Free eCommerce for artists is my favorite kind of eCommerce.
I originally posted this in 2017, but I’m back now (March 2022) for a little update and makeover. The original post (given the title) was specifically about a free ecommerce platform with SquareUp, but I’d like to modify this to include Weebly as well.
When you are just starting out as an artist, adding monthly expenses when you are barely selling anything in the first place is kind of a stressful decision. I had been avoiding eCommerce for months until I discovered SquareUp has a no monthly fee, ecommerce feature. I had been using their card processor for a while so it was a convenient and affordable solution to try. Now, since, SquareUp and Weebly have entered some sort of partnership and Weebly also has a free online store option. Or maybe they always did and I just didn’t go with that plan…*she thinks quietly to herself*
Anyway, there are plenty of posts out there that show you all the technical details you need to know to set up your store on either Weebly or SquareUp, but I am going to give you the artist’s perspective.
First, why do you need an online store?
When you post new art on Instagram or any social media platform, it’s not inherent that your work is for sale. Even if you include “For sale, DM me for details,” you’re going to miss out on sales opportunities. You need to make transactions as easy as possible for your customers. That’s where an online store comes in.
No more DM transactions.
Create a store–> send followers to the store–>profit (hopefully!)
What does it cost to have an online store?
Everything comes with a cost of some sort, and when you are just starting out as an artist and don’t want to put yourself into the “starving” category of artists just yet, cost matters most. Every platform has tradeoffs. Like:
- Etsy: You get access to a free store and their search algorithms, but you pay multiple kinds of transaction fees and can’t really customize the look of anything.
- WooCommerce: You can use this free tool to build a store, but you need to pay for costs to maintain your own website and be more tech savvy.
- Wix or SquareSpace: You can make an easy drag and drop store, but pay for a monthly subscription.
- Weebly: Plans start at $0 a month for a simple store, and you can pay for more if you want it. The store is easy to build, but isn’t the best option depending on what you need in a business. (Read: Selling Art Online: Why I Switched from Weebly to Shopify)
- Shopify: One of the more expensive options on the high end, but offers a lot of tools and integrations. (What I currently use.)
- SquareUp Online Store: (The original point of this post!) Free to build and create products. Only pay for transaction fees. Perfect for a starter store.
This is not a comprehensive list of online platforms, obviously.
Basic Pros and Cons of a Free SquareUp of Weebly Online Store
And again, since SquareUp and Weebly partnered up, I think it’s safe to say their free online stores are pretty similar. I don’t want to dive too deep into either platform though, because I don’t use either at the moment anymore, and a lot of time has passed since I used SquareUp’s store. The main point of this post is to just bring awareness that these free options exist.
But here are the broad stroke pros and cons:
Pro: They don’t come with a monthly subscription fee. (As of the March 2022: Square only charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction vs. Etsy which charges $0.20 listing fee every 4 months, 6.5% transaction fee, and transaction processing fee.)
Con: You have to drive your own traffic to the store as opposed to getting access to Etsy’s entire customer base.
Pro: It’s very easy to get started and build a store without any coding knowledge.
Con: Features are limited. You can’t customize much about the look or features of the site, nor would I recommend it for maintaining an inventory of more than 30 items. (But duh, it’s free!)
Other considerations when choosing an online store:
Selling online can be a little complicated at times. Free online stores can give you an easy way to process a transaction, but what about the rest? Like sales tax collection, shipping labels, social media integration, marketing emails, shipping profiles for different sized products, international shipping options, etc..
When I used SquareUp’s free ecommerce store in 2017, features were VERY limited when it came to shipping and taxes, but I’d wager they’ve made big improvements now.
There’s no obligation to maintain a free store forever. Consider it a trial run. You can learn a lot about online ecommerce through these free options, and when you learn more about what you need in a business, you can make the switch to a more robust platform at anytime with the features you need most.
Basic Online Store Must Haves
If you choose to go with a free ecommerce platform, or even if you choose to go with one of the paid plans on a different platform, artists should keep some things in mind:
- Make it easy to contact you: Have a contact page or an easy link to your email.
- Make product inventory clear and informative: Give your customers all the info they need about the work you are selling. They can’t see the art in person, so you have to make up the difference.
- Make shipping easy: Don’t try shipping a lot of different sized items right away. Start with a simple system and figure out how much it will cost to ship a handful of artwork sizes. (Read: How I Ship My Artwork)
- Write a return policy: It’s not fun thinking about possible returns, but it’s better to start with a policy than to be unprepared when a customer asks about it. Do some research on best practices for small businesses.
Setting up Items: Photos and Details
It takes time, but set up your items with great attention to detail. You want to communicate as much as you can about your products so customers feel comfortable buying from you. I browsed a lot of Etsy shops to see what successful sellers were doing and found they included a lot of detail. Brainstorm all of the questions you might ask as a consumer and more.
Details to Include
- Item title: I like to combine details with the title of the piece. (ex. 8″x10″ Original Painting on Canvas “Cosmic Tree’)
- Description: Include materials and medium used, item size, and what makes the work unique/how it was created, etc.. Really sell it!
- Photos with multiple views, in natural lighting or with daylight bulbs. (check out this post for photo tips)
- Price (Read: How to Price Your Art with an Easy Formula)
Okay, are you ready to build a free store?
Now that you know some of your options for online art stores, I want to go over one thing. Creating an online store isn’t one of those “build it and they will come” situations. If you don’t have much of a following, you may not get much traffic to the site.
Aside from becoming an SEO master, but here are a few tips you can try today to drive customers to your store:
Quick and Simple Tips to Drive Traffic to Your Store
- Include store link in your Instagram Bio. Every time you post new items, include “Follow the link in my bio,” or something similar to make sure customers know where to go.
- Include store link on your Facebook page call to action button. (If you don’t have a FB page, make one!) Follow the same tip for Instagram posts.
- Include your store link on business cards or marketing materials at in-person events.
- Pin your items on Pinterest.
- Update your store often: You need to keep adding new inventory and remind your following that the store exists. I upload new items once or twice a week in batches of three to five pieces then post the update on social media.
- Run promotions and discounts! Who doesn’t love a good sale?
If your following is really small at the moment and you don’t interact with customers in person, consider creating an Etsy shop instead to take advantage of their traffic and possibly even pay to promote your items.
My SquareUp Free Online Store Experience
I used SquareUp’s free ecommerce store for about six months before upgrading to a paid Weebly plan that had more features (like the ability to sell digital items, more shipping options, and easier sales tax collection). I was able to generate quite a few sales on SquareUp through my Instagram traffic, and it was a great starter store.
Referring others to use Square Up earns you up to $1000 in free processing–so if you sign up, make sure to refer others with your own code. Basically, you save like $32 in fees.
Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post.
P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.