This is a guest post from Steff Metal. If you don’t know her yet, you’ll want to by the end of this post. When she emailed me her idea, I thought it was good. When she sent over the final product, I just about died. This is probably the best guest post on The Abundant Artist EVER. Seriously. We should all be paying Steff 2% of all of our art sales from now on.
You’ve been reading Abundant Artist, thinking how sweet it would be to run your own little art biz – sitting in your studio all day, painting or sculpting or writing or gluing or snapping the hours away. You’re planning your website, writing your blog, and you’ve just got your first shipment of business cards in the mail.
You’re no longer an artist. You’re an Artist. You’re working it with your own little mini-art biz. You’re rocking your black beret and “I’m An Artist” t-shirt with pride.
But there comes a point when you actually have to sell something.
If you don’t sell your artwork, you won’t eat. And you’ll probably find out that not eating kinda sucks. Personally, I’m a big fan of eating. That’s why I stopped fooling around with words and started asking people to pay me for writing.
If you want to make an honest go of being a full-time artist, at some point you’re going to have to ask people for money.
That’s quite a scary contemplating. Many of us have got it in our heads that money in the art world is kind of crass – especially when we’re first setting up our websites. We’re so concerned about coming across like sleazy Internet marketers; we go too far in the other direction, burying our sales pages deep in our websites where no one could hope to find them.
I say we, because I was exactly the same when I started out. My first writing website had a biography, a list of all my published articles, and a killer writing sample, but nowhere did it actually mention I was a writer for hire. Oops.
We don’t ask for sales, and so we don’t get them. Our readers buy from another artist instead, or spend their money on Cockney language kits or Justin Bieber CDs.
That’s right – Justin Bieber gets your money.
You should not feel embarrassed to ask for money for your work, because your work is amazing and deserves a place in someone’s life. If you’re reading the Abundant Artist and are trying to create an arty biz, you must already believe your work is worthwhile, is worth paying for.
But maybe you don’t know how to convince others of that.
I’m Steff – I’ve been copywriting for artists, crafters and creative entrepreneurs just like you for the last 7 years, and I want to help you write a kick ass sales page. I want to help you learn how to ask for money for your work without feeling icky. I don’t want Justin Bieber to get your food money any longer.
The sales page techniques below are normally used to create “long form sales pages”, made famous by skeezy Internet marketers the world over. However, Internet marketers (not all of them skeezy) know what works – they know how to sell. Some artists – like fire bowl sculpter John T. Unger – have successfully adopted long-form sales pages to sell their artwork. While you don’t need to write a 2000 word sales page for every print you sell, you can use some of these techniques to create better descriptions for your artwork and create a viable online art shop.
What are You Selling?
In order to set up an online sales page, you need something to sell. Since you’re an artist, I’m betting this is a piece of art – or a product related to your art. Maybe you’ve finished a new series of paintings based on fairy tales of Brothers Grimm, or you’ve created downloadable wedding invitation kits, or maybe you’ve developed a great creative photography ebook.
Whatever your product, make sure it’s as awesome as it can be. You’ve got to stand up and shout across the rooftops, and you’ll feel a lot less skeevy if you know, in your heart of hearts, you’ve put your best possible work out there. So the first step to creating a killer artistic sales page is to make the best damn art you’ve ever made.
What are You Really Selling?
Here’s the writing bit that stops most artists cold – you’re not selling what you think you’re selling.
You think you’re selling downloadable wedding invitations, but what you’re actually selling is “hassle-free creative wedding planning”. You think you’re selling prints of your Brothers Grimm series, but you’re actually selling “Fun gothic nostalgia home decor”.
We in the salesy writing business call this “features and benefits”, and it’s the key to writing a killer sales page. In the shell of a nut, features are all the stuff your product comes with and benefits are what those things do to improve your customer’s life. Each needs the other to thrive: without benefits, customers don’t give a rat’s bottom about the features, and without features, your benefits sound like shallow internet lies.
Here are a couple of examples:
Feature: 5 different toast settings
Benefit: Everyone in your family can have their toast just the way they like it.
Feature: lace and satin edging
Benefit: feel sexy and confident all day, every day.
I wouldn’t buy underwear just because it had lace on it, but underwear that makes me feel sexy? Hell yeah, I’ll buy seven!
Figuring out features and benefits is easy when you’re trying to sell toasters or underwear, but a lot more difficult when you’re trying to sell a painting. As a photographer friend of mine so eloquently put it, “It’s easy to sell toasters and underwear. People NEED those things. They don’t NEED art.”
Your job is to convince your readers they need art.
Start by making a list of all the features of what you’re trying to sell.
