As the holidays approach, many people want to help out their friends who are artisans. Unfortunately, for many of us, money is such a big restriction that it can feel impossible to do. Realistically, for many struggling artists – making sales can be the biggest actual help. Not only does it help pay for necessities, it also provides additional validation, and so on. However, when most of your friends are also struggling artists themselves, then it can be a case of just honestly not having the money available to buy something yourself.
I’ve faced this concern from both sides: the broke friend AND the struggling artist who is desperate to make sales. Not only this, but I’ve faced the problem as an artist of multiple different media: writing, storytelling, music, painting, jewelry making, cooking, and so on. Sales can also mean a variety of things: patrons, clicks on ads, views, registrations, physical sales, and so on.
With this in mind, I thought that I would share a list of 6 Things You Can Do that don’t cost money, but that can help generate more sales and go a LONG way towards helping an artist sustain themselves.
One of the most important things as an artist in terms of generating sales is building an audience. You can be the most talented artist in the world, but if no one sees your stuff then chances are you won’t be selling much.
Building an audience takes a lot of hard work, especially if you can’t afford to hire someone to do it for you, or if you are not working for an already established group. If you also can’t afford to pay for certain services, it can be even more work.
When I first started building this blog, it meant posting links on reddit, and then also posting enough of other links to not get banned. I had to comment on other blogs, learn about Facebook pages and work on managing it. Promoting my writing and eventually my art as well, is a constant concern and something I think about every day. It is why I became active on Facebook, where before I checked my profile maybe once every few months. It is the reason I joined twitter, the reason I joined Instagram, even the reason I joined Pinterest in the first place.
What makes it harder is that sources of free marketing are constantly looking for ways to make it more difficult. Take Facebook for example, which is constantly updating the barriers keeping unpaid page posts from appearing on people’s timelines and preventing some links from being commonly seen.
The best possible way for us to get views, the best way to build an audience, is to have other people share our work. When someone else shares my Facebook post, it is more likely to be shown to other people on both our timelines. What’s more, even if you don’t have money, someone in your audience might.
- On Etsy: Like our store, follow us and others, favourite our Items
Whenever you like our stores and favourite our art, it becomes more likely to be featured on the main page. Etsy operates based on an algorithm where the most popular items get shown first. As long as we only have a few favourites, we have to count on the right set of search terms, or that someone will keep scrolling long enough to get to our work.
In addition to being more likely to be featured in one of their email promotions or in the first results pages, favouriting an item makes it appear in the home pages of all the people who have followed you.
- Share, Share, Share!
Seriously, post it to Facebook. Post it on Instagram. Post it on Reddit. Post it on Pinterest. Post it in group chats, and as comments, and pretty much whenever you can. When it comes to a lot of freelance work, it really is just a numbers game, where in order to get seen and shared, you must first be seen and shared.
Especially if we make money off of our work, what we need almost as much as sales is to be seen by more people, in the hopes that some of those people will in turn share our work and help us be seen by yet more people.
As a blogger, I’m always hoping that something I write will speak to people in a way that makes a bunch of people share it over and over. I’ve had a few that did pretty well, and there is always the hope of capitalizing on those posts to encourage more readers to stick around, but again, it takes time. It was over a year before I got more than twenty regular readers who were really just 10 bots and some close friends. Whenever I had to change a URL, I invariably lost some of them and have to work on rebuilding.
As a painter, I have to hope that someone out there sees my picture and likes it enough that they’re willing to spend money on it. When the majority of your friend-list are living in poverty like you are, that can be especially difficult and depends even more on people sharing what they like, so that a wider variety of people can see it.
Just make sure that when you share a picture, or something along those lines, to include a direct link to the store or the artist’s page.
- Leave a Comment. Start a Conversation.
There are many sites that are more likely to show you content that a lot of people have interacted on. Facebook, for example, will often avoid showing something in multiple timelines unless a lot of people have commented on it. It used to be enough to simply like the post, but now in many cases, unless there is a conversation going on, they don’t actually make a point of featuring it on your newsfeed. Think of all the different pages you follow. How many of their posts do you actually see before a bunch of your friends start sharing them or commenting on something?
By leaving a comment, starting a fun conversation, and essentially encouraging interaction, it helps creators get their work seen by more people without having to pay to promote their post, site, ad, etc.
Not only that, but starting a conversation draws in people who might not have otherwise read the article. There are times that I’ve seen someone share an article and I just can’t bring myself to read it, for one reason or another. Then at some point I start to see the article pop up again and again. I ignore it, until one of the visible comments catches my attention. I go to read the thread, and in getting engaged in the conversation, I find myself needing to read the article to properly engage.
We need help sometimes generating that sort of interest, to encourage more people to not only see the article, but actually read it as well. To not only look at one picture, but browse our shop.
In many ways marketing is all about trying to pull people in – that’s why click-baity titles and list articles become so popular. Because as much as people may complain about them, the fact is that they work, and sometimes they are necessary to make sure other more important articles get read. And still sometimes they are important articles written in a more accessible style.
- Write a Review
If you’ve interacted with our art in some way – used our product, read our book, purchased or been gifted our art, one of the most helpful things you can do, is to leave a review.
In this case specifically, I mean a rating, like on amazon, etsy, or other sites, which allow you to determine the overall quality. Some sites like Amazon, use reviews to track the popularity of an item. The more positive reviews an item receives, the more likely it is to be seen.
Positive reviews can also help encourage others to purchase an item. It gives people a sense of comfort in knowing that what they see is what they will get.
- Write a Post – Cross Promote.
Artists of a feather have a tendency to stick together. It’s important for us to work together because ultimately, we are in this together. Not everyone who sees my art might like it, but they may well like yours, and vice versa. People who can afford to shop, may well do so at more than one store. The people who read blogs will often read more than one.
By sharing the responsibility of building an audience, we lower the amount of work we have to do individually. Each of us has access to a unique network, and in pooling those resources we can build those networks exponentially.
How can we do that? By writing reviews of each other’s blogs, art, kick-starters, etc. on our public sites, sharing each other’s posts on our Facebook page walls, hosting each other’s stores on recommended lists, and so forth.
Bonus: Host a viewing party/event/display.
If you are the social type, and live within a close enough distance, consider hosting a party where you display some of the art, crafts, or other works. Parties like these can be fun, especially since they help drive a focus of conversation and provide a small talk script: “What do you think of x?”
They often include appetizers and drinks, softer music. Sometimes depending on what type of event you are hosting: an actual sales event or just a party that happens to coincide with you having some wares on display, it might include a short presentation by the artist.
Maybe you can organize a party where all the attendees bring some of their crafts, so that you can spend some time exchanging ideas, tips, and even making a few sales.
If the work is something written, see about hosting a discussion group, or book club.
For larger works of art like paintings, see if your workplace might be appropriate and interested in displaying some of the art in question.
Ultimately, all of the recommendations add up to the same general idea: if you can’t afford to be one of our customers, than the best thing you can do to help us is to find us more views, more potential customers, and sales.
And yes, this post was a little self-serving. You know I have an Etsy store (which is having a big sale. Please buy stuff so I can have food). Other’s on this site do as well!