Setting Up an eCommerce Store for Artists with Square Up

Easy to Use and No Monthly Fee

After my last post about how I made it to 20k followers on Instagram, I received a few questions about how to set up a quick online store. Most importantly, how to do it without spending a bunch of money.

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 Square Up has a no monthly fee eCommerce feature. I have been using their card processor for a while so it was a convenient and affordable solution.

There are plenty of posts out there that show you all the technical details you need to know to set up your store (this post and this post), but I am going to give you the artist’s perspective.

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. Making transactions as easy as possible for your customers is a great idea.

Create a store+Send followers to the store=Profit (hopefully!)

Basic Pros and Cons of Square Up

Alright, let’s get to it.

  • It’s cheap and doesn’t have a monthly fee. Square only charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. (vs. Etsy which charges $0.20 listing fee every 4 months, 3.5% transaction fee, and 3%+ processing fee)
  • It’s very easy to get started.
  • You can create discounts that apply to your store and in person.
  • You can take your inventory on the go. If you’re doing in person sales, you can sell your online inventory from your Square register app.
  • Simple store front is perfect for a small amount of inventory (5 to 30 items)
  • You can’t set up shipping rules. You can do a flat rate, free, and/or add additional charges on each item.
  • You can only process orders within the United States
  • Sales tax features are limited.
  • There are only a couple of store front templates with limited customization.
  • No ability to categorize or filter items beyond ‘Sections’. As you add more inventory, it’s harder to keep things organized. (Which is why I don’t recommend more than 30 items.)
  • No traffic analytics unless you set up custom domain and track on your own.

Basic Store Setup

You can find all the details of how to use Square’s system here, but I will add some additional tips:

  • Choose a store name and custom domain consistent with your brand.
    • Pick a name that is consistent with your social media presence or business name (if you have one).
    • You can customize your domain or use the Square site. I just stuck with the Square site, because I knew I’d be switching to a new platform in the near future.
  • Set your shipping option (free or flat rate) and your order processing time.
    • I chose to just set everything as free shipping and factor this into my item prices. If you want customers to pay for shipping, I suggest coming up with an average cost and applying the flat rate by looking at your preferred shipping carrier’s prices.
    • Processing time- when an order is placed, you must mark it as complete within your processing time window or Square will refund the charge.
  • 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.
  • Customize your store receipt through the Square dashboard and include a discount code for the next purchase. This increases the likelihood someone will buy again.

Store Front Editor

You’ll want to make sure your store is attractive and clean looking. Square has four template options available for your store front that are sleek and simple. You can’t do much customization for the design, but you are able to upload custom images for your logo, header, and two spots near the footer.

Take advantage of the ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ section to give your customers more information about yourself. Telling more about you as an artist will make potential customers trust you more. There is a face and life behind the art you create. Showcase all of it.

When designing images, it’s important to keep size restrictions in mind to avoid unintentional cropping. I didn’t find this image size chart until after I set up my store, and it would have saved me some time. Use it.

If you need help with designing images, try using Canva or BeFunky.

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″ Fluid Painting: ‘Cosmic Tree’)
  • Description: Include materials and medium used, item size, and what makes the work unique/how it was created. Sell it!
  • Photos with multiple views, in natural lighting or with daylight bulbs. Note: Item photos must be square. (check out this post for photo tips)

  • Price (I’m working on a blog post for this! Stay tuned.)
  • Inventory quantity- make sure to include this to avoid duplicate purchases.
  • Extra shipping charges-like I said before, I included an average estimate of shipping costs in my item prices to avoid having to mess with the Square’s limited feature.
  • Taxes- Again, the tax rules are limited. Since I didn’t know where my customers lived, I included a note on my description that sales tax is included in the price if they are a resident of my state, and I manually figured sales tax on my end for records. It’s not optimal, but it was a short term fix.

Con to adding items: It’s a little annoying, but you can’t upload all or your photos at once, or copy items. This makes updating inventory a little more tedious than I would have liked.


Now that you have everything you need to get started, I wanted to go over something else. 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.

Your store most likely won’t show up in online searches since you don’t have control over the SEO, but here are a few tips:

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.
  • If your following is really small at the moment, consider creating an Etsy Shop to take advantage of their traffic and possibly even pay to promote your items.
  • 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?

So there you have it

I used this store for about 6 months and just upgraded to Weebly. I was able to generate quite a few sales, but I missed many international orders due to the processing limitations. It is a great starter store, depending on your needs.

If you are interested in opening a Square Up store and don’t have an account, you can use this referral link: GOGETMESSY

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 😉

I hope this article was useful! If you have any questions or if there is anything else you want to learn, please comment below. I’m always happy to answer questions and get inspiration for new blog posts!


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

How to Photograph Your Art on a Budget

How to Increase Instagram Followers as an Artist

How to Increase Instagram Followers as an Artist

How to Increase Instagram Followers as an Artist

How I went from 300 to 20k followers in three months.

