Tips for selling studio pottery using e-commerce platforms. Pottery fairs take place throughout the UK and Europe over the spring and summer months. Potters considering taking part have to invest a lot of time preparing their applications. They have to ‘sell’ themselves to selection panels and must include good quality representative photos of their pots, plus application fees. There is no guarantee they will be accepted so all their time and money spent on applying could be lost.
If they get accepted then the real work begins. They will be expected to help promote the show by writing or emailing their customers and regularly post items on social media. Lots of time will be spent planning and building their stands. Promotional materials will need to be designed and printed, so they have handouts to give potential customers at shows. Not forgetting the time it takes to find accommodation, hire vehicles and possibly arrange childcare.
Finally they need to work out how to pack all their pots and displays into their vans without breaking anything. Unpack when they arrive at the venue and then carefully setup their stands. The potters will have invested hours or even days preparing for the shows and the doors are not even open. Ceramic shows usually last from two to four days and the potters have to be present throughout. When it is all over they have to dismantle stands, load vans and make their way home and then unpack when they get there. All this effort and there is no guarantee they will sell anything!
The same methodical approach must be taken when selling online. Ceramicists, potters, ceramic artists, whatever they chose to call themselves, need to make sure they have well written and short biographies about themselves for their vendor pages on the platforms of their choice. Decent photographs are essential and they need to make sure they provide good photographs of themselves. At Cambridge Ceramics we ask potters to provide a photo of themselves holding one of their pots. All too often artists leave it to the last minute and it shows. These bio portraits will be the first time most people will ever have heard of the potters. So they must give these photographs a deal of consideration. They should never leave it to the last minute and say ‘Ha, I forgot about that’ and then get a friend to take a badly lit photo using their mobile phone.
Tip number one for selling studio pottery online: spend time to get a great profile photograph
Potters need to take good quality photos of the work they want to upload to their chosen platforms. A common mistake is not to reduce the resolution of the photos. These images will be viewed on screen so require a lower resolution than print photographs. Cambridge Ceramics asks its studio potters to make all photos 1,200 x 1,200 pixels. The backgrounds need to be plain and not distracting from the pot being sold. White makes the ideal backdrop. It has the added bonus of making it easier for magazine editors who may want to use some of the images. All they need to do is cut out the white backgrounds and paste them into their feature articles.
What better way to get free advertising!
Tip number two for selling studio pottery online: Use your camera in manual mode
The potters do not need professional equipment; most digital cameras these days produce superb quality images. Reading the manual will be helpful so they can use the camera in manual mode. Scary but worth it! However, investing in a pair of decent LED lights will improve their images.
It’s worth remembering a pot at a ceramics fair may only be seen by a small number of people. However, when it is added to a popular website that same pot could be viewed by hundreds or even thousands of people across the world.
Having listened to advice the potters now have a great bio, suave portraits of themselves and gorgeous photos of their work. They are now ready to upload them to their vendor page and start selling studio pottery to the world online.
That is when the work starts! All too often artists upload their work to the web and they expect the Internet fairies to magically attract visitors to their page. It is true, there is an Internet fairy and it is called Google. But Google is not cheap and it is easy to spend £300 – £500 a month on Google ads. But how many potters can afford that? If the potters want to be successful online sellers they have to put in as much time and effort as they would with a pottery fair.
Tip number three for selling studio pottery online: upload regularly in small numbers NOT all at once
Every time they upload work to their vendor pages they should email their existing customers to let them know they have new work available. They must also share images of the pots they have uploaded on social media. Ideally the potters should think of creative ways of promoting their work every day. If the platform they are using has blogging facilities use them. Cambridge Ceramics has a ‘blog’ (we call it ‘news’) and we positively encourage our artists to write interesting articles about their creativity.
They should learn a little about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that will generate ‘organic’ visitors to their pages rather than relying on paid for traffic via internet search engines. Search engine adverts are a quick and easy way to drive people to your page, but it is like turning on a tap, when you turn it off your visitors will dry up. However, well-written articles posted on blogs that score high in SEO will continually drive people to your page and it is free too! All you have to do is invest some of your time.
Just remember there may be dozens or even hundreds of other artists on the various platforms selling their work. The only person who is going to attract people to your page, to see your work, is you. Uploading your pots is when your work must start, not end.