How to sell your art online and make money
In order to sell your art online, you need people to visit your site to know about you, fall in love with your art, and buy your art. Numbers matter! It’s like buying a lottery ticket. The more lottery tickets you have, the more chances you win.
Let’s say your site or marketplace has 100 visits per month. A great conversion rate is between 2% and 5%, which means you sell to 2 to 5 persons. Yet, reaching 1% is already a challenge.
Estimate that every point you don’t check on the checklist will lower by 0.1% to this rate. You don’t get any chance to sell even if you have a big audience. You can apply this to your website or any selling platform you use.
Is it worth selling art online?
Despite the commission rate online being in general lower, it can depreciate the value of your original art if you sell its reproduction. Think about your art business as a whole. If you are tech-savvy or not into local networking, selling art online may be your best choice but you will have to face higher competition.
What is the best website to sell artwork?
In most cases, you don’t need a license to list your first artwork online. However, once you reach a certain threshold, your activities will be considered a business, not a hobby. As a reference, you should not make more than minimum wage and still call it a hobby. As a business, you need to do your bookkeeping and planning to optimize your tax contribution. In many European countries, you must register as a legal freelancer, just like a doctor or a lawyer. Every country has its rules set by its taxation authority.
Sell your art online for free:
Consider selling digital art or print-on-demand as it doesn’t need shipping. Open a PayPal account and choose a platform with no cost are good to start with. Here are 4 free places to start with:
1. Found Myself
A small community with high proximity. Found Myself takes no commission, and no fees until 1GB of storage. There is an online store builder.
Great for starting your online store without cost nor transaction fees with 5 artworks. BigCartel doesn’t drive you any traffic so the promotion work is all yours.
No membership fees, No commission. The general quality there is average but ArtPal is a good opportunity to start. The website is getting old and their business model is obscure.
Vsual is a great free platform for print-on-demand. The shipping is from the US and Europe. The quality of their framing and print is above average. They get a commission on sales.
How do I start selling art online?
- Develop a visual style combined with your individual authenticity.
- Make professional photos and videos of your art.
- Register to an online payments system such as PayPal and validate it with your bank account.
- Grow an audience locally, via social media or SEO with your website.
- Choose the sales channel that fits your art.
21 Selling artwork online tips
1. Use a fast and simple site
Make your sell channel fast, and reduce the steps to sell to the minimum.
For every additional second, a page takes to load, 10 percent of users abandon it.
How? Speed test on PageSpeed Insights and follow their advice. If your platform is slow or cannot be optimized, change it. (Update: there is a new tool that checks the whole website at once. I really recommend it if you have many pages.)
2. Secure your site
Your website or platform needs HTTPS with a lock in front of the URL.
Otherwise, a third party could get your client’s data during or after the transaction.
How? Check or get your TSL certificate on your domain name.
3. Allow multiple payments
Your sell channel needs to handle most types of cards and online banks.
You don’t want the payment hassle to stop anyone from placing their order.
How? Most platforms have this taken care of. Use both PayPal and Stripes to get it most covered for your site.
4. Share your business info
Be forthright about who you are and where you are working.
Provenance and transparency are crucial elements in selling your art.
How? Make your info, phone number, personal photo, and address appear in the footer and contact/bio page.
5. Engage with a newsletter
When the price is high, people need to think for some time before buying.
On the registration, ask with a QCM about your audience’s interests. (visiting your exhibitions, getting to know more about you, prints or originals…)
How? Mailchimp has a 10K monthly emailing service for free.
6. Publish reviews from buyers
Use a reviewing system or ask and write reviews from your previous buyers.
Nine out of ten consumers worldwide read reviews before buying online.
How? The best is to mention people (with their permission) who you can link online.
7. Be generous
Give nine times the amount of content before asking once.
The boxing metaphor: you need to hit nine jabs before making an uppercut—the same for selling online.
How? For each artwork, develop the story, the process, and every detail that will make your audience know and love it.
8. Tell your purpose
You need more than art for art’s sake.
Art is a cultural concept becoming less and less trendy in our uncertain times. People want purpose and meaning.
How? Show purpose in your art to establish an affinity with your audience.
9. Show multiple views of your art
Make your audience visually know what they get.
Don’t use stock photos or mock-ups.
How? Show the whole picture of your art, the sides, and the back, in different contexts and close-ups.
10. Number the series/editions
Every collector loves series and categories.
Some collectors prefer a specific number because it has a special meaning.
How: State the numbers in total and which edition number (e.g., 1/10). If you do original, integrate them in a series with a title.
11. Demonstrate quality packaging
Show the container in which you will ship your art.
Will this artwork arrive at my home intact? How well is it protected?
How: Take a photo of the packaged art and give your customers peace of mind. Make a video of unboxing your own art.
12. Write a clear contract
Every online sale is a contract between you and your customer.
Make sure you have the agreement written for both parties to understand.
How: You can use online contract generators that are available online for free. Thirty days return guarantee is a plus.
13. Make a certificate of authenticity
It shows that you are professional and offers an added layer of assurance.
You might become an influential artist someday, and your certified works will gain value.
How: make it unique, beautiful, and hard to copy: Qr code, sign, serial number, hologram, stamp, wax seal.
14. Display expert endorsements
Not from a previous buyer but rather an unbiased opinion.
Ask a gallerist, curator, collector, or art critic to write a small paragraph about your art.
How: get in touch with local or online art administrators associations.
15. Set your final price
Communicate your prices even if you sell in art galleries.
Your final price should be the same for every sales channel.
How: Make a downloadable catalog (pdf secured)
16. Set affordable price
Artworks selling out of price range is a fence to online sales.
People are still uncomfortable paying considerable sums online.
How? Set different price ranges. The smaller the work, the cheaper it is. In the end, the size of it on the screen is the same.
17. Enable pay later
Younger buyers are more into paying later.
There are several interest-free payment options that allow you to “buy now and pay later” with a fee.
How: PayPal pay later is free and you get paid upfront and in full for business accounts.
18. Inform about shipping
Some customers want faster shipping, and some want cheaper shipping. Give the option.
Don’t make the shipping cost more than the artwork.
Return policy for your art: Give your the possibility to return if they don’t like it.
Insurance: Set an insurance option in case the art is damaged in transit.
19. Show Independent valuation reports
To get those, you need to have sold on recognized auctions or galleries.
Many artists are indirectly buying their art through auctions to set their prices.
How? Get the report from entities like ArtPrice, Artnet, Sotheby’s, and Akoun (France). Beware, there are a lot of scams.
20. Prioritize one sales channel
Depending on only one income stream isn’t the best, but if you don’t get to sell one way, you won’t sell another way. Expand on a different sales channel once you are successful with one already.
Important: Few will buy art from a platform they have never heard of.
Your own website
(the main website or a secondary just for selling)
Content Managing System (CMS)
Squarespace, Shopify, Wix…
All-in-one sales platform
Facebook Marketplace with Instagram
Fineartamerica, Society6, SaatchiArt, Etsy, Amazon, Zazzle, Redbubble…
Only go for it if it fits with your art purpose, and not as an opportunity.
Use a currency that fits the purpose of your art, prefer Proof of Stake reliable currencies (Not Proof of Work)
21. Focus on one type of art
As for the sales channel, expand to another type only if you sell. Or at least with a second type not conflicting with the first.
- Original art
- Commission art
- Limited edition works
- Open edition works
- Print on demand
- Hand embellished works
- Digital art
Now that you have read this far, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work. I do not intend to discourage you from selling your art online. Selling art online is like crossing a busy road. We also studied the local possibilities in this even longer article :-).