Starting a Successful Art Business Online [The Lone Beader’s Story]
This Thanksgiving one of the things I am grateful for is having the opportunity to connect with, and learn from other artists through the tremendous reach of the Internet and social media.
Case in point: my recent conversation with The Lone Beader (a.k.a. Diana L. Grygo). I didn’t know Diana until I reached out to her via Twitter. I was intrigued with her artistic presence and wanted to learn about her experiences with #Etsy, her new iPad app, her experiences creating an art blog, building her Facebook following, and more.
In short, I wanted to know: how did you do it? How did you start a successful beadwork business? She graciously agreed to chat and share her story.
One thing that I immediately learned from The Lone Beader is - if you want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price art, sell it and create a successful art business, then just ask them! Most people are willing to share their stories.
How The Lone Beader started a successful beadwork business
The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts. She primarily sells her work through Etsy, her website, and some custom orders on Facebook. She has some 2,700 followers on Facebook and more than 2,000 admirers on Etsy.
The Lone Beader is the culmination of a journey that began in 2006 when a friend suggested that Diana should start a blog to promote her beadwork. She had sold a few pieces already and decided to try blogging. Diana began documenting progress of her beadwork, blogging every day. While she knew that there is a huge community of beaders, what she hadn’t realized is how they’d help her build her business.
Side note: I wrote about the importance of blogging in an earlier post: Building your online presence
Diana joined a forum online and connected with other beadwork artists. A few linked to her and mentioned her blog. Gradually her following began to grow. Eventually, someone requested a beaded pin of a dog so she made it and sold it directly via her blog. Other people began reaching out too via her blog.
Image courtesy of the Lone Beader
“Someone commented ‘I was looking for you on Etsy’,” says Diana. “I didn’t know about Etsy at first, but after doing some research, I learned that it would be a great place to sell my work.” Diana opened her Etsy shop in 2008.
You might also be interested in: Building an art business: is selling art online right for you?
Diana shared with me that her shop is slowly growing. She worked hard to promote her name and started her Facebook and Instagram business pages. She used her blog to promote them and vice versa. Diana said that people looking for something unique will find her on Google through online searches – her use of keywords and hashtags help people find her.
“I use a lot of hashtags in my posts,” she says. “They help a lot now. Hashtags weren’t very common several years ago. They became big on Twitter, then Facebook started to utilize them, too. So now if someone is searching for #poodle, for example, my beaded poodle will show up in the hashtag feed.”
Diana says she has found two target markets for her business. The first is the beadwork community who wants to learn what she is doing. She now offers patterns for $10 to beaders who would like to create their own beaded dog pin. She tells me that “others might worry about someone else copying/selling their design, but I don’t. What I do is labor intensive. You have to love it and want to do it over and over again.” The second market is dog and cat lovers.
That brings me to the next chapter in her story, pricing her beadwork.
How to price art
The first time Diana sold something seriously, she told me, was in 2004. She created a flamingo painting. “The piece was being photographed for a publication and someone saw it and said he’d like to buy it.”
Image courtesy of The Lone Beader
Diana said she could make him a new piece and came up with pricing based on an hourly wage. She asked for 50% up front. Diana tracked the hours spent and billed her client for the remainder when the 8x10 painting was complete. The flamingo painting sold for $1,000. She says it helped her gauge how much to price her work.
The majority of the cost for creating Diana’s beadwork is time. She says that beads don’t cost very much. Most of the beaded dog pins and pendants take her a full day to create due to the amount of sewing involved.
One of her most popular pieces is the beaded Yorkshire Terrier. Interestingly, Diana started at a lower price and focused on building a following. Eventually she decided to raise the price. “As soon as I raised the price, it started selling,” she says.
Here’s Diana’s advice on pricing:
With the busy holiday shopping season upon us I asked The Lone Beader if she does any special promotions this time of year. Diana is planning to run a Black Friday promotion and another one a couple of weeks before Christmas for her ready to ship items.
Side note: You might also like my interview on pricing with commercial photographer Scott Indermaur: Tips for how to price commercial photography or my blog on How to price fine art photography
Launching a mobile app based on her art
Diana’s art business continues to evolve. She recently released her iPhone app in the iTunes store. Diana has embraced social media and the beadwork community and patiently created her artistic presence and art business from the ground up. She is a self-taught small business owner who learned about tax IDs, business bank accounts and the components of running a successful business. In the next chapter she may take the plunge and make The Lone Beader her sole source of income and full time career.
One of the gifts that social media has brought to all of us artists is the opportunity to tap into a community – connecting artists from all disciplines, across all geographic boundaries and all stages of career. Want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price their art, sell it and create a successful art business? Ask them! Embrace it and tap into this rich artist community.
Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.
The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts. She loves to create extremely dimensional beaded paintings by stitching glass seed beads to felt. Her work also combines images from history with ideas of the future using mixed media. Her current pieces are inspired by pop culture, classic cars, and rock'n'roll music. Join her on a journey and let her beadwork take you for a ride. Please visit TheLoneBeader.com for more photos & news, and please stop by The Lone Beader's blog to follow the progress of her bead embroidery.
Download my FREE iPhone app today! https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thelonebeader/id870098922
Keywords: Cindy Stephens, The Lone Beader, art business, art marketing, beadwork, how to price art, marketing
For starting a successful art business just follow these steps:
Create nice work
Get to grasp your target market
Get to grasp your marketplace
Develop an easy business set up
Regularly review your business set up
Make it straightforward for your fans to “connect” with you
Nurture your customers
Go back to step one and repeat all steps once more.
For starting a successful art business, you need to focus on building a long term, successful career. An artist must combine three things:
1) A little business planning
2) A whole lot of marketing
3) The ability to create work that resonates with people. To know more you can also visit us at:
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I am a marketing professional and a fine art photographer. With more than 20 years of experience as a marketer and image maker during the digital technology revolution, I now educate creative professionals how to create their artistic presence in the changing art world.
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