Selling Art Online with Success – The Artist Guide

by Cristian I

It’s your business

One of the reasons why creative people do not always succeed in the business world is that they did not learn how to run a company or market themselves while they were perfecting their craft.

You will discover that creating art is a very different process compared to selling it.

If you wish to succeed as a professional artist, then you must find a way to successfully create, build, and maintain your business.

It is a hard lesson that causes far too many artists to give up on their dream.

When you know how to sell your art online in simple, practical ways, then you can independently fund your ambition and gain independence without worrying about trying to find another job to support these efforts.

Success Does Not Usually Happen Overnight

There is the occasional story about an artist who becomes an overnight sensation you can find online, but the road is typically one that involves a lot of hard work.

Earning your success is the best road to travel because it means you learn to take nothing for granted.

How you begin that journey depends on the resources you have right now.

Many artists begin to grow their fan base as they pursue what they love while working full-time elsewhere.

Michael Angel is a visual artist who is from Atlanta, Georgia.

Even after he was recognized for his stain-painting technique, Angel worked several different jobs – from antiquing to art restoration.

His work has been showcased in numerous local galleries around the state, and he has his own website where he sells his work.

“I wish to inspire people with my original artwork,” Angel writes.

“My primary goal with each painting is to glorify God, who sent His Son to die for me so that I might have life.”

And whether you agree with religious philosophy or not, what we can learn from Angel is this: you must have a foundational passion to keep you active with your artwork.

You must be willing to take the jobs that come your way that allow you to practice, learn, and grow with your chosen medium.

Then you must never become comfortable.

Create that website.

Ask the next gallery in the town over if they will represent your work.

You will create your success eventually if you put in the hours to do so.

That is how success happens.

It might take years for some, but you will get there through perseverance.

What If I Am Not an Artist?

You don’t need to be an artist to begin selling art online.

Curators represent numerous artists who are not interested in the business aspect of this world.

There are several different ways that you can work with them, such as selling their original works, licensing items for merchandise, or representing prints.

You would then earn a set commission based on the work that you sell on their behalf.

Think of a curator as being like an affiliate marketer for Amazon.

It would be up to you to build a site, market it, and then maintain it to encourage sales.

When people follow your links to buy something on Amazon because of the work you did to promote it, then you earn a specific percentage of that sale.

Artists will do the same thing.

If you have a brick-and-mortar location, it is not unusual to have a 50/50 split between the artist and the gallery.

When you do want to represent yourself as an artist, it is still essential to network with curators who know how to exhibit works professionally.

Even if you run your own print shop and sell merchandise reflecting your work to keep your costs low, it is your network for relationships that will begin the task of exposing your art to new potential audiences.

What Type of Art Should I Sell Online?

Selling artwork online can feel like a game of trial-and-error at times.

Many new artists will put in a simple Google search, like “how to sell artwork online.”

When you do that, then there are several guides that suggest you should work with an online platform to represent your work.

Artnet® News put together a list of the six online platforms that they think will help emerging artists begin to make some money.

You will find other sites suggesting 10, 15, or even 50 different options where you can start the selling process online without creating your own web presence.

For many, the goal is to remove the roadblocks that are in place to begin making money quickly.

That may not be the best approach.

“Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory
comes only after many struggles and countless defeats,” said Og Mandino.

Humanity is a race with many defects, but art is not one of them.

It does not matter if you grew up in poverty, lived on a farm, or have been in the city all of your life.

When you start creating, then you are making something out of what was one an image or thought from your imagination.

The reality of art today is that you can sell originals, reproductions, limited prints, open editions, and anything else that comes to mind.

It is your work and passion that you are offering to others.

People will find you eventually if your art speaks to them.

Commissions and custom pieces can be an easy way to start building an audience that will pay you to do some artwork.

Consider starting with some small items, perhaps $20 or less, and then use the successful outcomes from these transactions to start upselling toward larger pieces.

Some artists contribute their work to advertising campaigns.

You could print items on t-shirts, hats, mugs, or even wallpaper.

Look for partnerships that will get your creativity noticed in unique ways and you will begin to start building an online following that will be very interested in purchasing the work you have created.

How to Create an Effective Online Store

Neil Patel is a widely regarded expert on creating websites, optimizing them for marketing, and providing general advice on how to grow your business.

He says that you can start making money with your own online store in 10 simple steps.

“Promoting your online store among your friends on social media is the first step toward building a solid following,” Patel writes. “Your friends and family are people who already know and trust you. Targeting these audiences can bring in the first few sales and build word of mouth.”

Artists are often focused on creating something new or trying to sell it directly.

The middle step of building an online store that creates the temptation to buy something is often overlooked or rushed.

You must take some time when making this online presence.

Choose a theme which allows your art to display enticingly.

Try to use large images with a lot of negative space to make your colors and creativity shine.

You can also add apps, plugins, and widgets that will help you to have the store run effortlessly on its own.

One of the most significant issues that artists face is fulfillment when they sell items online.

If you are first getting started, apps like Printful or Kite can sync with your online store to take care of your shipping needs automatically.

Then use variants on your e-commerce platform of choice to provide your customers with size, finish, and framing options so that they can have something specific that works for their needs while you get to have your artwork start supporting your income.

