One week ago I launched my first original watercolor series, The Highlands Collection. It was a great learning experience, and while I did have pretty good success, there are a couple things I’ll do differently the next time around.
Nearly selling out my first series in 24 hours did not really happen overnight. There was a lot of behind the scenes work that led up to the collection release. I will preface this with saying that I’ve been building up my watercolor-focused Instagram following for over a year. I have been consistently posting and engaging with my tribe for at least 6 months. I am currently a member of The Studio Source, which is a membership-based course specifically for artists trying to market themselves on Instagram. I actively participate in Facebook groups, as well as local artist meetups. I believe all of these activities combined helped me to build a community around my art, so I’m not just selling to friends and family (but I’m SO grateful for the support of my friends and family as well!).
About 2 months before the launch, I began teasing the release with process photos, detail photos, and photos of myself with the pieces on Instagram. My goal was to get interested customers to sign up for my email list (a strategy I learned from The Studio Source). Those who signed up for my email list would get VIP access to the collection 24 hours before the public.
Within the first 2 hours of my email , 5 out of the 10 paintings had sold. Within 24 hours, 4 more sold, plus a handful of commissions from customers who missed the chance at getting the painting they had their eye on. All but one of the online sales came from my “VIP email list.” Overall, I was surprised and grateful at the response of my first collection, and I can’t wait to do another one!
What I’ll Do Differently Next Time
1. Shipping – One thing that I didn’t properly calculate beforehand was the cost of shipping. Because I really wanted my paintings to be presented beautiful, I matted and framed them all, which really added to my costs. The flat rate medium-size boxes from USPS which fit my framed smaller paintings were $14.95. To ship my larger framed paintings was closer to $30.00! My website is built in WordPress, and the shipping that WooCommerce automatically calculated was only $4.99. This time around, the extra costs didn’t matter too much to me, because this whole project was about getting my art out into the world, into the public, and I didn’t have a specific goal for a profit. For the next launch, I will not only include the proper shipping costs into my WooCommerce customer checkout, but I will also have framing as an option for the extra associated costs, instead of included automatically. A much more cost-effective shipping method is to ship each piece matted, and not framed.
2. Build Up My Email List – My initial email list only had 18 people subscribed! Which means 44% of the subscribers on my list converted to customers. This is a great ratio of subscriber to customer, however, it is likely that most customers may not purchase another painting during my next release (even though I’d love it if they did!). My goal for the next release, which will hopefully be August 1st, 2019, is to have 100 subscribers. The fact that The Highlands Collection almost completely sold out in the first 24 hours really gave my subscriber count the initial push it needed, so we are off the a great start. Once non-subscribers saw that the painting they wanted had been sold during the email early release, they signed up right away for the next collection release! Also, as a marketing manager by trade, I am well aware that 100 subscribers is not a lot, but I am not focusing on getting huge amounts of followers and subscribers… I am focusing on connecting with individuals that feel my work is important, incites a feeling in them, and wants one or more of my paintings to become a part of their home.
3. Test the Website Checkout Process – One of the most important parts of the customer experience is being able to checkout easily. You do not want to have any hurdles for someone trying to buy a piece of your work. About 2 hours before the launch of my watercolor series, I tested the website and checkout process. Well, I definitely should have tested it a lot earlier because there was more than one snag in the purchasing process. It took up until the minute I was supposed to launch my VIP Early Access email to get everything working properly. It was definitely a stress that could have been avoided if I had been properly prepared and tested everything at least a few days early. I’m just grateful that there weren’t larger issues that couldn’t have been fixed on time.
Overall, releasing my premiere fine art watercolor collection was a wonderful, fun experience, and the response from my supporters, friends, and customers was overwhelming, equating to one of the best events of my life.