Selling Art Online: Some Basics To Consider

by Catherine Jeltes in Studio Bits
When I began selling art online over seven years ago, online art galleries were in their infancy (in fact, handmade market giant Etsy was only two years old.)  There were few online artist veterans, many of which had been testing the waters on online platforms such as Ebay.  At the time, “serious artists” only sold in brick and mortar galleries.  Now, however, you would be hard pressed to find any artist who does not sell their art online–or doesn’t have an online presence of some kind.  Lots of information is available with regards to online art sales (how to optimize for SEO, how to market through social networking sites, how to use Google Ads, etc.) Personally, I like to hear about other artist’s experiences–first hand knowledge is often the most sound advice.  In that spirit, here are a few points to consider when selling art online.

Don’t Put All Of Your Art In One Cyber Basket

When selling anything online, you want to maximize your online presence to increase your exposure and customer base.  You may choose to sell your art through several online platforms that already have an established customer base, such as Etsy, Yessy, or Fine Art America.  However, take care not to have all of your art on only one site that is owned and operated by someone other than yourself.  If you do, you risk losing your entire online presence if that platform goes out of business, changes their business model, or changes hands. 
When I began selling my art, I started with three sites:  Yessy, Fine Art America, and Boundless Gallery.  In 2010, Boundless Gallery went out of business…and gave its artists only one week notice.  Had that been my only online site, I would have lost my entire online presence and would have been forced to scramble to get another site up and running–in under a week!  As it was, I had other sites to fall back on…as well as my own website, which brings me to my second point.

Have Your Own Website

Using online platforms such as Etsy can be a wonderful thing:  they have an established customer base as well as an online community of artists with which to network.  However, since those sites are owned and operated by someone else, you are subject to any changes they make on that site and are bound by their rules and regulations.  If they change how items are searched for on that site or how those items are categorized, too bad.  If they decide to require fee based marketing to promote your items, you either have to comply or accept you will have less opportunity for exposure than those sellers that do pay extra marketing fees.  Plus, your art is competing with thousands of other artists within that same marketplace.  With your own website and domain name, however, YOU have control.  You can post any type of art and categorize that art any way you want with no restrictions.  When clients are on your site, you are not sharing those clients with anyone else on your site; they are there for YOUR art and your art alone.  (To learn more with technical “geek speak” like open source and closed source, please read this post from Moshe Mikanovsky Art.)

Have a Range of Price Points

 While you may have a higher priced tier that really shows off your talent as an artist, not everyone who is drawn to your work will be able to afford (or will want to pay or have the room for) a more expensive–and possibly oversize–piece.  Often, those smaller and/or less expensive artworks serve as the introductory piece for a collector–a wayto familiarize themselves with your work without too large of an investment.  For me, I offer small size paintings such as aceo’s for a fraction of the cost of a large painting, yet the aceo’s are still original artworks.  I also offer a range of prints sizes, both for my photography as well as for sold paintings.  If you are a painting artist, I strongly suggest you consider offering prints of your paintings–either open or limited edition prints.  They can be a wonderful supplement to your income stream that performs while you are working to create original art–and one that can be the perfect introduction to your work for new collectors.

Don’t Undervalue Your Work

It is human nature to attempt to get the most for the least, in terms of cost or effort.  As art is not a necessity but a luxury (yes, I know…it is a necessity for me as a creative personality but biologically speaking, I do not actually need it to exist), the monetary cost of art is subjective.  You and you alone ultimately determine the price of your artwork, based on factors such as the cost of your materials, your professional experience and/or training, your target market clientele, the art market itself, etc.  So what I am saying is this:  do not let the temptation of a sale determine how you price your art.  Price it irrelevant of the sale.  Be prepared to lose the sale.  It takes some practice, but in time you will get comfortable with this.  If you don’t think your art is worth the cost, no one else will either.  If someone wants to buy discount art, there are markets for that.  That is what Bed, Bath, and Beyond is for 🙂 Your professional training, experience, and skills are worth something.  People do not question the cost of a surgery or a lawyer’s fee.  They pay it because they want that highly qualified individual to provide them with a service.  Do not undermine your skills and professional qualifications by accepting the notion of “the starving artist.”
 Obviously, these points are far from inclusive and I could go into far greater detail, but I’ve found these four points to be useful knowledge which an artist can use to begin building a successful online presence.  If you have anything to add, please let me know.  I’d love to hear about it!