When I was just beginning to explore how to become successful as an artist, blogger, or whatever I decided to be, I would peruse Pinterest for ‘how to’ articles and inspiration. I came across quite a few gimmicky looking posts with titles like “How I made $10k my first month of blogging” or “Gain Followers Without Much Effort”. I’d read the posts and think “Those turds. That’s not realistic.”

Well, now I’m one of those turds. As of last night I hit 20,000 Instagram followers.

I gained a ridiculous amount of followers in a short time.

For anyone who has been following my Instagram account (@MessyEverAfter) in the last couple of months, I’m sure you’ve noticed things kind of exploded. I have been waiting for my growth to plateau, and somehow it just keeps trucking along. Multiple people have asked me how I did this, and I figured it’s about time I write a blog post on it.

Honestly, it’s hard to say exactly what should be done to gain followers. There is no guarantee that following these steps will get the same results for another account, but it’s a great place to start. Before September, I had been working for months on trying new things to gain exposure. I wasn’t seeing much progress. January of 2017, I had 117 followers. September, I had 300. Super encouraging growth, huh?

SO What happened in September?

September 15th was the first time a large account shared one of my posts. Then another account…and another account. It snowballed and the followers poured in. Since I am a weirdo and love spreadsheets, I tracked that growth. Data points make me swoon…

From 9/15 to mid October, I experienced a steady growth of about 50 to 100 new followers a day after a couple of accounts shared pictures of my work. Then, a huge account (500k followers) shared one of my process videos on 10/27, and my following grew even faster. Look at that spike!

All of this is organic growth. I didn’t use a bot. I didn’t do ‘follows for follows’. I didn’t pay anyone to manage my account. I definitely worked hard to get here, but there isn’t really a secret formula to success. Do the work, focus on quality, and have patience.

Anyway, here are some tips to do what I did:

Basic Tips to Increase Your Following

  1. Define Your Brand and Style: First and foremost, you’re an artist. I assume you want to sell your work. There is an incredible amount of talented artists on Instagram, so you need to figure out how to market yourself to stand out. What kind of an artist are you? Find your niche and your artistic voice. (Easier said than done, right?! It took me forever to figure this one out.)
  2. Create a Cohesive Profile: Take a look at highly successful art accounts like @liobaliobabrueckner and @lindstrom.emma. Their profiles are branded and striking. Post images and videos that adhere to your style and brand. If your work is black and white contour drawings, posting a colorful abstract piece will look out of place. At the beginning of the year, I was posting anything I created. Good, bad, related, unrelated—I posted it all. My profile looked like an artist without direction–which was accurate and explains why my following didn’t move much.
  3. Research Hashtags: Find hashtags that are relevant to what you do and use them on EVERY post. I found a few big accounts within my genre of art and I borrowed their tags. You can use up to 30 tags per post. I choose a variety of common and less common tags. I’ve also tagged my brand as #messyeverafter. (It’s cool when other people start using a tag you’ve created!) The goal is to get into the top 9 of your tags.
  4. Use post captions to show your following who you are: You are a brand now. Your personality and your life are part of that. Share interesting thoughts, snippets, stories, etc.. When people get to know you, they appreciate your art on a different level. (How to write engaging captions.)
  5. Switch to a Business Profile:You’ll need to attach your profile to a Facebook page (which you should already have anyway), but the analytics provided through a business profile are pretty insightful.
  6. Post Every Day: I used to only post Monday through Friday. I was treating my art like a full time job that I could forget about on the weekend. I now understand just how important it is to become mildly addicted to social media to grow your following. I make sure to post 1 to 3 times a day. I even plan posts for when I’m on vacation or away from the studio.
  7. Interact with your followers: Starting and continuing conversations on your posts make them more active. If people comment, comment back! The more active your posts are, the more Instagram’s algorithm favors them. (So I’ve heard…)
  8. Follow other artists and engage with their posts: I don’t know that this has helped my following, but I know it has made me feel like I have a community I can genuinely interact with. As an introvert, I really don’t like ‘networking’, but this has actually been a really fun way to do it.
  9. Respond to messages and questions: I have three types of followers. Those who create, those who buy, and those who do both. I love all of them. I have made sales through Instagram DMs. Be open and inviting, and people will be more likely to become your customer. People will ask you the same questions over and over again, but answer them with the same enthusiasm as if it’s the first time someone asked.
  10. Make sure you utilize your bio: This won’t necessarily give you more followers, but it gives people a way to learn more about you and find your online store (If you have one. If you don’t have one, make one. If you don’t know where to start, check out this post!)

How I Gained a Crap Ton of Followers Quickly

  1. Make and Post Videos: It really doesn’t matter how great your art is. Posting a well lit video of your process, or a look into your studio can be more engaging than a still photo. Video posts appear more active, because users will likely spend 30 seconds looking at a video, and roughly 3 to 5 seconds staring at a photo. (How I make videos.)  (2018 Update: With the new algorithm change, videos don’t automatically get more engagement anymore. They are still awesome and add to your content though.)
  2. Have your art shared by big accounts: I was lucky. I didn’t seek out the accounts that shared my work. I would like to think that because I did the prep work above of creating quality content and tagging my work, this made organic shares possible. But now that you know this is an option there is no sense in waiting for someone to share your work. Reach out to large accounts now. Some of them have hashtags specific to their account that they choose new art from. Some of them charge you to share your work, which I haven’t paid to do yet, but I’m considering it as an option.

