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“Don’t you know who I am?”

Getting yourself known, getting your artwork “out there”. Whether it’s social media, advertising, selling work through galleries, open studios, via a website, a pop up shop or an artists co-operative……there are lots of ways to try and get your work seen and it’s something that’s essential for any small business. After all, if no one knows you exist, how will they ever know to buy from you.

You’d have thought perhaps that social media had made it easier for artists and makers, what with facebook and instagram, pinterest, blogs and social media inflencers. After all, being able to sell your work all over the world is a great opportunity, but in some ways, I think it’s made it harder. Social media is great for raising awareness of injustice, the state of the planet, for keeping in touch with family and friends abroad. For small businesses though, there are just more tasks to keep up with and less ways to stand out in an increasingly noisy, over saturated global market. Go back 50 or 60 years, people didn’t travel as far, there was no internet, they bought what they needed in the local town and the towns thrived. There were jobs for local people, things were made locally, money was spent locally and stayed locally, products were made to last. Businesses to some extent had a captive audience. Nowadays, people buy online, often from the other side of the world (and often because it’s cheaper). Have you heard these said recently? “Nothing is ever cheap, someone, somewhere will always pay” or “Buy cheap, buy twice”. What are your thoughts on these?

That’s another blog post, but for now back to “Don’t you know who I am?”

Over the years, I’ve attended lots of fairs and events, from small craft markets, through to huge trade fairs and open studios. I’m mentoring at the moment, on behalf of Upland, the folks who run Spring Fling Open Studios (www.spring-fling.co.uk). One of the things we were discussing was ways to promote, tell and show people, what you do. Whether that’s advertising in print or on social media, selling via galleries, your website or another web platform such as etsy, or taking a stand at one of the larger art and craft fairs.

Many of the trade and public selling shows are open for applications at the moment. You fill in a (usually) pretty long form, (sometimes) pay a submission fee and send your application and images off into the ether. A committee will then look at your information and the images you’ve supplied and will decide if they’d like you to show at their event. Then you have to pay for it (always :-)). Stand fees for events can run into the thousands and that’s before you’ve paid for the extras…. a plug socket (no I’m not joking, £50) or to have an image in the brochure, or for a display case. Then there’s the time you spend before the show making things, planning the display, the time you’re at the show (when you aren’t making things….time is money and all that) your petrol, accommodation etc. In short, all of these things can cost an arm and a leg, but it’s part and parcel of being a business.

Shows and events like Spring Fling Open Studios, which I’m taking part in again this year (25-27 May – put it in your diaries lovely people) do give folks the opportunity to come along, meet you and have a chat in a low key, no obligation kind of way. I know not all artists and makers do this, but you can give me a call and pop to see me in the studio for a chat all year round. That said I know not everyone feels comfortable doing this so open studios and events are perfect for folks to do a little surreptitious snooping and to quietly suss us out.

I’ve seen various articles in the press recently, where some enormous jewellery business has told the world that they are doing something special…. usually something some smaller company has been doing for ages (but didn’t have the PR firm, advertising budget, time or contacts to publicise it). Take Pandora, who I think pretty much everyone has heard of. They came out of nowhere, spent a fortune on ads on TV and in glossy mags and are now a household name. These big companies can afford to pay PR firms to put their jewellery, clothing, cars etc with celebrities to raise their brands status. They can afford to pay social media influencers to blog about their products and promote them to their followers. The little guy doesn’t stand a chance.

I could say then, that luckily most artists and craft makers are in this for more than just the money. And they are, often it’s about communicating something, or the pleasure of making by hand or by making a living doing something they love, or they might be trying to make a positive change in the world. Something the larger companies and their shareholders aren’t quite so concerned about. But, even if it’s not just about money, artists and makers need to make a living too. They should be paying themselves properly and pricing their work fairly. The starving artist label is no good to anyone. I don’t believe artists and makers are selling out by making a living from their work. Artists and makers are running small businesses just like any other, paying mortgages and bills, putting fuel in the car and food on the table. Contributing to health, wellbeing and the economy.
The Creative Industries in Scotland contribute £4.6 billion to the economy. This represents a steady increase since 2010. (Creative Scotland)

The difference between the little guy or gal and the big business is the relationship. You can talk to us (….try ringing the CEO of Amazon!) and we may well know you by name. So if you want to help the artists and makers (and other small businesses) you like become better known, here’s what to do:

Tell everyone about them, ask them for their cards and hand them out.

Comment on and share their posts on social media.

Give them feedback. If you’ve bought something from them/seen their work somewhere, leave them a review/send them an email or card (you’ll make their day trust me).

Send them a photo/post a photo online of you wearing whatever lovely thing you bought/ or of that picture or piece of furniture in your house.

Go and see them at events/open studios/sign up to their newsletter or blog.

Huge thanks to all my lovely customers who regularly do the above. Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog post, I’ll revisit with “Someone always pays” next time.

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Oh the joys of being self employed….

Being self employed most definitely has its perks. Choosing the hours you work, nipping out to take the dog for a walk on a sunny afternoon, not having a boss 😀 Though as I’m sure many other self employed sole traders would tell you, you have to be everything, designer, maker, accounts dept, tech support, administrator,secretary, buyer, marketing dept, social media… the list goes on….and on.

Take today, I’d been for a run, animals all fed and looked after, other half sweeping the chimney (as you do around here) and it had started to rain, icy rain. So, I thought to myself, time for a cup of coffee and I’ll maybe set up that blog that I said I’d get around to creating yonks ago. There was a reason why I probably never got around to doing it, not because I didn’t know what to write, or that I was worried I might run out of things to blog about, but because the setting up of said blog was never going to be simple. How to add it to my website without inadvertently messing up the rest of it by the ticking of some innocuous looking button. So I googled it… (whatever did any of us ever do before google?) and disappeared down the black hole that is “how to add a blog to my wordpress website”.

Much later and with some assistance from my (coughs) Volunteer Website Manager aka “the other half” and I have a shiny new blog page, complete with a menu tab and a subscribe button. You’ll need the subscribe button 🙂 so that you receive an email every time I add some ramblings to my page. But seriously, I hope you do subscribe and stick around, after all it’s taken about 4 hours of my life to set this up. I plan to blog about jewellery, environment, life in general and “what goes on behind the scenes”. Righty-o, that’s me away for a G & T (joking)…here’s that subscribe button I was telling you about….