I finished an entire painting on Saturday, which is a marked speed improvement over the last one! (I also discovered that I can paint while sitting on the couch, which is certainly comfier than the dining room chairs…will definitely try that again sometime.) But since my train of thought is still running down the Etsy + printing + prices track, I’m going to wait a bit for show & tell.
I really appreciate each of you who took the time to leave a comment on my printing post, and I’m adding Rosina‘s name into the drawing mix since she spent a pleasant 15 minutes talking with me in person about the post. In continuing the discussion, I’m going to take the liberty of quoting from the comments since I always like it when someone responds specifically to my question/point and assume that others feel the same way. I don’t know how many of you readers have Etsy shops, have made purchases Etsy, run another type of crafting business, etc., but I hope that this discussion will be profitable for you as well and that you won’t mind the big long post.
My input, as someone who likes to buy art but doesn’t have a big budget to do so, is to raise the cost of shipping and require delivery confirmation. I don’t mind paying more for shipping if I know it will help it arrive safely. But I know I would have to swallow hard before I started considering $45 prints, especially for my kids’ room.
Delivery confirmation (and insurance) seems to be the way to go, so I’m definitely going to change my shipping policy! You’ve confirmed my fear that I am starting to price my friends out of my prospective market for the big prints, which is something I’d like not to do–I really don’t know how to handle that situation. But then again, I’m also hoping that the individual letters provide a low cost alternative.
You should make whatever art you want to make to sell- it sounds cheesy, but as long as you enjoy making it (and aren’t just making it to suit a particular market) it will show through and people will buy it.
Meg, this is an important issue that deserves its own post sometime. Quite frankly, it can be really hard to tell when I am orienting my work more toward my own vision and taste and when I am orienting it toward the market. I think any artist struggles with “to thine ownself be true” vs. paying the bills, and an illustrator is even more entangled since he/she creates art to fill a need and needs usually come with restrictions. (The items in my Etsy shop are really more fine art than illustration, but the art training that I’ve had has primarily been from the viewpoint of the illustrator and it’s hard for me not to feel as though I am illustrating for an imaginary client, the Average Etsy Buyer.)
Plus, there’s the added temptation to take a look around Etsy and see what other people are doing that sells well–it’s kind of like doing marketing research. I am not referring to copying outright, but if folksy animals or sweet vintage children seem to be the ticket to 1000 sales, it might not be a bad idea to make some notes. Take a look at this post over on A thing of beauty…see any themes?
The downside is that it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm about a style or subject matter that’s not your first choice, and I think that the buyers can tell this (which you alluded to). Plus, certain categories seem so often-repeated (ink drawings over old book pages, anyone?) that it seems as though painting one more would be like writing yet-another high shool essay on Shakespeare. I do not at all mean to knock the creativity of the first five (or ten or fifteen) people who tried this technique or to say that it doesn’t look good. I also don’t mean to imply that you have to create stunningly original works each and every time or that you need to find a market niche to belong to. I just mean to say that the issue is complicated and that I would LOVE to hear some honest discussion about issues of inspiration, originality, and the marketplace.
Prints probably sell better on Etsy than originals. Especially when originals are priced as they should be.
Pricing is so hard! In the Etsy forums, I frequently see new sellers encouraged to raise their prices, which is undoubtedly the right thing to do as artists frequently undervalue their time. Uncle Ted made the perceptive comment that “People are hardwired to believe that high price equals high quality in art. Perversely enough, you will sometimes see sales go UP if the price is higher, because they assume that you are an elite artist.” I remember this from my marketing course, and I am sure that it’s true. But it is also intimidating to raise your prices by $100 (which you certainly could!) since it really decreases the pool of potential buyers.
I think prints generally do sell better on Etsy than originals because prints are a low-cost, low-commitment way of experiencing an artist’s work. Which brings me to…
As a previous buyer of an original painting that I absolutely love, I think you can definitely raise your price on original art and have more of those available. They don’t have to be big, so you can still charge more and still be affordable, but the buyer gets the pleasure of getting an original work of art and I think that counts. I like prints, but when the costs of a print start creeping up too high, I tend to prefer to buy some original art or craft instead.
Monica, it is quite kind of you to say this and I do believe that I will be taking your suggestion…I think I’d like to offer more originals (with prices raised but not out of sight) along with some inexpensive gocco prints. This is where the big Alphabet print is again uncomfortably in the middle–expensive for a print, but not an original. I might end up phasing it out in the end. Sigh.
And I second the original art thing, too. Have some prints available but original art, even if it’s teeny tiny is a HUGE draw (at least for people like me). Multiple products at multiple price points – have some more affordable prints and more lucrative originals and you can draw a wide range of customers, says I!
“Multiple price points” is a phrase that I’ve seen in a number of places, and it seems to be the key. I won’t forget this!
Uncle T, I don’t take issue with your keen business sense or your well-informed comments. Artists probably ought to talk with businessmen more often…I think it can often be viewed as selling out when it’s really just a source of selling wisdom. Right?
I don’t think I’ll change Paulabirdy at this point since it causes a small blip of recognition and, well, I just happen to like it. But if I was starting all over again, I’d just be Paula Gibbs.
I’ll quote you on Return on Investment, though, since I think it is a very necessary point for the independent artist:
With all the pressure on you, you will simply not keep something up that doesn’t pay back. What you need to do is say, “my time is worth $20 per hour, on average for each sale I am putting in around 10 hours of worth, therefore, I will charge $200. This means that you need to cut out all the bottom prints. Your intuition is absolutely correct.
I think that the problem with this concept is mainly an emotional one. The artist is keenly aware that his/her product is not as necessary for daily life as a hard drive. No matter how well-reasoned the arguments for the place of beauty in one’s home, the art market still feels like a luxury market. And when you feel as though you are selling something non-essential, you don’t want to ask people to pay a lot because you’re afraid they won’t. And then you’ll be stuck with the 10 hours of unpaid work, and at least $5/hour is better than $0/hour.
Of course, my impressions may be shaped by the fact that I leave in a community where people are usually cheerfully scraping by. I don’t know what it’s like to have neighbors with BMWs and expensive leather couches and Chanel handbags. I have seen these places and know that they exist, but my experience with this type of buyer is so limited that I find it easier to cater my work toward what I know than that which is unfamiliar.
Hopefully you won’t all think I’m a moron after reading this or that I’m completely money-driven. This blog is my place to think out loud right now, since I find that putting thoughts into words is a really good way to clarify them. If you have any other comments or want to continue the discussion, please please feel free to chip in. I do love feeling as though we are having a discussion instead of just leaving comments.
Oh, and you probably thought I forgot! The winner of the little drawing (thank you, random number generator) is…ROSINA.
And no, I did not rig the results just because you gave me some yarn. :)