Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Interesting selling quandry

There's been a discussion on Clayart the past two days about alternate options for selling work. A potter in Canada, who like myself, is retired, but still making more pots than she can use, was asking about the possibility of hiring an agent since she lives in an area without many selling options, and her age ruled out the usual options of traveling to do shows. The feedback was what I felt, that paying an agent in our culture, just wasn't viable, unless you're someone making very high end sculptural or similar work. It works in places like Japan for the high priced potters, since selling agents there are many and part of their culture.

But what can you do, as in my situation where you can't sell from home, and your local options are nil. There are a lot of potters in this area but most of them, use the annual fall Clayfolk show to sell their work. But of course to do that, you have to gain points by doing certain jobs during the year, attending meetings, working the sale, etc. and amass points over time to get into the show and get a good location. And for that one show, you are competing with about 100 or so other potters selling on that day to a not very large market. Medford, Or is a small city of about 70,000 people, and it's not a place with high paying jobs, so the customer base isn't that big. I did that show years ago, but in my mid 70's with arthritic bones, and lower energy, that's no longer an option i would choose.

David Hendley suggested that this gal put a sale page on her web page with a paypal option, instead. With paypal you only pay about 3% of the sale. There are no monthly fees or equipment rentals fees or purchases needed. He said that he gets more sales on his own web page than on Etsy. You can also join Square, get a free little plug that goes into a cell phone or ipad touch, etc. and take charge cards. The payment scale is similar to Paypal. That sounds like the best options to me, and for those in a similar situation. I still make more pots than I can use, and don't have the energy anymore to pack and haul pots and sit at shows.

From what I've observed, the people who do well on Etsy are those who either already have a large customer base or who have used Facebook to post photos of their work, amassed a large group of Facebook friends, and then point them to their Etsy site whenever they list new work for sale. I've seen that work well for a few potters I know. It's a good marketing possibility. The same may apply for setting up a sales area on your web page. So, unless you already have a good mailing list, you might have to get on social networks and find ways of getting people to your site.

Our friend Steve, who lives in the country in Northern Washington state, has a wife with a marketing degree, and Nicole hauled his pots to the city years ago, to sell them at a pottery party. She gave the hostess a certain amount of free pots based on the sales made at the party. That worked very well for them, as an added selling choice. Fortunately, although they live in the country, they're on a well traveled road and can sell a lot from their house, but they also needed another way upping sales away from home.

Another friend in Santa Barbara held sales at her home every year. She invited other artists, weavers, etc. and they all shared their mailing list and costs for the printing and mailing. She didn't have to pack up pots, pay a heavy fee for a show that might wind up being a dud. Instead she had the comfort of her own space and because she had a lovely, beautifully planted, park like property, that was easily accessed, she attracted a lot of people and good sales..

In the economy of the past few years, crafts people have had to come up with some unique marketing ideas to survive; and many haven't. Some made it through with part time adjunct teaching jobs, kiln building and part time work. It's been a hard road for many fine potters. Hopefully, the economy which is steadily improving, will make life a lot easier. We probably won't see a throw back to the 70's when anything hand made was selling like hotcakes; but you never know, it could happen again. Wouldn't that be lovely!

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