Sell Your Artwork. Grow Your Business With Elizabeth Chambers
Sell Your Art
Many artists are quite content to create art and never put it up for sale, but for those that want to sell their work it can be difficult to know where to start and whether it is possible to make a living from their art business.
Elizabeth Chambers is a British artist who is living the dream and making her art work for her. In this article, she tells us how she makes money from her art and how she set up and plans to grow her art business.
Elizabeth doesn't have a particularly favourite artistic method, but she is always drawn to watercolours, for their speed, and unpredictability. Take, for example the picture at the head of this piece...
"This is my hare (Harry Hare) - which I love to bits. He was originally an ACEO. When I first painted him I was worried that I had messed him up but I let him dry and it is amazing what watercolours do. They are very hard to control and you have to let them do their own thing.
Earn Money From Working At Home
Elizabeth was a stay at home mum looking for something to do with what little spare time she had. She also wanted to earn money from working from home. So, she set about researching books on Amazon for mums working from home and found one about the arts and craft selling platform, Etsy. Prior to reading the book, Elizabeth knew nothing about the site.
Etsy seemed like the perfect solution to being able to express herself artistically doing something she loved - painting, whilst earning some money and fitting everything around family commitments. Elizabeth had been painting for family and friends prior to this and had a good response so it seemed like a perfect way to reach out and see what the public would make of her.
" I checked out the Etsy site and was amazed at all the great things on there, and astonished to find that people were hand making them and even taking photos that looked like they were out of a catalogue! After trying to sell my work on ebay I realised that it was the wrong place and Etsy was the perfect place for my art! Etsy is great, it gives me a shop that I can show off all my artwork, gives me somewhere to refer people to, I can see the foot traffic and search keywords that people are using that direct them to my store. I also like it as it pretty much runs itself and I get a slow ticking of orders coming through my shop now. "
Colourful Cat Quilt
What Is Etsy?
Etsy is an online marketplace, where artists and craftspeople can upload work that they wish to sell. There are many benefits to opening an Etsy store:
1. It is relatively inexpensive to get started. When an artist uploads an item, Etsy takes a small fee (20 cents).
2. The artist doesn't have to worry about setting up a secure payment system - Etsy does all that for you.
3. The artist has the benefits of a slick site, with all Etsy's graphics at their disposal.
4 When the artist sells an item, Etsy takes a very small commission of 3.5%. Negligible when compared to the 50 - 60% a brick and mortar gallery can take.
Slow Beginnings In Selling Art
It's tempting when one has the idea for a new venture to leap straight in without any research, but most successful artists that sell their art work tell of the hours and hours that they devote to learning their craft and promoting their art business.
Elizabeth found painting a slow process and it took her a long time to get artwork on to the Etsy site at first, so she decided to take a few art classes to try to find some answers. She took courses in print studios, looking at favourite materials, scanning and photographs. None of these courses provided answers, but Elizabeth picked up some useful techniques and gained much needed speed and confidence along the way.
Elizabeth researched what other artists were doing on Etsy and realised that she needed to put a lot more time into her artwork and business. At this point she had a serious discussion with her husband about what that level of commitment would mean. Her husband was keen for her to have the success with selling art that she wanted, but was also worried about where that time was going to come from and the time it would take from their relationship.
"With two little ones - there wasn't much time left as it was."
Art Business Begins To Grow
Elizabeth's progress really began when she started to go to craft markets as it gave her targets to work towards. Customers at craft markets also gave her instant feedback and information on her products. Elizabeth often spent more time on stock that she would take to markets than she would on curating her Etsy shop.
Creating stock for markets gave her a break from her children, aged two and four years and gave her the confidence that what she was doing was right and that she was heading in the right direction with her work. She has been a regular at the Duck Pond Market in Ruislip since July 2012 and has worked alongside We Make London for some of their pop up markets and events. She has also had stalls at TheThames Festival and the Old Spitalfields Market. In addition she has run background workshops on Kirstie's Vintage Home website.
In all of my interviews with fellow artisans, one important thread throughout seems to be that face to face selling to your customers is paramount in making sales and getting your brand and product known to your public. And that starting local is a good way to go about making contacts. Elizabeth certainly feels that craft markets seem to be the best places to meet lots of customers in a short space of time.
Elizabeth On Making Money From Art
"Months down the line, the work that I have put in is beginning to show and my husband can see the reward in having put the time in. But it has been hard work in places, long nights, lugging my work in a very heavy suitcase for markets. Some cold events that have sent me home chilled to the bone, worry about commissioned pieces. But it is all part of what I have created which makes me proud and this hopefully just the beginning."
Sell Art Online
In this day and age it's imperative for artists to have an online presence (although I do have one artist colleague who refuses to use computers, wouldn't dream of touching Facebook and prefers to use galleries that deal in cash only - he is the exception to the rule!). Elizabeth embraces all there is to offer online, as well as craft markets and her Etsy store, she also promotes her work via her blog, as well as her twitterfeed.
Like so many of us, when Elizabeth promotes her work, she makes sure she does so on all her platforms. The only danger with this is that the artist can spend too much time on the computer and not enough time creating works of art.
Elizabeth's Three Tips For Starting Up An Art Business
Make sure you have great photos if your selling on line as people like to touch things and your photos have to do that for them.
Take your work to markets and get a real idea of what people like and what works
Do what you enjoy and try to stick to a theme and your style as most people will like what you do but are always looking for a piece that means something to them.
Plan Ahead To Sell Art
Once artists begin to sell their work successfully, many cease to promote themselves. However, if we stop developing, our business becomes static and we begin to lose sales. Although I would never advocate a rigid plan, it's important to have some long and short term goals to keep both creativity moving forward and to ensure that business does not flounder.
Elizabeth has short-term goals to achieve over the next few weeks, some medium-term goals that she'd like to achieve this year, and a looser five year plan.
Elizabeth's Business Planning For 2013
"I am hoping this year to have my own website up and running.
I also have a real brick & mortar shop that is interested in my work and also have just been invited to be a designer as part of a new business. So I think these are going to keep me busy over the course of the year.
I would like to design some more brooches and produce them with better packaging, and update the old packaging too.
I would like to create some more of my cats and hopefully a few new creatures too.
I hope to do a few larger stalls this year with We Make London as last year at the Thames Festival it was great fun.
And The Five Year Business Plan
"In the next five years I hope that my business is big enough for me to not have to go back to work for someone else but still flexible enough to pick the boys up from school and cook them dinner, I want to be around for them.
I would love to be taken on as a designer for some of the smaller companies, whilst still designing my own range and it would be great to be seen in somewhere like John Lewis (that is just a dream!).
I would also like to have my work published and I have seen other designers take the plunge and get their work out there, so it is all possible I just need to keep going.
Grow Your Art Business
The key tips I take away from most of my interviews are:
Get your work out there.
Start small, start local.
Have an online presence.
And, as always.......KEEP GOING