Creating an Online Store Using SquareUp

Why Bother?

anxiety-charlie-brownThe first thing to do in this journey was to put together a store. You need a store because it is not always obvious when you post a piece on social media that it is available for purchase. You can even write a ‘Message me for inquiries’ or something of the sort, but most people won’t. If they can’t see the price easily, they are not likely to come asking. You need to create a place to send your followers who want your artwork! It needs to be something they can find quickly and make a purchase from easily.

Creating a store is not a guarantee that you will sell something, but it’s certainly an obvious first step. Eventually I will link this site in my Instagram, on my Facebook fan page, on my Youtube videos, on Pintrest, and to this very blog.

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WHY SQUARE?

I have been using Etsy for years but it has completely dropped off. Etsy pushes new stores to the front of their search results, and so the longer you rely on them, the less sales you will see. It’s good that they help new stores get seen, but its at your expense the longer you use them.

I went to square to set up my first online store as it is free, fair to the vendor, and a good place to start. Since I am barely selling anything right now, I was looking for something without a monthly charge like Weebly, Wix, or Go Daddy.

Square has a transaction charge like Etsy, but no listing charge. Square only charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, verses Etsy which charges a 3.5% transaction fee, a $0.20 listing fee every 4 months, and a 3%+ processing fee. If you are already using the service, and you aren’t selling a lot, there no reason you can’t use both. I still have my Etsy page, but I have turned off the automatic renewal of my items. I’m not sure if I will revive that or not.

Square allows me to take all my artwork on the go and sell it without having to update the site, as they gave me a chip reader that syncs with their free app. I can take everything to a festival or market, charge people’s cards from my phone, and my website updates. I also appreciate that money from sales made goes into my bank account within a day.

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SO WHAT’S THE CATCH?

There are only a few templates to choose from, and you can only ship within the United States.

I find that if you are trying to sell more than 20 or 30 items it can start to look cluttered, as there is no way to filter items besides adding sections to your main page.

The biggest drawback for me was that the site does not accept HD photos, so showing off my paintings was going to be a challenge. My artwork is my real storefront, and if people can’t get a good look at it what’s the point? I overcame this obstacle by uploading my HD images to Imgur and then linking them in the descriptions.

Image-sizes-1024x312As far as resizing images goes, here is a guide to the sizes of images used in each template. I am using the Atlas theme. I want to note that the site will accept images in the general ballpark of these guidelines. I just use faststone capture to quickly resize or grab images.

Overall Squares limitations aren’t that restrictive, and I haven’t seen anything better that is also freely available.

THE BASICS

I used the set up guide over at square, and found it to be easy enough to follow. but I’ll mention a few important standouts.

Make sure and put a lot of thought into the name of your store. It should be consistent with the name of your business and/or your social media presence. If you have yet to pick a store name, do a google search to make sure someone else isn’t using it. You don’t want to make competition for yourself.

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Square lets you attach a custom domain if you want to. A domain name is the address your site uses and a custom one let’s you stand apart and look professional. Since this was my first step, I wanted to see what names were available before I got into pushing my brand. I wouldn’t want to get all through the processes of building pages and social media presences only to discover nothing remotely matching my brand was available.

You can search for domain name from google domains here. Google will list the yearly price and alternate domains that are also available. As long as a domain is not popular, most of them run about 12$ a year. I had to settle for a .net address as SubtleShades.com was a premium domain.

Eventually, if this all works out like I hope and I see some success, I would like to park my domain on this WordPress site and link back to the store from here. That way I don’t have to worry about making Square my actual website, just my store. WordPress hosting can be expensive but I will get there.

You can give your site a custom header, logo, and a couple footers, so make sure and take advantage of that with something grabs your customer’s attention right off the bat. I use this image of my spray cans. 2018-11-07_010249It pops, and it has the name of the business along with my name. If you don’t have Photoshop check out picfont or canva for online image editing.

Take advantage of the ‘contact’ and ‘about’ sections that are available to you. If you can tell people a story about yourself and get them to relate to you, you can draw them into your artwork and make it more personal to them. I like to tell the story of how I became an artist, because people get the feeling that maybe they could do this too and I like that. It makes it easier to connect to strangers and easier to talk business.

I take a great deal of care in writing my image descriptions, making each one have at least some uniqueness. I try to tell the story of the painting, why I painted it, what makes it special, the inspiration, how I feel about the subject matter. It all helps the potential customer connect with the piece. If it doesn’t speak to them, they aren’t going to buy it.

On shipping, people like free shipping. Figure a conservative amount into the cost of your piece and call it a day. It’s easier for both you and the customer when things cost what they cost.

