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How to Sell Art Online and Make Money as an Artist

How to Sell Art Online and Make Money as an Artist

In this article, I'm not only going to show you how you can sell your art online, but I'm going to give you tips on how you can scale your passion into a real business and make it a viable source of income fast. Now, more than ever selling your art online is a realistic way to make money.

Whereas 15 years ago, before social media, the money was in corporate and advertising commissions. But today you can make it a full-time business or just a side hustle. Be your own boss, love what you do, and make money while you do it. So, as a creative strategist, I've worked with a mix of artistic organizations like House and corporate organizations like United Way.

So I know all about the importance of striking a balance between creativity and business. So to succeed in your art, you must also succeed in business. We'll also talk about how to work with galleries, pop-ups, and be involved in offline events.

How to Sell Art Online: 9 Tips Make Money as an Artist

1. How to sell art online as a full-time or a side hustle

So ''Maria Qamar,'' the artist also known as hate copy, she quit her advertising career to focus on painting when her pop art paintings began to catch fire on Instagram. Her success didn't happen overnight though. She supplemented her income in the beginning while she was growing her fan base on Instagram.

She stated that her full-time job taught her business skills that were critical in getting her store off the ground and marketing herself as an artist. Now a good tip is to tap into employer resources and learning opportunities. Think of it as learning from mistakes on the company's dollar. This will help you grow and fund your art business on the side.

Now, once you get signs that you don't have enough time for both your day job and your side hustle, that's when many entrepreneurs tend to make the switch. You'll also have to account for income. If you have a reasonable amount of proof that selling your art online will sustain your lifestyle, you can make it your full-time gig.

However, there is something to be said for taking the plunge and just making art your full-time gig right away. So, ''Ken Harman,'' he's the gallerist responsible for the Spoke Art empire. He has three galleries, three e-commerce stores, and a print shop, and a production facility.

He signed a two-year lease on a space and this was the risky move that helped him quit waiting tables within just a few months. So whether you decide to make art, your full-time source of income, or a side hustle, it's going to depend on how much time you want to devote and how much risk you're ready to take on.

2. How to know what to charge for your work

This is a pretty common question. No one can really answer this except the market. So to know what your work is worth, you need to monitor how much people are willing to pay on a consistent basis. So if someone buys your art for 10 grand and they only do that once you'd be jumping the gun to say that this is what your time and your skills are worth consistently.

Now, repeatedly making sales for 10 grand a piece will confirm that this is what the market is willing to pay and how you should charge for your work. This will require pricing adjustments when you're just starting out. That's very normal. But a purchaser will value your work according to how much they pay for it. So a $400 piece will be treasured while a $40 piece might end up in a donation bin somewhere.

However, when you're just starting out, it does make sense that your pieces won't be as expensive as saying someone with 20 years of experience unless you've already reached a skill level that is highly sought after. No one can tell someone else what their time and skills are worth. But when in doubt, I would say, err, on the side of not underselling yourself.

3. How to sell other artist's work

So if you want to diversify your streams of income, or if you're not personally an artist, curating is a really good way to get into the art world. Many artists are disinterested in the business aspect and they rely on agents and other merchants to do it for them. You can sell originals and prints or you can license work to be printed onto merchandise.

Generally, the artists would make a set commission. Gallerist Ken says, "most galleries offer an industry-standard 50% consignment split for original art. The artist provides the artwork and we do our best to sell it," which leads us to our next point, choosing what types of art to sell.

4. What kind of art should you sell?

Of course, if you have a passion sell what feels true to you. However, some mediums like sculptures are more difficult to reproduce for merchandise applications. Most 2D mediums however are easily scalable. 2D has multiple options for generating unlimited sales on a single work.

Consider selling the following:

Original fine art, limited or open edition prints, digital downloads like desktop wallpaper, stock photos, and quote prints, custom and commissioned work merchandise like hats, mugs, t-shirts, and enamel pins repeat prints on fabric or wallpaper, licensing work to other e-commerce merchants, and collaborations with merchants and creators. These are easily scalable, easy to ship, and they can accommodate a wide price range. 

Now you can take the approach of sticking to one medium you specialize in and going for it full force, or you can diversify to open up your potential streams of income. So for example, Maria uses Shopify to diversify her offerings. She sells prints, apparel, and other merchandise on her website.

Let's talk about offering limited edition versus open edition. Both have pros and cons.
Reproducing work on t-shirts or mugs means that a single job can pay off indefinitely. The model does require less time and effort to create and sell.

Open edition means your business is more easily scalable, but the art also does lose its perceived value. Open editions can also make your work vulnerable to copycats. When you sell limited edition work, the effect is like a limited-time offer. It creates a sense of scarcity and urgency, which is actually an excellent marketing tactic. It also increases the perceived value of your work. So much so that resale prices become inflated.

