Let me preface by saying that if my shop had a theme tune it would be ‘Absolute Beginners’ by Bowie - I literally have no clue what I’m doing, but I am slowly trying to figure it out. Recently, I have been getting quite a few messages from artists and illustrators asking how I started selling my art and I thought it would be more productive for me to write a few posts about this rather than a series of instagram stories because I am an ACTUAL student who should be able to put together ACTUAL sentences instead of communicating through gifs and photos of my cats. I also wanted to talk about it because I feel like a lot of people in the art world are super secretive about how they do stuff, how they price stuff etc. I reckon this is down to the really dumb, elitist idea that art and money are entirely separate and ‘If you’re in this for the money then you're in it for the wrong reasons’. It’s always rich people who say stuff like this. I am passionate about art and illustration but I am also passionate about being able to afford rent so this stigma around making money from art and the old notion of the ‘starving artist’ is bullshit - we’ve gotta eat! So here is Part 1 - why I use Etsy over other platforms. Sorry in advance for the rambling xx
Spilt Milk Press’ official date of birth is the 3rd June 2018, which means I have been in ~business~ for 2 years and 5 weeks as of today. I actually listed my first print about a week before that but I’m not sure of what date exactly, so I count the 3rd instead as it was the day I made my very first Spilt Milk sale. This wasn’t my first art sale ever though; I have been selling variations of my older work since around 2015 through Redbubble and Society6 and, dear reader, it is not Good Work. Some of it is still floating around online, I still make around £30-50 a month through Redbubble. I mention this because these sites are Print-on-Demand sites, which can be a useful starting point for selling art online. Sites such as these allow you to upload your designs onto a variety of items (think prints, t-shirts, shower curtains) for free. If someone buys one of your items, you receive a percentage of the profit. This is great for people who don’t have any start up money, as there are no upfront costs. Also, your SINGLE job is to create and upload the art - you don't have to worry about customer service or anything similar because the P.O.D site does it all. HOWEVER, there’s a reason why I don’t sell exclusively on these sites, and that’s because you make such a tiny profit that you need to be selling LOADS in order to make any kind of impact on your financial situation. I will give you an example; on Society6 you are shown the base price of the particular product. Here, an extra small print base price is $17.99 (this includes the cost of making the product and the margin that Society6 take for themselves). You are able to decide your own profit by adding a percentage on top of the base price, but in order to match the prices of the majority of other artists, this is around 5%. Meaning if someone buys my $18.89 extra small print, I will make a profit of 90 cents.
If you are looking to get your art out into the commercial world, then I would totally recommend these sites, but if I sold exclusively through them I would not only be making a lot less money, but also would have little to no control over my actual products.
BUT this isn’t the case for everyone. For anyone who is unaware of Cat Coquillette I would recommend watching her Skillshare classes; she earns a passive income through selling on print-on-demand sites because of the sheer volume of stuff she sells. 90 cents per print really adds up when you are selling hundreds of thousands of them, and Cat is able to travel 90% of the year creating new art, whilst her older designs bring her in money every month. I wish that were me!!!!
Spilt Milk Press has been an Etsy shop for the entirety of its little life. I chose to sell through etsy for several reasons:
It is a massively popular online marketplace - this gives you a base level of customers that you couldn’t attract alone
Basically everything I sell is incredibly niche - if someone doesn’t know my work, but wants to buy a Moonrise Kingdom print, they can search 'Moonrise Kingdom' on Etsy and I pop up! - this is how I make around 60% of my sales currently.
I have never used Shopify or similar sites, but I am happy and comfortable with how Etsy works for me right now, from being able to upload my listings easily to being able to purchase postage quickly and directly
My biggest goal when starting the shop was to be able to get more people to notice my work, and Etsy can be great at this as long as you utilise the tags on your listings. There are some big downsides to selling on Etsy too though
they take a big chunk of your earnings, and it is through some very convoluted mathematics - I constantly have to reassess how much money they are actually taking from me, and for what.
Etsy has this dumb ass scheme to promote free US shipping - if you don’t offer free US shipping for orders over $35, they will rank your listings much lower on the search. They justify this by saying that sellers should recoup this money lost through postage by upping the prices of their products. I am able to make this work so it doesn’t greatly affect my profit, but if you were selling something bigger or heavier, it would be much more difficultly to offer free US shipping, and therefore you would either be at a disadvantage on Etsy listings, or making a financial loss
Following on - this stupid scheme encourages sellers to raise their prices, which in turn means that Etsy make a greater profit on each item you sell! Love that!
One of my big business goals for the future is to set up an independent online shop so I can be in complete control. But in order to do that I first want to gain a bigger following on instagram, so that people actually have knowledge of Spilt Milk Press and will visit it. Over 40% of my sales on Etsy come from Instagram which is so cool; I’m trying to get to 50% by the end of 2020 so I can rely less on Etsy's search engine.
I hope this has been some help, I will try and upload the next part of the series this week.