Q&A about running an Etsy shop
Updated: Sep 7
Here is a lil compiled set of answers to questions I get about the ins and outs of running an online shop!
Who is your printing supplier?
This the question I have been asked so many times and I feel like everyone is going to hate my answer but let me explain. (don't hate me I'm sorry)
I don't feel comfortable giving people the names of companies that I have used for printing. This is because I have yet to find a company that I would be confident recommending to anyone due to so many set backs and issues I have had in the past. This year I have had issues with at least half of the orders I have placed with printing companies; issues that were errors on their end which ended up costing me time and money. I did a 300 print restock a few months ago, and when I received them the colours were SO BAD. If you have seen my prints, you will know that most of them are blue and pink - these ones came green and brown. When I raised this as an issue the company were reluctant to admit fault until they did more tests and eventually realised they had a faulty printer. It is because of things like this that I can't recommend people; I wouldn't want to be responsible for you investing money into something that didn't work out.
I have recently found a new supplier and everything about them seems too good to be true and I am over the moon with the quality of my new prints, but I would want to work with them over the space of a few more months to make sure everything stays amazing.
The other thing about prints is that depending on your art style/aesthetic etc, the style of printing manufacturer you need can vary a lot. Google 'custom art prints' and google the things you want for your prints: giclee, neon, risograph, foiled, laser cut - until you experiment with your own work, you won't know what looks best.
I know this answer can be frustrating when you just want the name of a company - trust me, I have been there. But through experimenting with lots of different companies I have realised what does and doesn't work for my business and I am glad I did it.
Edit: I have just found a really helpful resource by Creative Champs on instagram - they have a list of printing companies and other free resources!
What paper do you print on?
This varies a lot but my prints range from 300-400gsm which means they are pretty sturdy. Most of my prints are on recycled paper; obviously this is a conscious choice to be more eco-friendly, but also I really love recycled paper as each sheet is unique, with little flecks and inconsistencies. All of my custom prints I get professionally giclée printed, usually on either Hahnemühle Photorag or Canson Aquarelle Rag.
How do you know how many prints to get?
I started the shop with 10 prints, and used all of the profits of those first few I sold to buy more prints, usually ten or twenty at a time. I know that had I had more money at that time I probably would have ordered way more stock and looking back it is the only time in my life I'm glad I didn't have more money! By doing it the way I did, aka ~like a broke bitch~ I managed to build up the shop within my means and without an investment start up. Even if you are sitting on a pile of gold or something like that (jealous tbh), I would recommend starting with caution - you can never tell what is going to sell until you try and sell it! As it currently stands, I tend to reorder prints in bulk, usually around 50 of each print at a time; I would rather have to restock more frequently (for more money, as the smaller the order the more expensive each print it), than order 500 Fleabag prints and then find out that Phoebe Waller Bridge has been universally cancelled for saying something offensive (god forbid) and I have 500 prints that are never going to sell.
How do you deal with tax/business stuff?
I don't! Not well anyway! Don't get me started on the fact that you don't ever get taught about taxes, it makes me SO MAD. This whole thing is something I am really trying to work on, and hopefully in the not too distant future I can come back with some more helpful information. But in the meantime...
- register your business - I am currently a 'Sole Trader' for Spilt Milk Press because I don't have staff etc, but you can also register as a limited company - you can find more info on the gov website but don't do what I did and accidentally somehow register as a business that deals with boat rentals
- this one is important - If you earn over £1000 in profit per year, YOU HAVE TO FILL IN A TAX RETURN. You won't have to pay tax on that amount of money, but the spies in the government wanna see how much you're earning. I am currently in dispute with the government (lol f u tories) because I filed my tax return for the 2019-2020 year, but not the 2018-2019. Spilt Milk started in June 2018 and I made less than £1000 in the first year, but they are trying to charge me a fine of TEN POUNDS A DAY since my tax return was supposed to be submitted which equates to approximately a gazillion pounds. I'm rambling but the moral of the story is that the government is clearly trying to find sneaky ways of profiting from people who earn under the tax bracket, whilst simultaneously lowering tax for themselves. Honestly this whole post is seguing into why I hate the tories. Moving on :)
What scanner and printer do you use?
My scanner is a Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 A4 Flatbed and I can't fault it. If you do traditional art, many printing companies offer a scanning and editing service, where they tweak contrasts and remove smudges/faults in the scanned piece, but they charge so much money and so I would definitely recommend doing it yourself.
My printer is an Canon MX470 (stolen off my parents) (sorry dad) and it gets the job done for the things I use it for, but if order to get high quality art prints, you are going to need a high quality printer and ink. This is why I outsource my stuff!
What software do you use?
- Procreate - the best, most intuitive software ever - I can barely fault it, and I use it every single day.
- Photoshop - I use an old copy, there are cheaper or free alternatives that can get the job done just as well
- Illustrator - I use Illustrator but honestly I have no clue how it works. The only thing I use it for is to clean up line drawings and text that I have scanned in
- inDesign occasionally for layout stuff
How did I gain a following?
This one is funny cos I want to ask this to all other illustrators. I have a very minor following in the realm of instagram artists, but I have gained most of mine through word of mouth and etsy. If you have business cards- make sure they have your instagram handle on them. Use hashtags! Even though they are soul destroying! I got so many new followers from my Little Women print because I had tagged Timothee Chalamet, thanks king. Also, just try and interact with other artists! Following like minded people has helped me to gain confidence with what I post and stuff.