Artwork Photography and Accurate Scanning Are Essential

Fantastic artwork that looks terrible online will not sell.

If people say that your work looks better in person than it does on your e-commerce platform, then you need to take your scanning or photography work to the next level.

Unless you are selling a specific service to people (like writing a blog post, for example), an accurate reflection of your work is necessary for a customer to “feel” what you offer.

Your website visitors must be able to envision how your artwork will look before they ever click a button to purchase something.

Weebly notes that 22% of online product returns happen because the item a customer receives looks different than what was displayed in the photo.

Because it can cost up to $150 per hour to hire a professional photographer, artists often take pictures of their work by themselves to hope for the best.

You must pay attention to any coloration or glare irregularities that occur in the image when you’re working to promote your artwork. Even small shifts in the spectrum could create buyer’s regret for your customer and initiate a return.

If you are an artist who promotes two-dimensional works, then scanning is an affordable alternative to photography.

A desktop scanner might be able to reproduce your image on a single pass if it is large enough.

You can also scan different parts of it, and then stitch everything together in software like Photoshop.

Ways to Boost Your Revenues When Selling Online

Let’s fast-forward to about 6 months from now.

You have an online store that is selling a few pieces per month.

You are generating some revenues, but it isn’t enough to get you away from your full-time job yet.

Now you are wondering how you can start to boost your revenues so that your artwork can be the way that you support yourself.

What are you going to do?

It is not unusual for artists to start creating prints of their work at home since the right printer, paper, and ink is reasonably affordable.

For less than $500, you could offer this service for all of your work if your scans are of a high enough quality.

You might even package and deliver all of the orders that come through.

Are you getting up in the morning, printing out the items from your invoice, wrapping your prints, and then delivering them to your postal service?

This phase of the online sales process feels good.

You are hands-on with your business, selling artwork in quantities that you dreamt were possible, but are now a reality.

You can handle the structure of your business from a personal standpoint when orders stay low.

When your volume begins to build, then you might find that there isn’t any time to be an artist anymore.

You start to spend your business hours in transit between printing and shipping.

It is helpful to speak with an online print company or someone local who can reproduce your works at wholesale prices.

This relationship will allow you to sell offline, complete your shipping personally, and keep costs down.

When orders really start to pick up, and even the local printer struggles with demand, then a print-on-demand or dropship company like Printful can help you to stay on top of your orders without reducing the quality of your work.

Don’t Ignore the Offline Marketing with Your Artwork

Once you throw yourself into the process of selling your artwork online, it can be easy to forget or ignore the offline opportunities which are available to you.

When you can take your physical work to an exhibit, gallery, or show, then you can prove to potential customers that you are a real person who can do amazing things with your technical skills.

Being offline gives you a new way to connect with your followers or find a new audience.

Then take these encounters to send everyone back to your online store to create sales.

Here are some places where you might consider showing your artwork for a day, a weekend, or longer if you can make it happen.

– If you have a studio, then open it to the public when you launch your online store. Try to keep regular open hours as well if zoning regulations permit it. Don’t forget about your business and sales licenses that you may need to hold to conduct transactions.

– Consign work through a different lifestyle, gift, or tourist stores that are in your community. You can even ask about setting up a small pop-up shop in a boutique or gallery by offering to pay rent.

– Partner with a gallery in the traditional way to exhibit your work.

– Purchase a table at the local farmer’s market, festival event, or similar opportunity to meet new people in person.

It can be helpful to sync the online sales you generate with your offline opportunities through your point-of-sale provider.

Nothing is worse than showing that you have inventory online when you just sold it at a table.

How to Find the Right Gallery for Your Work

Anyone can legitimately become a curator or say that they run a gallery.

It is up to you as the artist to perform your due diligence on that business.

If you want someone to represent your work in addition to having an online store that sells prints, originals, and merchandise, then you will want to follow these three crucial points.

1. Review the entire social media presence for the gallery. If you have more followers than they do or the gallery does not have a significant online presence, then you may want to look for alternative options for representation.

2. Approach a gallery in-person instead of trying to submit an application or proposal through social media. Facebook Messenger does not represent your brand as an artist as well as you can walking through the front doors of a gallery with your fantastic works in your hand. Remember to set an appointment first before stepping into the business to make your pitch.

3. Look for galleries that represent the type of art you create, and then focus on pitching those businesses only. It is challenging for a gallery that focuses on street art to sell to someone who collects impressionism pieces.

The reality of trying to pitch your artwork in person is that you will receive a lot of rejection at first.

Every gallery in your community might give you the “thanks, but no thanks” speech.

Keep at it. Push your online store as much as you can.

Hard work always pays off.

Artists Are Always Entrepreneurs by Default

You might call yourself an artist because that is what you are passionate about, but it is also accurate to label yourself as an entrepreneur.

You must become equally obsessed with selling as you are with creating to build your brand.

Selling your artwork online is one of the fastest and easiest ways to begin this process.

When you take the time to embrace the aspects of your business that don’t require as much creativity, then you will make the journey toward success that much easier to walk.

There is no time like the present to get started.

Create your online store, organize your products, and then follow the tips found here to begin building the foundation of your future success.



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