How I Ship My Artwork

How I Ship My Artwork

Shipping your art doesn’t have to be scary.

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I used to be afraid of shipping my art. There were too many variables and things that could go wrong. Should I ship internationally or just domestically? How much should I charge my customers? Where will I get my shipping materials? How much will shipping cost me? What size canvases can I ship before running into oversized charges? Which carrier do I use? Should I buy insurance? What if something goes wrong with a shipment? How do I handle returns?

I’m here to tell you that shipping doesn’t have to be scary. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure artwork arrives safely and customers are happy. Here’s how I do it.

Shipping for the BeginneR

You don’t need to get too fancy to get started. Let’s say you are starting to think about creating an online store, but shipping your work gives you a bit of a panic attack. My advice: Start small and start local.

When I first started selling through my simple Square Up store, I only sold pieces sized between 8”x10” and 11”x14” and I only sold within the United States. Starting with the small sizes meant I could easily find boxes to fit these pieces and keep shipping prices low. I wasn’t selling more than a few pieces a month and I was very wary of investing too much money in shipping supplies when I didn’t know what I could expect over the next few months.

I kept things really simple and used recycled boxes for my first few shipments. I found an Amazon box in my recycle pile that fit the largest canvas size I offered in my store, I created a sample shipment to weigh, and then I input the dimensions and weight into the USPS shipping calculator to have an idea of what the cost would be on my end. Then I factored this cost into my online store prices.

Once I started to consistently have 2 to 3 sales in my store a week, I purchased a bulk bundle of boxes so I’d never have to stockpile random Amazon boxes again. Since the max canvas size I offered in my store was 11″x14″ I picked one size box that would work for all of my shipments.

After a few months, I was able to start offering larger sizes and could afford to spend more money on shipping supplies up front.

How I package my artwork

The main goals you should have when preparing a piece for shipment are:

  • Keep the artwork safe.
  • Keep your costs low.
  • Keep your customer happy.
  • Make things personalized and attractive.
My Tips and System for Shipping Artwork
Canvases
  1. After I receive an order in my store, I print a packing slip and the order.
  2. I inspect the items ordered and then wrap each canvas in a sheet of thin plastic. Securing the flaps with clear tape. (You can also use self sealing poly bags.) This helps protect the art from moisture and keeps anything from sticking to the surface of your art.
  3. Optional personal touch: I wrap my small canvases in purple tissue paper and secure it with a ‘thank you sticker’
  4. Include paper materials:
    1. Packing slip (if you use an app like Shippo, it will generate a slip for you from your online store. Etsy also generates packing slips. You can use an invoice as well. Just make sure there is a document with the customer’s name and address in the package in case the outside label gets damaged.
    2. Thank you card- always show gratitude when your customer buys something. You never know who will be a repeat customer. They are supporting your business and it’s important they know you appreciate it. I hand write a note with each piece I send out.
    3. Coupon/Loyalty Rewards- Give your customer a reason to shop again. I include a coupon code with each order.
  5.  I cut and crinkle sheets of brown kraft paper to serve as a cushion for the bottom of the box and on top of the art. I’ve also used recycled air bags and bubble wrap from my personal shipments. Don’t use materials that can stab, puncture, or dent your art.
  6. Consider placing a piece of cardboard over the surface of the art to protect it. If you are packing multiple pieces in one box, make sure to add protection between each piece. If the contents of the box shift during shipment it’s possible one canvas could damage another. I usually secure the cardboard to the plastic wrap around the art with packing tape. (I cut up random boxes to use as cardboard sheets.)
  7. Once the box is full, close the flaps and give the box a shake. Does the art shift and move easily? If there is a lot of movement within the box, I add more packing material.
  8. Seal the box with packing tape. Now you’re ready for your label.
Paper art and Prints:

These are super easy to mail. Get a flat mailer. Seal your art in a poly bag. Include packing slip, thank you note, and coupon/next purchase promotion. You can also use a thin piece of cardboard to give your art more protection and rigidity during shipping. Affix shipping label and “Do Not Bend” stickers to the outside.

