Accepting Credit Cards by M Theresa Brown

Credit and debit cards. As a marketing artist ( , I am asked all the time by artists about what and how to accept credit cards.
"I can't afford the fees!" says one artist.
"They'll take a big bite out of the final figure!" complains another.
"My bank won't give me one-they say I'm not a business because it's just me," comments another artist.

What do you do? Well, if you are an artist who is taking your business seriously, you need to be able to accept and process both credit and debit cards for your clients who are interested in purchasing your work! Whether you sell occassionally out of your studio or regularily at a show or even on the street, the ability to make a sale will increase ten fold if your client can pay for the purchase with a credit card.  Yes, really!
Even back before swipe machines, any business that was set up to handle credit cards could pretty much guarantee a 60% increase in sales simply by offering this method of payment. 
The percentage now?
Well, banking technology has advanced to the point where it is becoming less frequent to find an individual carrying around a check book, let alone sums of cash.  So if you sit on the side of the road with your pottery or have your office workers wanting to buy what you just made at lunch or find a line of prospects at your tent at an outdoor art show, if you cannot take these cards, you might as well go back to your studio.
So what ARE simple, cost effective ways to accept credit and debit cards?

, we like to use   So many online stores now accept paypal that it is a smart move to open your account now. You might as well have your website and blog making money for you and it's easy to do with the step by step processes through Paypal.  We send our clients invoices through Paypal and you can set up your own templates for deposits, receipts, etc.  Hands down, get a Paypal account!

AH, but what about all those off line sales? Well, after the old knuckle buster machines bit the dust, (the ones where you had to call in the number for approval?)we eventually took on a portable swipe machine we saw in Sunshine Artists magazine.  They were the new thing-perfect for on the road artists.
Much more helpful, easy to take into remote areas (if there was cell connection) and it looks like a cell phone with a swipe assemblage next to it. We have a little printer which prints out the basic receipts. Cost? Well a lease is $42.00 a month and very reasonable 1.79% per sale. Ah yes. The numbers. Let's see, there is a per piece fee, a batch fee, a tax fee, an annual $99.00 compliance fee.....the monthly lease whether you had a sale or not (that happens) ....and that 1.79% was looking more like a whopping 5% per sale at the end of the year. After 3 years of leasing you are also offered a "deal" where you can buy the machine for an additional $250.00.

So bless technology and inventors as, after a lot of recent research we opted to go with a very cool little device from a company called  that attaches to our cell phones (we have two).  There is no lease, no batch fees, no surprises. There is a flat 2.75% if you swipe the card, a little more if you key it in (over the phone for instance)  You can photograph the art they just bought and  by sending their receipt to either their phone or email, you have also captured THEIR basic information as well (such as phone, address ) to your email. It even googles the location of where  you both were when they purchased it. (very helpful at art shows)

Go online to the  site and make sure that you have the right phone for the job. I have an Android (Hero HTC) and went to the Sprint store to get a free upgrade to be able to use my version. Because of my particular phone, I found this Youtube video especially helpful!
Other YouTube videos will show you how to use the device with an Ipad or Blackberry.   We have tested it, loved it and see it as a great, cost effective solution for artists, whether you currently do or do not take credit cards. There is no such thing as a free credit card processor. That's how they make their money. For the artist, 2.75% of the sale sure beats 50% wouldn't you say? :-)

In the final analysis, use due diligence of course. But if your own bank is making you jump through hoops, or the cost prior to this has been prohibitive, or you are not a formal business, then this could be the solution for you!

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Getting Ready for the Summer Art Shows by M Theresa Brown

If you are like us, by the end of February, beginning of March, you are interested in the arrival of Spring. Mother Nature may yet  throw a curve ball at us and dump a few last winter storms but we remain, in North Carolina, hopeful that all the signs around us point to spring at last! However, we know for a fact, having driven clear across the US two years ago to art shows in California, that winter is not over in many parts of our country. In fact on our beginning journey  at the end of March to that series of shows, we left a rainy but moderate NC.  But enroute, we encountered such extreme weather as tornadoes, torrential rain storms, blizzards (that shut down part of I-40 in Texas) high winds and more snow before finally reaching our destination of Palm Springs. On our subsequent return mid April, we encountered more snow in Albuqueque, New Mexico. It was almost depressing :-). Although surprised at the weather extremes, we were prepared!

It takes preparation to participate in an  outdoor art show (juried and non-juried) anywhere-near or far!  We had applied to this show the previous fall. Some art shows send out their applications and information  only a few months beforehand. But most have been around long enough to need your entries at least 8 months prior to the event.

Preparations for your show season should take place long before your first show! One promoter with Sunshine Artists Magazine, came up with their list for getting ready for the summer show season and we have taken and added to it to come up with 10 basic things to do ahead of time:

1. Finish up and finalize any show registrations and payments you may have. Many promoters are now accepting credit cards and payment plans. Something they never used to do!

2. Put your show schedule on your website, Facebook and blog.

3. Do you have enough business cards? Read our article on what you need on your business card!

4. Get your email blasts ready to go prior to each show. Let people know where you will be! Don't rely just on email. CALL them (yes the telephone) and send postcards via USPS mail!

5. Make sure that your vehicle is road ready.

6. Keep making your art! Bring new art to shows if you are a seasoned show artist. Leave your older work for an "end of the year" show. Make sure you have enough.

7. Your tents, panels, signs, displays all need to look fresh and ready to go. Make any repairs or upgrades ahead of time.

8. Plan your route and hotels wisely

9. Make a "to bring" list (and get it ready long before the first show!) for all the small, easy to forget things such as portfolios, guest book, pens, scissors, price tags, tape, shopping bags, aspirin, etc.

10. Review your pricing. Now more than ever is the time to have work in 2 or 3 price levels so that everyone can find something at a price they are comfortable with.

An outdoor show is hard work and can be very rewarding financially if you have taken the time to prepare like a professional should. Our long list  has saved us more than once. More importantly, it has helped us focus on what we should be doing at a show and why we are there-helping our clients invest in the art that we are creating!

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March 2011 Artist of the Month - Sabrina Michaels

Sabrina Michaels strives to convey her thoughts and deepest emotions through her paintings. She frequently paints from her own wildlife photographs, but also paints from life and imagination. Although her work is most commonly nature themed, it is inspired by mythology, fantasy, science fiction, music, politics, spirituality and love. Sabrina’s paintings sometimes reflect her affection for album art and the psychedelic Fillmore poster art of the 1960’s. She is fascinated with the art of ancient civilizations and the great masters, but is most heavily influenced by surreal, fantasy and art nouveau styles.




      Dizzy River


  Eternal Dance    Eternal Lotus


  Gentle Giants      La Mojarra


   Sonoma Daydream       Surrender









  Tamalpais Trails

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