Selling Yourself

July has been terrifyingly quiet on the paid work front. And I know from all the Facebook timeline updates that many of you are also feeling the pinch. It’s the summer holidays. Everyone has ploughed their cash into going abroad for a couple of weeks. A worthy investment. Maybe.

I’ve contented myself with restocking on fabrics and designing and making new collections ready for the post summer influx. I’ve also tried to focus on my much neglected Etsy shop. This I revived just a couple of months ago after mothballing it in 2013 when I sold off all my costume and vintage stock to transfer over to the fashion market.

Marketing and selling product is a bitch. It’s worse when you’re creative and you work for yourself because your job is to make stuff, not do marketing and all the nagging admin things. We weren’t mentally built for all that stuff and we procrastinate. Beyond posting ‘works in progress’ on Instagram and answering castings it really should be someone else’s job. But it isn’t.

If your creativity is your only source of income, as it is for many of us these days, then you have to get good at the selling bit. And it’s not easy because everyone else is out there trying to do it as well and that means you have to shout a lot louder, either by marketing a lot and doing it well or by doing something so amazing that it just sells itself.

We’d all like to be in the latter category but there are lots of us around all doing similar things and standing out from the crowd isn’t easy. Of course, social media is a good cover for a slow business and people I thought must be raking it in according to their social media, aren’t. It makes me feel a bit better about my situation which, although not dire, could always be better. It’s not necessarily that I am doing anything different to anyone else, but it doesn’t make it okay.

These days my Etsy is a sales platform for selective garments from my new collections. But it’s about more than posting up your latest listing to Twitter or hash-tagging everything in sight. That will not bring customers in and it won’t get your name circulated as far and wide as you need it to be.

Analyzing your followers list is important. I’ve noticed that the bulk of mine are not potential customers but other creatives who aren’t likely to be buying any of my products. It’s great for networking with potential collaborators and I might get the odd paid shoot out of it but I’m not going to shift any garments this way.

Your followers list needs to be full of people who work the high street, love to buy things, show off purchases and follow labels. These are the people who will ultimately buy your pieces and recommend you. And they are the ones sharing, tagging and commenting via Twitter and Instagram.

The internet is full of ‘How To‘ guides. And making use of them is important if you’re going to get your head around it. But it’s not going to magically bring in sales. Even so there are people out there doing it very effectively and it’s worth learning something from them. Buried Diamond has a busy Etsy shop and an active Instagram too and you have to be uploading all the time, adding, commenting, taking pictures to get this kind of followers list. As a designer, posting projects in progress, finishing details and workspace shenanigans is really important to get customers to relate to the design process. And hopefully it’ll make them appreciate the price more because they can see the effort.

Sadly it means you sometimes have to post memes, inspirational posts and all sorts of other things which aren’t your product. But people love that stuff and 9 times of out 10 they are the things that get likes. Especially if it applies to them too.

I’m going to keep swatting up on ‘How To Guides’ and trying some of them out. Watch this space for updates on how I’m doing!

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