How pointblankart got started

Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products?

Hi! I’m Sara Bowersock, owner of Point Blank Art & Design. I started selling on Etsy in 2009—it was a very small catalog, though—and I would say by 2014 I had a much bigger shop that I was more focused on. It started because I had been doing some art shows in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where I lived at the time), showing my original paintings, and people started asking for prints. My day job at the time was as a graphic designer, designing gift bags for big box companies for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, etc. (It was a super fun gig that I did for 13 years!) I had a show coming up, and I wanted to have a few prints available for sale, and my boss at the time allowed me to print some at work. I sold them all at the show and thought, "Wow, maybe other people out in the world would want some of these too!" A friend encouraged me to get some up on Etsy, so I connected with some of my local artist friends who helped me find the perfect local print shop to get things going! My paintings were pretty large, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, and I would photograph them with whatever digital camera I had at the time, then make prints from the photos. My process is still generally the same now, but with much better equipment!

I try to use local companies as much as possible, but I also have to take cost into consideration; at the moment, I’m outsourcing my prints and stickers to wonderful online companies and am able to source canvas prints locally. Thankfully, I find myself surrounded by wonderful people willing to share valuable information, so that’s how I usually find the best sources for my products.

Favorite items

What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?

A long-standing favorite of mine is my "Holy P-Nut," aka, Mother Purresa or Virgin Meowy.

Print 12x18" - Virgin Meowy - Mother Purresa 

She has on occasion been seen as offensive to some, but that was never the intention. I created the piece for a friend who was battling colon cancer at the time. She loved Guadalupe and had a business called Exploding Mary Designs. The cat was her cat, P-Nut.

So I put two of her favorites in one painting, and it was auctioned off to raise money for her treatment. The most beautiful part of it was that a group of her friends went in on the bidding together and then gave the original painting to her widow after she passed. Every time I sell that print or tell that story, I get to fondly remember my friend, the amazing human she was, and how much she impacted my life.

It sells well on Etsy, but even more so at in-person events, where she’s been one of my bestsellers for years now. Cat lovers love it, and people looking for gifts for cat lovers love it!

A couple of my other favorites are probably the newer pieces I’ve done: Edgar Allan Poe and The Shining. I think because they symbolize a breakthrough for me; at the beginning of this year, I was really struggling with anxiety and depression, and I was pretty shut down. I just kept pushing through tears and horrible resistance and finally broke through to create something, and boy did that feel good!

Edgar Allan Poe Art Print/Poster
The Shining Art Print/Poster

My art is usually pretty straightforward, but you do have to have a decent sense of humor for some of it -  I don’t know what you can and can’t include in this interview, so I saved this one for the end…but another of my favorites is the (safe for work title -"Squirrel Hug" , not safe for work title "Squirrels a Fuckin’!". It’s two squirrels getting after it, and I think it’s adorable and funny. A lot of other people do as well, thankfully, haha

Print 12x12" - Squirrel Hug - Squirrels Nature Spring Love Humor Funny Animals Critters Pop Art Signed

Getting sales on Etsy

How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?

I think I actually made my first sale pretty quickly on Etsy—within 24 hours. I do think it was a lot different then and easier to get found. These days, I think most of my traffic comes from me sending people there directly. doing in-person events, handing out cards, and having conversations with people who want to buy in person, then coming back and shopping for themselves or their friends. I also advertise some on Pinterest and use on-site and off-site Etsy ads. It's such a large platform now that it can be discouraging at times to try to drive and increase traffic.I definitely have to put money into it to get the most out of it—as they say, you have to spend money to make money! I definitely have room for improvement as far as using ads more effectively, but I do think they are worth it for sure.

I think word of mouth is also incredibly effective. When a shopper has a good experience with you, they are going to tell their friends about your work. (I mean, I know I love sharing a great product or company with someone.) I seem to get quite a bit of traffic this way, and I am incredibly grateful for that!

Managing pointblankart

How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?

Yep! It’s just me running the shop (and most aspects of the business in general); my husband helps me at in-person events. I call him my tech support. When I get to a point where technology is frustrating, I usually just want to throw it on the ground—that’s when my husband steps in, for which I’m grateful.

The Etsy Seller app is probably my most-used app. I can easily handle things on my phone from anywhere—responding to messages, managing listings, etc. It’s a very helpful app. Another favorite that I use quite a bit is Etsy on Sale. It helps you run different types of sales that aren’t possible to run on Etsy’s platform.

Quickbooks is essential for managing income and expenses.

File: Backblaze There's nothing worse than losing tons of hard work to a crashed computer.

I use to help me manage my shipping. There are other shipping programs out there for free, but I love the user interface on Time is money, and the easier and more efficiently I can get something done, the more time I have to put into other aspects of the business.

I usually ship twice per week. During the holiday season, I will go almost every day.

I have an inventory and shipping area in my studio, and my process is pretty streamlined.

Keeping adequate inventory in stock is super important for me. Having an idea of how much you sell and knowing when stock is low is key. I use Square for tracking my inventory and have it alert me when things get down to a certain quantity. Keeping track of not only my print and sticker inventory but also my shipping material inventory is also very important. There's nothing worse than running out of shipping tubes and having to wait a week to get more, delaying an order! I stay well stocked. On occasion, something slips through the cracks and I run out of a print, but I’ve yet to run out of shipping materials! (It helps that I keep them all totally visible and easy to spot when I’m running low.)

The future of pointblankart 

What goals do you have for your shop in the future?

As far as my Etsy shop specifically goes, I definitely want to work on my SEO and my ads and improve in that area. Those things constantly need tweaking, and I want to get better at keeping up with that; admittedly, I am pretty bad at it.

I also have a lot of products that I entirely focus on selling in person, and I am aiming to get those listed on Etsy this coming year.

I will always be striving to increase traffic to my shop in one way or another, and one of my favorite ways is through in-person interaction and word of mouth. In 2023, I will be traveling to 17 cities with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo and doing just that. 

Longer term, I really aim to increase the wholesale aspect of my business. I love traveling and doing in-person shows the most, but I think it’s important to grow outside of that as well.

Advice for new sellers

What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?

To begin on a positive note, don't expect to open an Etsy shop and become an overnight success...I mean, if that’s the case, maybe you can help me out with some stuff? Haha. But in all seriousness, things take time. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not immediately hearing nonstop "cha-chings" coming out of your phone.

Start by learning as much as you can. Read up on the tips that Etsy shares. Jump in some forums and learn from other sellers. Watch some YouTube videos. Attend some online seminars. There are endless free assets out there to help you get your Etsy shop up and running and be successful with it. And then, never stop learning. I still feel like I have a lot to learn on the Etsy platform and in business in general, on a number of levels. I don’t assume I know it all, that’s for sure!

Don’t sell yourself short. Value yourself and your product. Know how much something costs you to make (that includes the time you put into it). I’m still learning this, especially when it comes to pricing original paintings.

Know that it’s okay if something doesn’t work. Try something else!

Some sellers really get inspired by hearing numbers. Feel free to share these if you like.

Question: What is your average profit margin?
72-95% depending on the item. For wholesale it sits between 60%-85% (this is not including vendor fees-listing, processing, seller fees, etc.) being taken out
What is your shop’s conversion rate?
It usually sits between 1.5 and 2% (something I would like to work on improving as well)