This article is the first in a series of examples, tutorials, and ideas for artists and crafters to make money online. A recent trend in selling things online are sites offering things people will do for a set amount of money like $5(Fiverr.com) or $10(TenBux.com). At first glance these sites look like wonderful opportunities, and perhaps to sellers of purely digital products or ideas they may be a viable alternative. For people selling physical goods that need to be shipped to the purchaser, I do not think these sites are that ideal. One of the first areas that this new wave of sites fails is in the shipping of physical goods. A painting or a craft item will need to be shipped, which at least on Fiverr’s site I did not notice any allowance. Obviously then the cost of shipping will have to be deducted from the five dollars, and therefore reduce the amount the artist will get to keep.
Let’s ignore possible shipping charges momentarily, and focus on the cost of listing and selling fees. Fiverr.com and TenBux.com both charge a $1 for selling a $5 item. You may think, well it is only a dollar. Yes, it is only a dollar, but that is 20% of the selling price. Even by todays standards, 20% is pretty high. We will not even get into the fact that PayPal will still get their cut when you get paid. Now, I don’t expect for them to do it for free, so we need a comparison. I’ve stated in a previous post that I’m not a big fan of selling art on eBay anymore, so I think the best logical alternative would be Etsy or Artfire. I’m most familiar with Etsy, so they will be my basis for comparison. Etsy does charge a flat fee of 20¢ (twenty cents) to list an item, so Fiverr would have the advantage if an item never sold. Now, if we did sell the same $5 item on Etsy, they charge 3.5% of the sales price(excluding shipping), so our $5 sale fee would be 18¢ (eighteen cents, actually .175 but we will round up) and adding the initial twenty cents for listing, brings the grand total to 38¢ (thirty-eight cents). Etsy would be 62¢ (sixty-two cents) savings over Fiverr or TenBuxx. You may say this is no big deal, but the goal here is multiple sells, so multiply the difference times 10 or 100 and see which sounds better, $100 in fees or $38 in fees. The goal for us, as artists, is to make the most that we can make and to maximize our efforts, while sustaining and fueling our creative lifestyle.
So far shipping and fees do not seem to favor Fiverr and the various what people will do for “x” amount of money sites. What about building our brand as an artist. One of the selling points for these sites is that everything is anonymous and not to exchange emails or information. In my opinion this is where, these sites ultimately break down the most. Sure on eBay, Etsy, Artfire, and Fiverr you can leave feedback for transactions, but the goal should be to spread the word about our artwork(Ultimately, I think you are best served with a blog or a website to create a hub for your art, crafts, and ideas. If you need a free or simple blog or site, you might try out a free account on Tumblr.com or WordPress.com). Again, one of the ways that Etsy excels is that you can create a shop, and this is free. Your shop has a profile, where you can tell people who you are and why they might want to do business with you, in addition to selling your wonderful creations. Building your own brand and identity is priceless and will allow you to create repeat customers leading to future sells.
In the communication and sharing comparison, all of the options are pretty even. Fiverr has sharing buttons to share your item via Twitter or Facebook( if you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, I highly recommend these for spreading the word about your art and communicating with your audience). Etsy and even eBay both have excellent means for sharing your items, and if you aren’t using the buttons, you should be. The problem with all of these sites is that there is a sea of items and offers and in order to stand out you will have to get eye balls on your items, as Gary Vaynerchuk would say, in order for there to even be a chance of a sell. The more places that you tell people about what you have to offer, the more chances you have to make a sell. However, please don’t spam. One of the keys to marketing yourself and your artwork is to be courteous and considerate. I see many Twitter users only tweeting about their products, which will eventually turn people off. Help other artists at the very least, but hopefully you will engage with other people and have a conversation. Let people know what you like, what interests you, and above all, “Be Yourself.”
One more thing that is important to consider on any site, is to make sure that you state clearly what rights the end user will have over the created piece of art. Are you giving all rights to the buyer, or are you maintaining rights for yourself to create prints, market, or whatever a creative individual might want to do with their art in the future. Fiverr clearly states that “Buyers are granted all rights to the delivered work,” unless you state it clearly in the description. Maintaining your rights as an artist is important. You also don’t want to give away your rights and allow someone else to profit off of your hard work. Sadly you have to defend your rights. Cheer up, it is not all doom and gloom. Just be clear about the rules.
In conclusion, it looks like sites like Fiverr and TenBux are not that great for selling traditional arts and crafts. Obviously with Etsy, Artfire, or Ebay you are not limited to the amount that you can charge to sell an item. I did not even getting into selling things directly from your own site by using a PayPal “Buy It Now” or “Add to Cart” button. These new sites seem to be about doing things cheaply and churning them out. There is nothing wrong with selling items for a lower cost, but it should not be your only price. I hate to say it, but many people attach value to expense. Oddly if you charge more, people will believe that you are worth more, and frankly you are. The purpose of sharing these articles and tips is for all of us, myself included, to make money from doing what we love.
P.S. As an example of social media impact, I used the Tweet button on one of my Etsy paintings as a test, and created 25 new item views as a result at the time of this posting, in less than 15 hours. Here is the tweet:
testing for a blog post I’m writing tomorrow 🙂 – Capital Hat minipop painting by andymcnally on @Etsyhttp://etsy.me/aq48sc
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