Photo by Linda McNally

Photo by Linda McNally

I was shopping in one of my favorite thrift stores – I like to hunt for found objects to use in my artwork – and I kept finding display pieces that would be just perfect if I still did outdoor craft shows, or if I had a retail store.

I think I’m not the only artist or craftsperson who does this. And there’s also a bit of a fantasy out there about what fun it would be to own a little store. I think sometimes people think of the fun of curating and arranging the various wonderful things for say, and not so much of the daily, weekly and monthly sales targets and how to hit those.

This came to mind yesterday when I saw yet another adorable little store was closing so the owner could focus on another aspect of the business. Completely understandable – the idea of being trapped in a store all the time doesn’t sound great to me.

Here’s my idea of what to do with that energy, with that “wouldn’t it be fun to own a shop,” or the “I love to make displays:” go ahead and make the displays!

Repress the desire to own a retail shop (if that’s not your primary business model), but go ahead and have the fun. Making a display that really showcases your products could make a terrific photograph.

That photograph could be perfect for a retail store that’s considering buying your work wholesale, as it shows how your products could be merchandised. But that’s not all – say you sell retail only, online – you could go ahead and make those displays, as if you had a retail store, create little vignettes, photograph them fabulously, and add them to your website.

It’s a perfect way to express your brand. Not sure what your brand is all about yet? Creating vignettes to photograph for your site could actually help you figure it out.

What do you think? Do you use photographs of this type on your site? Do you think it would be helpful if you did?

Here’s another reason I think some of us have that retail store fantasy: we dream of creating a space: the perfect space for selling our products, a space that would draw the community that we wish existed.

Those dreams are valuable. Write them down. Think it out. What does this fantasy retail space, or gallery or yoga studio look like? What are the hours? What makes it distinctive?

Once you’ve worked all of that out, ask yourself, “How can I bring these feelings into my online shop?” “How can I create community without paying rent on a space every month?”

Answers could include ideas like renting space for specific events, starting a Meetup group, writing blog posts that will draw the community you wish existed.

And guess what? All that stuff? That’s your brand! You’ve just figured out what your brand is all about. Now that you’ve figured it out, you can use that information to clearly and consistently communicate your brand in everything you do!

Neat trick, huh?

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