Back when most potters didn’t even have a website, I had the bad habit of redoing mine about once a year. The last website sat for many years as I told myself over and over not to redo the site because:
- I felt like my site was better than most other ceramics artists I admired (if they even had one)
- I did most sales in person, and the few online ones go through Etsy
- I never felt like I had enough time to work in the studio
Recently , I started to feel like ceramic artists were finally springing up with their own beautiful and functional websites. It’s now not uncommon for these people to do a good amount to most of their sales online. Many just point to Etsy, many handle their own sales through their website, and many tell customers to call or email to work it all out.
Etsy has a couple of good reasons to use it. For one, it can bring traffic to your shop that you wouldn’t normally have. Secondly, Etsy has become a name that people trust ordering their stuff from. Even if they haven’t heard of Sally Pottery Maker, they’ve ordered from Etsy before (or know people who have), so they feel okay clicking the buy button.
Etsy also has several good reasons for artists not to use it. The first one is the cost. They charge you for listing your stuff (like eBay) and it expires after so much time. The extra step of keeping track when something will expire and renew it is a pain, and now you’re paying a second time to list it. Maybe you’re someone like me that pays to list something, then inevitably, that’s the thing that sells in person and I need to take it down. It doesn’t refund you for deactivating a listing early. Etsy will also charge you on the actual money you make as well, taking a cut every time you sell something. Etsy now has direct checkout, but back when it was Paypal, that meant both Etsy and Paypal were charging you. All of those fees add up and cut into the less than huge makings of an artist.
I just alluded to this, but the second biggest reason not to use it is that it doesn’t do anything helpful for inventory management if you’re not selling exclusively with Etsy. For people like me that sell in person, we have to have a spreadsheet or something else to keep track of what is in stock versus what isn’t, whether it was sold or if I dropped it on concrete, if it’s being shown somewhere, etc. This spreadsheet tells me what is on Etsy so I would remember to take it down. What I would really like is a real inventory management system, one that was integrated with enough things that I wouldn’t need a separate spreadsheet at all.
So I have two really good reasons to still use Etsy and two really great reasons to move on to something else. For now, I’m going to keep my Etsy site in tact while trying out WooCommerce. So far, it seems like you can use WooCommerce for complete inventory management: adding notes, manually putting in orders that weren’t generated directly on the website, keeping track of stock, and even calculating and adding sales tax where appropriate. Even if WooCommerce works well, I may keep Etsy around for selling select items, just to keep a presence and bring more eyes to my work.
To jump back to my original list of reasons not to redo the website, I said that I never have enough time in the studio just making stuff. That’s still true. However, a good investment in a website could maybe finally mean never building it from the ground up again. That overall should save time, right? WordPress has been around and getting better for years and years now. I’ve been using it for my blog, www.theseize.com, since 2007. This, coupled with the possibility of retiring the too big Google Drive inventory spreadsheet, makes a compelling argument.
Finally, the other big “Why now?” is that I’m doing the biggest sale I’ve ever done at the end of this summer / fall. I will be a vendor at King Richard’s Faire for the 2014 season, which means 18 days (2 long weekends and 6 regular ones). I started thinking that I didn’t want any customers I gained from the sale to be looking at an old website. I needed to prepare for things go well and assume I’ll get a spike in traffic online. So, even though I am worried about making enough for King Richard’s Faire, I’m spending time on a website. Hopefully it’ll be the last time I make a big investment of time doing this.
One more thing that should stand out is that this blog here is separate from TheSeize. I’ve wrestled with this for a long time. Should I make an ‘artist blog’ or not? Should I keep two blogs? Do I even have the time for two blogs? Do I cross post? I feel like one of the best examples of what blogging can do for a ceramic artists is Lori at Fine Mess Pottery. I love reading her blog. I also feel like I lose something not writing about processes like this. Maybe in many cases I’ll be documenting questions, frustrations, and breaking things, but there’s value in that. By documenting failures I’ll also be documenting my eventual and inevitable success, right? And besides, I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, and speaking with the large online community is just as important as my own local artist community.