The art world has always had an air of mystery to it. Between the wide range of art curators, gallery openings and auctions, it can be difficult for an emerging artist to navigate this elusive industry. With so many factors to negotiate, how can a budding artist possibly find a suitable selling platform for their precious artwork, much less effectively reach their target audience?
Thankfully, in today’s digital age, the artist is now able to reach a global audience, by selling their pieces online. But there is a lot to be considered when using a digital platform. Thankfully this outline will guide you through the ins and outs of selling a piece of art on the web. Covering everything from how to list your artwork on a selling platform to how to ensure your piece remains damage-free during shipping, this outline will serve as your guidebook for selling art online. Let’s get started.
What Art to Sell?
The first question to ask yourself when looking to sell art online is, what type of art do I want to sell? At the simplest level, determine if you want to sell your own original art or if you want to act as a liaison for one of your artist friend’s or associates and sell their work? Once you determine whose artwork is being sold, you can move on to the next step.
Now it is important to determine which pieces you want to sell and determine if you will focus on original works or reproductions. While one option is not necessarily better than the other, they each offer distinct benefits. Original works are more expensive, tending to appeal to a smaller segment of on-line buyers and culminate in only a single purchase while reproductions are less expensive, can appeal and be sold to multiple collectors and are marketed at lower and easier to sell price points.
Choosing a collection of artworks to sell can be tricky, and most professional artists prefer offering artwork in a series that presents the same theme or storyline that the artist is interested in exploring. In doing so, all the pieces that are being offered as part of the collection will be very cohesive and explore the artist’s message and concept in a deep and meaningful way. Of course, in order to offer a complete collection, the artist will have to have created enough related artwork to make up a series and form a collection.
On the other hand, by offering individual pieces that are not intentionally created in a series it gives the collector a wider variety of subject matter and themes of art to choose from. As long as the innate style of the artist remains consistent, the subject matter and narrative of the works can vary. This also gives the artist more freedom to explore multiple concepts and work on whatever they feel inspired to create. After determining what pieces of art you will be offering, you will be able to decide what the best platform and marketing tools for you to launch your work on the internet.
Where to Display the Art
After you have determined what type of art to sell, you will need to decide where to display the art. There are two main ways to accommodate online art buying. The first way is through an artist’s website and the second is through a third party site.
Your Own Website Can Display Your Art
As a general rule, having your own website as an artist is a good idea. These websites are simple to make and serve as an invaluable tool for showcasing your artwork, announcing any new work or showings as well as providing a way for the public to easily purchase your art.
Creating a website is typically fairly inexpensive. With some hosting site subscriptions as low as $3.95 a month, there is sure to be a website platform that fits every artist’s budget. With such an inexpensive fee, making a personal online showroom should be at the top of every artist’s to-do list.
A website gives the artist the freedom to represent their unique work as well as their artistic brand. On your website, you can put your art on display, without competing with any artist’s work aside from your own. You can also avoid paying any additional fees or commissions that come with a traditional gallery setting, however, it is difficult for individual artists to attract the kind of traffic necessary to sell their own art regularly.
Also, it is often cost-prohibitive for an individual artist to create a website with an online store attached so that potential buyers can purchase your artwork. But don’t worry! Creating an online store is a function that many 3rd party websites offer and most of these web page hosting sites platforms have step by step tutorials for this process.
Third-Party Sites Can Sell Your Art
While creating a website is a must for artists, oftentimes to create and maintain a visually appealing, organized and effective online store through a website requires not only for you to to be proficient at formating the hosting sites but also have the excellent customer service and organizational skills that are required to run a marketplace. Because this is a huge undertaking, many artists opt to list their artwork for sale through a third party site. Thankfully there is a large variety of third party sites that can be used, which will ensure that each artist will find the marketplace best suited for their artwork.
There are a variety of main third party sites that can assist you in selling your artwork. These types of sites include online art galleries, large seller marketplaces, print on demand vendors, digital art stock houses and social media sites. Below is a deeper dive into each of these third party sites including what they offer and what type of artwork is best suited for them.
Online Art Marketplaces & Galleries Can Sell Your Art
The best way to think of an online art marketplace is as an online version of an art gallery. There are many types of these online art marketplaces with some marketplaces being very exclusive and curated, only selecting a few artists to promote while other online marketplaces act more as a housing site and provide the forum for any artists to create an account and showcase their work.