When looking at share accounts, check out the engagement on posts. Are they getting a lot of likes and comments? I’ve seen a few pay-per-share accounts that have a large following, but very little community. I wouldn’t advise giving them your money. If you are just starting out, small accounts are more likely to share your work. Just do some research and start messaging people.

Things I don’t Advise Doing to Gain Followers

  1. Follows for Follows or Likes for Likes: This is where you spend time liking photos and following random people in the hope they will follow you back. It’s time consuming, your new followers may not stick around, and eventually the amount of people you’re following overshadows the followers you have. Tip: Just like and follow the posts and accounts you genuinely want to look at.
  2. Instagram Bots: Bots can get you banned. Bots can go very wrong. Basically, you can use a bot to follow, like, and comment on other accounts by targeting hashtags. You can choose hashtags relevant to your brand and the bot will target accounts that use them. Sure, you can grow your following without even looking at your account, but you lose the sense of community and your new following may ditch you if you unfollow them. I haven’t used a bot on this account, but I have seen them in action and I value organic growth much more.


Growing your following can take time. I have been a “professional” artist, on and off, since 2010. I think it’s fair to say that the success I have experienced in the last 3 months has only been made possible by the journey I have been on over the last 7 years.

For a long time, I had no idea what I was doing and I too easily abandoned my dreams when I didn’t get an immediate reward. I always came back to art, but I wasn’t fully dedicated to my current path until a few months ago.

On 9/7, I posted a piece with the caption:

messyeverafter: As an artist, I’ve always struggled with which direction to take. I love playing with different materials and styles. My subject matter always varies. A lot of my work may even seem disconnected. But I think I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally found my artistic path. The pieces that I’ve been working on lately fill me with a sense of comfort and contentment.

A week later, my following began to grow. Sometimes everything happens all at once. Sometimes you spend 7 years wondering why you can’t fit into the normal world and just be happy with a 9 to 5 office job.

Life is strange.

I hope this post is helpful to any artist out there looking to grow. If you have quetions or comments please comment below. I would love to provide more information if it can help another artist flourish!

Now go get messy!


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

Setting Up an eCommerce Store for Artists with Square Up

How to Photograph Your Art on a Budget


Seven Days of Self-Employment

You ever do something really stupid/awesome? Like quit your job with the goal of somehow making a living from doing the things you love every day? Nah, you wouldn’t do that…because you’re smart! I, on the other hand, am not.

Well, in case you were wondering what would go through your mind if you were to toss stability out the window and cling to your creative powers for a living you are in luck.

Day One

You are filled with creative zest and vigor. The world is your oyster–or something like that. You’ve grabbed life by the horns, and doggone it, you’re going to teach it a thing or two about being the architect of your own future.

Day Two

Given that you didn’t actually accomplish much of anything on Day One, you are now hit with the reality of your lack of consistent income.

Google has become your best friend. You might learn from others who have ventured down this path. You will surely find blog after blog of “How I made 10K My First Month of Blogging.” Avoid that nonsense. You are a true artist and you are not looking for a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.

…but if someone would pay you for your slightly haphazard blog posts, you wouldn’t turn it down.

Day Three

You’ve got 600 ‘To Do’ lists detailing each move you could make to promote your art. You’ve started three blogs, a Facebook page, Instagram account, Pinterest board, Google + profile, journaled your feelings, called your mother for a pep talk, watched an entire season of Gilmore Girls while you stared at a blank canvas, and reorganized your underwear drawer.

A clear plan of what to do with your life still eludes you.

Day Four

You slept funny the night before. You dreamed someone siphoned all the money from your savings account which reminded you that your mortgage is due next week. You managed to doodle a bit that morning, but then questioned the purpose of life. Is it degrading to sell yourself? Will anyone understand your art?

How will you feed the children?! …Do you actually have children? Regardless, it feels like something you should worry about.

Your previously abundant creative drive has now withered. Oh, the pressure!

Day Five

Your creativity has not returned.

Think happy thoughts. You are told you are overthinking things. “Just breathe,” they say. “Get some exercise. Yoga fixes LITERALLY everything.”

At the end of the day, you take note of the peace and quiet in your mind. So. Fricking. QUIET.

Day Six

You are determined to accomplish something tangible. You angrily type away, writing your masterpiece of a memoir. Detailing your childhood and why you are incapable of functioning like a normal human being. Artists are supposed to be damaged and full of angst, right?

You delete your memoir.

You make some tea. You sit in silence. You wallow in a little bit of self-pity.

Day Seven

Why did you quit your job? To do what you love.

Why do you love what you do? Because it is meaningful. It is worth doing.

Are you going to be an overnight success story? Probably not.

Can you be content with maybe accomplishing mediocre success over the next six to twelve months? Yeah, that’s probably a reasonable goal to aim for.

You magically start doing things. You turn your music up really loud so you can imagine a montage of your future progress.

Congrats. You survived week one.