Have the fundamentals of your life been affected since the first rumblings of Covid? Have you considered stopping your art or craft business because suddenly nobody is buying from you? Is Facebook squashing your sales posts? Is your organic reach right down to nothing?
I think this is something that everybody is experiencing in some way or another. The start of lockdown changed everything. Then the emergence has changed it again. It’s been hard to keep up, but if I have learned anything it is that we need to evolve and embrace the change.
It’s funny, because there was a point during lockdown where we were indeed thriving. He was able to continue as a key worker and I was selling more and more prints due to shop closures. It was working well. My artwork was popular and people wanted to own it.
However, since the shops reopened, myself and a whole workforce of creatives have been dropped like a hot potato. I suddenly realised I was putting in hours and hours of work and hundreds of pounds of my own money, but my social media posts were not even being seen and my website views had stopped completely. At first I blamed the algorithms and did a load of research on how to raise my profile. But when this did nothing, I had to admit that people just weren’t spending money on hand made luxury goods any more.
I am a member of various groups and can see so many have had the same experience. Lockdown built us up and then it was taken away again over night. Even artists who are world famous have had to go back to grass roots to bring interest back to their work.
So I suppose the question is, what do we do to move forward? If you’re anything like me, you are not an island and life MUST keep pushing on.
In my case, the answer is to evolve.
I was drawing designs, hand printing them and selling them as originals. But I was putting more money in than I was getting back. So I had to decrease my input, increase my output and expand my target range of consumers.
Trust me – I’m no expert, I’m a Mum of 3 who has been teaching for most of my professional life, so any knowledge I have about marketing comes from reading and not from doing. But I know there are loads of us in this position, so we may as well help each other.
I stopped production. Decided to spend the summer with my children and reevaluate.
1. The first thing I did was have a good think about what I love doing, and then research what I can do with these skills that is something people will actually want or need enough to spend their money on. That’s the main point of it after all!
2. Research your audience, talk to them, find out what they like and what they’d be willing to pay in today’s climate. This has been really important, as things have changed and people are far more protective of their pennies.
3. Look at a range of suppliers, see if you can get wholesale prices on any large orders. For me I also wanted to reduce my carbon footprint, so it’s vital that I use local businesses who have the same ethos. They are out there and much like us, they need the business.
4. Analyse your process. Like I said, I used to sell original prints, so buyers really did pay for my time and materials. Now, I make the lino block and produce ONE successful print. I photograph this at high quality with a DSLR and tidy any noise in Photoshop. I can then use the digital file to create endless high resolution Giclée prints. These are far cheaper to create and therefore the saving is passed on to my buyers. They can purchase the original if they wish, but this is obviously at a much higher price as it is unique and handmade.
5. Work out your adjusted income with your hourly rate being realistic. As I have changed my process, my hourly rate has stayed the same. But if I hadn’t changed my process I would have considered a lower pay point for myself. This is something that you can continue to adjust, to respond to the demand and therefore the overall value of your product.
6. Refresh your identity. This is a really personal choice and not something you have to do. For me I felt it was necessary. As my product had evolved, the identity of my business needed to as well. So, I designed a new logo, gave my whole website a make over and then spread this across my social media channels. I am really pleased with the new look and it has given me a renewed enthusiasm for my business! If you are feeling stale its a wonderful way to breathe life back in to yourself and your customers.
7. The thing which I think has affected most people, is the rise and fall of social media. There are things you can do to build your reach back up without having to pay for ads. Firstly, Insta is putting real emphasis on Reels right now. If you can film parts of your process or product reviews etc and present them in short videos on Facebook, Insta and Pinterest this will bring views in really fast. If you are using Pinterest, don’t forget to link back to your shop. Remember to post in the voice that you want your business to present – comfortable, relaxed or professional and clean. Keep it consistent.
Look at what hashtags and key words are popular. To do this you can type the beginnings of works in to any social media platform or search engine and see what auto-populates. If it comes up, it means people are looking for it. Don’t add words in that aren’t relevant though this is counterproductive.
Be real. Tell people what you think they might want to know about. Stories, anecdotes, successes… its all good. Think about what you like to read and what catches your eye.
Join groups that are relevant to what you do. Don’t be an arse and push your product. Interact with people, follow other makers and take a genuine interest in helping. Be a positive part of a community.
With that in mind, think about your landing pages. The face of your social media or website that people see first. You have a matter of seconds for them to figure out if they want to delve deeper or navigate away to somewhere else. Your landing pages need to be light, to the point and 100% relevant to what you are selling. And don’t forget those key words!
I think it’s also important to build up a following of people that value what you do. I know some companies may have 3k+ followers, but that doesn’t mean that 3k+ people are actually paying attention to what they are doing and buying what they sell. It’s important to remember that. Value the people that you have, interact with them, ask them questions, reply to them and be human.
8. The last thing is something I have continued to do throughout this awful 18 months. Get. Out. And. Experience. Life. Seriously now, this is so important. If you are an artist, attend exhibitions and apply for as many as you can. Put your work out there for people to see in real life and then peacock it on your social media. You need to show people that you are serious. I have done this and it is so good for the soul. Seeing your work in an exhibition is the one thing that makes me remember why I do it.
If you are a crafter, book in to fairs and get selling in person. Make sure you get a card reader, business cards and think about your stall. It needs to reflect the same ethos as your website and social media. Think colours, think height, think depth. Display prices as people hate asking – its awkward and takes me back to my original point about people not having much money to spend these days.
I hope this blog post is of use to you. As I said, I am making a lot of things up as I go along, reading books, blogs and chatting to others. But I am learning and I am doing well. I want to help and I don’t want to see any more talented creatives go out of business. Please keep pushing forward and see opportunity rather than disillusion.