Some of this is improved tools - I've only had parts of my pay software for three pay periods, and there are always bugs to work out the first few times you use something. This year, it all played nice and I didn't discover any exciting new ways to break anything.
But most of the ease of the task this year was that there wasn't really that much to go through.
My first inclination was to despair that I'd FAILED my artists and was a worthless merchandiser and should give up the business and sell encyclopedias door to door. But, in talking to other artists and creative types, it isn't just me suffering slow sales. Ysabetwordsmith asked me to cross-post here about how slow I was finding business, as an encouragement to others finding the market pretty brutal right now - it really does help to hear that other folks are facing the same struggles.
Here's what I've personally noticed about the first half of 2008:
Most of the orders were small, even wholesale orders tended to push their limits when it came to hitting their minimums. (Many retailers ordered just less than my $100 limit and used shipping to push it up over the cap. I let them get away with this.) Most orders were just one or two items.
Most of the business I did do was on sale items. So, sales do still help! People always like to feel like they're getting a deal!
Despite not raising my shipping prices (which I would be totally justified in doing), more people are complaining about it this year than previous years.
A higher percentage of sales than usual were the pre-cut artist supplies I offer, not printed goods. Since these are sales TO artists, they are generally business expenses for them, not luxuries like most of my line.
Webpage hits look fine. They've been steady and/or steadily going up for the last several years. People are still finding EMG. (I ran some advertising near the beginning of the year that was pretty fizzle-y stuff; not a lot of traffic gained, and no sales that I can for-sure attribute to them. Word of mouth and artists advertising their own work continue to be my most reliable traffic-drivers.)
For myself, as a consumer, I can understand.
At the very beginning of the year, I was gainfully employed and happy to spend dollars here and dollars there on art and funding cyber-creativity. $10 a week to keep an artist creating seemed like nothing. But gas is nearly $4.50 a gallon here now, my very stable job has dissolved in a drama-storm (the office I worked for closed at the 'end of June'), and while I have some freelance work lined up and some severance pay, freelance work is feast and famine, and severance pay goes away. I have, regretfully, cinched up my own personal pursestrings for a while.
My "professional" prognosis? The first half of 2008 has sucked, economically. People aren't buying what they don't need. And they don't feel like they need art.
x-posted to crowdfunding.