Brothers Grimm prints
– Giclee print
– Archival canvas
– Each print limited edition, hand number and signed
– Each illustrates a pivotal scene from six fairy tales
– Playful gothic style
How can you translate these into benefits?
– Colors as fresh and vibrant as the original painting, for half the price
– Won’t fade or decay, a piece to treasure your whole life
– Discover a new detail every time you look.
– Brings a touch of gothic charm to your home or nursery.
– Remind your friends of their favorite fairy tales with the perfect piece for their home.
A great example of an artist who understands this concept is Stephey Baker – her artwork reinforces her message of inspiration. Her “artwork that inspires the artist within” is a powerful benefit.
Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz wrote a great post about figuring out the benefits of your product, which could help you get started.
Writing Your Sales Page
Now that you’re thinking like a sleazy internet marketer, with all your features and benefits written down, it’s time to work on your sales page copy.
Start by writing your story. Why did you create this artwork or this product? What attracted you to the fairy tales, or made you decide to create the photography tutorial? Write as if you were talking to someone – your best friend, or you mom. Write with warmth and honesty, and as you write, describe your journey, your transformation. How has creating or using this product changed you as an artist, as a human being? How has it helped other people?
People connect themselves emotionally to stories – and it’s your story, and the story or your creation, that will sell your product, not any salesy tricks or secrets.
Now that you’re written your story, it’s time to tie it in to your product. Tell your readers about your piece – remember the features and benefits? Now you can use them. Don’t just tell them what the piece is, explain how it will change their lives:
Now you have the bare bones of a sales page. You’ve just got a few more things to add:
A Powerful Headline
I don’t want to give you a big spiel about how all your future sales hang on you getting your headline right, how your headline alone determines whether a viewer even reads the rest of your page, how your headline can make or break your sales page … I don’t want to give that lecture, but I must, because it’s all true.
Your headline is your first impression, ala wearing your best threads to a job interview. Your headline intrigues people into reading on, it gives a hint of what’s to follow, and it can be one of your most powerful marketing tools.
Like any artistic discipline, writing a kick-ass headline takes practice. A great way to try out different headlines is to find examples in other media – magazine covers, sales pages, blog posts and newspaper articles, and try to adopt them to fit your page. So “Now you can quit your job and earn even more money!” becomes “Now you can create your own handmade wedding invitations in minutes and save even more money!”
Copyblogger has oodles of advice on writing kick-ass headlines. To see an artist who’s got the headline bang-on, check out Martin Whitmore’s Meat Market.
An opening paragraph of mystery and wonder
Your story starts here, with opening paragraphs to tantalize and titillate, draw your reader in and make them fall in love with you. I like to start by talking about the situation my reader finds him or herself in, then use my story to explain how I was in the same situation, and how I can help them.
You want to let your readers know they’re among friends, and they’ve come to the right place. You’re trying to make them feel like they’ve just entered their favorite comfy bookshop, and there’s a big armchair in the corner waiting for them.
Check out this description of Molly Crabapple’s sublime stictching kit for a killer first paragraph.
The Story, the Offer and the Details
We’ve talked about the story and the offer. This is where you add them in. Melissa Dinwiddie works the story of her artwork seamlessly into her sales page, and she uses her story to draw us in and connect with us.
Evidence of Your Awesomeness
Your reader may be browsing through your sales page thinking, “these downloadable wedding invites sound like a terrific idea, but how do I get all my info into the file? Will it work with our wedding theme? What if my computer crashes? How can I trust that I’ll actually get my invite after I’ve clicked ‘buy’?”
You can tell them things will be “sweet as” till you’re blue in the face, but you’ve got to show them you’re trustworthy. Usually, this is done with testimonials – people who’ve brought or used your product and can give you a glowing review of how much it changed their life.
When seeking out testimonials, you don’t necessarily want the ones that talk about you and how awesome you are. Find people with success stories, people who really have changed as a result of your art, and use their stories.
It could be as simple as, “I brought a Repunzel print for my cousin’s birthday. He has really long hair and I knew he’d love it. He says it’s the best present anyone’s ever given him, and the print hangs in his hall. He shows it to everyone who comes in the house, and every one of them notices something different. Thank you so much for creating such an amazing painting!”
Fiona Purdy uses a testimonial to strengthen the message on her commission page.
You’re an artist, so you’d better show off that amazing art of yours with stunning pictures. No fuzzy point-and-shoot, flash photographs with your old sneakers in the background – you want gorgeous photographs to show of your piece from all angles. Your reader may love the idea of downloadable designer wedding invites, but you won’t sell her on the idea until she sees what you can do.
And if what you’re selling lacks a visual product – a service or e-product? Make a visual – a smiling portrait of yourself looking all helpful, or a picture of a virtual book or a happy artist putting the skills you taught him to use.