If you work with large pieces, you may consider using shipping tubes and rolling your art. I’d recommend using a poly bag to seal your art before rolling.

Shipping Labels:

Once your art is packaged, it’s time to get a shipping label. There are two main options that I have used.

Option One: Hand write or print the customer’s name and address on paper and affix with tape to the box. Have USPS weigh, measure, and print postage label at the post office.

Option Two: Use a shipping app like Shippo. Weigh and measure the shipment, and print your own labels at home. Then, drop the package off at post office or schedule a pick up a day in advance.

Option two is my preferred method. You’ll need is a kitchen scale and a tape measure for accurate shipping rates. You can even use adhesive labels to make things super easy.

Shippo

When I upgraded my online store to Weebly, I chose to use app integration and picked Shippo to simplify my shipping needs. At the moment, you can enter orders by hand and print a label at home if you do not have an ecommerce store that can be integrated with the platform.

If you connect your Weebly store, orders will show up on your Shippo Dashboard where you can print a packing slip, and then choose shipping options. Check it out. I love it. It’s only a few cents per label, but you get access to commercial shipping rates so it’s still might be cheaper than physically going to the post office.

Customer Service:

A positive interaction with a customer during the shipping process is crucial for growing an online business. Try to ship your items within 24-48 hours of the placement of your order and ALWAYS give your customer a tracking number and carrier information.

You should also write a Return Policy and include this somewhere in your store. I include a link to my policy on my receipts and order confirmations. If you plan on selling your art, it’s good practice to have a plan in place for accepting returns. Figure out your policy before to save headaches later.

You may also want to consider following up with your customer once the order arrives to see how things are going. I watch all of my orders on my Shippo dashboard to make sure all packages are delivered. If the shipping status isn’t updated for a while, I reach out to the customer to verify they received their item.

Shipping Supplies I Use:

Tips and Things to consider:

-Don’t immediately try to sell and ship a variety of sizes online. This means you will have to work harder at sourcing boxes to fit each sale. If you take my approach and buy a bundle of boxes that can fit one or two sizes then you can be more conservative in your investments instead of buying a crap ton of sizes that you have no guarantee of using right away.

-Hoard boxes and packing material if you frequently order things online. I have a box of random supplies that I pull from for large shipments. It’s a good way to recycle AND save money.

-International Sales: Your costs will be higher, transit times are longer, and your customers may have to deal with customs charges, but the USPS labels are very easy to use and Shippo fills most of the details out for you. Etsy makes international orders really easy as well.

-Insurance: I personally do not insure most of my packages. If you use Priority Mail, this often includes insurance up to a certain amount. Ask yourself if you can afford to lose the entire amount of the shipment if something goes wrong and you need to refund your customer’s money. If not, insure the package. I personally haven’t dealt with something going wrong with a package yet (knock on wood), but you might want to look into your options. Also look into the insurance claim process.

-Pack, measure, and weigh a sample piece of art to get accurate shipping costs before putting an item for sale online. You don’t want to be surprised by shipping charges and lose all of your profit if you assume you can ship a 36”x48” canvas safely for $30.

-Always check your shipping costs for a new box size before ordering in bulk.

-Try out the shipping rates with other carriers like UPS or Fedex. I found that for my smaller pieces, USPS was more cost effective.

-If you only work with large pieces, consider reaching out to LTL freight companies for shipping quotes. Or you can look at taking canvas off of the stretchers and shipping the rolled canvas in a tube. But this would force customers to spend time and money on re-stretching the canvas.

-Some states require you to collect sales tax on shipping charges. Check into your local sales tax laws for details.

-If you are setting up shipping rates for an online store, consider looking through the USPS PDF below to get an idea of costs around the country and internationally depending on weight and size. This is what I used to calculate my current shipping rules in my store: https://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/dmm300/Notice123.pdf

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And that’s all I’ve got. This is my way of shipping artwork. I’m sure every artist does things a little differently, but as long as you ensure your art is safely packaged and can survive the aggressive journey most boxes take during the shipping process then you’re good to go.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open, or reach out to me directly. If you have additional shipping questions, I am happy to answer. I tried to include all of my knowledge, but I may have missed some things.

