Friday, October 08, 2010

Tips for Selling Art on Etsy

Since starting on Etsy in 2006 with my first art shop, livefunky, I've been asked by many artists how to best sell their art on Etsy. After writing a lengthy reply to the most recent request, I decided to edit it my response for a general audience and share my suggestions and advice here. Some of this will be already well known by seasoned Etsians, but for new sellers and artists, this is the ground work information that will help you get your work to be seen and ideally selling!

EDITED TO ADD October 1. 2012: What you need to know about selling on Etsy is that Etsy is ever changing. All of my advice doesn't necessarily apply one day to the next. Take this all with a grain of salt, and then go to the forums and find teams that can help you with what's current on Etsy.

1. Shop Info & Appearance

Your shop title should include keywords that people would use to find your shop. For example, mine is "Original Abstract Paintings Fine Art by Jessica Torrant". Including your name is a good idea for artists along with keywords about the style, medium or any other defining features of your work. Next is your description. You can keep it simple, but again think about the words that will act as keywords. Something like "Welcome to my gallery of original abstract paintings by John Doe. I work in oil on canvas and ship worldwide." What I have is "Original Modern Art abstract paintings by Jessica Torrant. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas." So my shop will come up like this in Google searches.

Original Abstract Paintings Fine Art by Jessica Torrant by JessicaTorrant
Original Modern Art abstract paintings by Jessica Torrant. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

I want my name, modern art, fine art, abstract paintings, original paintings, acrylic, mixed media and canvas as my keywords, so I've worked them into a couple of relatively cohesive and brief sentences. What would your ideal buyer type into Google to find what you make? Those are the keywords you want to have in your shop title and description.

Your banner should be crisp and clear and lure buyers in, not overwhelm them. If you're not comfortable with graphic design, there are many graphic designers that sell them on Etsy pre-made and also make custom banners for a relatively inexpensive rate.

2. Profile

The first thing to add is an avatar. There are varying opinions on this to either add one of your products or a picture of yourself. I happen to like pictures of the artist when it's a visual artist. If you frequent the forums and post in them, a picture of one of your paintings would be better because it could make someone curious to click on it, leading them to your shop. If you don't frequent the forums, I'd go with a picture of yourself. In the end, it's really up to personal preference.

Next up is to write your profile. You can either write a loose paragraph about who you are, what you do and why you do it/how you came to start making art, what you love about making art, etc. or you can write out a full artist statement and bio. The approach is up to you, but having something in your profile allows buyers to get to know the human being behind the shop which increases buying confidence.

3. Policies

Filling out your policy section is another thing that can help gain buyer confidence. I won't comment on what to write - that's up to you. Your return policy, shipping methods and other information is all personal to your preference, just be sure to fill out this area.

4. Titles

The link above is to articles about SEO (search engine optimization). There is a lot of helpful information about how to utilize all the keywords buyers would use to find your work throughout your shop description, listing titles and descriptions.

Starting with your titles, flush them out with relevant keywords relating to what you're selling such as "original abstract painting", "original figure study", "original landscape oil painting". You can also include large, big or huge if it's a large painting. Also, if you're including the artwork dimensions, I would take away the word "inches" because it takes up valuable space. Instead, I would just write 18x24 or whatever it is because it's assumed it's in inches. In the description you can include inches or " and you might also want to consider adding the metric dimensions for international buyers.

Here are some examples of titles I could use for Beloved.

-Original abstract texture painting on 12x12 canvas - BELOVED
-Beloved by Jessica Torrant - original abstract painting 12x12
-Square abstract painting acrylic on canvas - Beloved

Whatever the major features of what you're selling may be - be it the style, medium, surface or technique - include that in the title.

