Hi ho, friends.  If you’ve been a follower for a while, firstly, thank you!  I appreciate your support.  I wish you and your loved ones a joyous new year.

Secondly, I’ve been fiddling with the look and navigation of the site quite a lot.  I realize it’s unsettling for you dears but there was a purpose behind it. In today’s post, I’m going to do a high level overview of selling your own art online and how my experience has driven my latest shop news.

However, before you dive in to any shop, I recommend 1) you take Jenniebellie’s Rock Your Online Shop Class  and 2) follow her advice and start with one item at a time and promote each item properly. I finished this class recently and it was well worth the $40 I spent on the class.  Jenniebellie is a full-time working artist and she actually knows what she’s talking about.

My goal for 2017 was to transition away from Etsy to my own shop here on this website.  My Etsy fees were coming close to equal the cost of upgrading to the Premium account ($99 per year, the price as of today’s post) here on WP.com. At the height of my Etsy shop, I had just over 60 items for sale.  As a relatively unknown artist with a rather quirky, whimsical style, my Etsy shop did well enough, but it was certainly not at the top of any Etsy seller charts.

Last year, I took a hard look at my stats. Historically, 1/3 of my products sold on Etsy, 1/3 in person and 1/3 at my print on demand shop. My visits and views were higher on Etsy, but that was largely inflated by the teams I was on and weekly posting to promote my work. The type of threads I posted on were: post a new item then favorite the items of the 10 people above you. This meant spending a couple hours a week visiting other people’s shops and favoriting their items.  In the end, that strategy did not yield many sales. Choice of tags was more important to getting found on Etsy searching than what I received from participating in team promotions. In the past year, Etsy made some changes to the forums and teams promotional threads to focus on promoting off-site. This drove my decision to close my Etsy shop and focus on selling from this site.

Print on demand. You can set up shop with minimal costs by setting up a print on demand shop, like Society6. You will need a good camera or scanner plus photo editing software.  Your print options will be determined by the resolution of your images and the time you spend creating versions of your images for the various products. I use Gimp for all my photo processing.  It has virtually the same features as Photoshop and it is free. At Society6, there are no posting or commissions fees; instead you make a small amount per item sold. For most art prints, your take is between $3-10 per print.  Society6 offers a lot of sales, which is why I chose to sell my photographs exclusively on S6 – I simply can’t compete with their regular offers of free worldwide shipping and 20% off everything.

Low-cost shop on WordPress.com. While it is possible to sell items using the free or Premium accounts, it is laborious. It can be done on a very small scale and minimal startup costs. By small, I suggest less than 15 items for sale.  You cannot create a shop front, so you are left either making 1 blog post per item for sale or you create a page with links to Paypal. Once you head past 15 items, it become so time-consuming to manage. Furthermore, if you want to have a sale, you have to manually edit your Paypal buttons – there is no way to have offer a discount code, at least that I could find.

Reopen Etsy? I briefly considered re-opening my Etsy shop.  Pros: built-in audience, easy to setup, easy shipping, easy payments, and ability to sell digital products (no instant downloads on the Free and Premium accounts). Cons: limited control over the look and feel of my shop and I would be at the whims of the Etsy owners; any changes to Etsy was automagically pushed out to shops, whether I like the change or not. This means you have to spend time on Etsy teams and the blog in order to keep up to date on the changes.

No matter which platform is chosen, shop promotion is the required to get the word out. As I branched away from promoting my products within Etsy and out on other social media outlets, my stats showed my efforts were paying off. While my shop was active and I was participating on teams, the visits from outside Etsy was overtaking the visits from inside Etsy.

Time. In order to make this a viable side hustle to some day dream of full-time working artist, I need to make the most of my limited time. I am managing this all on my own: making the art, maintaining this site, shop promotion, holding down a full-time job and spending time with Mr. Tenukihandcrafts.

I considered moving to a self-hosted wordpress.org website; however, the Mister would have to provide considerably more tech support.  Website design is just not my thang.  He is a professional internet plumber and the cost of his time would be higher than my upgrading to a Business account.

One of my goals for this site has been consistency. I won’t lie: I have struggled with consistency. Part of that struggle has been spending my time promoting my Etsy site. Recently, I made a log of how I spend my time to find out how much time I can reasonably spend on managing my shop.

Taking all these factors in account, I decided to…

Upgrade this site. Upgrading to the Business account allows me to offer a proper shop. If the forums and woo commerce descriptions are accurate, setting up shop should be easy peasy. There are plenty of details to work out and possibly a theme change – depending on whether or not my current theme supports a shop.

I finally feel like I’m on the right path.  It has been a meandering journey, but I have learned a lot going through all these steps. While my initial Etsy shop was opened 11 years ago on a whim, I have my choices over the past 4 years by making and sticking to a plan for a year and then reviewing the results.

Stay tuned for more newness and (finally!) regular posts.

Happy new year!