As always, thanks so much for reading! Check out the rest of my posts for more artsy goodness and go get messy.

-Kelly

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.

Further Reading:

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Like a Failure When You’re Not Making Sales

Setting Up an eCommerce Store for Artists with Square Up

 

Reasons Not to be an Artist

Reasons not to be an artist.

Okay,  so there is no viable reason not to create art. It doesn’t matter if you are bad at it, good at it, do it for fun, do it for a career, do it as therapy. You should create art. We all have an artist inside of us.

But…

There ARE reasons not to be a professional artist.

I get asked quite often about how to make money as an artist, and if it’s possible to make a living off of it. I am generally very encouraging to those who want to pursue this path, but there have been a few times over the last year where I have cautioned someone to really think about their goals.

I want people to follow their dreams, but there are times when someone’s ultimate goal doesn’t match up with the path of becoming a full time creator. I never tell anyone not to do art. Honestly, I think everyone should have a creative outlet of some kind. The question here is whether or not you should make a career out of it.

Here are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t become a professional artist:

1.You think it will be easy.

In the beginning you imagine the process like this: Paint something–>Put it out there–>Make money. Easy, right?

When it’s more like: Paint something–>research hashtags–> stage the piece–>photograph in proper lighting–> post at an optimal time on Instagram–>link to a product listing from your online store–>price the piece appropriately–>post to Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterst, etc.–>wait for sales–>feel like a failure when it doesn’t sell immediately–>work on your skills–>create a new piece–>repeat the process over and over–>maybe make a sale! Wooooo!

There are other variations to this sequence depending on where you display your work, but you get the point.

Being a full time working artist is not easy. Even though I love what I do, there are many days where it does feel like work. You have to learn all of the aspects of a business, not just making art. It’s not easy and it doesn’t often happen quickly, but my goodness does it feel good when you see positive results.

2. You want to have fun all the time.

A lot of people get the impression that artists just f*$% around in their studio all day and don’t have a care in the world, but there is a boring and tedious side to being a full time creator. Keeping up with social media, marketing, website building, tracking inventory, pushing your skills, sticking to a studio schedule, trying new materials, bookkeeping, taxes, applying for events, giving good customer service, and more.

When art is your full time job, you spend a good chunk of time not creating. You won’t feel entertained and inspired all the time, but you have to create even when inspiration is lacking to maintain productivity.

3. You’re not willing to step out of your comfort zones and push your style. 

This includes technical skills and personal comfort zones. When it comes to skill, you need to be able to objectively assess your work and find your weaknesses while also developing your personal style. What’s going to make you stand out? Just because something looks good, doesn’t mean someone will buy it or see the meaning in it.

An example of a personal comfort zone: I am an introvert, so I really don’t like doing events. Every time a show ends, I am left with a pounding tension headache from being ‘ON’ and interacting with strangers. My comfort zone is the studio—alone—but I continue to push myself out of that in order to build a following and make sales. What is your comfort zone? Are you willing to push yourself out of it?

4. You want to make a lot of money.

Of course the goal of being a professional artist is to make money so you can keep creating–but don’t be an artist JUST to make money. If you don’t have a passion for creating, you are likely to be let down and stressed out for quite some time.

It’s completely possible to make a living as an artist—but it’s a much more demanding career path than most anticipate. There isn’t a correct and straightforward path to success so it involves a lot of creative thinking, dedication, and willingness to fail over and over again.

When I quit my job October of 2016, I set incredibly low financial expectations for myself for the first year of being an artist. Obviously, I wanted to make money, but the more important things to focus on were developing my style and building a following. I knew that I needed to finally embrace that I am an artist, but I also knew that I would struggle financially for a while.

5. You think it will be a good money making side hustle.

I was selling at a craft fair back in November, and a woman walked by my table and said “Oh, my daughter should totally do this. She could easily pay off her student loans.” It took everything in my power not to laugh hysterically and then cry a little.