5. Descriptions

Fleshing out your listing descriptions is key. Before I got into the groove of writing my own, I looked at a lot of other artist's listings to see examples of how people are doing it. Everybody's different, so you can pick and choose elements that you like (but don't copy - obviously). I tend to have a general description that I copy and paste to save me time and just edit what needs to be edited (like size, title, etc). Also, the first couple of lines of your description are included in Google searches, so having keywords in the first few lines is important. You can see when you are writing the description how much will show up in Google searches. Etsy has this feature right under where you enter the description.

How you express yourself and phrase your description is up to you, but a full description of what you are selling is important. What is it, does it have a name, how was it made, what materials, what are the dimensions, who made it and when, is it framed/unframed/ready to hang or something else, prominent colors, inspiration, how will it be shipped, when will it be shipped? The list goes on and on as to what you can share, just be sure to at least include the basics. I like to include a "return to shop" link at the end of the listing just in case someone stumbles on it and isn't familiar with Etsy and don't know how to return to a shop or that there even is a whole shop behind that one listing.

6. Pictures

Pictures are your number one selling tool. The clearer, crisper and more true-to-life they are, the better. It's best to try and fill as many photos as Etsy allows. Close ups, side shots, images of it hanging in a room or on your easel. You can buy a stock photo of an interior online (usually under $4) and use that image to paste your paintings into it making it look like your painting is hanging in a room. One thing I've heard as a complaint to this is when people make an 8" x 10" (for example) look huge in the staged photo, so try and keep it to approximate scale. Do a search on Etsy to see how other artists are displaying their work, including centering it on backgrounds from solid black to fading backgrounds. There are a lot of ways to present yourself, the important thing is to start with good, clear pictures. Remember the the first picture will be the one that customers will see in your shop and in searches. Make that the best one and absolutely identifiable of what it is.

Some DON'Ts:

-Don't show evidence of flash.
-Don't photograph with a distracting background (aka leaning against your car in the driveway or propped on a kitchen chair with your kid drawing on the wall in the background, though that would be fun to see.)
-Don't choose blurry pictures.

Some possible DOs:

-Pose with your painting.
-Show it hanging in a gallery, if it ever has or is.
-In the studio as a finished piece or work in progress.

7. Shipping

Consider offering international shipping. You can even have a high estimate for shipping to "everywhere else" and write in your listing descriptions something like I have "I ship worldwide with insurance. If I have over estimated the shipping fees, I will refund you the difference once it's been shipped." This just opens you up to all of the international buyers that are looking at the site. Also, write about how your items will be shipped, where to and when in the description.

8. Tags

Choosing the right tags is essential. Since this is written primarily for visual artists, you're going to obviously start with art. Odds are the list of suggested tags below art will reveal something that relates to what you're selling be it painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. Click on any of the tags that relate to what you're selling. If you're not selling an original painting, don't add it as a tag (even if it's a print OF an original painting, buyers are turned off when they see reproductions in a search for original art). Other possible tags to include are the subject matter (floral, landscape, abstract), the medium (oil, acrylic, watercolor), the size (small, large, huge), the colors (peach, turquoise, brown), the style (modern, impressionist, realism), and your name. If you join any teams, they may have tags you can add as well.

9. Getting lost in the sea.

Tags and keywords are important to exposure and people finding you, but another important thing is to remain relevant. This means either listing new work (and I do advise the more the merrier!) or re-listing existing items. This brings you to the top of the heap so to speak. Some people look at re-listing as an advertising tool. For 20 cents they can push their item forward to the cherished first few pages of a search. If it's been a month since you last listed or re-listed something, that means you are buried on the 20th or 40th page - it could be 100's of pages deep depending on the search.

10. Having a lot to offer.

Be it prints and originals, or a range of sizes of original art, the more you have in your shop, the more chances you have to be seen and, in turn, for people to buy. I've had artists with five paintings in their shop ask me what they can do to improve their shop and the first thing I think is add more work. People like options and having a range of prices helps as well. Maybe they fell in love with your large, $2,500 painting but can't afford it so they buy a small piece instead. You don't need dozens of pages of listings, but it just make sense that the more you offer, the more potential you have to sell something.

