Last September the One of a Kind show (OOAK) offered artists and artisans the opportunity to pivot digitally. I always preferred selling face-to-face at art fairs where I could engage with people in conversation rather than via bits and bytes. But I jumped at this new opportunity because all the art fairs had disappeared. However, it meant a lot of learning and change.
First I got out of my comfort zone and gave up my Weebly website which I had always found so easy to use. The OOAK leadership put us in touch with the Digital Main Street program for federal, provincial, and corporate sponsorship with free consulting, learning resources, and technology incentives. Before I knew it I was learning how to use Shopify and thinking of my paintings as "products". Ouch!
Second, OOAK asked us to include "lifestyle photos" with our products so that buyers could visualize our products being used in real life. Another opportunity for learning! I started experimenting with uploading my paintings to professionally photographed room settings. That part was fun! And yes, it gave a wonderful sense of what my art would look like over a sofa or in someone's kitchen.
Third, OOAK asked us to port our products over to their trade show software. That was the most difficult part of the process because the "seamless integration" wasn't always easy or successful. This resulted in many, many hours sitting in front of a computer -- something most artists don't really want to do. Plus, the new software offered more features than what were available on Shopify so this resulted in more learning and working with different graphics apps.
Fourth, OOAK asked us to include videos if possible. Out of the blue, a friend gifted me with a professionally produced video. I was flabbergasted by the generosity. Again, being in front of the camera is not my favourite place to be but the videographer is a skilled interviewer and really put me at ease. Everything was getting down to the wire to meet the launch deadline. And of course, more learning because I had to upload it to YouTube with no time for changes and connect the video to both my Shopify site and the trade show software.
The One of a Kind show has built a huge following in the GTA over the years - so attendees too had to learn how to find their favourite vendors digitally using the trade show software. Everyone was pivoting digitally! At the end of the day, I'm glad to say it was worth it. I made some sales and wonderful online connections. I also received some important feedback.
I learned that people really liked being able to see something on my website and click the buy button rather than having to send me an email to ask for the price. I also heard that people loved seeing my work staged in a beautifully photographed room setting and that this helped them make a decision. Since then, my county has come forward to offer some digital marketing and consulting so that I can learn how to advertise. The learning continues!
PS. Big shout out to Avery Swartz for her book "See you on the Internet" which helped make sense of a lot things that I was learning. I highly recommend it as an excellent read for small business owners who are learning to navigate in the new digital reality. Also, her webinars at CampTech are loaded with valuable information delivered in an easy-to-understand way.
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