Selling Prints on Etsy - Part 3
(Edited 12/12/14: The original posts were made before Etsy made a lot of changes, and i've updated them as well as added a Part 4 in order to address some of these changes.)
I saved this part for last because I’m probably the worst person to talk about promoting one’s work, be it prints or in general. (I guess I’m about as good as promoting my work as I am of inspiring confidence in this blog post!) I don’t enjoy it, I don’t want to do it, and while I do more than the bare minimum, there’s still a good chance I could do So Much More. So this is more about what I HAVE done and what I’ve seen from it, and surely it’s enough to at least start with.
Social Media. It’ll always be Evil.
If you’re an artist online and you want people to know you exist it’s smart to be on everything. And if I’ve learned anything it’s that whining about it doesn’t make it better, so try and just skip over that part if you can.
Etsy has it so that on each items listing page you can post that listing directly to Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. However, if you’re going to set up accounts on multiple social media platforms the least time consuming option is to set up one account to automatically post to another whenever possible. For instance: My Facebook “fan page” automatically posts to twitter, and my Pinterest account posts to my personal Facebook when I want it to. I believe Tumblr can post to multiple places as well.
Instagram posts to multiple things, but you can’t include a clickable link in an Instagram post, so when I post an image there that I also sell prints of I tend to just mention how to find my shop on Etsy using the search.
Tumblr I’ve recently changed up a bit, where instead of just uploading an image of mine and including the basic info, I now make the image and text link to the prints listing page on Etsy and mention that people can find information on prints there. (There is now a direct link to Tumblr on every listing page!) If I’m going to put my images up it might as well lead to something that could make me money.
Everyone utilizes these things differently. I don’t like when people ONLY post their Etsy listings on their Twitter, Facebook, etc. pages, so I don’t do it myself and typically I won’t follow those who do. Other people don’t find it as annoying. You can make it just for Etsy, include posts that cover everything that has to do with your work, or make it a mix of those things and personal stuff. Whatever you’re comfortable with. But like putting up new listings often, the more you post the more chances people will see your shop.
This all goes for blogs as well. I’m awful at using mine regularly, but I’m generally fine with that because I don’t want to fall into the trap of always feeling the need to create new content, images or otherwise. I’m happy to chug along posting something only when I feel I have something to share. Things like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook I prefer since they’re set up more for quick, small posts. I can take a shot of something I’m working on or even just my studio being a mess, and bam, there it goes, off to remind people Photographer Caryn still exists. I mean, look at this series of posts! Obviously i’m not always the most succinct! There is no way I could do this all the time without having a nervous breakdown.
The good thing is that there are multiple ways of putting your work and shop out there even when you’re not actively creating anything new.
Hey you with the pretty money, come sit by me!
The other side of this is finding people who will follow you. Or really, finding people to follow in hopes they’ll follow you too. And this goes for social media as well as Etsy itself. Of course, I follow shops and people I like more often, but every once in a while I’ll browse around in search of those I would imagine might like and buy my prints, and I follow them too. So long as they’re not annoying. Though, only awesome people would buy my prints, so what am I even saying?!
Do I feel great about it? Nope. But I don’t feel great about most of this. I’d much rather live in a dark room, making images and putting them online and having that be enough to bring in all the money I need to get by. Doesn’t work like that though.
Change your thinking, put on blinders, whatever it takes?
Something else that I try and do is to not to think of my print shop as my portfolio, and stop thinking of myself as solely an artist when it comes to the shop.
If you look at the images on my website you’ll see I only have a small amount in the gallery in comparison to what I have on Etsy. THAT is my portfolio of the work I’m proud of. The hard part with this is that in including other images in my shop means I’m still slapping my name on images I’m not as proud of and sending them out there for the world to see. There are literally some that make me cringe, but, they sell. And frankly I’d rather sell more prints and bring in more money, especially if it means I can afford making more work i'm proud of. I’ll just cringe my way on to the bank, and try and remind myself on the way that the worst of the worst still never sees the light of day.
(An alternative is to have two shops, which I’ve unsuccessfully tried a few times over the years. But this is my lazy kicking in. Having to log out and back in as well as CARE is just too hard for me.)
And also, I’m sure that many are capable of bringing in loads of money and keeping their artistic integrity 100% intact, but I don’t know that it’s always realistic, especially for us smaller fish.
Ads? Those things we try to avoid? Yeah, let’s pay to push some of those on other people!