11. Promotion

This one is really up to you and how much effort/time you want to devote to outside promotion. Having a website or a blog, using social media like twitter and facebook, joining artist sites and sharing your portfolio with links to your shop, are all options for you along with others. You can also advertise, but I like to take advantage of as many of the free options as I can and invest in more art supplies. :) It is only as time consuming as you want it to be, but the more you get your name/shop/link/art out there, the more people will start to pick up on it and share it with other people.

12. Proofreading

My husband is a writer and we help to proofread for each other. If you have someone to check out your listings, shop profile - anything you've written - and check for grammatical errors or spelling errors, that can make a world of difference. It amazes me how much I miss when I write. I can have some glaring errors and I just read right over them!

13. Networking

Get to know more about Etsy by familiarizing yourself with others that are selling there. You can join teams, read the blog, and follow other artist's blogs.

14. Understand it may not happen overnight

Selling art can be a challenge and don't expect success to happen overnight (though who knows, it's always possible!). It takes work and patience, the latter being something that has continually challenged me. Especially when you are new to Etsy, it may take a while to get those first few sales and much desired positive feedback. Of course, if you find that Etsy just doesn't jive with you or you find a more desirable venue to sell your work you should move along, but don't give up if it's just been a month and you haven't had a sale yet. It does take time, but the more you weave yourself into the network, the web of Etsy, the more things will pick up steam.

Additional Etsy DOs and DON'Ts

-DO respond politely and quickly to any emails you get from customers or potential customers.

-DON'T spam - aka drop your shop link in a blog comment or an unrelated forum thread. Also, don't contact people that have added you or one of your items as a favorite. This is also considered spam. If you add a customer's email to a mailing list without their permission, that's a big no-no.

-DO let your personality shine.

-DON'T act unprofessional, rude, insulting, defensive, desperate, begging, or arrogant - pretty much the obvious - don't be a jerk.

-DO present your work in a way that makes YOU want to buy it. Sell it, baby! Work that art!

This is just the tip of the iceberg and if I think of anything else, I'll add to the post.

Please comment with any of your suggestions, your experience on Etsy, or other DOs and DON'Ts. Thanks for reading!

- Jessica


Julia Brucker said...

Great suggestions, Jessica! I have found social networking to be very helpful in selling art online as well. I would also recommend showing work in brick and mortar galleries, art fairs, and other spaces in order to promote yourself. Anything to build the brand.

As for relisting, how successful have you found that to be? Do you relist often (I know some people relist everyday).

Unknown said...

That's a great suggestion Julia! So true that there's nothing better than getting your work out there "in the flesh".

When it comes to re-listing, it's not something I'm religious about. Ideally I'd like to keep regularly listing new work, but when it's been a while I will re-list one or a few paintings. I find it does bring in some extra views and hearts. Sometimes someone will add something as a favorite and months later come back to buy it, so for me, a little re-listing every now and then has been worth it.

soraya nulliah said...

Dear Jessica-thank you SO much for this very detailed and thorough post on selling art on Etsy. As you know...I am so new at this...I found your suggestion very helpful. I will try to work on things a little at a time...we are going to be packing out our house in the next couple of weeks...things are so super hectic over here. Yikes!!

chelcie said...

I am so glad I found your post! I have read so many articles with tips for selling products on Etsy, but I think selling visual art online is just a little different and most articles don't address the nuances that come with the territory. Thanks much!

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for taking the time to explain this. Your tips are clear and concise and are broken down into manageable segments. I've often wondered if I could figure it out. With your help, I have the courage to try it.

Romany Steele said...

Thank you for your helpful page. I just wanted to note the expression
"do's and don't's" is used a few times but isn't correctly written. No apostrophe before an s unless possesive or contracting a word...hubby needs to proof read it !

Unknown said...

Thank you! I'm going to go change that now.

Keetha said...

Great post! I plan to open an Etsy shop next month - this is helpful. Thanks. :-)