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.
If you want to find out more about my artwork and my own plans, read on. Right now, let’s look at 7 tips to help you sell more artwork.
(Remember, all of these are worth trying, but don’t forget that consistently making your artwork should be a given – it’s the only way to keep on improving yourself and your work, and to have new work to sell!)
Action plan for selling more art
1 – Get a website.
You need some kind of web presence.
When I started my art degree, I was expected to have a portfolio, and – gasp – slides! When I finished my degree after a ten-year gap, I was still told to get a portfolio. I splashed out on a stylish A4 book that looked beautiful, but that no one apart from me has ever seen or asked to see.
Every competition, exhibition or opportunity I have ever entered or applied for has required digital images, and usually, a link to your website.
Having your own website gives you complete control over your sales process and how you present yourself.
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!
2 – Revisit your 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.
You need to build trust in your brand and value as an artist, and an abundance of low-quality work will undermine that trust. 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.
Not everyone is a potential customer, and that’s ok!
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.
The point is, a lot of foot traffic outside of your niche is worthless.
There are other sites that you can try in lieu of – or in conjunction with – your own website, such as Etsy. Even if you only use another 3rd party platform, make yourself look as professional as possible.
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. This link will give you 40 free listings to start your Etsy shop!
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 the platform – 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.
5 – Market yourself and your work on social media as well as networking in person.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are really useful for connecting you to an audience, with Instagram and Pinterest in particular being more visual, and therefore highly suited to artists.
Blogging about your work has the dual effect of increasing traffic to your art website as well as focusing your mind on your artwork.
However you’ll have to be prepared with business cards and prices for commissions for those real-life marketing and selling opportunities! Follow artists, art schools and galleries on social media and attend their events and private views. There’s nothing that artists like more than to chat about their work, so make some connections (but don’t be fake – find someone whose work you truly do admire to connect with).
Sites like a-n and artsjobs list opportunities that you can apply for – a-n has a membership fee, but it brings you access to the UK’s professional artist network, as well as public liability insurance, which you will definitely need if you plan to exhibit or sell your work.
These networks provide you with opportunities to meet other artists and join a community of people who have the same goals, which is precisely what you need.
Print-On-Demand (PoD) sites such as Society6, Redbubble, Zazzle and Zippi can be helpful, although they’re not for everyone. You upload an image and a customer uses that image on their chosen product, be it a mug, a canvas or a t-shirt. The royalties from PoD sites aren’t staggeringly high, but since the outlay is zilch, I can live with that.
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.
Remember that simply 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. That’s why you ‘ll need to use social media to drive traffic back to your listings.
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.
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?
Right now, I’m going to focus on these things:
1. Selling original pieces
2. Getting commissions
3. Print on demand
What I’m not aiming for right now
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 – it’s naive to believe that buyers will flock to me if I don’t care about what they want!
Later, I’m going to look into Patreon. This looks great, but right now, I’m not ready to commit.
Will it work? Well, time will tell!
Over to you…
What do you think of my plans? Share yours in the comments below!