Saturday, May 29, 2010
Finding Artist Resources 101
This article is for other artists that may be new to sourcing. What is "sourcing" and who is good at it? Sourcing is that unique ability that some artists have to find new materials to paint on or with, new service providers and new partners that will create unique products with their artwork on it. Wikipedia states that: "In business, the term sourcing refers to a number of procurement practices, aimed at finding, evaluating and engaging suppliers of goods and services."
Maybe you are an Etsy seller and you have noticed that some people package their handmade jewelry in pretty silver metal tins, you think "wow what a great idea". You could message one of these sellers and ask them, "hey where do you get your tins, I want to package my work that competes with yours in the exact same packaging you are using, but hey don't worry, my label will be green and look totally different". Or you could do what that seller did and spend an hour or more looking on-line for "metal tins", "commercial packaging", "gift boxes" and who knows you may even find a cooler tin than they are using or even better pricing. Sourcing takes a lot of time and it takes patience, and in my opinion it is a much better route to take than sending random e-mails to other artists that have never even met you. The people that are good at sourcing are those folks that are always coming up with new products to add to their gift lines, new packaging ideas and new ways to do things. I feel like I am pretty good at finding what I need at good prices and I very rarely ask other artists for help in this area. When I do hit a brick wall in my search efforts I know I just need to try and think in a new way.
Here is my list of tips for sourcing:
#1 Try a wide variety of search terms for the product or service you are looking for. Then try an even wider variety of search terms.
#2 Be specific about materials and sizes. In the example above in searching for "metal tins", try using the deminsions that you know these tins to be available at.
#3 Use the word "wholesale".
#4 Think about what other type of industries may use the item you need. If you are searching for metal tins, you might try food service, food storage, candy packaging, candle companies and so on.
#5 Spend time on google, but don't forget about the other search engines, and don't forget about offline resources. Offline resources include trade publications and trade shows, and the yellow pages if you can find one.
#6 If you use Twitter you can always send a random shout out to the people that you are connected to and ask if anyone has any good ideas about where you can find what you are looking for ... this is far better than putting one individual on the spot that may not be comfortable sharing their vendor list. Some people are very protective of their sources and rightfully so, still others are more than eager to share. Twitter is a great place to ask for help without stepping on toes.
The Follow Through:
Ok so let's say you have bookmarked half a dozen places that all have pretty similar pricing on metal tins. Now what? Well look for a 1-800 number and see which of these companies offers phone support. I will spend a few cents more on an item if the website is well designed or if it offers me a toll-free number where I can connect with a real human. When placing your first order for a new supply with a new company be sure and order at the minimum or even ask if you can purchase a sample, many wholesale resources will sell samples.
Ok so those are my tips for finding what you need. I would love to hear from other artists on any sourcing research tips they may have to share so please feel free to leave a comment.