Setting Up an Online Store

Setting Up an Online Store

Hello August! I say that because I didn't think all the Covid-19 related closures would last this long. I was wrong, so wrong indeed that I received my first art fair cancellation for 2021 this week.

Since art fairs have been canceled I have been getting a lot of questions from other potters who haven't set up an online store or it isn't up to speed. As much as I would love chatting with everyone individually, I don't have the time or the mental capacity-I am in the same boat with everyone else, trying to keep my small business afloat.

Instead, I am making a list of things you need to have a successful online store, be that an Etsy store or a Shopify store, like mine.

1. Photos

You need to take quality photos. I see a lot of people with really nice work, but they have mediocre photos. What constitutes a mediocre photo? For me, it's two things-lighting and focus.

You don't have to buy fancy lights, you can use natural daylight. Here is the set-up in my studio. A window and some painted wood back drops. Please make sure your photo is well lit. If you want to up the brightness digitally you can you free photo editing software like GIMP. I have used them before and it works great.

But this simple set-up took this photo, and I took this photo with my phone.

Nice photo! Crisp, clean, and bright. If you are going to use your phone to take photos please make sure and wipe the camera lens off. Ever see photos where it looks hazy? Yeah, the camera lens was dirty. Again, we want quality photos and quality photos come from the details. The photo above was just a quick snapshot to demonstrate a point. Taking a photo of a product is different than a quick snapshot of your dog or loved one. It is best to brace your arm/hand. You can balance your phone on a brick or even invest in a tripod (you can even get an extension for your cell phone).

You have to think like your customer. They won't be able to pick up your work so you have to sell it with photos, nice clean crisp photos.

2. Platform

If you are just starting out selling products online, I would recommend Etsy. If you already have your own website you can link to your Etsy store to shop. With Etsy you receive a 30-day free trial and after that it is $15 a month. Etsy fees are: "Once an item sells, there is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the shipping price you set). If you accept payments through Etsy Payments, we also collect a 3% + $0.25 payment processing fee when an item is sold." 

If you don't currently have a large audience (email list, social media, etc.,) it be may help drive traffic to your store because Etsy is a large marketplace.  (The counterpoint also could be there are lots of options to distract from your work, but that is a question you will have to ask yourself.)

On Etsy you get a lot of options for how many photos you can use, options if you sell an item with more than one color, size, etc., and the shipping is integrated into the system.

3. Shipping

Yes, you are going to ship fragile pieces all over the US and maybe the world if you are so inclined. 

You will need a scale. If you are a potter, you can use the scale you use to weight out clay if you want, I do. 

You will need boxes. How do I determine what size box? For example, if the piece I am shipping is 5" tall and 5" wide. I use a box that is 7" X 7" X 7". You want to have enough room around your piece to absorb shock from falling or throwing (yes, throwing) your box.

You can wrap your piece in many different ways: with corrugated cardboard, Geami WrapPak, or bubble wrap. I would recommend going around your piece of pottery at least two times. Remember packing material is less expensive than the piece of pottery and the time and labor it will take to remake the piece.

Once the piece is wrapped, you need to surround it with either peanuts (please consider using biodegradable packing peanuts) or paper fill. I know a lot of people get those plastic air pillows and in my experience those don't work well for pottery. They shift too much and can pop, creating a large void in your package. A pot that moves in the box, is a pot that breaks in a box, so don't skimp on the fill material! That said, always buy insurance and check to see if insurance is included in your price when buying postage.

4. Listings

Listings are what is referred to the piece you are listing. Create a name that is descriptive and to the point. For example, blue coffee mug. Yep, that easy. It your listing include the dimensions of the piece your are selling, if it holds liquid the volumetric measurements are nice, if it comes in different colors, sizes, etc. I also recommend including how it will be wrapped, which carrier you use for shipping, and how soon it will ship.

I could go on and on, but I think this is a great start. You can always look at one of my listings as an example. If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I will answer them shortly.

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Hi Tonya, great question! Yes I recommend a matte finish, it is easier to photograph.

Heidi Fahrenbacher

Heidi, Thanks, so much, for the link. I like the painted board idea.
One question. Are you using a “flat” finish for the background boards. I see a charcoal/ black panel. Just wondered if you found a certain finish that works best.
You are so sweet (and smart) to do this blog. It’s helpful and appreciated:)

tonya rund

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