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CONCLUSIONS

I may not use this site forever, but for now it’s exactly what I need. As a long-term goal, a full WordPress site would be preferable. Honestly even if I was paying for hosting a top-notch wordpress site, I still would integrate Square with it to keep track of my inventory and retain the ability to take payments on the go.

I hope this has helped you on your way towards your own online store. If you are interested in starting your own store but don’t have an account you can follow this referral link. Referring others to Square will earn you up to $1000 in free processing.

If you have any questions click the contact button up there and chat me up on discord. Always happy to talk art, meet new people, and get ideas for new posts here.

10,000 hours

A cold winters day, raining as usual, and I’m stopping in a coffee shop to warm up and get a fix. It’s early and my brother has picked me up to help him with a job. The pump that keeps his basement dry has failed in the night, and we need to dig it up and replace it.

Gil’s not actually my brother, but I always just say he is. Some friends are just like that. Saying ‘my friend Gil’ never really got the right message across. We’ve been friends since we were kids.

As is the case in most coffee shops in Portland, there was a good deal of artwork on the walls, several artists had displays. As I sipped my house drip and waited for Gil’s complicated coffee drink I wandered around looking at it, in particular being drawn to a set of Star Wars inspired stencil art.

2018-10-24_012927I am a nerd at heart, and that sort of thing really speaks to me. There were stencils of several of the main characters, a Boba Fett piece in particular had caught my eye and a few of ships in space, with that classic spraypaint space art as a background. I was overwhelming impressed with the quality and general ‘coolness’ of it all and found myself quite transfixed. My brother wandered up behind me with his fancy coffee.

‘How do you suppose people can make this sort of thing just out of their brain and onto a wall like this? Man, people do some cool things.’ I said to him over my shoulder.

‘Nah. This sucks.’, he scoffed, ‘You could do it way better.’

Now my brother is about 5 or 6 years older than me, and throughout our lives, he has always been way more grounded than me. I will often get super excited about an idea, especially when we were young, and not easily see any of the possible hurtles or negative outcomes. He has always been the antithesis of that, a hard realist who makes sure we keep our heads during projects or adventures, who keeps us from doing most of the dumb things that young men do.

For him to say something like this frankly surprised me. I am not in any way an artist, I was a cook. I could certainly not make anything like this in my wildest dreams. I was blessed with no artistic talents like the artist who’s work I had been admiring.

‘What are you even talking about Gil? Look at this.’ I motioned to the Boba Fett. ‘Some guy made this with spraypaint!’

And then my brother started verbally destroying this painting, pointing out all the flaws. Things like overspray, wavy lines, off-center layers, and other blemishes. He pointed out how the artist could have done better, how anyone can do this kind of art if they want to, and how easy it would be to get into if I wanted to do this and be good at it.

I gotta say, he was really only mistaken about the last thing.

It’s funny but it was hard to see the paintings the same way as I had just a moment before. The way he had described it, it became more of a thing somebody figured out how to make then a thing that came pouring out of someone via some mystical sort of inspiration. More of a craft than an art. Like a well made rocking chair.

Could I really do this?

I had always been kind of person who picks up a new hobby every couple months, gets super into it and learns everything he can, and then moves onto the next thing. I am a jack of all trades but a master of few, as the saying goes. As I dug holes in the rain that day, I decided I would give it a try.

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I bought 25$ worth of Krylon spraypaint and some cutting blades at the local department store the next day, and painted by moonlight on my sons old easel. The moment I sprayed my first layer on top of another, and saw the effect, I knew I wanted to be really good at this. Here was my first piece.finalchillintrooper

Gil helped me build a spraypaint table, a contraption  that pulls air through pegboard and shoots it outside, after he found me high to the point of drooling on paint fumes a few days later. He had a serious talk with me about carcinogens and safety. If I was going to do this seriously I needed to do it correctly. Since then it’s always been a priority. I will do a future post on how I have my studio set up.

All this happened about 10 years ago, and art has just gotten more interesting and exciting the more I learn about it. Since then, I have painted at least one painting every week. With the opportunity to practice so much and the will to just make cool stuff I just can’t help but improve.

I’m here because I just don’t want to keep it to myself anymore. The more I can show people about how easy this is the better. If you want to create art every bit as awesome as mine you totally can, all it takes is practice. Literally anyone can do this, you just have to decide to, and then practice a lot. People will soon think that you have a ‘natural talent’, but you will know it is just the result of grinding out paintings and learning from mistakes.

4 years ago I quit my job as a Chef of over 20 years to paint awesome pictures in my shed, and so far I haven’t had to go back. It’s an amazing life that I never could have dreamed about those years ago in that coffee house. I have a sincire hope that someone see’s one of my Boba Fett paintings one day and says, ‘That sucks, you could do way better..’