Selling Without Fear: Believe You Are an Entrepreneur

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Welcome to Selling Without Fear. This is my first foray into writing about specialty retail, but I’ve been working in the field for the last ten years. My particular niche in specialty retail is seeking out up-and-coming artists in my home state and getting their work into stores. While my perspective is colored by working as a buyer for a brick and mortar store, my niche is so precise, that I meet a lot of artists who are just starting out. (For brevity’s sake, we’ll call them artists, but this applies to you, reader friend, no matter what type of work you are trying to sell.)

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One of my early yarn displays from 2012

Imagine a scenario with me. You are at your first art fair. You have a table and a display and prices on your pieces. You know your pieces rock. You are confindant in your work and you are ready to sell. Your prices seem fair, your display looks nice, and you have put in a ton of work to be there. Then, someone like me walks by. A buyer. She recognizes your genius immediately. She asks for your wholesale price sheet. If you have business cards? A website? An facebook page? She might tell you that your prices are too low. She might even say that she’d like to work with you, but if you don’t have a least one, though preferably all four of the things listed above, chances are, she’s not calling you on Monday. (Or in my case, in two or three Mondays, because that’s far behind I usually am.)

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Another early yarn display

Suddenly, all of that work you did to get to the fair doesn’t seem like enough. There’s so much more to do to, and it’s not nearly as fun as making things. And honestly, it’s a little intimidating. Do you really need all of that stuff to be successful? Maybe not, but your chances improve a whole helluva lot if you do.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting with an artist who wants to sell with me and the artist has said, “I don’t really know what to sell for, I’m just an artist.” No. You are not.

If you are an artist selling your work, you are a business owner.

If you want to be successful in selling your work, you need to act like a business owner. Pull on your entrepreneur boots and start thinking beyond your product.

Yes, your product is the basis of your business, but if you don’t make it easy for shoppers (the public) and buyers (people like me who are stocking store) both to buy your products, you are doing yourself a disservice. You need a wholesale price sheet. A facebook page and possibly a website. And for the love of God, please at least have a business card with your email address on it. One that you check.

Why do you need these thing? Because they make you think about your branding.

My super simple logo
My super simple logo.

Brand. Another scary businessy sounding word. Good news is, when you’re a solo entrepreneur, a maker of handmade things, designer, a seller of one of a kind goods, words, food, etc. more often than not, you are your brand, and your products are a representation of you.

Business cards are you at a glance. They should represent your style, and tell me how to contact you and where I can find you online.

A wholesale price sheet shows that you know the value of your work down to the last penny, that you are confidant in your prices, and that you consider yourself a professional, not a hobbyist. (It doesn’t matter if you are a hobbyist. The world doesn’t need to know that. When you are selling, you are a professional.)

A facebook page and/or website is your way to connect with an audience. Share with them. Intrigue them. Let them know where you will be or if you’re developing new products. Tell them your story. The whole point of buying handmade is to buy something with a story, to give a gift with a tangible connection. Give your audience that connection.

We’re going to talk about each of these things in turn, starting with branding, then moving into pricing, and then confidence building over the next few weeks. Ask me questions, leave comments, argue with me, and feel free to email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com.

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