Some time ago I received an email from Trevor at FoundMySelf.com, letting me know about his free selling platform for artists. I thought it was a pretty neat idea, so I decided to ask Trevor to answer a few questions.
1. Tell me about yourself Trevor. What’s your background? How did you come to start Foundmyself?
I created Foundmyself in 2003 as a personal project after I graduated college. I had a general concept of what I wanted it to be, which was friendly, simple, and useful to creative types of all sorts. Foundmyself was also a great excuse to hone my programming and design skills, which, looking back, were both in dire need of honing.
2. Most online art sales sites charge a per-transaction fee, a hosting fee, and other fees. How do you support the site without mandatory fees?
Foundmyself is indeed free for all artists, from the setup to the commission-free sales of their work. If an artist decides to give back to the community in the form of donation, we use it to support the hosting and advertising costs. We also offer certain upgrades, like exposure points that advertise an artist’s work across the site, and Reach websites, which are dot-com art galleries. Finally, there’s a small amount of traditional advertising on the site, although that’s a recent addition.
When it comes down to it, the focus of Foundmyself is the artist who uses it and benefits from it, so if worse comes to worse it will be paid for out of pocket. The site has grown so much but to me it still feels like an ongoing project, and I’m fortunate to have found a great number of loyal users… many who have been on the site since the very beginning.
3. Do you have any awesome artist success stories?
Yes! These achievements belong 100% to the artists, of course. Recently, an artist who frequents the site was accepted into the Ocean Artists Society, which aims to use art to inspire positive environmental change. Other artists on the site have had their own terrific successes (one has a painting that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London, for instance).
My favorite story line that I see in the forums is when new artists, or artists who haven’t picked up a brush in years, have found the site and talked with others there and have made art a big part of their life. I sort of selfishly borrow some of that accomplishment.
4. What resources are available to artists who want to sell their work through Foundmyself, but don’t have a lot of experience with online marketing?
We have tons, and we try to make our features as easy on the artist as possible. Our most important feature is the Honor System, which allows anyone to sign up, use the site indefinitely for free, and then give back when they make a sale, hit the lotto (still waiting for this one), or when the mood just strikes. There might be another art site out there that does that, but if there is, I haven’t seen it.
Aside from the honor system, we have Reach, which is a simple dot-com website for artists that quickly creates a standalone, professional web presence. We offer guides, as well, and have many promotional tools that are all aimed at presenting the artwork cleanly and simply to potential buyers. Finally, the artists on the site are very helpful, and the forum is an excellent resource for artists new to selling their work online.
5. How much do artists typically contribute in sales through the Honor System?
We have the top twenty donors listed on the site (Resources > Donate), which gives an abstract view of some of the contributions. Because we truly are on the honor system we don’t track sales, though. I should point out that with our honor system, users aren’t only rewarded for donating, but also for participating. They can earn exposure points, front page placement, Reach websites and more regardless of which angle they take to get their honor.
6. Where do you see the future of Internet Marketing for Art? How will artists bridge the gap between offline and offline?
Mobile devices are so commonplace and their screens so sharp (not to mention the tiny projectors they have now) that I think more and more artists will have a “pocket portfolio” that they can show off on the go. Innovations in search are going to help people really narrow down what they’re looking for visually, so that they can sift through the massive amount of art available online with less typing. Something like a more focused Google Goggles, for example.
The toughest hurdle from a tactile, connectivity point of view, will be to replicate the real essence of an original piece of art. Seeing the way light bounces off high and low points on a painting as you shift your view is something that will be hard to reproduce, although eventually I think we’ll get there. In the meantime, and as awesome the tools we have are, I think most people will prefer to look at the real article if given the choice. For now, I most definitely appreciate being able to view art from Germany one minute, Japan the next without the jet lag and price tag.
Have you tried FoundMySelf.com? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!