How To Sell Art
Making a sale of your art, whether through a gallery, an internet platform or out of your studio, will be challenging—but thrilling. As much fun as it is to produce art, most artists can't resist the thrill of selling their work to someone who appreciates it, especially if they want their art to be a vocation rather than a hobby. So, today, I'm going to show you how to sell your work in the most straightforward method possible—and how to turn your infrequent art sales into a profitable, long-term company.
What Is Art?
Art means making something, and artists are given creative freedom to express what they think is beautiful. To create, you need raw materials—such as paper, canvas, paint, and clay—but you also need time, energy, and an eye for design. In short, you need a teacher. A good teacher—at any level—will help you find your voice and design a style of art you want to create. And your teacher—who can be a colleague, friend, or family member—will give you their honest feedback and critique your work so you can improve and hone your skills.
Here are some common art styles:
- Digital art,
- Printmaking, and
- Fine art.
Selling your art is essential for digital artists because we have no gallery or venue to showcase our work. Art, or fine art, can be defined as depicting human subject matter in visual form—either on canvas, paper or metal. Fine art is a broad, inclusive term. It includes:
- Mixed media and
- Works on paper.
This means that not only can fine art be created by amateur or professional artists, but you can do it. Whether you are trying to sell your art or are just looking to find the right platform to sell it, I've created a step-by-step guide to help you sell your artwork online.
In one phrase, art is the visual expression of the human imagination. It can be high art, or folk art, or any art—it doesn't matter. The important thing is that art is expression. Eros is the ancient Greek term for love. And with art, as with love, it's the expression of the artist's love of that thing that captures their imagination. But do you love what you're creating? How does it feel to work with your hands, the tools of your trade, each day?
You are making, experiencing, and giving life to a work of art.
- Art is the form that attempts to evoke feeling, often for expressive, artistic or spiritual reasons.
- A visual or sculptural object formed by the combination of optical elements, usually in the form of a painting, drawing, or sculpture,
- Made up of materials the artist has collected and that are generally categorized and purchased for their beauty and quality,
- Large enough to hang on a wall.
Advantages Of Selling Art
The apparent advantages of selling art: You will get to paint. You will not have to pay for the space you use or to paint the walls. You will not have to pay for the staff you employ to display your art. Your sales price will be much higher than you are charging for your work. You will be able to use your art as your brand. You will be able to get many contacts. You will be able to sell art from your studio.
I encourage artists to sell their art—even if they have no intention of making their art a career—to secure the income they need to create. You can't make art for free. Every art-maker I know would starve if they didn't sell their art. So, consider this your open invitation to turn your art selling into a viable, profitable business by being a freelance art-maker.
Here are some advantages of selling your art to your clients: The clients (or potential clients) may feel indebted to you and want to purchase before buying another piece. If your clients know your work, you'll usually receive free art-related merchandise. If your clients are educated, the sale process is more relaxed.
At its most basic level, selling your art is very simple. You set up an online store, upload your art, and you start taking orders. Of course, you don't have to buy a big kit to start selling. But, like all things in business, your first customers matter more than the cheapest option. That's why I suggest that artists go into the industry with a minimum of $500 and eventually work up to selling 10–20 pieces a month to produce enough work to fill your new online shop, which you can build into your business plan.
1. Sell Art In An Auction Website
If you want to sell art without the need for a gallery or gallery reputation, here's a website that will do that for you and cost-effectively. SellArt.com auctions off art from the most remarkable galleries in the world—and all you have to do is set up your account, upload artworks, make bids, and then wait for the results.
Here's what that looks like: Once you've set up an account, you need to upload the artwork (which can be in the form of a JPEG file), and the gallery will let you know which painting they're interested in selling. You can then make bids on the artwork—which goes into a pool and is bought by the gallery (almost always Art.com) at a price fixed by them.
The Internet art auction system is undoubtedly the most practical way to sell your work. However, auctions are time-consuming. Artists often wait months or even years before they sell anything online. Some wait as long as a decade! That said, your chances of selling your work are much better if you wait for the right price.
I advise you to sell at a very reasonable price, somewhere between $10 and $500. That's the sweet spot where you have a 90% chance of selling, and your painting still ends up looking great.
The internet is awash in auction website sites, where you can sell your art to a large audience and make a profit at the same time. You may be surprised to learn that most artists get most of their income from internet sales—even if they are selling through their websites.
You can sell art on more than 200 auction website sites. And you don't need to spend a lot of time and effort to put up an auction site to sell your art. All you need is a design and a short description of your art. Once it is up, a professional photographer will take your images and edit them for you—you then enter the pictures into the auction site and wait for your art to sell.
