In the online world, I’m mainly a Zazzler and, driven by necessity, also a builder of tools for promoting products from there.

As a hobby earning some extra cash, I was a semi-pro fine art photographer. I was initially selling quite successfully in galleries and then, later, in my Zazzle store.

I say ‘was’ because when everyone else became photographers, with their amazing mobile phone cameras and readily available, one-touch really cool filters, the bottom dropped right out of my market.

As the online world has changed, so it’s become more and more important for artists to promote their own wares. Unfortunately, Zazzle does little to help those of us who are really serious about it, so I decided to do something about it.

In my further and higher education days I learnt a little programming and, years later, my day-job was as a freelance business analyst, operating my own limited UK company (now closed, with me being semi-retired). It was a perfect match for my natural skills of curiosity, observation and being able to recognise cause and effect.

Together with my stubborness, which is important in overcoming challenges, I put those skills to the task of providing tools to take the grunt out of promoting our art.

My first tool, a good few years ago, was the Zazzlit – a widgety gadget for Blogger blogs to show off their owner’s designs.

Next was Zaps, an automated set of promo tools, which died a death when Yahoo withdrew their Pipes service. Then there were a whole bunch of tools for creating product-grid websites or pages hosted on my site. It all got a bit ungainly and when Google withdrew their feeds service, that was the final straw for ZazMySite and SeeMyBest.

Out of the ashes, and with all the lessons learned, arose this NiftyGridZ plugin and its sister, the Nifty Promo Control Panel and its tools.

On a more personal note, I’ve always hated the fact that artists, usually being non-techy, struggle to easily and quickly get their work “out there”. And when they try, it takes huge amounts of time away from their real love – designing and being creative. Big, rich outfits have always had the advantage over them in marketing power. Well, Nifty levels the playing field. I use my own needs as an artist as the initial criteria for designing new tools and then make them available to everyone else.

The other thing I hate is the uncertainty (and upfront cost!) of all those marketing gimmicks / scams that don’t ever live up to their claims. That’s why the Nifty tools can always be free with the option of 50/50 referral sharing.

People can try Nifty’s tools out at no cost and see for themselves that they live up to the claims I make about them. If they try them out and find they’re getting some referrals after a few months (which is how long it takes, on average), then they have the evidence on which to make a decision. And they should also realize that if they had a subscription from the beginning, they’d have had, on average, twice that referral income. There’s no opportunity with Nifty for them to get scammed by me.

And the more switched on of the artists will realize that, seeing as referrals don’t always “stick”, some sales from their own stores will have come about because of their work with Nifty, even though there’s no hard evidence to support it.

Overall, this approach has led to huge amounts of trust in Nifty and people are much more willing to get a membership from the outset, or sooner rather than later. And, for me, all that makes up for the fact that the bottom dropped out of the fine art photography market!