How products work

Selling products is a huge undertaking for anyone in any industry. Understanding what people want from you and how to give it to them as cost effectively for you as possible is difficult. So many big businesses aim to reduce the cost it takes to produce, manufacture, and ship products in order to make as much profit as possible from each individual purchase. There are systems in place, so many cogs in the machine to make it run as efficiently as possible. For the most part, this is how big brands do it. Multiple people, multiple experts and managers running to tight deadlines and budgets to design and produce and send new products out to the market. The brand has already been established, people will buy because there is a proven track record. This is the benefit of an established, well-known brand that has had years to prove and market themselves.

But you, as an individual artist, don’t have that privilege. You don’t have multiple experts at your disposal to create, market and ship products that you design. It’s all you. which means, you have to learn each individual aspect of the process of shipping the product. Both the practical side; design, payment and logistics. Then the theory side; marketing and buying habits. Businesses have an individual person for each of these tasks every step of the way. But you don’t, and that’s ok.

It means you have full creative control over what happens in your business. You get the final say. But that also means, you have full creative control over what happens in your business. It’s a two-way system. You rise with the highs, and fall with the lows. Your responsible for the good times when things go right and the bad times when it all goes wrong.

This is a mammoth challenge when it comes to products. There is a lot of money on the line when you do it yourself. Most of the time it’s your own savings that take the hit when you are getting into the products market. You’re going to have to take a hit when first getting selling products on your own platform. Different from if you are an artist on a separate platform run by someone else where they have the system in place, they have the people to market it, they have the audience already in place.

Selling products yourself is expensive. Selling products on someone else’s platform is quick, easy and profitable.

Why sell products yourself then? If it’s more expensive yourself, why shouldn’t you join an already established business and sell for a quick and easy profit? Because that’s just it – a quick and easy profit. The other business is making more of a profit from your products. Your hard work is being taken advantage of for a bigger business to profit from. They hold the control of their business. If they decide to shut down, pull the plug, change payment plans, shipping plans, business model, raise the commission rate, there is nothing you can do to stop it. You are under their control. But if you are on your own platform, you have the keys. You can decided what to do, how much to charge, you can personalise it, add your own little touches to make it an individual experience for that person.

You control everything on your own platform.

In saying this, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it depends on your circumstance and situation as to why you go with one offer the other. There is no right or wrong way of selling products on your own platform vs. someone else’s platform. What matters is what is right for you at this moment in time where you or business stands as an artist.

Advantages of selling on someone else’s platform;

  • The logistical work is done for you – You don’t have to worry about shipping and the hardships that come with it; Domestic and international shipping rates, packaging, stock and inventory, posting your products via mail, payment processing, courier services, stamps / weights / policies of various mail and postal services.
  • A large audience – These platforms have a very large audience established already. Possibly vastly larger than your own. You may have a couple of thousand across your various social media channels, but these businesses may have a culmination of millions across their social media. By joining, you are going to reach a larger audience by default.
  • Product variety – When you go out on your own. Batch buying products is an extremely expensive process, whereby you can only really afford to go ‘all in’ on a few different products for the same piece of artwork. Perhaps you have one design you want to make into products, but can only afford to make 3 or some products from that design because you will have to buy the t-shirts, print the t-shirts, buy difference sizing, and for both genders. And that’s just a t-shirt. A way to get around this expensive process is via a ‘made to order’ model whereby you make the products on a case by case basis according to the specifications made by the customer. A slower process, that requires you to be the manufacturer but it guarantees a carefully crafted, handmade experience by the artist to the customer. Great for smaller artists, or artists with fine, handcrafted, artisan products or for a limited edition run.

Advantages of selling on your own platform;

  • Total control – You control the pricing, the business model i.e 2 for 1, you do the marketing, you design the webpage, the payment process, the experience of the customer on your own platform. Everything is done by you, for you and your customer exactly how you like it. No middle-man.
  • 100% Profit – You stand to profit from everything you sell. You set the pricing for people and can change it at anytime you like. You don’t have to run specials, your premium products don’t have to be discounted or part of a coupon promotion.
  • The customer experience – More than likely, you will start off on a ‘made to order’ model whereby customers order from you based on their spec and not done in batch. This gives you personal control over the experience that the customer is getting. Knowing that they are getting a once off piece made entirely by hand and by an artist they love. You know the quality of the products you selling, how premium they are, the material they are made out of and if they are eco-friendly etc. You can include personal notes in the package and even customise and create premium packaging and know exactly who has bought what and from where, thus depending the relationship and experience of that customer, increasing the change that they will order from you again.

It all comes down to the artists choice of how they want to run their business and the stage they are at in their career and where they want to go. if you’re a small artist aiming to expand into selling products at some stage down the line on your own platform or if you want to grow your audience into something larger so as to sell on your own platform in the future – I would recommend joining another platform to testing out the market first. It allows you an insight into how your products sell, what your most popular designs are and what products they are being ordered on.

You can always pull the plug (depending on what the terms and conditions of each platform, hence the ultimate goal should always be to sell on your own platform). Make sure you know what your values are and why you want to join someone else’s platform. Maybe you just want to make quick money and that’s all you ever want. Which is perfectly fine.

But if this is a long-term goal of yours and something in a larger picture for you and your brand down the line. Make sure you turn it into a learning experience. Which is getting more views? What’s being commented on the most? Is there a way that you can improve your artistic skills to match what is selling the best and make you future products and designs better?

Don’t let a large company take advantage on you. Make use of their audience, processes, tools and their platform and take advantage of them.

You may take a loss now, but it sets you up to make a killing in the long-term on your own platform.