Most of the time, dedicated artists have side hustles to supplement their art income so they can still focus on creating, but it’s not often that someone will jump into an art career just to help bring in a little extra cash and have the return be worth the effort put in.

Depending on the medium you work with and your cost of supplies, selling your creations as a side hustle isn’t likely to generate a lot of income in the beginning. If you are the rare person who found immediate success with creating a side income, I am genuinely happy for you, but for most people the amount of time and money that goes into creating inventory, building a display, applying for shows, building an online store, buying shipping supplies, and more negates the benefits of the income earned by the occasional sale and fair. I always considered it a win if I made enough to cover my art expenses when I was doing art on the side.

But again, it depends on your medium. If you are creating digital art, releasing YouTube videos with monetization, teaching art classes, or anything that keeps your expenses and invested time at a minimum–then art could work as a side hustle.

6. You can’t handle inconsistency and instability.

As an artist, you have to adapt to your situation. You never know where your income may come from or how to pay for your groceries from month to month. There is no guarantee that the commission you’re working on will end with a payment. Or that the outdoor event you booked this weekend won’t get rained out.

Over the years, I have learned to adapt to my instability by trimming my lifestyle down and cutting as many extraneous expenses as I can. For example, I am still driving the same ’97 Neon I bought when I turned 16 to avoid a monthly car payment and I don’t remember the last time I spent more than $15 on a haircut.

7. You give up easily.

If you are on Instagram or any social media site, you will come across a plethora of talented artists. Artists that have a larger following, incredible skills, and unique styles. This is an over-saturated market. It’s easy to think, “Why bother trying when I’ll never be like that?” My confidence is tested every day, because I worry that my work isn’t at that level–but the only difference between us and the incredible artists like @kelogsloops and @poli.bright.art is time.

If you want to be a paid professional artist, it won’t happen overnight. It may not happen for months or even years, but if you put in the work, give yourself time, and keep going even when you feel like a failure–you’ll be unstoppable.

Which brings me to the reasons you should be a Professional artist:

1.You can’t see yourself doing anything else.

If you are passionate about creating, then you should do it! But, without passion, you run the risk of burning out or giving up before you gain momentum. Have you tried working a variety of jobs, but couldn’t find fulfillment? I have a long list of jobs under my belt. I gave them my all, but they never felt right. I’d always become antsy and restless after about 3 months.

Now that I finally gave into the artist in me, it’s been 1 year and 4 months and I am full of drive to continue growing even though I’m still a “starving artist”. Passion keeps you going.

2. You’d be happy doing it even if you didn’t make money.

Like I said before, it’s a slow process to make a living for most artists.  A lot of us don’t have the luxury of not making money. Obviously we need to be able to cover our living expenses while building an art career, but can you find satisfaction in working 40 to 60 hours a week on art while barely covering rent?

Can you arrange your life in a way where you can handle financial uncertainty for a while? Or, can you work a part time job to pay for your necessities as you focus on your art in your off time? Do you have a partner or roommate that is willing to take on a financial burden in exchange for you taking on other burdens?

If art is your passion and you want to focus all of your energy on it–then find a way to do it, but know that it may be the most difficult and frustrating path you will take.

And it can potentially be the most rewarding thing you have ever done with your life.

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I hope you found value you this article. My intention was not to dissuade anyone from chasing their dreams, but to help you feel invigorated to take on the challenges that come with it.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments below, and as always, I am happy to provide my coaching services to any artist out there who wants encouragement and guidance on how to get started with their career.

-Kelly

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 Find Your Style: A Guide for Artists

How to Make Art a Habit and Stop Waiting for Inspiration to Create

 

 

How to Find Your Style: A Guide for Artists

How to Find Your Style: A Guide for Artists

What is Your Style?

Style is learned, adopted, manipulated, and developed over time. Sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose, and often times both.

