Over the last three issues, I covered the steps of working with a Content Management System called WordPress in order to start a free – or inexpensive – website for yourself as an artist or for an arts organization.
Providing information about yourself or your organization on the web is, of course, the main reason for a website. Every year, the world becomes more and more technologically centric, and in order to keep up, you need to be on the web. But very close behind providing information is another important reason many artists make the move to the web: to market and sell artwork.
But first, as I pointed out in past issues, there are differences between free WordPress.com and using the same software on your own server. In order to market and sell your work, or sell items to help support your organization, you need to self-host WordPress. That’s because you need to use one of several free “plug-ins” that will add e-commerce capabilities to your WordPress site, and the free version of WordPress at wordpress.com doesn’t allow these types of plug-ins.
The first thing to do after getting set up with WordPress on your own webhost is to install and learn to use an e-commerce plug-in. I suggest a plug-in called Woo Commerce, developed by a company called WooThemes and available for free at www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/ .
WooThemes also makes WordPress themes, but you don’t need to buy one in order to use the WooCommerce plug-in.
The learning curve with an e-commerce system can be steep, but with this plug-in, you will be able to show images of your artwork, accept payments, calculate shipping and – if your work is not one of a kind – keep inventory, too.
You will be able to deal with tax structures in different states and countries and different shipping methods. And with other plug-ins, you can accept subscriptions with recurring payments, interface directly with UPS and FedEx for shipping options, and more.
In addition to the WooCommerce plug-in, you will also need a payment processor that will handle credit and debitcard transactions for you. But that can be one of many online companies that offer such services for a cut of the transaction amount, like PayPal and Google Wallet. Or ask your local bank if they offer third-party web payment systems.
Yes, learning an e-commerce system can be complex. But there is lots of help available in the forums at wordpress.org/support. And for WooThemes products, go to www.woothemes.com/support/.
The bottom line is that with some work to get set up and with the help of WordPress and WooCommerce, you will be able to market, sell and ship your own artwork to anyone right from your website.
Next issue: Selling art-inspired “branded” products on the web