Civil War re-enactors, portraying Union infantry during an annual event at Port Hudson State Park, Louisiana, are nearly obscured by the choking clouds of black powder smoke generated by their 19th Century style weapons as they assault a rail fence turned breastwork by Confederate defenders.
Well, now, you’re all aware, no doubt, that I’ve not been too happy with the state of the on-line business I started up a few years ago. And so, you’ll probably not be surprised by my latest move. Which is to say, I’ve erased the board, wiped it clean. Not long ago, I began to study the underpinnings of what was, until a coupla weeks ago, my on-line presence. Which led me to the inescapable conclusion that a very serious reworking was called for. So. I took a deep breath, several of them, in fact, and then I jumped right into the proverbial deep end. But before I go into any further detail, perhaps I ought to let y’all in on just why why this latest effort became necessary.
I began, well, right here, with this WordPress blog, several years ago, hoping that this bit of on-line frivolity might lead some folks to hire me for graphics design work or to purchase prints of my photographic endeavors. But I had to tread lightly, as this is a free blog, and WordPress requests that I not to get too overt in my efforts to generate revenue.
That led me to sign up with a coupla print-on-demand websites. Seemed like a no-brainer at the time. These folks would allow me to upload high resolution jpegs of my images, and they’d give me a page on which to display same. I’d set my profit levels, and they’d handle printing, packaging and shipping of my product, and payments for same. All I had to do was to provide the images and then sit back and watch as the orders rolled in. Trouble is, they didn’t, those orders. After a lengthy time passed with no sales, I conducted a bit of research, which led me to an uncomfortable truth. Seems these outfits, the both of them, each use their own proprietary search engines. And those engines are weighted to favor contributing artists who’ve sold a fair amount of product. It was, in fact, a galactic Catch 22. You can’t sell unless your products are seen by prospective buyers, and you won’t be seen unless you sell.
Short of buying several dozen of my own image prints, or convincing my family ands friends to do so, in order to raise my level of sales enough for those search engines to notice me, I wasn’t gonna see any appreciable success with these folks. And that reality prompted me to move my effort to another website host, one with some similar features, but with at least one very significant difference. As before, I’d need to upload high-resolution jpegs of my imagery, and again, this company would handle printing, payment, packaging and shipping. But in this case, there was no in-house search engine. My website, my on-line shop, was set up so as to be independent. It was designed to use the standard on-line search engines – Google, Bing, et al. There were some improvements with this new site, but also some drawbacks. Promotion was left up to me. I’d set a profit level, as before, to which they’d add a fee. The cost of mounting – matting and framing of images – all went to the company. This had the tendency for my imagery to be a deal more expensive than I’d prefer. And they offered templates which I’d have to use to build my site, and there was only a limited ability for customization. I wasn’t allowed access to the HTML coding for the site, so I was unable to tweak it as I would’ve liked,
So, I set off again to find a better way to do business. My journey led me to a company called Shopify. Here, again, I was provided with a set of templates, but this time, I’ve full access to the coding for same, so I’m able to tweak the site, add features and so on. But the best part is that I can produce my own product. Those other web hosts? They required me to pick from a handful of pro labs, who’d print my work – which is why I had to upload high-res images. With Shopify, I can print my own work, which means I only have to upload low-resolution, watermarked images for display. Besides saving me a tremendous amount of time – and internet bandwidth – this has allowed me to significantly lower my prices without affecting the quality of my product. Bought a nice new high-end inkjet printer for that purpose. I have to handle my own packaging and shipping, but I’ve found some very good ways to do this last bit at low cost and with little effort. The other business needs? Payments, and so on? Shopify has provided me with an excellent and effortless means of dealing with payments. And on top of that, I’ve been able to establish sales channels with Pinterest and Facebook, so in addition to my primary website, you can view my offerings and purchase them from either of these two places.
So here we go …. again. You’ll find my new on-line shop at the same address as before – http://www.jaigieesephotoart – and to get to the other places, on Facebook, look for my business page – Fragments of a Fractured Mind – https://www.facebook.com/JaiGieEsePhotoArt/?fref=ts – and on Pinterest – look for my business account – https://www.pinterest.com/jaigieese/.
Oh, and for those of you who’ve been on my mailing list – I’ve started up a newsletter. It’s called the Mill Creek Monitor, and if you were on the mailing list, you’ve already received the first issue of the Monitor. If you weren’t already on the list, you can subscribe – for free – on my primary shop. Look down near the lower right corner of each page for a place to enter your email address and subscribe to the Mill Creek Monitor.
Hope you’ll have a look at these new efforts. Hope you’ll like whatcha see – mebbe ’nuff to actually BUY something, y’know?