Until recently, most art sales took place in person — either in a gallery, a studio or at an auction house. No longer. More and more, art buyers are turning to the internet to search for and buy works of art. Here’s your step-by-step guide for how to sell art online and take the virtual scene by storm.
How to sell art online in 4 steps
Ready to bring your artwork to the virtual world? Follow these four steps to get started.
Make a plan.
Use your own website.
Start relationships with future buyers.
Sell art online at a marketplace.
Art sales aren’t limited to in-person interactions. Create a strong online presence to showcase your work, and your beautiful designs could find a new home.
1. Make a plan
OK, this might not be your strong suit, but a little planning will help you choose where and how to sell your work online. Knowing the who, what and where of selling your art will inform every other decision you make. Skip this step at your own peril.
- Decide what you’ll sell — original work only, limited edition prints, print-on-demand or commissions?
- Define the type of people most likely to buy your work — including age, income, aesthetic and favorite social media platforms.
- You’ve already done most of the work — now just pull it all together into a business plan. You’ll need this if you ever apply for a business loan or grant.
Once you’ve nailed down these details, it’s time to talk platform.
2. Use your own website
Having your own website takes more effort than creating a listing with an online marketplace or POD company. But for the serious artist, this isn’t an either/or situation — it’s a both situation. If you hope to build a loyal following, you’ll need your own website to sell art online. You can use your marketplace listings as a way to bring people to it.
The process for launching a website to sell art online is fairly straightforward:
Go ahead, give it a try:
To create your own independent store and sell art online:
- Choose an online store builder like GoDaddy GoCentral Online Store. Look for a site builder that’s mobile-friendly, accepts all major credit cards and has an SSL certificate, search engine optimization (SEO), social media and email marketing built in.
- Buy an SSL certificate to safeguard payment information (free with GoCentral Online Store).
- Set up a merchant account/payment gateway (included with GoCentral).
- Figure out how to offer shipping (takes two minutes with GoCentral).
- Link your new site to your social media pages (yep — built into GoCentral).
- Select an email marketing tool (also included with GoCentral).
Fill it with work
This is the important part, so take your time. Like in a gallery, how you present your work affects how you sell art online:
- Create a killer header image, along with some text about what makes your work special. Google loves words, so be your most outgoing self.
- Write About content that tells your story in the first person, describing what experiences or beliefs drive you to do what you do (and sell art online).
- Add high-quality photos of work for sale. Fully describe each piece, using words that can be understood by anyone — even those without any art understanding.
- Set your prices. Not sure what to charge when you sell art online? Get insight on using prices of comparable works by other artists to set your prices.
Bring art buyers to it
Don’t wait for buyers to stumble across your website. To sell art online, make sure your site is easy for search engines to find and read. You can do this yourself or let GoCentral’s built-in search engine optimization wizard do it for you.
- Add keywords to your web pages.
- Prepare your images for search engines.
- Keep buyers on your site by making sure your images load quickly.
Editor’s note: Get to the fun part faster with GoCentral Online Store’s pre-built templates. Your art will be beautifully displayed in no time.
3. Start relationships with future buyers
Although the tools to sell art online have changed, it’s still very much about relationships. The better you are at starting and nurturing relationships, the more loyal customers you’ll attract.
Here are some tips on using social media and email to strike up new friendships online:
- Start collecting emails. Actually getting people onto your site is hard, so you don’t want to let them slip away without leaving an email address. Most good online store builders come with a signup form already built in. Get tips on how to get visitors to leave you their email addresses.
- Get active on Instagram. This is possibly the best way to be discovered by collectors, followed by Pinterest or Facebook. Don’t think you need social media? According to a recent Artsy survey of collectors on Instagram, more than half have bought works from artists they first discovered there.
- Start a blog. Posting articles of interest to collectors and other artists is a great way to widen your reach. Not sure what to write about? Get ideas here.
- Set up a series of automatic emails. With a product like GoDaddy Email Marketing (this tool is included with GoCentral Online Store), you can set up a campaign to keep your customers in the loop.