Ken says, "a lot of the things that we sell have secondary market values. You can go onto websites like eBay and find those works selling for, in some cases exponentially more than the original price, because the demand is so high." It's not all bad though. High resale value is favorable to a brand's image and demand.

The only problem with limited edition is that it requires more time and it requires more effort to make, to put online, and then to sell it. It's not a scalable tactic specifically, for independent artist's.

5. Best practices for selling art in an online store

When you are setting up your online art store, choose a theme that allows your art to breathe. Utilize large images and lots of white and negative space. Minimal is a freestyle that many artists use, or you can check out the Shopify theme store and browse by the art industry.

California is also a good paid option for a clean design. Add on any apps that help you run your store more effortlessly, allowing you to focus on the creative aspect of the business. If you sell your artwork via prints and merch apps like Kite, Guten or Printful can sync up with your store.

Maria enjoys these because she can focus less on the logistics and more on the creating side of things. She says, "I use an app to do the printing and delivering. All I have to do is upload and let it do the work for me. Now I can focus on actually creating the artwork rather than the printing, packaging, shipping every single day, spending at least three, four hours doing just that. Now, I can use that time to brainstorm and come up with better things and connect with people."

Here's a tip
Use variants in Shopify to provide customers not only with size options but finish and framing options. And you can set the pricing to be different for different variants as well.

6. How to photograph your artwork to sell online

Photographing and representing your products clearly and accurately is important in all areas of e-commerce, regardless of your industry. Without the ability to be in front of the product, customers need to get the best sense of what they're buying through clear and detailed images. If your image is lit and low-quality basement lighting, or if there's clutter in the background, you're going to have a harder time selling your work.

Photographing art is a little trickier than shooting other products and a basic lighting setup may still cause glare on glass or color irregularities. Otherwise, consider hiring a professional to shoot larger works of art or art with any three-dimensional elements or 2D works. However, ''Ken recommends scanning as an affordable and effective alternative to photography.''

That way you're getting a high res image and consistent lighting. The most cost-effective way to do that is to get a desktop scanner and scan that work in parts. And you just stitch it together in Photoshop. If you've got a piece that's got a high gloss coating or a resin, that's going to be a little bit trickier, but for the majority of works on canvas or paper, it is pretty straightforward.

7. The best ways to ship your art

If you're shipping original art or elect to ship prints and canvasses yourself, take extra precaution with your packing. Prints and posters are best shipped in cardboard mailing tubes and smaller prints in rigid cardboard mailing envelopes. Use a glass line, which is water and grease-resistant paper, or clear cellophane sleeves to protect prints within the packaging.

Framed works and canvases require additional precautions, the UPS store and packaging supply shops like Uline offer packaging and shipping materials designed specifically for the art. Ken says that "there are a lot of little tips and tricks that can help keep shipping lower for art collectors.

For example, the cost to ship a large painting that stretched on a canvas can be pretty substantial, especially if you're getting into oversize dimensions. Sometimes I will unstretched a canvas, roll it in a tube, and ship it that way, which dramatically lowers the freight costs for customers. And then they can have that canvas stretched locally.

By the way, insurance is important when shipping original work, since lost or damaged work can't really be replaced. Many standard carriers like: FedEx and USPS offer fairly basic insurance on most packages. Merchants should look into what's covered, what's not covered, and the costs associated with higher-value pieces. Take additional measures to ensure the safety of the work.

8. Best methods to print digital art

It's possible to create quality, prints yourself with the right paper ink and the right printer. You can also offer your customers framed options and DIY the framing. As a new artist, this method can keep costs low, but it's not sustainable or scalable.

Maria did this in her early days. "In the beginning, I would print, package, and deliver by hand. I did this for about a thousand orders. Every morning I would get up, go to the print shop, package all the prints, and go to the Canada Post office.

The volume became so much that I couldn't make time to draw or to be an artist." For a completely hands-off approach, look for a print-on-demand and dropship company. For example, Maria now uses Printful for her online store.

9. How to work with galleries, pop-ups and be involved in offline events

Selling work online is great for expanding your audience geographically and scaling your business. But artists should also connect with fans and find new audiences in person. In-person experiences will drive people back to your store.

Consider the following:

Partner with a gallery to exhibit work, look into local art markets and events, set up a one-time or semi-permanent booth, consign work through gift or lifestyle stores, or set up a small pop-up within an existing store. 

Open your studio to the public when you launch your website or keep consistent weekly open studio hours. Run a pop-up shop and partner with other artists to reduce the costs.

Here's another tip for you
Sync your online and offline sales by using Shopify POS for in-person selling. This will help you centralize your inventory and sales in a very neat and organized way. In this article, you just learned nine pro tips on how to turn your passion for art into a successful online business.

I'm going to leave you with a quote. Scott Adams said, "creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." It's the same thing with business. Allow yourself to fail, to find success in places that you'd least expect. Drop me a link to your Instagram or website in the comments so that I can check out your art.

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