How to Sell Art Online and Off: Get Your Work Seen and Sold

howtosellartWith the advent and increased ubiquity of the Internet, selling art has become easier for the artist looking to sell their work. It used to be, an artist would have to depend on themselves and their network of friends and colleagues, such as art dealers, galleries and patrons to earn money from their work. You may want to learn behavioral sales techniques for creating a connection when you deal directly with customers; communication skills go a long way; but nowadays setting up shop as an artist is as easy as starting an Etsy account or making your own web site.

Methods and Outlets for Selling Art

  • Art Galleries and Art Stores This method may be the oldest, yet toughest to pursue. It requires the artist to hit the pavement and go into galleries and other art dispensaries and try to convince the proprietors to carry their art in their space and sell it. This method only works if your town has a network of artists and galleries, which isn’t much of an issue these days, but in the past, in smaller communities it was possible that there were no galleries and you may have been the only artist around. Conversely, if you live in a large city like New York or Chicago, where art galleries abound, there are also that many more artists to compete with. The art world much like the business world lives by the motto of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The split of profits between a gallery and artist are typically an even 50/50 split. Sometimes, if an artist is able to forge a lucrative partnership with a gallery, the gallery may start acting as a patron to the artist and may commission and fund future projects, as well as promote the artist and their work.
  • Local Restaurants A lot of locally-owned bars and restaurants will cover their walls in the works of local artists and offer them up for sale. Usually managers and owners are excited to not only showcase local talent, but to also jazz up their space with some cool art. Sometimes, they’ll even throw an opening party for the artist and offer cheap food and drinks to bring in potential buyers. While not as prestigious as displaying work in a gallery, restaurants usually aren’t as picky regarding the actual quality of the work and is a good outlet for fledgling artists.
  • Networking Most towns will have a community of artist that help each other out. If you’re new to town, ask around and find out where they hang out, or take the initiative and go to bars, cafes or universities and ask around or check to see if there are postings of art showings or other related events. Then just talk to them and ask them for advice selling art. They’ll probably be glad to help you out.
  • Art Agent This is a person the artist hires to represent them and be responsible for selling their art. The agent will typically do the leg work and contact art buyers and galleries on behalf of the artist and work out a deal for splitting profits. An art agent can make between 15-35% of the final sale price when selling to a buyer. Its usually tough for an artist to find an agent because the agent will judge the art based on its potential to be lucrative rather than their subjective opinion of its quality.
  • Self-Promotion Start an artist page, separate from your personal page, on Facebook or MySpace. These social networking sites are free to start and maintain, and you can not only put up contact information, but more importantly display your work with high-quality photos. If you learn to properly sell yourself and your product, you’ll be your best sales person.
  • The Internet The World Wide Web has revolutionized art selling and given the artist more avenues for selling than they could ever use. What was once the bane of an artist’s existence, selling is now actually convenient and can be done without even leaving the house.

Here are a few sites that artists can use to sell their work. There is no specific focus on any type of media and these sites will sell       anything from sculpture to glassware.

  1. Etsy.com This site charges a fee to artists and other creative and handy folks to provide a platform for them to sell and promote their work all over the world.
  2. Artpal.com This is a free site that offers art ranging from jewelry, prints, photography and pottery among others. The site is very streamlined and straightforward.
  3. Ebay.com Most Internet-savvy people are very familiar with ebay and have probably even sold a thing or two on it. While ebay doesn’t focus exclusively on art, they will sell almost anything known to man. People can bid on your art and possibly drive the price up past any amount you ever thought possible.
  4. Art.com This site is large and elegantly designed and has many sales to bring in customers.

The following sites focus on specific types of media:

  1. Emptyeasel.com These guys focus specifically on paintings as well as offering tips an advice to artists selling work online.
  2. Cafepress.com If your art is more the screen printing type, this is a good site. Those making T-shirts, bags or other homemade arts and crafts will want to check this place out.
  3. Sculpturecollector.com This is a site that brings buyers and makers of sculpture together and provides a virtual marketplace for them to make deals.

Like any other solo business venture, being a successful artist requires a lot of self-motivation as well as the ability to network. Artists in the 21st century have a leg up on those that passed before them in that they can reach millions of people online. As a result, the competition is more fierce and luck is much less a factor than hustling and meeting people and selling yourself as well as your work. While it is important that your actual work is of high quality, whether or not you sell is based less on that than it is on reaching a large swath of potential buyers.