Oftentimes, online marketplaces will do the selling on the artist’s behalf, very similar to a traditional gallery setting. The online marketplace will market the artwork listed on their site to their network of art buyers. If interested in a piece listed, the art buyer can place an order online through the site. Then it is up to the artist to ship the artwork to either the gallery/ marketplace or the buyer. All payment is made through the online marketplace, however, it is important to note that the online marketplace usually takes a commission for their marketing services.
The exposure that an artist can receive by being listed on an online marketplace, especially if it is a highly curated and reputable site, by far outweighs any costs particularly because the marketplace handles all aspects of the sale including proposals, negotiation, shipments to the buyer. A reputable online art marketplace can get your artwork noticed by avid art collectors who, with any luck, will become fans of yours, endowing you with artistic influence and generating business for you and your pieces.
Large Seller Marketplaces Are a Good 3rd Party Art Selling Option
Another option to consider when looking to sell your artwork online is the large seller marketplace. Similar to the online art gallery, the large seller marketplace sites can assist in the selling process by accepting and processing payment for the artist. The artist is still required to ship the artwork, however, the site takes a smaller commission.
However, it is important to note that although the big art marketplaces do experience some high-priced sales, that is not the norm. Working artists and dealers will tell you that the majority of clientele on these large seller marketplaces are more geared towards acquiring lower cost items. While their buyers do purchase a lot of artwork, they are more suited to sell art that is not more than hundreds of dollars. If your art is higher priced it would be wise to sell it on another online platform.
Print On Demand Vendors Can Help you Make Money From Your Art
Print on Demand, or POD vendors, can be another valuable online third party site for artists. As the name implies a print on demand vendor is a company that facilitates artists in printing their work on a variety of products. Common products that artwork is printed on includes mugs, pillows, shirts, curtains, etc. Due to the printing nature of this vendor, this online site is most easily accessed by photographers or graphic designers, however, painters or other artists can use a POD vendor’s services if they can capture a high-quality scan or photograph of their art.
By using a print on demand vendor, it is very simple to mass produce your artwork. Oftentimes, most POD vendors do not charge any upfront production costs and will give the artist the option to handle the sales and customer service, if they would like to be more involved in the day to day operations.
However, there is one downside to using POD vendors. Given the wholesale costs that are required to mass-produce an artist’s work onto these products, it can be very difficult for the artist to make a profit from their sales. What’s more, oftentimes, the product being produced is fairly inexpensive, often costing as little as $40 or less, which makes for an even smaller income. On average, an artist only makes 15%-20% profit from a POD vendor sale.
That said, it is possible to increase an artist’s revenue from this type of third party site. When first creating an agreement with a print on demand vendor, be sure to research the different wholesale costs to find the best deal. This can drastically cut down the overhead costs and help you, the artist, make more of a profit.
Digital Art Stock Houses Can Sell Your Art
Digital Art Stock Houses are another excellent way to sell your artwork. While some artists may think that stock houses are a less favorable option as you are selling your imagery for mass use, it can be extremely beneficial for illustrators, photographers and graphic designers as it can connect them to many commercial brands.
The way that a digital art stock house works is an artist can list their artwork through a stock house’s website. These marketplaces are created to specifically cater to the needs of a variety of commercial brands and will sell an artist’s image to be used for these brand’s websites, marketing materials or any other type of advertisement.
When a brand buys an artist’s image, the digital art stock house will facilitate a licensing agreement for the brand to sign. These agreements detail how much the commercial brand is allowed to use the image and also determines how much of a percent the artist is paid. Oftentimes, the amount of times the commercial brand is allowed to use the art and the percentage the artist is being compensated, are directly related. Many licensing agreements also require attribution through use, so even though the image is being mass-produced as a marketing tool, the artist will still be given credit and will be able to build a reputation as a successful artist.
Social Media and eCommerce Platforms Can Also Sell Your Art
Last but not least, social media is another valuable online platform for selling artwork. While listing items for sale through a social media site does require the user to be quite tech-savvy, there are platforms that can assist in making these listings quite simple.