Obviously I just LOVE paying for ads.
First though, let me rewind a bit to bitch about Facebook. They’ve messed with their “algorithms” or whatever to the point that the only way the people who like your fan page will actually see all your posts is if you pay for it to happen. Each. Individual. Post. For each one to reach every follower I have I’d have to pay at least 5$ to make it happen. If I promote JUST the posts involving my Etsy listings, and I renew one listing a day, every day, that would be 150$ a month. 1800$ A YEAR!
That’s nut balls! Yet somehow I’ve still tried promoting posts, and posting ads here and there when I had a little extra money. Needless to say, it has all felt pretty pointless, and I wouldn’t suggest doing it regularly, if at all. Maybe if you’re having a sale or something else you’d deem as “special”, but that’s about it. And even then, I’d do the cheapest option just to promote an individual post. Paying for ads to try and get new people to your Facebook page has come across as a huge waste of money to me for many reasons.
(Edited to add: Facebook is even worse now! Dont upload your images there, just post links to images. Although anything seen as trying to get sales won't be seen unless you've paid for it now? Can people please start using something else?!)
Etsy has its own option for extra promotion to your shop, but it has been a long time since I’ve tried it so I don’t feel like I should comment on that. I tried their promotions, it brought views and nothing else. Don't do it. And I’ve never tried twitters option.
That’s all I really have to say about paying for ads. No, that’s a lie, I could say more but it involves words that would likely offend someone.
The Etsy Community.
In my first few years on Etsy when I’d see other people asking how to bring more people to their shop others would always suggest contributing to the forums and joining teams. I did that, more than once over the years, and I’m still part of a few communities. Aaaaaaaaand I wouldn’t suggest it. Maybe for some it helps, but the forums especially never seemed to do a thing for my shop, and worse yet there are cliques of regulars and things can get messy and it’s just a dumb waste of time to me.
Now, with teams, I’d say there is some use to them, but it all depends on the team and how much you’re willing to participate with them. For the most part I’ve stuck with ones just for photographers, but the problem there is that most of the promotional things teams will do only leads to your work being seen by other sellers. And those sellers are looking for their own sales, not usually other people’s items to buy. This wrinkle applies to all teams in one way or another, even though yes, sellers can be buyers too. But if you’re interested in the community aspect of it, which can definitely be nice, then give it a try, I just wouldn’t expect it to be the thing that pushes your shop to the next level.
Within Etsy i’ve already mentioned listing regularly, how to get your listings seen more within the search engine, and ways to get people to your shop. One more note on Treasuries that I didn’t mention in Part 2 is your participation. I can’t comment on if making treasuries helps, as I don’t make them myself (plus you’re not supposed to include your own items in them!) BUT! It helps to have the treasuries themselves seen, and you CAN help with that.
Often the person who made it will contact the shops whose items they’ve included, but not always. You can keep up with it yourself by searching for your shop name on the main treasury page, or on the ‘Your Shop’ section of your activity feed. It’s also helpful, and nice, to favorite and comment on the ones you’ve been included in, as browsing more popular treasuries is an option and could help the ones you’re in get up to the top.
You could share them on your social media accounts as well, but I don’t like to. To be honest I don’t care THAT much if other people’s shops are in treasuries, and have no interest in going to look through them, so I default to assuming people who follow me won’t care as well. Though I do sometimes post when I’m on the front page. I guess because I’m mean? =)
You could find blogs that feature artists and/or Etsy shops and see if they’ll feature yours. Offer to trade a feature on your own blog with another shop who has one. You can promote your shop in off-line venues, particularly festivals or events you participate in, should you choose to go that route as well. (Can’t help you there!) Or you could collaborate with other artists on Etsy, local or not. Like jewelry artists for example.
Make ‘em happy!
From time to time offer incentives, because we all love to feel like we’re getting a deal! Etsy has a coupon code option which I utilize in three ways:
- Here and there I have a percentage off deal that runs for a short period of time. Usually something between 10-25%, depending upon how generous I’m feeling, and typically running no longer than a weekend. Very much a “hurry and take advantage of this!” sort of thing.
- All customers automatically receive a coupon code for 10% off all their future orders. I don’t advertise this, it’s more of a little ‘thank you for buying my prints’ surprise. (SURPRISE!) A nice chunk of my buyers are repeat buyers, and i’m quite proud of that.
