How I started VanMarcianoArt.com - One of the things that I’ve always loved doing is talking about my first real online business venture, and how it all started for me. Even today when people ask me what it is that I do for a living, I don’t say blogging or internet marketing, although these activities supplement my income today and are part of my work, but I tell them that I’m an artist.
Yep, my first ever online business venture was becoming a full-time international selling artist at the age of 25, and I was selling my art ultimately online, but it was no easy road… Let me start right back from the beginning.
Back in October 2004 I got a new job working as a salesman in a kitchen appliance store, selling over-priced Aga cookers and fancy cooking utensils. Before that I had been working in a Farmers Cooperative Store for about 9 years. What I loved about working in both these jobs was the engagement that I had with other people. There is nothing more satisfying other than talking to real people in the flesh, something you’ll never be able to do in the online world, regardless of what technology is available. Social networking is the closest thing that comes to it…
So yes, I loved the new job, but unfortunately hated two things about it also;
1 – certain members of the staff making it difficult for me to progress
2 – the commute time. I was racking up around 80 miles per day, 6 days a week for around $500 per week. Some people might think well that’s pretty good pay for the hassle, but I was spending about $250 a week of it on gas alone…
I decided that I wasn’t going to stay and so began looking into the idea of turning my passionate hobby as an artist, into a rewarding career, and like I said, boy did I have my work cut out.
November 2004 to December 2004
The first two months of starting to build my online art business was spent looking for online platforms in which I could use to showcase my work to sell. I found sites like Yessy.com, which in almost 10 years have never had a website design update, if you look at the website today it is well and truly dated, but it’s still a great platform to promote art. I also found sites like artgallery.co.uk and much later on sites like Etsy and artweb.com. If you’re an artist yourself I’m sure you’ll find those sites somewhat useful for promoting and selling your art.
So yes, the first couple of months was about getting listed and showcasing my art in as many online platforms as possible.
January 2005 to March 2005
In the middle of January 2005 I found that many artists were using eBay as a selling platform to promote and sell their artwork online, and naturally I began to look into this before setting up a sellers account to add a few paintings of my own for auction. I sold my first painting for around $28 on eBay towards the end of January 2005, and I guess seeing the payment go through into my PayPal account was a great feeling, that was the first bit of money I ever made online. It would be safe to say that I was instantly hooked…
April 2005 to July 2005
I spent the next 4 months almost creating artwork purely to sell on eBay, as well as still being in full time work, the additional income was a great bonus. However much of the money I was making was being put back into buying materials and equipment. At the time I was painting on my ex-girlfriends bedroom floor, seriously.
Towards the end of July 2005 I was beginning to feel burnt out. Painting by night and working a 8 – 5 job by day. I wasn’t really building a business, just simply supplementing my full time income with earnings from my hobby. I sat down one weekend and thought to myself, I need my own website if I’m going to want to do this full time.
August 2005 to October 2005
In early August 2005 after researching for some way to get a website up and running at low cost, I stumbled upon an online site building tool called Moonfruit. I had not come across WordPress just yet. I don’t think WordPress was properly introduced to me until I began blogging much later in 2010.
Moonfruit had been around since 1999, and was a simple drag and drop flash based online site building tool, designed for none-tech geeks like myself. After familiarizing myself with the design options and features it took me no more than a couple of weeks to get a professional website up and running myself, complete with an online store and shopping cart. VanMarcianoArt.com was born.
Read: You can check out my full review of Moonfruit here.
I spent the next couple of months learning as much as I could about how SEO worked and how to promote a website to get traffic. I quickly grasped the basics of link building and began to exchange links to as many art and design related property sites as possible, back then link building was pretty simple. I also learned how to do article marketing, which was the big thing back in the day too. I soon got my website to rank on page 1 of Google for ‘Canvas Paintings and ‘Original Canvas Art’.
November 2005 to December 2005
In November 2005 I finally did it… I quit my 8-5 job, and although I look back now and say it was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, it was a scary one I can tell you. I was practically throwing away a guaranteed income to go out and focus my efforts on my online art business full time, which was providing me with a variable income stream at the time – As in one week I might make $300 and the next week I might make just $50.
By late November and the run up to Christmas 2005, throughout December, I saw sales increase and I was making around $300 per week on average. Nothing like the $500 per week I was earning working in the sales office, but I didn’t have to spend money on Gas and travel miles every day for work. I didn’t have to deal with the stress of working with arrogant staff member. The best thing was, I was finally my own boss. Things we’re looking up.
