How to Sell Your Artwork Online
Thanks to the internet, artists can create a name for themselves and sell their art all over the world without paying any commissions to galleries or brokers. Selling artwork can be slightly different from selling other handmade items online. Here are some tips.
What types of art can you sell online? Paintings, illustrations, photographs, and sculptures of just about any type. You can create with just about any medium you can imagine.
How is selling art online different from selling other things? Artwork tends to be higher priced than other handmade items. Original art is not mass produced but you can offer prints. Artwork can also take a very long time to make and the process cannot usually be automated. Art can be very delicate, very large, or awkward to ship. You may focus on custom artwork and not have any examples in inventory ready to ship.
Art is also more subjective than most handmade items and finding your target audience can be difficult. You may rank highly in organic search for “modern oil paintings” for example and receive a lot of traffic, but your designs also have to appeal to your visitors if you want to turn them into buyers. You cannot just describe it, people need to see it to decide if they like it.
Where are the best places to sell art online? Your best options will be either Etsy and/or your own website. Browse through Etsy and see how saturated your specific category is and see what is being offered. Etsy may not may not be a good fit for what you will be making or for your particular price point. Having a personal website is really the best option but it will take time to to build and promote. Whether you sell in an online marketplace or set up your own site, the marketing will be primarily be up to you. You will want to learn as much as you can about online marketing and SEO to drive as much traffic as you can to your site.
Photos and descriptions are very important – If you plan on selling higher end artwork you will need great descriptions. Artwork is all about detail and you will need excellent photos as well. If colors appear different online than they do in person be sure to mention it. Your customer probably has a specific place in mind to place your art and has to go by your photos to judge whether it will fit in with their décor. Include some high resolution close-ups that show texture and fine details. For more information, please see – writing item descriptions.
How do you put images of your paintings, photographs, or drawings online and protect them? Unlike sculptures and three dimensional types of art, images of flat artwork, like paintings and photographs, can be downloaded and reproduced. You can either use watermarks or use photos of a low enough resolution that is not suitable for printing. You can still do close-up shots, but crop them and only show portions of the painting or photo.
Should you sell prints of your original art? Selling prints is a good idea for a few reasons. You will be able to get your artwork out to a larger audience since you can reproduce as many prints as you like. Prints also give you a lower price point so your art will appeal to a larger audience of buyers. Offering prints allows you to scale your business. There are only so many original paintings or photographs you can come up with and produce in a given amount of time while the number of prints that can be produced is virtually unlimited.
How do you price art? Pricing artwork can be tricky. In some cases you may not be able to reference any other pieces in the market to get a ballpark price range for your designs. You may have to experiment. The prices you can command may initially be derived based off of how long your artwork takes to create but can be exponentially higher depending on your notoriety. The more popular you are, the more your art can be worth. There really is no normal pricing when it comes to art. If you are just starting out, take a look at my pricing guide to determine how to set you initial prices.
How should you take payments from customers? If you sell your artwork online you will either be accepting credit cards, probably through Paypal, money orders, or personal checks. For custom pieces you will need to take a deposit before starting and make sure you get paid in full prior to shipping anything to your customer. Paypal is very convenient when there are deposits and final payments.
How do you pack art for shipping? You may be shipping flat canvases, sets of paintings, framed artwork, or outdoor sculptures. Some of these things may be delicate, heavy, very large, or just have an awkward shape. Once you start shipping larger pieces you will really need to compare you shipping rates. For larger items, Fedex is hard to beat. If you sell paintings you can purchase packing materials and boxes specifically designed for that purpose from Uline.com. If you are lucky you can find pre-made boxes that will work. If not, you will need to learn to build and modify boxes. It is not uncommon to have to reinforce the corners to keep them from getting crushed. It is a good idea to get a copy of the Uline catalog and see what box sizes are available before deciding what sizes to make your artwork. Once you find the boxes, run some online shipping quote estimates to get an idea of what the shipping rates will be. If your boxes end up being “oversized” the rates can be prohibitively expensive which means selling your art will be much tougher. Check the rates before making very large pieces of art.
What do you do about shipping insurance? Since artwork tends to be expensive it is good to get full coverage. It is not that expensive and in most every case you can purchase it when you do your shipping labels online. If you ship internationally or sell pieces that cannot be insured with normal coverage, look into third party insurance.
Is there a recipe for success? There is not one particular reason why one artist may be more successful at selling online than another. One thing you will notice is as an artist gains notoriety, others start producing very similar pieces of art thinking they will have the same success. You see this a lot with painters. An artist will get one of their paintings on tv and their sales and prices will go through the roof. Other painters will arrive on the scene with very similar designs but they are usually not successful and cannot command near the prices of the original artist. With artwork, the artist themselves is just as important as what they create.
The artist customer connection – There is more of a connection between the artist and customer than with sellers of other handmade items. Not only does the art itself evoke emotion, but the person behind it is also very important. Many buyers collect pieces from certain artists and repeat buyers are very common. Artwork is very much about the person behind it. Customers do not just want artwork, they want YOUR specific artwork.
You need to be prolific – In order to be visible among the millions of other artists you not only need to make art that stands out, but also a lot of it. The more designs you have the easier it will be for you to be found online. If you vary your designs and offer different colors, sizes, and styles, you will also appeal to a broader audience. As I mentioned earlier, you may rank very high in the search engines but artwork is very subjective and people may not like your style. Definitely be different but also offer some variety or even custom options so customers can get exactly what they are looking for.
Are you selling your artwork online? What has been your experience?