is the postcard that started it all.
I was not thinking about selling my postcards when the owner of the hotel behind me asked if I would and how much. I had just spent a lovely couple of hours sketching and chatting with a few of the employees, I had barely started to contemplate which family member would be receiving this latest card in the mail. And now, a year later, I have had the brilliant idea of opening an Etsy shop to sell my hand illustrated postcards.
It has become incredibly clear over the past couple of weeks as I dive into an unending cycle of finding inspiration, creating, digitizing, printing, designing packaging, photographing products, listing, choosing keywords, re-choosing keywords for better SEO, promoting on facebook, promoting on instagram, promoting on pinterest, promoting on etsy, chewing the skin off my fingers as I read article after blog post after etsy forum page about marketing methods and success, … repeat ad nauseam … incredibly clear that I have both come a long way with my art in the past year and that I have an even longer way to go on the selling end.
So, as often happens with me, when I finally come face to face with a wall – I despair, I rant & rave, I repeat the same things I have been trying for another dozen rounds, I stare blankly at the screen, and then I start to think about what has worked for me in the past. Suddenly the cup is half full again, I pull myself up by my ankle bracelets, and move on towards the next step.
Here is what travel has taught me about selling my art:
1. Curiosity leads to connection ➣ People are curious about what that person over there is drawing/painting, some even get up the nerve to come closer, maybe chat. A travelling artist is not just an average tourist taking the same vacation snaps as the last 1000 visitors. Someone sitting off to the side and sketching stands out. So I have learned to take the opportunity to connect, put down the tools, and address the person next to me.
2. Connecting helped build my story ➣ Talking with the curious led me to figure out my artist’s bio, how to succinctly and eloquently describe what I do. You know, ‘Hello, I’m Genevieve, a nomadic artist who writes travel stories with an illustrative twist.’
3. Story is so incredibly important ➣ It is how we decide who to trust, empathize with, how we identify who fits within our own tribe. A wee bit of shared personal story, a few smiles, and before I see it coming this person who was a stranger just a few moments before asks me to pose for a photo or someone’s kids are joining me with pen and paper.
4. The right place, the right time ➣ Serendipity is beautiful. I have no control over which connections I am going to make any given day. All I can do is learn from experience which connections are most likely to be made when and where, then try to replicate the circumstances. Which brings me to …
5. Small business owners are natural patrons ➣ Each request to purchase or commission artwork while I was on the road came from a business owner who had observed me sketching in their shop/cafe/restaurant/hotel. These situations had it all: a mix of curiosity; a connection leading to familiarity; the building blocks for a shared story; and a certain amount of convenience wrought from serendipitous coincidence.
This may all seem time consuming, perhaps inefficient, creating connections one at a time and only a few per month (in a good month). However, now that I have dove head first into the world of online marketing and self-promotion via social media chasing the golden goose of unpaid organic augmented viewership I see how platforms like Instagram and Facebook are imperfect attempts at recreating lessons 1-4.
The way I see it, after thinking back over how I sell art while I am travelling, finding buyers online is not just about the number of followers I have. It is about the connection I create with the people who do decide to follow me and my work. I have been guilty of focussing on the numbers when I should be putting down my tools and addressing the people next to me.
I just recently finished my first commission via Atelier Art Postal, the new Etsy Shop. It was for a friend, someone definitely within my tribe, and I had a blast from the moment I received the order, through creation, to reading the final message confirming the package had arrived, been opened, and the postcards were even more awesome than had been expected. Here is a glimpse of my workspace covered in the illustrations as I was chopping the prints to size:
I am incredibly grateful for this experience for more than the obvious reasons. There are forums and teams galore all filled with the same question worded a bazillion different ways: How do I get more shop views and increase my sales? There are even discussion threads dedicated to the activity of posting shop listing links in exchange for visits to other shops and favouriting their listings. All in the pursuit of increasing the popularity of my items for sale and bumping them up in priority on searches. It is incredibly time consuming and has not led to a single sale. This commission reinforces those travel lessons – fake favourites/likes/thumbs up from ingenuine followers are not the way to go.
If by some chance you are an artist who found this blog post while searching for a magic wand we can all wave and increase our sales I am sorry to say I do not have it. Making friends with the people who do stop and look seems to be the best way to go. Then again, maybe that is the magic wand we are all searching for.
Wishing you all the best in your own endeavours.