colorful tend to do well), write out what the post says, etc)
        • Posting regularly is important, and it’s easier to do if you have a lot of content loaded (create a spreadsheet content calendar – what you will post, when, etc)
      • Instagram has a weird linking setup – make sure people know that the main clickable link in Instagram is in the bio (unless you set up a business account in which case you can link to specific items in posts)
      • Social media is about building goodwill.
        • If people engage with your posts, and like what you do, they’re far more likely to buy from you when presented the opportunity than if you’re always “selling” to them
        • Calls to actions aren’t just about asking people to buy stuff from you
          • In posts, ask people questions, try to get people to comment. (more engagement = higher likelihood of purchase)
          • But when a CTA is about selling something, remember:
            • It takes people roughly eight times of interaction with an ad before they’re take the first step toward action
            • Specificity is key – what do you want them to do, and by when? What will they get? (e.g. “ ALERT! 30% off — Sign up for our newsletter by Midnight on April 9 to get exclusive information about our secret sale! Link in bio”)
        • When in doubt, ask: “Would this piss me off?”
  • It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a sale in a saturated marked without buying ads (Usually it’s a pay-per click (get charged when someone clicks on an ad) or pay per impression (get charged when people see your ad))
    • I think Etsy has an option though I don’t know what it entails – probably easier to find your store/products through search
    • Instagram is again probably the best bet for most artists, but it kind of depends on their target/use-case
  1. Set expectations appropriately — creating a website or setting up an Etsy page usually isn’t sufficient to make sales (or at least a lot of them)
    • If people understand early that it’s a ton of work, they are less likely to burn out