Now that's one way to get people's attention.
You might remember that we talked about setting up your website last week. No? God, do you ever read anything I write? Seriously, you should get on that.
So like, one of the major components of your website is your store, and as far as getting that set up goes, there is a butt-load of options to choose from. You could browse through and pick one the various eCommerce solutions (i.e. Google it). You could sell your wares on Etsy or DeviantArt. You could set up a Café Press store or use a Facebook app or even Gumroad, which will only charge you a small fee per sales transaction. You could just use PayPal buttons on your site and ship products yourself. From free to expensive, you can choose from your Ford Pinto Wagon to your Ferrari of online stores.
In general, it's probably best just to start small and start simple. Go with an option that doesn't cost you anything upfront. Find a platform that's easy to use so you don't throw your mouse clear across the room and knock over that expensive vase get frustrated. That reminds me. You could always invite a geek over to your loft under the guise of a "pizza party" (you should actually serve pizza though) to have them do your work on your behalf. Just keep saying "I get so frustrated with computers" and "I'm not sure what I'm doing" and it won't be long before they tire of hearing it and spring into action.
So let's get on with it. Here's what you do to get your store set up.
Link Up Your Store From Your Website
Let's assume that you've picked a platform to sell your wares on. Unless you have an integrated eCommerce system, chances are pretty good that your store is going to be at an external link (meaning a page that's not on your own website or server). If you don't link up your store from your site, not only are you missing the point, you'll probably miss out on some sales too. It's like putting a lemonade stand in Alaska.
I know, I know, this is kindergarten stuff. But if you're not doing it, then you should probably go back to kindergarten. Please remember to link up your store in your primary menu.
Take Awesome Photos
As it pertains to merch, presentation and first impressions count for a lot. It's like that time I went to my College graduation wearing a green suit. For some reason, I mistook it for Saint Patrick's Day (don't ask). The ladies thought I looked sharp, but people kept calling me Gumby all night.
Anyway, don't skimp on photography. You want your product photos to be eye-catching and stimulating. And no, you can't just cheat and have hot women holding your sculptures either (or could you...?). I don't know; it seems to work well for cars and guitars. Maybe art is a little different (despite all the nude studies).
Basically, it helps if your product photos are shareable. Then people might be more inclined to spread your stuff on social sites like Google+ or Pinterest. Oh, and by the way, if you're still from 1997, going viral is actually a good thing these days. Just thought you should know.
Write Awesome Product Descriptions
This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. Don't make claims you can't back up with your swag, but you're allowed to write the kinds of descriptions that entice people to want your swag.
Just look at Apple. They always have these catchy two-to-three word descriptions (maybe they're just lazy?) for all of their new products. That's kind of their thing, but of course it can't hurt to take copywriting lessons from some of the best. Naturally, your hobby business model is a little different, so adjust your strategy accordingly.
And a lot of the time, product features is kind of secondary to the emotion of the piece or what it represents. You know, all you've got is a big black dot in the middle of the canvas, but it's symbolic of the emptiness and loneliness of your existential quandary hyperbolized by the ephemeral and fleeting innermost sentiments or some other nonsense art professors and connoisseurs talk about.
That doesn't mean don't talk about product features (this painting has 8 GB of ram, 500 GB of hard drive space and two quad-core antelope processors). It's just that some of that stuff loses people. Details lose people. First tell them what the piece or the swag is about and then get to the finer points.
Promote Your Store
Once your store is ready to go, it's time to promote it and make people aware of it. And you thought we were done. As if.
Promote your new store to your social followers, blog subscribers, mailing list and so forth. You could even write up and submit a press release if you feel your art would make for a good story (it should). Having something for sale but never telling anyone about it isn't going to make it "the world's best kept secret". It's going to make it the world's most obscure merch store. Obscurity, not piracy, is the artist's greatest enemy. I'm not sure if that pertains here, but I know someone smart said it.
Do you have your own online art and swag store? If so, let us know by leaving a link in the comments!
Cover image by Paolo Margari