2. Sell Art In Online Marketplaces
An awesome (and cheap) option is Amazon's art sales. As long as your artwork is unique, high-quality, and of course, well-priced (which means under $100), you can sell anything from $10 prints to $20,000 sculptures. The only drawback is that you don't get a lot of direct contact with the buyer.
However, since Amazon lets you set your price, they take the risk. And it's still a great option, as you can sell your art as often as you want and at a low price, provided you price well. By selling through Amazon, you also have the chance of selling high-end prints to big-time buyers who may not even be in your country. An even better option (and my favourite) is Etsy. Unlike Amazon, Etsy is a marketplace.
One of the most popular methods of art sales is to sell art online through websites such as ArtPlace America, Auctioneer.com, and Artstor.com. Many online marketplaces for art and antiques feature comprehensive listings and buyer reviews, allowing you to showcase your work without worrying about displaying it yourself. This method requires you to hire a professional gallery or website to sell your art and take care of your sales transactions.
Do some research online and find a company specializing in selling art online, paying careful attention to terms, conditions, and fees. Each listing on ArtPlace America or Auctioneer.com requires a photo of your work and your street address, as well as your work description. Both sites have buyer reviews and lists of artisans.
Online marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay provide the perfect selling platform for artists. The essential advantage of the marketplaces is that they allow you to set your prices, which often results in artists getting paid a higher price for their art than they would for any piece of factory-produced art.
As an artist, you can create a listing for your art (in-line or sectioned off into separate posts) or upload a custom image and title your piece for sale. Once you're happy with your listing, you can contact your buyer with the correct shipping information and get it posted to their desk in just a few clicks.
3. Sell Art In Online Art Galleries
Many online art galleries sell original art—and some are even based in Seattle, which might make it easier to find a partner to share the profit on your sales. Don't choose an online gallery based on whether or not it sells in real life. Instead, ask yourself, “Which gallery have I sold my work to in the past, and which would sell my work to a customer?” For many artists, selling their work online is a more manageable way to bring in money.
For one thing, you don't have to leave the house and meet the customers. List your art in several online art galleries. The most popular online art galleries will bring you the highest sales, but keep in mind that selling through one online gallery will not make your art more valuable. A piece of art sold in one gallery might bring much more revenue to you than selling the same in several galleries.
If you don't have a gallery, some websites sell your art on commission. Online art galleries cut each sale—from 30% to 50% of the total price—to pay the artists and pass on the rest. A gallery provides a market for your art and allows you to make regular sales. This means the business of selling art, at least to a select few, is more fun—and therefore more fulfilling—than flogging.
If you have a regular work schedule and don't spend all day creating artwork, building an online art gallery is a good idea. More than 90% of galleries feature real people and are not “brands” (meaning they're not mass-produced). This means you'll get your art seen by the best possible audience. The great thing about selling art in galleries is that they provide a sales funnel for artists to get their craft in front of people looking for art.
4. Sell Art Through Merchandising Services
Selling your art is only the beginning. To turn it into a profitable business, you need to turn it into a profitable business in itself—one that can turn your sales into money. And the best way to make that happen is by selling the bulk of your art through a retailer who can take it from you to your customer (or customers).
This is the third part of my mini-series on selling art online. The best way to turn your art into a profitable business is to become an online retail shop or brand. You'll be selling your work online, so you'll need to learn how to set up a storefront for sales.
In the future, the product that most art galleries will offer is art + service—art + merchandise. This, to me, is the ultimate way to get your art on the street. And for a small amount of money, you can turn your work into genuine street art. This could be anything from the most straightforward poster for a gallery to a full-scale installation in a space like the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or the outdoor sculpture district in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Customization is significant in the graphic design and merchandising world—and it's where I see the art world heading in the future. Not only can you create your digital shopfront and sell your work on your own, but you can also design an entire product line of merchandising for other artists to sell and promote.
The solution to your art selling woes is straightforward, and it comes in the form of so-called “merchandising services” (aka, self-publishing). You can collect artwork from the studios of artists you admire and create and sell these pieces through various websites and online stores with merchandise services.
You do this so that they'll have a steady source of income. The catch is that you'll have to take the brunt of your artwork's production. What Is Merchandising Services? Merchandising services allow you to have high-quality artwork of your own on the market without worrying about sales or shipping costs—but you have to produce the artwork. You don't need to be a professional graphic designer or photographer (although you may want to generate more sales).
