The 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.
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.
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.
As 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.
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.
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. It 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.
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.