January 2006 to January 2007
The next 12 months was steady as far as development meant for the business, I was putting all my energies and inspiration into painting and using eBay and my website to sell art online. Unfortunately my girlfriend at the time didn’t share my enthusiasm of leaving full time work to work on my art career, and so decided to end our 3 year relationship. Such as life’s wonderful surprises. This did demotivate me a little bit and I lost track for a while.
My sister and I always hung out down at the beach in the evenings after work, and we both started bodyabording (riding waves on a rectangular sponge), and for the next 2 years, bodyboarding became a regular thing, especially since we lived so close to so many great surfing spots. Bodyboarding and spending time with my sister inspired me to continue painting and building my online art business. I also started dating again, but as far as relationships were concerned, I didn’t seem to have much luck making them work.
Anyways, VanMarcianoArt.com really did struggle to match the level of sales I was generating on eBay, and that concerned me a little bit. Why? Because I didn’t like the thought of ‘what if something happened to my eBay account, all that feedback I had gained and reputation?’. My sales would come to a grinding halt immediately, and I would be back where I started again. In fact I would be in a worst spot than where I started.
So once again a drew up a marketing plan for the website and started to look at building a list from the traffic I was generating to VanMarcianoArt.com. I also started to learn more about SEO and how to enhance certain features of my Moonfruit website. I used offline promotional methods such as flyers, local advertising and even participated in local craft fairs and art exhibitions. Social media was just starting to be introduced to me, but none of it made sense yet, so I kind of left that to simmer for while.
Towards the end of 2006 sales had increased and once again I was finishing the year on a high, generating around $25,000 in that year.
February 2007 to January 2008
The first half of 2007 became a repeat of 2006, and this year sales increased from my website at VanMarcianoArt.com, which meant that I could focus less on using eBay. eBay seller fees up to now was seriously hurting my pocket, at around $750 per month, so profits were not great as you can imagine. The overheads on my Moonfruit website however was around $20 per month, which was why I wanted to focus so much on increasing sales from there.
The second half of 2007 I saw sales decrease slightly both on eBay and at VanMarcianoArt.com, competition was getting tougher with lots of artists and internet galleries competing for rankings in the search engines, prices and service quality. This was combined with the increasing popularity of cheap art prints and reproductions coming out of China being sold in supermarkets, shopping malls and pretty much anywhere.
February 2008 to January 2010
In 2008 I met my partner Samantha Wright, Samantha’s interest in small business development and marketing, and her love for art too, also meant that we could jointly work on VanMarcianoArt.com. Samantha has been ‘my rock’ and has always supported me with all of my online business ventures, but her involvement in VanMarcianoArt.com was where she really excelled.
Van Marciano Art.com built on Moonfruit
So with the support of my partner Samantha, it meant that I could now concentrate on just being an artist and creating art properly, whilst she took care of marketing, advertising and promoting my art and the website.
We also hosted a number of independent art exhibitions throughout the UK, as well as exhibited at major events such as the Ideal Home Show in London in 2009. Despite all the hard work and effort we both put in, sales continued to drop as we headed into a recession.
I finally pulled the plug on eBay as this was no longer making sense, more money was being spent on seller fees than anything else. VanMarcianoArt.com continued to provide sales but I was now earning a part-time income from painting.
February 2010 to present…
VanMarcianoArt.com is still very much my passion to this day, and long may it continue. I absolutely love painting and being creative in my studio, I would continue doing it even if I wasn’t selling any artwork. But the truth still remains that I’m still earning an income from my hobby. I’m now back to using eBay as an additional support platform for promoting ans selling some artwork.
So you might be wondering, if art isn’t really making me a great amount of money, how exactly am I making a living online? Well I use blogging and internet marketing to supplement my income from art, and that I will talk more about about in future posts.
Conclusion for doing business online
One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that passion is everything when thinking about doing business online. If you don’t love what you’re doing then you WILL NOT succeed, it’s as simple as that. As you can see it has clearly been a pretty hard road and uphill challenge to building a profitable business online as an artist. But any business venture is challenging, the key is to stay passionate and determined to succeed. It means you have to enjoy what you do, day in, day out regardless.
Your comments please
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my story on how I started doing business online, please do share your comments with me below, do you have your own story to share, if so, why not blog about it and share a link to your story in the comment section below.
Over and out for now -
Fabrizio Van Marciano