Don’t make your reader click away from your sales page to look at your piece – they won’t click back. If you need a gallery, have it pop up in a light box in the middle.
Oodles of Formatting
Naomi Dunford said it best “Font is not a moral issue.” You know those red headlines and BUY NOW banners all the “skeezy” marketers use? Turns out, they use them because they work – yes, they even work on our non-skeezy, artistic, airy-fairy sales pages.
And why shouldn’t they? Red grabs our attention. Bulleted lists help us separate out the main points. Subheadings break up text and give us a big neon sign that says “Important information coming up!”
Big chunks of written text look ugly on screen, and we artists are not fans of the ugly. Break up your pages with oodles of headings, subheadings and bulleted lists. Go crazy with the bold type. Get inspired by italics!
People reading on the Internet scan information, rather than devour it. Make yours easily scannable, and you’ll keep them hanging around.
Think of all the reasons why someone might not want to buy your piece, then address each issue. You might bring these out in your testimonials, but chances are, you’ll want to add an extra section, especially if you plan to address refunds.
For digital products, refunds cost you nothing, and the ability to offer a 100% money-back guarantee will win you more customers than the few who may take advantage of it. For physical art, you’ll need to think carefully about how you’ll approach this issue.
I like to do this as a simple FAQ – I use headlines like “Isn’t this too expensive for me?” and “What happens if I don’t like it?” or “Who are you and why are you in my bed?”
Goddess Leonie works objections into her goddess circle sales page while retaining her signature grace and kindness.
The “Call to Action” (otherwise known as “please give me some money … money for candy.”)
Don’t be afraid to ask for money. You don’t have to be coy about it – simply lay out what you’re offering, name your price, remind them of all the benefits, and give a big shout-out to your buy now button.
If you want people to buy your stuff, all you need do is ask.
PS. Remember, you’re awesome
I’m not entirely clued in on the psychology of the PS – all I know is that at the end of a sales page, your buyer is thinking of all the amazing benefits of your product, of how much they’d love to have one of your prints on their wall, or how it would be the perfect gift for their favorite aunt, but they’re also thinking of the price, and how many bags of chocolate-coated macadamia nuts or lacy underthings they could buy with that money.
You use the PS to bring your sales page to a close, to give people that final though that you’re offering something unique and valuable. And then you let them make up their mind.
Royal Steamline, who create beautiful gothic, steampunk and vintage invitation sets, use their “PS” (called Et Cetera) to sell matching address stamps, extra envelopes and rush services.
Sales Page Mistakes to Avoid
Creating artificial scarcity
Scarcity – only 5 prints left! Limited edition! Buy now or miss out forever! – is the secret weapon of sales pages. It gets readers into a panic, because no one wants to miss out. If you’ve created a limited edition print or artwork, by all means, mention it on your sales page. Hell, mention it a few times.
But don’t create scarcity when it isn’t actually there. If you’re selling digital copies of your wedding invitations, don’t pretend there’s only a limited amount available, because there isn’t, and your reader knows it. Artificial Scarcity is a skeezy marketing technique – not for awesome artists such as yourself.
For more tips on avoiding artificial scarcity, check out Five “Old School” Tactics That Can Ruin Your Sales Page from Copyblogger.
Confusing your message
This is the big one, and the most common mistake artists make. Your sales page has a clear call to action – “Hey honey, buy mah pretty stuff!” – and you want as many people who land on that page to click YES. So don’t confuse them with other buttons to push – links to more examples of your work, your portfolio, newsletter signups, links to your blog or website pages or, even worse, someone else’s website. Clear the clutter from your sales page – make it a “buy or get off” deal.
Amy Harrison’s 5 Mistakes People Make When Writing a Sales Page can also help you avoid disaster.
Forgetting the features or the benefits
Remember, they’re like spaghetti on toast – one only works with the other (Have you ever eaten toast without spaghetti? It’s just not the same).
I know there’s a ton of info to take in, but I can tell you once you start thinking about sales pages in a new way, you’ll stop seeing them as slimy, and start exercising your creative marketing muscles.
Artists, what do you struggle with most when trying to sell your work online? What is the one element of your sales pages that gives you the most grief?
Steff Metal is a creative copywriter, coach, blogger, and heavy metal rebel living in New Zealand with her cantankerous drummer husband and their medieval sword collection. She offers practical and hilarious advice to help creative folk succeed on her Grymm & Epic blog. Her FREE ebook, “Unleash the Beast: Releasing Your Inner Creative Monster” is available, provided you’re not afraid of tentacles.
Want More on Sales Skills?
We’ve got you covered: start with your unique value proposition, then move on to body language and active listening. Then you’ll want to discover what you can learn from a door-to-door salesman, and finally wrap it up with 10 strategies to improve your art sales.