Since I’ve begun helping artists grow their career, one topic has constantly been crucial in these artists’ development, the idea of how to sell art online. It’s somewhat of a unicorn, we heard the stories, we’ve read the reports, artist’s we know sell art online but most artists haven’t made any online sales at all. Maybe online art sales are a fairy tale?
They are not. It is possible to sell art online!
Selling art online is possible and the opportunities to do so are increasing. Over the years, experienced collectors have started being more confident towards buying art from online sources, purchasing works without even seeing them in person and in the other hand, less experienced collectors have begun adventuring towards buying their first artwork, and many times, their first purchase is online.
It’s an exciting time to be selling art online, the opportunities are out there and the technology allows to do so without any prior knowledge or investment.
Before going any further, it’s important mentioning that selling online implies a lot of hard work, it’s not just because you’ve set up some works on a website that they will get sold. It’s a long-term strategy, that requires planning and nurturing.
On this first part, I will cover the pre-game. Before even thinking about selling art online, it’s important to prepare the foundations of your strategy, with a solid footing it will be easy to grow your online art sales and expand towards new formats and platforms.
Finally, here are the first steps you should take towards starting to sell art online
Before even thinking about going online to sell art it’s important to figure out your product and how will it be sold. Every shop needs to keep a tight check on their inventory in order to succeed and as an artist you art no exception.
Keeping a data-sheet with all your available artworks provides a good starting point towards keeping an inventory of your artworks. Create a google sheet comprising all the artworks you’ve produced, listing key elements such as their name, size, medium, year, image and availability. Also, It’s important to take in consideration if these artworks are unique, and if not, how many copies are available.
This sheet will allow you to easily cross-analyze the availability of a specific artwork making sure that in case of selling your artworks on several sites being sure that you are offering the same artworks with the same information price and once sold, mark it as unavailable in all the websites where that piece has been listed.
As a final benefit of such a well organized approach, this sheet will allow you to have a comprehensive list of sales, being able to analyze the growth of your sales strategies over the last months, giving you an important oversight on which strategies are working and which ones need improving and what kind of artworks your audiences appreciates better.
To make your life easier, I’ve made a free art inventory template that you can easily download here
Presentation & Storytelling
What is the difference between a piece of art and an image that you randomly stumble upon the internet? Presentation.
While selling art online it’s important to be able to fill in all the gaps that wouldn’t be there in an art gallery or studio visit. While selling on a personal setting it’s easy to answer any questions and be able to tell the story behind any artworks, but online you will have to predict some of the most common questions and answer them beforehand. If that information is not correctly delivered, chances are that the prospective buyer might lose interest and move on.
So alongside with the technical information, you should also pay attention to deliver the story behind this particular work of art so the viewer can easily establish an emotional connection. The first tool to use here is text, use it to clear any questions that might arise from the work but try to keep it simple and straight to the point avoiding unnecessary art-talk.
The second tool are pictures. Note that since the potential buyer will not have personal access to the artwork, it’s important that these images convey the feeling of familiarity with the artwork. These pictures should gap the bridge between seeing something online and knowing how it would look hanging on your wall. A simple image of the artwork will not do. When uploading artworks to a sales website you should at least work with 4 images, without proper images you won’t be able to to sell art online.
Cut out the image of the artwork, no background or interference. Just the artwork. Pay special attention to lighting and contrast to be able to show the artwork as close to original as possible.
Image focusing on a key element of the artwork, such as some detail or element that is important to give special attention. If the work is highly textured, take an angled photo to show the depth of the artwork.
In site Image
Take a picture of the artwork placed in its natural habitats, such as a living room or bedroom, showing as well some furniture or objects. This will help in two ways, first, it will help the buyer to imagine how the artwork would look after the purchase and will allow to correctly assess the dimensions of the piece. Some people might have a hard time visualizing an artwork without a little help.
You can take this photo in your own living room or bedroom, but if it isn’t possible, you can download a mockup image and do it in photoshop.
Use this fourth picture to focus on any of the above or if you have to give special aspect to an additional aspect of the artwork. Does it have a special hanging system? Signature on the back of the painting? Has it been part of an art exhibition? Use this last picture as an opportunity to show it.
These 4 pictures represent all the aspects that your potential client should have in mind when considering buying your artwork. If needed, you could increase this number, just don’t overdo it.
This is a tool that seems to be sometimes overlooked at the moment of selling art. Some art pieces might be hard to sell only using pictures, such as 3d artworks, highly textured works, reflective or reactive art pieces or kinetic art. In these moments recurring to video could be a very interesting resource, that could help the potential buyer fully understand the complexities of the artwork. Consider videos a powerful tool to sell art online.
The third cornerstone of this first phase: promotion. Remember what God said to Noah when he was charged with building the arc? “Build it and they will come”. It would be great if that actually worked for online art sales. The truth could not be any further away.
Once you upload your artworks you are acknowledging that they are for sale, but you still have to show it to the largest number of people possible.
There are a lot of ways to do this: social media, pr, email, affiliate strategies, blogger outreach, pop up galleries, studio visits, partnerships and the can go on indefinitely.
We can cover these strategies into details in a future post, but at this point, it’s important that you analyze these strategies and which ones fit your art career and personal style.
What’s important to note at this moment is that you should have a promotional strategy well in place even before you start listing your artworks online, with several months of planning ready. Selling art online is not a 100m dash, it’s a long-term strategy and having your promotional plan ready will help you make this process as efficient as possible.
It’s also worth noting that even if there are dozens of promotional strategies available, you don’t need to try them all, mainly choose a couple and pay close attention to the results making sure to invest in the strategies that bring a better return and changing the ones that don’t pay off.
By following these steps you are ready to start selling art online.