5. Sell Art Through Social Networks
If you want to sell your work—but don't want to sacrifice control or make the artwork easily identifiable—you should get creative about how you promote your artwork on social media.
You may have noticed that there are two types of people on social media:
- creative people who love using their time to make the world a better place and share their art and
- Brand-conscious people are looking for influencers to connect with their like-minded audiences to try to make money.
The creative people do all the hard work for you—they find interesting ideas and suggest the best art to post. For example, people often post artwork that helps show what an artist thinks, where an artist stands on an issue.
Social networks are an excellent alternative to traditional advertising and probably the cheapest to use. You could set up a passive revenue stream from just a few hundred dollars a month with no marketing at all! Here are the most popular social networks that artists should be on:
- The first one is Instagram. Instagram is the #1 art/creativity app with over 300M active users. You can post your work efficiently, and over 250M people per month are interested in what you post.
- Another one is Facebook. Facebook is my favourite social network.
While you'll get more sales and exposure by taking your work to galleries, try selling your art directly through social networks. The main difference between galleries and social networks is that galleries charge a fee, while social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr, don't.
If you're selling your art on social networks and can sell anywhere from 1-10 pieces a month—which most artists can do—you'll make a lot more than if you were at a gallery. Most buyers on social networks like Instagram and Tumblr aren't artists; they're people like you and me. You're friends with them, and they can see your art. This is why social networks are such a great place to sell art.
6. Sell Art In Coffee Shops And Restaurants
There's no better place to sell art than at a retail location. This is where people get up close and personal with their work and form an emotional attachment. “I love to interact with people who buy my work… that shows they have bought something beautiful. “–Hari Fink, artist Even Starbucks, the ubiquitous place for hot coffee and snacks, offers space to sell art at their various stores.
Their spaces are small compared to the store's appearance, but they're often inviting. According to Hari Fink, “I love to interact with people who buy my work… that shows they have bought something beautiful. As artists, they crave emotional reactions. Artists crave to feel that their work is an excellent addition to someone's home.
Selling art in cafes and restaurants is one of the simplest ways to make money from your art. You can advertise your art in a local coffee shop, restaurant, or retail store, no matter where you live. For example, I've used local ad sites like IAdore.cc or Virb to display my art in such places.
One of the most remarkable ways to promote your artwork is to create a book: a coffee table book, a portfolio, or any other product that serves to promote your artwork. To get an idea of how the process works, look at these mock-ups created by PicaTab for an upcoming book on the Mediterranean from Dovetail Design.
You can also create book prototypes online, using services like Idesigner.io. Once your artwork is ready to go, you can head to a local coffee shop, restaurant, or retail store and sell your art.
The most significant opportunity to sell art in most parts of the world is the hospitality industry, where you can be discovered at the most random places. A restaurant hostess will run to her boss if you show her a great piece of artwork in exchange for the tip, or a barista will ask for your opinion on the decoration of the trolleys. In the States, a hotel manager may tip you off when a VIP guest comes through.
Remember, before these sales, the artist is generally unknown to the recipient. And that's the beauty of selling art in the hospitality industry. You'll receive more tips and commissions when you meet like-minded people. It's a situation where you can quickly build relationships and trust. You'll also get to meet people who you wouldn't usually see or be seen with.
7. Sell Art In Art Fairs
Walking into a gallery is a dream for artists. Greeting people with a smile and a deep, intimate knowledge of your work is excellent; however, you're missing the chance to connect and educate people on your art. When you're out to sell art, going to art fairs is your best bet for reaching people who are unfamiliar with your work and can potentially buy it.
Not only does art fairs allow you to have people see your work in person, but it can also provide you with a consistent way to interact with potential clients. One important reason to consider selling your art at art fairs is exposure. Selling your art at an art fair gives you exposure to potential buyers who are experiencing your work for the first time.
Art fairs are the largest—and most intimidating—known medium for selling artwork. They attract huge crowds and are focused on the end goal of selling your artwork. But the art fair world is also surprisingly easy to navigate, so I encourage you to enter the fray. The artworld is enormous—and so is the art fair scene. There are hundreds of fairs around the globe, and many sell in more than one city. You can research and learn about each fair and each city that hosts one, but I'll give you the details you need to make a sale.
Selling art is an excellent way to make money as an artist. It can even turn you into a business person who creates art full-time. Use these tips and go out and be an artist.
I trust you enjoyed this article on How To Sell Art and found it helpful. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come. Take care!
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your questions, experiences, remarks, and suggestions about How To Sell Art in the comments section below. You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@WorkFromAnywhereInTheWorld.com.