Your style is a combination of your voice, techniques, color choices, compositions, subject matter, media, and more all wrapped up. Your style is what binds each of your pieces together into a unique and cohesive collection. The best part is that it continues to evolve over time.  Even when you’ve found it, it starts to change.

We can learn so much from looking at our own art. If you are unsure  if you’ve found your style, start by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Are there elements of design that tie your pieces together?
  • What themes show up in your art most often?
  • What kind of subjects are you drawn to? Many or a few?
  • What kind of art do you enjoy creating at the moment?
  • Does your art stand out against the work of other artists?

I can always tell when someone is still in the exploratory phase of their art. When an artist jumps around between many subjects, or when their pieces are lined up together and appear as if a they all could come from different artists–they haven’t quite figured out their style yet.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this! It takes time and a lot of work. So, if you are currently looking for your style, I’ve created a worksheet to help you brainstorm and collect your thoughts as you read this post.

How do artists find their style?

First, no artist or creator is completely original. Inspiration for our styles comes from the world around us and what we choose to expose ourselves to.  It doesn’t develop out of thin air. The simple formula for finding your style is to take in stimuli from the outside world and twist and shape it into something new with your mind and your hands. Repeat this over and over in a variety of ways.

If you are stuck, you need to find new stimuli.

Copy the Artists You Like

But a bunch of them. If you copy one exactly, you are ripping them off. If you take partial ideas from multiple artists, then you are able to make something unique.

If you haven’t already, you need to read “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. It’s full of helpful creative advice.


He writes:

Every artist gets asked the question “Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers, “I steal them.”

If you are drawn to a certain artist’s work, it’s probably stimulating part of your style. When I first started drawing as a teen, I was obsessed with the art of Brandon Boyd. To this day, I have to credit him for my obsession with line work. In college, I fell in love with Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau. More recently, when I got into fluid painting, I was naturally inspired by Emma Lindstrom. You can see their influences in my work, but you can also see that my style does not look exactly like theirs.

Take little style elements from any source you can. The more, the merrier.

Copy the World Around You

Mimic nature. Study light, form, color, and shape. Take figure drawing classes. Set up a still life in your living room. Working on your technical skills regularly will introduce you to new perspectives and style paths.

Practice. Practice. PRACTICE.

If you are only doing art in your head  (chronic procrastinators know what I’m talking about!), your style won’t develop. If you only do art  a couple of times a month or less, you won’t see much progress. Try to create as often as you can. Every day is best, but a few times a week is perfect.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Push your skills. Draw with your non-dominant hand. Study a variety of subject matter. Work big. Work small. Explore loose and fast sketching. Practice tight and slow sketching. If you don’t know what you like doing yet, then practice as many skills as you can.

If you plan on or have already taken college art classes, you learn that instructors assign exercises in as many styles as they can fit into a semester. They assume you have no idea who you are as an artist, so they push you in every direction to help you develop your unique voice.

Make Time to Play

Release expectations and just have fun. When you have a precise vision for what you want to create, you limit your perspective and create a blind spot. I’ve set out to create one thing, ‘screwed it up’ and created something entirely different that I loved and now incorporate into my style. If I would have stuck to my expectations, I would have considered this a failure.

Surprising things can happen when we become more playful and just let art happen.

Remember That it Takes Time

Finding your style often involves knowing who you are as a person and embracing it. It sounds cheesy, but being an artist isn’t just a career or hobby, it’s a lifestyle. The more you weave art into your daily life and your personality into your art, the easier it will be to cultivate your style, but all of this takes time.

Conclusion

Creating and showcasing your personal style is a wonderful achievement. Some artists develop early, and some take years to find their rhythm and voice. Whatever pace you need to work at is the right pace. Honestly, I’m still working on mine.

Don’t try to force your style, but exercise your art muscles whenever you can.

I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions, leave them below. And if you need an outside perspective and help finding your style, I’m always happy to offer my coaching services.

Now go get messy!

-Kelly

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.

Resources:

Discovering Your Artistic Style Worksheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Reading:

How to Brand Your Instagram Account: A Guide for Artists

Seven Days of Self-Employment