- Consider doing podcasts. (If not your own, ask to be interviewed on someone else’s.)
- Film some YouTube videos. (Same as above.)
- Participate in art groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Do Facebook Live broadcasts at gallery openings.
- Ask to be featured on art blogs. From interviews, to guest posts, to featured artist and more, these are just more ways to get your name out there.
Relax. You don’t need to do all the things on this list. The important thing is to pick one network and dive in. The artists who sell art online the most will post regularly, telling readers about their lives, as well as their art. When fans comment, they respond. Consider it the Friday night gallery opening of the new millennium — a cocktail party that never ends.
4. Sell art online at a marketplace
Selling through an online marketplace is a little like selling through a gallery, in that the site owner gets a cut of the profits. How much of a cut depends on the level of service the marketplace provides, as well as their reputation and client list.
There are three broad categories of online art marketplaces where you might be able to sell your work — uncurated, print on demand (POD) and juried.
As mentioned above, it’s best to consider your listing in these marketplaces primarily as a way to drive traffic to your own website.
Uncurated open marketplace
Open to anyone, these sites often charge a commission or listing fee. The downside? It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, or for customers to get distracted and drift away from your listings:
- Saatchi Online. Anyone may list paintings, collage, photography, drawings, sculptures, mixed media, prints or installations for sale. Opening an account is free, although artists pay for packing. Saatchi keeps a third of every sale.
- Abstract Art Gallery. Abstract artists who list here receive a big chunk of the price when their work sells. You’re responsible for driving buyers to your page and shipping. Open to artists anywhere in the world.
- Amazon Art. Setting up a shop is free if you expect to sell fewer than 40 items per month, but costs a monthly fee if you sell more than that. Currently only open to 2D artists (sorry sculptors, potters, and glass or wood artists).
- eBay Collective allows artists to open stores, choosing from three plans with three different monthly fees. You’ll also pay listing (insertion) and sales (final value) fees.
- Etsy allows you to build a store for free, although there are listing, transaction and payment processing fees when you sell something.
Print on Demand (POD) providers
These services allow you to make money by selling selected images printed on paper or a variety of other objects, ranging from mobile phone cases and mugs to pillow cases and T-shirts. Might pay the electric bill.
- DeviantArt. An art-centric social network where artists working in all media can create free galleries of their work, earning most of the price on digital downloads through their Premium Content plan. Includes a POD service that handles printing, framing and shipping of prints, posters and canvases.
- ArtPal. Artists in all media can sell art online with free galleries (but unless you drive people to it, few might find it). ArtPal also offers a POD service where they handle the order, printing and shipping. You’ll pay a modest commission on any original work you sell here.
- Fine Art America. This POD provider has a premium plan that allows you to set up your own website for print on demand sales. You set prices. Open to visual artists and photographers only.
- ImageKind. Sell framed giclee prints at markup prices you set; ImageKind handles all the ordering, printing, framing and shipping. Memberships start from free and go up from there. In addition to your printing markup, you make a commission when a buyer orders matting and/or framing.
Curated online markets
Curated marketplaces are selective about who they represent, so many don’t accept submissions to sell art online. Just like a real gallery, these marketplaces help prepare your work — set prices, post photos, and write descriptions of the work, as well as the artist’s biography.
- Daily Painters. The “first and largest juried gallery of daily painting artists,” Daily Painters offers two membership options, with the more exclusive option reserved for those with a unique painting style, an active blog and two to three new paintings “most” weeks. Works are linked to the artist’s website or blog, where buyers can make their purchase.
- Minted. Getting in requires winning one of Minted’s monthly art and design challenges, which are crowd-judged by Minted’s international community of artists. Winning designs are produced and sold as art, home décor and stationery, with the artist receiving a portion of each sale.
Sell your art online
Selling art online isn’t simple, but it isn’t a mystery either. Just follow the above steps to sell art online (or anything, for that matter). Make yourself visible — on social, on art marketplaces and on your own website. Respond when people reach out to you. Keep checking things off this list — a website today, Instagram tomorrow, an art marketplace listing next month — and in time, the world will be yours.
Also published on Medium.