Artists today are more fortunate today than artists from the past because of the Internet. The internet has really expanded the potential of selling art. You can now reach a lot more people than previously possible without the Internet. Today, there are creators with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Even getting tens of thousands of followers today is not that difficult -- you just need patience.
This article is going to look at how you can sell art online to make some money, and also the strategies behind selling art.
Before we start, there are two important points that you need to understand first.
First, if you want to make a full-time income from selling art, you should put in full-time effort in creating and marketing your art. You need to have art to sell art. Then you need to get your art in front of people so that they can see it. If no one can see your art, no one knows you have something to sell.
Secondly, after you finish reading this article, get to work. Write down a schedule to put your plans into action. Art doesn't sell itself, you have to sell it.
Alright, let's talk about selling art now.
People buy art because of you
Some people buy paintings not just because of the art, but because of the person. When these people buy, they are also buying into you as a person.
In the most extreme example, you can paint as good as an Old Master, but your art won't be valued as much. Many factors contribute to the price of an artwork, the person and the reputation or brand of the person is a factor that matters.
It's important to let your potential buyers know who you are. On your website, you should have your biography. Talk about why you paint. For each painting, it would be good if there's a story behind. Using Old Masters paintings for example, there are essays written about the stories behind each painting. So your art should have some sort of story too. If you can't think of a story for the art, perhaps you can make that story about you, about your process when creating the art.
There is always be someone else who can create the same type of art as you. So how do you compete? You need to find some way to differentiate from other people. By being yourself, you're already different from others, so you just have to make your brand stronger. You can engage more with your audience, or be known for a certain style, or represent a belief.
You have to market your work
Your work does not speak for itself. It really does. Think about it.
You have to market your work so that people can know that it exists. You should actively promote your work. The more you share with your potential customers, the more they will remember you in their minds.
So how do you market your work online? You can do it through your own website, blog or social media sites.
First you have to understand who you are selling to. Understand your audience and go to where they hang out. For example, if you want to sell fish, you should sell it at a fish market where people are going there specifically to buy fish.
You can share your work on art communities online, such as DeviantArt or even Facebook Groups. There are artists who share their creation process on Youtube and have gathered a good number of followers. Instagram is another good place to share your work. The common thing about all these sites is there are lots of people on those platforms already searching for art.
I share my work mostly on my blog, Instagram and Youtube. Occasionally, I would get offers from someone who wants to buy my art. That's the power of marketing.
The other way is to contact other art blogs or anyone with a huge social media following, and ask them for a referral. Look for people who already feature or create the type of work you create, so at least your work is relevant to their audience.
Develop a body of work
If you only have a handful of artworks to sell, it may not look appealing to your potential customers. Imagine going into a shop where the shelves are mostly empty except with a handful of items for sale. That's the type of feeling you should avoid.
If you're a beginner, start by creating small pieces. You can use those pieces for practice and hone your craft. Smaller pieces of art are also easier and faster to create. The more artwork you create, the more you can share them online, the more exposure you will get. Small pieces are also easier to sell because they are more affordable. They are also easier to package and ship.
To create a body of work, you can develop a theme and paint around that. Have you noticed that artist exhibitions often have themes? The theme can be landscape, portrait, still life, or some other subject matter or even style.
Developing a theme can also help your audience identify with you. For example, those buys comic illustrations will be different from those who buy paintings. You want to use your theme and your style to build up the type of collectors you want.
If you are into editorial illustration, check out this video below by Holly Exley
Figure out where to sell your work
There are many places to sell art online.
You can sell them on platforms that you are sharing your art. Or you can sign up with a website that's designed specifically to handle sales, e.g. Etsy, DeviantArt, Dailypainters.com. Or you can purchase a domain and install your own online store with e.g. BigCartel, Shopify. Or you can even sell through auction sites like eBay.
Different websites have different features. They may handle payment and invoicing and that can save you a lot of hassle. Those websites usually take a small cut. If you sell through websites like DeviantArt, they can take orders automatically, sell prints of your art and handle shipping. If you sell through eBay, payment is handled but you have to package and ship the items yourself.
Ultimately, you need to create a website for yourself. That's your home base. As for the online store, you can either embed it within your website or link it to some other sales site like Etsy.
Regardless of which platform you're selling from, you still need to market yourself. Those websites don't market for you.
Should you sell the original or a print
Not everyone can afford what you are charging. For people who like your art but can't afford, maybe you can create products at a lower price point. For example, instead of selling originals you can sell prints.
When you are starting out, do not invest in a printer. Get your prints printed at a professional print shop during the early stages of your career first because you won't know how many customers you'll get in the first few months. You can consider getting a printer to reduce cost after you notice you have a steady stream of orders each month.
How to price your art
The general strategy is to price according to the size of the art you are selling. Some artist would use $ per square inch. If you peg $1 per square inch, a 9 by 12 inch watercolour painting may be $108 dollars. Charging by size is a concept that buyers can easily understand. Don't charge by time. You'll get better with time and you'll paint faster. Your art should not drop in value as you get better. Also, buyers should not pay extra just because you're too slow.
Research other artists who are creating the same stuff as you to find out how much they are charging. You can use what they charge as a reference to find your pricing.
The type of media you use also affects pricing. For example, oil will cost more than watercolour, which will cost more than a graphite rendering.
Once you have determined your pricing formula, stick with it. You should maintain your value and not drop it. Don't appear desperate. Don't undervalue your work, but don't overvalue it of course. You should price your work to sell. After you have a few artworks sold, you can adjust the pricing. Raise prices when you can no longer keep up with demand.
If you are selling prints, you can occasionally give some discounts. If you sell originals, try not to discount too much even if you really want to sell because those early buyers who bought at the high price will feel irritated. So start low, but not too low, and work your way up.
Maintain consistent pricing across different platform. Be fair all buyers, no matter where they found your work.
When doing commissions, you can ask for more because it's a special request, and also because the process can be more complicated.
Make sure your website is enticing, professional and friendly. Have a clean and clear interface where people can get all the information required, like where to find details about the painting, pricing, how to buy.
If you sell with framing, include how the painting will look with the frame as well. It will be good to have a size comparison with a person (silhouette) standing beside the painting or holding it.
Presentation is important. It's like the window of your store. You want it to look good enough to attract customers to come in to check out more.
Build a newsletter
Start building your newsletter list today. So that when you have something to sell, you can tell your audience immediately and directly. If you rely on your website to tell people about your work, you are only relying on visitors to your website. Not everyone will remember or have the time to visit your website or social media sites daily. Even if they visit your sites regulary, they may still miss what you post.
Study the pros
Look at where people are selling their art. Check their Etsy site. Research and see how those artists are marketing their work. See how often they are creating art, engaging with their audience.
You can learn a lot from other professional artists. Those experienced artists have been around for a long time. If you can learn from them in a week what they took months or years to learn, you would have saved so much time and hassle.
Sales does not happen overnight unless you already have a huge audience. You have to build up your collector base.
Ultimately, selling anything online is a numbers game. You need a lot of visitors in order to sell something. Well, not everyone who sees your work is going to buy it. So out of the number of people who sees your work, only a handful will be interested enough to find out more, and out of those only a handful will have the real interest and intent to buy.
You have to have patience when it comes to building your collector base or following.
The good thing about the Internet is, as artists, the work you create in the past will always come back to help you in the future. The more work you create, the more you share, the more following you'll get, and the potential for sales. And the more work you create, the larger your archive and the better ability to attract even more visitors.
Thanks for reading this. If you sell your art online, I would love to hear about your experience.