Make More Money! Part 2: Selling Your Artwork

Make Money by Selling Your Artwork - Homely Economics
Number 2 on my potential income list could be the longest post ever!
This topic is huge and compressing into one post won’t truly do it justice, as there are so many ways to make a living (or even just a bit of extra money) from art. I’ll be trying lots of new things in the future, so I’ll be updating this post with links to my new ventures and how they turn out.

About my artwork:

I’ve been making art for decades, with several inactive periods, and several periods of turning to craft. Read more about my time selling at craft fairs here. I’ve got a BA in Fine Art, and after completing a professional practice module during that degree, you’d think I’d be ready to unleash my art career on the world, right?
Well, life happens to all of us, and I did an MA and then decided to focus on getting qualified for a steady (art-related) job and knuckling down to saving for our house. Now, I have that part-time job, we have that house, and I’m ready to get back to my art practice. Now, there are many ways to work and earn a living in Fine Art, and selling art is not the prime point of art… but this is a personal finance blog, and we’re here to talk about money, and we’re not ashamed of that! So what am I trying now to make money from my artwork?

Selling your artwork comes more easily to some artists than others, but there are many ways to go about it.
Right now, I’m going to focus on these things:
1. Selling original pieces
2. Getting commissions
3. Print on demand

Noticed that I’ve omitted galleries? Well, this isn’t something I’m aiming for right now. I know myself – I’m not that prolific, and my paintings take a long time to produce. My sculptures take even longer! I know that right now, with all of my other commitments, I can’t work with a commercial gallery.
Also, at this stage in my life, I don’t want the constraints or the sense that I require external validation. I’d rather make what I want, when I want. This has always been my issue with selling work – I’ve never wanted to feel like a puppet at the whim of the buyer. However, there’s common ground to be found between making what I want and making money.
Later, I’m going to look into Patreon. This looks great, but right now, I’m not ready to commit.

Selling original pieces.

I’ve got a website for my artwork, which is undergoing a bit of tweaking to show off my best work. It’s not easy to set up a stunning site on a shoestring (my current site is my best ever, but I’ve actually thought that each time I’ve redesigned it!) but I just don’t have the money to pour into it.
If you want to sell your own work beyond your family and mates, you’ll need a website. Sure, you could possibly do without, but you’ll have to do the legwork to get yourself and your work out into the world. I don’t want to pound the pavement – I’d rather stay at home as much as I can.
I’ve got friends who sell their crafts on Etsy, and I’m looking into it myself. These are affiliate links – I’m happy to support a platform that lets makers and artists promote themselves.
Also, Amazon has picked up on Etsy’s idea and launched “Handmade at Amazon“. Will this be as good? I’m not sure yet, but have a look and judge for yourself.

Commissions.

This is closely linked to selling original work, but commissions don’t just come to you – you can go after them. Sites like a-n and artsjobs list opportunities that you can apply for. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for relevant opportunities, but my work (representational portraiture) naturally lends itself to portrait commissions, so that’s what I’m going to pitch for. If opportunities come along that I’d fit, I’ll go after them, but I’m going to focus on making myself known as a portrait artist.

Print on Demand.

Now here, it gets a bit tricky. Where’s the division between fine art and illustration? One hangs around the house all day doing nowt because it doesn’t have to, and the other gets up and goes to work in the morning. If I put my artwork on a mug, for instance, it could potentially cheapen it… at least, to some. Postcards and prints? Most artists would be happy with that. I’m toying with both, to be honest.
I’m trying Zazzle for postcards of my paintings, and Zippi for more recent abstract, design-friendly work. I’m keeping the separation because Zippi seems to allow less control over my ‘storefront’ as an artist, and if that’s the case, I’d rather curate my work according to those constraints. In fact, I’m enjoying putting some of my anti-consumerist art onto these sites… talk about a conflict!
The royalties from PoD sites aren’t staggeringly high, but since the outlay is zilch, I can live with that.

Right, so how am I going about it?

First steps are to revisit my portfolio and EDIT. Sure, I had loads of pieces I thought were great before, but now… not good enough. It’s time to make new work, and not just churn pieces out – the quality counts more than the quantity.
I’m working social media – Instagram and Twitter in particular – trying to catch up with contacts and circles I let slide, and make entirely new ones from scratch. I’m also blogging about my work again, which makes me very happy indeed.
I’m also keeping alert for new exhibition opportunities and looking into writing proposals for exhibitions and curation projects.
Will it work? Well, time will tell. Give me six months and I’ll revisit my list with lots of updates! I’ll be writing more about all of the different avenues you can use to sell your art, but for now I’ll leave you with just a few tips that I’ve gathered.

Tips for selling your art

Know your market.

When I decided to ditch the craft arena to return to fine art, I took one of my large oil paintings along to my last huge craft fair. It was a bad idea. It got interest and lots of comments, but the people visiting that fair weren’t there for expensive oil paintings. It generated a fair few rude comments from bolshy middle-aged ladies about my male model, and little else. Even worse, it clashed with the things that I was actually selling!
In future, I don’t know if I’d do an art fair, as I’ve lost my love for the format in general. If I did, I’d be very selective, and I’d advise anyone else to do the same. Also, be prepared with business cards and prices for commissions.

Pick your platform well.

In the past, I’ve tried selling my paintings via eBay and Shpock. My experience with eBay wasn’t great – many artists get on well with it but it’s not for me. I did sell one painting, but I never felt at ease with eBay’s bargain-basement mentality. I’m never touching the auction format again… my work deserves better than that.
My experience with Shpock was even worse – I had such high hopes for that app, because it was free – no listing fees! Great! But… it was full of chancers offering peanuts, or timewasters. I learned that you have to give your artwork the right platform. Look around – would you be happy with the company? If  not, find a better place. Secondhand brick-a-brack hunters don’t want my paintings, and they’re not the audience I need.

Market yourself.

If you don’t want to stump up the money for web hosting, get a free blog. There are other sites that you can try in lieu of your own website, such as Etsy, Handmade at Amazon, Zazzle and Zippi. Even if you only use another 3rd party platform, make yourself look as professional as possible.
If you want to sell via your own website or another platform such as Etsy/eBay/Shpock, you’ll have to include relevant information about size and medium, but in the case of your website, don’t forget to include prices. If you don’t want to spoil the look of your gallery pages, consider dedicating one page to work for sale. Most people will be put off by the idea of having to make contact to find out about prices.
Finally, remember that just putting your work onto your website or onto a PoD site won’t sell it. Competition is fierce, and you’re responsible for putting your work in front of people and giving them a reason to want it. Network like crazy. And remember, when people buy an artwork, they’re buying a bit of the artist as well, so give them a reason to believe in you.
What do you think of my plans? Let me know!
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