The first way to seamlessly list artwork for sale on a social media site is through using an eCommerce platform. The way that an eCommerce platform works is that it automatically inserts an art listing into a social media site and provides the buyer with a secure way to order and pay for a piece of art. Of course, there are slight variations and additional features that can be added to a platform, but thankfully there is a wide variety of eCommerce tools to choose from, ensuring that an artist will find the best fit for them.
While social media is technically not a way to immediately sell artwork, an artist might want to consider creating a professional social media page to showcase their pieces. Similar to creating a professional website to serve as an online showroom, a social media page can serve as another informal way that artists can splash their artwork into the public eye. In addition to free advertising, by including links to third party sites when buyers can purchase artwork, an artist’s social media page can produce more art sales.
Pricing Your Art Pieces
After determining the best platform to list your artwork on, it is time to price your pieces. Pricing is important to choose carefully as you will want to make a profit but it is important to price your pieces fairly so that art buyers will consider purchasing them! But with such a wide variety of art being offered online, it can be difficult to determine where to price your work.
To begin you will need to conduct a little research. Be sure to check out some of your competition that matches the quality and demand of your pieces of art. The easiest way to do this is to peruse other online galleries and large seller marketplaces and consider what other artist’s artwork is going for. When looking to price your artwork, aim to set the asking price around the average of some of the other pieces that you researched.
A common mistake for beginning artists is that they place their work at the lowest price possible. While this will draw some attention to their pieces, it will be very difficult for the artists to make a profit when their artwork is priced so low. A better way to attract attention as a budding artist is to price your artwork just 10% to 20% lower than a similar piece. In doing so, you will still attract attention from interested art buyers while pricing your artwork fairly and enabling you to make a profit.
When pricing your artwork it is important to consider any cuts that will be taken by a hosting site. Most times these cuts just include the commission the site takes from your sale but be sure to check each marketplace’s policy on any processing fees or any other additional fees that come with selling through the site.
Preparing Art for Shipping
Congratulations! You sold a piece of art! Now you have to find a way to not only ship it to the buyer but also ensure that the artwork is protected throughout the entire shipping process. Here is a simple guide to ensure safe travels for your newly purchased piece of art!
Measure Your Art Piece
The first and most important step for preparing your art for shipping is to know the artwork’s measurements. Using a tape measure be sure to measure the length, height, and width of your piece. Be sure to allow for at least 2 inches of space on each side. Once you have these dimensions taking into consideration the extra 2 inches needed, you can choose the proper box size. If your artwork cannot fit in a regular sized box, you can purchase an artwork shipping box or wooden crate either from an art supply or shipping store.
Safe Shipping Supplies to Keep Your Art Safe
After choosing the correct shipping box, you can prepare the artwork for shipping. To ensure that the piece remains unharmed during the shipping process, you will need to obtain several safe shipping supplies which include bubble wrap and packing peanuts or shredded paper. Start by wrapping the piece of art with bubble wrap and securing it with tape. Be sure that there are no openings in the bubble wrap. If there is any excess bubble wrap, you can wrap the middle of the piece of art again and tape the bubble wrap shut.
After wrapping the artwork, place a good amount of packing peanuts in the bottom of the shipping box. If you do not have packing peanuts, shredded paper will work as well. Be sure to generously fill the bottom of the box so the piece of art will not shift during shipment, but be sure to not fill too much as the piece will no longer fit in the box. After adding the packaging peanuts, place the artwork in the box and add more insulation on the top of the artwork.
Final Packaging For Your Art
Once you have added more padding in the box, gently close the top of the box and tape the seams of the shipping box securely with packaging tape. Make sure to thoroughly tape the box so that there are no holes or gaps. If your piece of art is exceptionally fragile you can double up on boxes, placing the original box in a slightly larger box and adding more packing material to prevent sliding. Oftentimes, many third party sites require proof of shipping with each purchase so be sure to check the site’s shipping policies and provide whatever materials they require with each purchase.
There you have it! A comprehensive guide to beginning to sell artwork online. A professional website is a must for every emerging artist as they list their pieces on the internet, but as time goes on online galleries and other third-party sites will help the artist reach an even larger and more engaged audience. Learning how to sell art online can prove to be a bit of a challenge but with the right tools, you will be adept at selling your unique pieces of art online in no time!