Direct sales for artists

Here are some more tips for my friends artists (collage or other visual artists), on how to run your own art shop to maximize your profit (I use the TicTail free engine for my online shop). A 13″x19″ art print usually sells for $40 to $50, plus $10-$15 for shipping (international First Class is about $15). Selling a mug at Society6 can’t beat that (profit is around $1.50), so definitely make your own shop! If your work is hand-made, definitely have a category on your shop for it too (and sell it appropriately at higher prices than your prints). Also consider a Special Edition print category (limited run, on more expensive paper).

——— What you need:
1. Get a larger format printer (13″x19″). The Epson 7610 is a bargain right now, a printer that also sports a scanner, and has pigmented archival inks (which are must-have for art): $150 (currently on sale). Unfortunately, the cheaper Canon and HP don’t have archival capability on matte paper. Your only choice in that price range is Epson because fine art is supposed to get printed on matte.

2. Get the Epson Ultra premium Presentation MATTE 13″x19″ sheets on Amazon: $35

3. Get the Epson ultra premium Presentation MATTE 8.5″x11″ sheets on Amazon: $9 (for smaller size artworks, or for your mobile portfolio) [optional]

4. Get a set of extra Epson-ONLY inks (the one that comes with the printer, it’s just enough to set them up) — never buy from third parties, their inks aren’t archival: $47

5. A printer cable: $5

6. Some rolls, like the Aviditi P3015W Spiral Wound Fiberboard Mailing Tube 15″x3″: $32

7. Extra-Rigid Fiberboard Photo/Document Mailers, 9″x11.5″ (for the letter-sized artworks — if you do these): $15 [optional]

8. Best Print Shipping Labels (you can do your mailing automatically via Paypal and USPS): $9

9. “Do Not Bend” Labels (if using the optional envelopes to mail): $3 [optional]

10. Scotch tape, to secure the caps on the rolls (required by the post office): $5

11. USPS-compatible scale: $20

——— For promoting your work:
1. On EVERY social media post link your title of the work to its TicTail shop page, your name to your shop/page. If on Instagram, have your shop in your profile, and direct people there.

2. Tweak the colors of your collages on Photoshop or the free Gimp — EVEN if you’re a hand-made collage artist. People are going to see your work while scrolling through hundreds of other images on IG, FB or Tumblr. If you want to make an impression, your colors must pop. Vintage collage is faded by default. Slightly alter your brightness and contrast, add some saturation, and if you use Photoshop, you can use the “AUTO” button on the Curves panel.

3. Use a theme on your shop that it’s easy for people to find information about your art categories or about you. Don’t use flashy themes and miniature buttons, just use a straight-forward navigation. Always include an email address (for commissions too!).

4. Turn ON the printer only once a week, when you prepare the orders. Every time a printer turns ON, it drinks ink. And on these smaller printers, ink is expensive. So don’t turn on the printer all the time.

And one advice that no one likes to hear: if you make “pop” collages, you’ll sell more. Sorry friends, it’s the truth. Just like with music, pop sells better than the more experimental (and of course, more artistic) works. That’s a decision you must make as an artist yourself depending on where you want to go as an individual. It took me a while to get over the fact that my more interesting, experimental works didn’t sell almost at all.

——— How to prepare your orders:
1. Go through your week’s orders on the TicTail’s backend, and start printing. In the meantime, add ONE cap on one side of each roll. Leave the other end open.

2. You will need to adjust the size of you collages to scale properly on these sheets of paper. For example, your original collage might have been 5″x8″, but that size resizes well to 11″x17.6″ leaving some border all around too. On Photoshop, use the SHIFT key when you’re resizing, to keep the right aspect ratio.

3. Go through the orders one by one, sign the prints using a standard pen, and then put them in the roll carefully (I use a broomstick to make them roll without wrinkles). Put them in the roll, and close the cap. Add some scotch tape on both sides of the roll. WRITE THE ORDER NUMBER on the roll. This is how you will know which is which.

4. Go to Paypal and click the shipping link under the name of each of your customers. WEIGH the roll or envelope (always round it to the nearest higher value). There you can select USPS First class for envelopes and rolls for the USA domestic shipping. For rolls, you have to also check the checkbox that it’s a non-standard shape, and then type its size (15x3x3). If your roll is more than 13oz you MUST send as “Priority” mail! Print the label (note: it requires Java to print!) and stick it to the roll in a way that the barcode is on its widest (so the scanner won’t have trouble reading it). These are now paid, so you can just drop them to the post office as-is.

5. For international shipping you can only pay for envelopes via Paypal. For rolls, you must go to the USPS web site, make an account there, fill up the custom forms, print them, sign them, and then pay for them at the counter. You can pay via the USPS site too, but you’d have to use a credit card (while on Paypal, it’s all done via it, easier for your bookkeeping).

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