- Discounts on orders of more than one print to encourage larger orders. I tier it: buy two and get 10% off your order, buy 3-4 and get more off, buy 5 or more and get even more off. Given how I fold my shipping costs into my prices and say “free shipping!” (another incentive) this helps remove those extraneous costs on big orders as well as giving a discount.
Just be smart about it. Don’t offer a discount every month because then it feels like less of a special offer, and someone certainly isn’t going to buy your prints full priced if they know another sale is just around the corner. Don’t offer discounts that make it so you’re no longer making a profit, or god forbid, losing money. It’s supposed to be a discount, not a giveaway.
Or you could do a giveaway! HA! Although, really, you could. Not regularly, of course, but maybe once a year it’s a good way to drum up traffic. There are so many ways you can do it too. People have to follow your blog or your tumblr or favorite your shop or share a link to it or whatever to enter. I mean, it needs to be easily trackable/provable by you, but whichever way you go about it, it gets attention. But it does work better if you already have an established following to help get news of the giveaway out.
And make sure you have an image to post along with any of these updates/offers/etc. Text only posts tend to stand out less, so do something to catch their eye:
While these things have their obvious business perks, it feels pretty great to give a little something back to the people who enjoy your work, and usually help it get a wider audience as well. Appreciate those who like your work!
Variety is the spice of .. blah blah whatever.
While I’ve already touched on print sizes, i’m bringing it up again because I think it’s important to have a range of sizes and price points to bring people in. Personally, I love large prints, but I like to see all the fine details, and I also live in a home with a lot of wall space. So I was very surprised when I was hearing from more than one customer that they preferred small prints, and not just because of the lower price. So remember that your tastes aren’t universal. There’s also the chance that someone will buy a small print because it’s all they can afford, but then come back sometime down the road to buy a bigger version when they have the extra money. I wouldn’t have thought that was a thing until it happened multiple times.
You’re not limited to selling your images on paper. While some find the idea of putting their images on phones or bags or pillow cases or jewelry a bit tacky, I think it’s great! Each option has its own amount of planning and headaches and expenses involved, but it opens you up to a whole other set of buyers who might not have seen your work otherwise. But I wouldn’t suggest doing this right off the bat, get yourself used to selling prints first.
There is also the option of non-traditional prints. Squares, circles, mounted prints, prints on metal, prints on canvas, and prints on wood, there are a lot of options out there. Some sellers have great success selling these types of things, but oddly I’ve never once had a request for any of them. I even spent a decent amount to have some mounted circular prints done, which I thought looked awesome, and then had them sit around in a drawer for more than a year before someone bought them. So maybe try dipping a toe in to start with. Mention it’s an option on your blog or in a listing, or put it in as a variation in the listing and include a digital mockup of it, then wait and see if anyone bites.
Just remember there are loads of things you can try out along the way, and you don’t have to be married to any of them. (And if you like the idea, try it. Not everyone is going to have a problem with it, and you shouldn’t be making decisions based on what some might find tacky!)
Be a mother hen!
And as I mentioned when talking about keywords and the search engine, Etsy’s shop stats is your friend! You can see what is bringing people in, what they’re looking at and liking, and most importantly if any changes are helping bringing more views and favorites. You don’t need to, or want to, stalk your stats, because it’ll make you a crazy person, but you do want to check in after the first few months, and then on a somewhat regular basis after that, to see what is, and isn’t working. Then make changes based on what you’ve learned and repeat.
Personally I’ve found that no matter how much I post links to my listings elsewhere, the majority of my hits originate within Etsy itself, by a pretty big margin:
Again, this is just my shop. Maybe it’s because I don’t post every listing everywhere else religiously. Maybe those who follow all my various accounts just know by now where to go to see my available prints and have no need to click on every link. My “followers” on other sites are relatively small compared to the amount I have on Etsy, probably because I put less work in on getting followers on those sites. Maybe it’s all of the above. There are so many factors to all of this that it might be things I never even thought to consider.
And that about wraps it up. I think the very basics are what you’d suggest to most people (if you were a fortune cookie) about many things: It doesn’t hurt to try, start slow, try not to over-think it, be flexible, utilize as many tools at your disposal as you can, and give it time. Things have improved for me every year I’ve been doing this, but it’s been a slow improvement. Maybe you’ll be the over-achiever type and put me to shame your first year! Ya jerk!
(Yeah, I had to write more. Read the follow up here, in Part 4.