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Do What You Love for a Living: Artists & E-Commerce

You have a gift. Whether it’s painting “happy little clouds,” beading one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, or knitting darling baby apparel, you create things that people want. Great, but how do you get your art out in front of consumers?

You can sell by word-of-mouth and at local craft fairs and markets, but if you really want to expand your buying pool you need to go digital. This means you have a decision to make: sell from your blog; sell on an affiliate site like Etsy; or launch your own website with e-commerce capabilities. Each has pluses and minuses, and which you choose will depend on your level of seriousness, your budget, and your e-commerce goals.

To illustrate the different options, we'll use the lovely crocheted creations of atLarger Devin. 

Selling straight from your blog is easy and cheap. You can customize the skin of your blog to reflect your brand, which creates an inviting experience for potential customers. However, as you add new items to your blog older items will disappear into the “Archive” section. Moreover, you can add a Paypal widget to a blog, but eventually - if you’re successful - you’ll need a merchant account and check-out system. And that doesn’t have a widget.

There are myriad digital marketplace sites, and some are better than others. Etsy is the most popular for selling handmade and vintage goods and supplies. Having an Etsy account connects you with 15 million buyers and creative businesses and gives you access to free tools to help promote your shop page. Zatista specializes in fine art and photography and has similar tools for promoting an artist’s work. Created by veterans of Ebay, Zatista makes it easy for art lovers to explore styles, discover new artists and, most important, to securely buy original works from the comfort of their computer. Both Etsy and Zatista are beautifully designed websites, but neither allow you the artist to customize your shop page. If you want an e-commerce solution as unique as your artwork, you’ll need to build it yourself.

Well, actually, you’re probably better off hiring someone to build it. Not all artists are graphic designers, and not all graphic designers are experienced in User Experience Design (what we call UX Design). The potential danger is you create a website that looks hot, but leaves users cold when they try to actually do anything on the site.

Working with a digital agency can also help you avoid some of the most common mistakes artists make when creating their website:

1. A design that is too complicated for the user2. An Artist's Bio that is too long, too boring, or both3. Confusing pricing (or no pricing at all) Excerpt from Artists Who Thrive  

A designer who specializes in UX web design can make sure your website is a masterpiece both to behold and to interact with. Copywriters can help craft an artist bio people will actually read; digital marketing specialists will seamlessly integrate your blog and social networking accounts, and programmers will make sure you’ve got a site that works great from homepage to order receipt.

Choosing to hire a digital agency is an important decision, and one that should be made with both your business goals and your budget right in front of you. Digital agencies can be expensive. If you’re selling matching baby booties and hat sets for $50 a pop, you may not want to invest in a full-blown website...yet. 

Which of these options is right for you? Only you can know. Keep in mind that as your business grows your e-commerce needs might change. Until then, have fun turning what you love to do into what you do for a living!