What is the best site to sell art online?
Picking the right e-commerce solution for your art business is an important step. There are so many platforms and marketplaces out there, which one is the best for your needs?
13 things to consider when choosing an online platform to sell art
It’s ‘hosted shopping cart software’ for short. It allows you to have an independent online store (not on Etsy) without having to have your own website. It’s the opposite of ‘self-hosted shopping cart software’, which you install on your website.
- Pro: You don’t need to pay for, to build or to maintain your own website. You can start selling art within minutes on your social media.
- Con: You might get too comfortable with this simple option and forget that your brand needs an artist website. Also, you cannot add new features by customizing it.
#2: Free plan
The free plan allows you to start selling online without having to pay a monthly fee. It’s a great feature for financially struggling artists or those who don’t want to take any risks. Many hosted platforms offer this option to attract new customers.
- Downside: Free plans aren’t really free. You might be paying more than you’d expected at the end of the day. We take Gumroad for example, the free plan takes almost 10% in total (commission, transaction fee and listing fee).
#3: Staff Account
Artists are presumably Solopreneurs, but this isn’t the case for many. If you have an agent, a friend or an intern to help you out, you might want to check out the ‘staff account’ feature. You can’t just hand over all your online credentials away to another person. Many platforms and App don’t support multiple log-ins to the same account.
#4: Payment Gateways
Different payment gateways might have different processing time, payout transaction fee, credit card rate etc. The most popular payment gateways are PayPal and Stripe. Sometimes a platform could have its own such as ‘Selz Pay’. You can’t choose any payment gateways, you must select from a list of compatible ones.
#5: Instant Payout
Cash flow is another very important factor in any business. If you don’t get paid for a month, would you still be able to run your art business? Cash flow determines if you will make it or break it.
You want to get paid as soon as an order is fulfilled, but the instant payout is not a standard for every platform. Some platforms connect the payment to your PayPal so you get the money directly from your customers. Some platforms (Gumroad, Art of Where) would pay you every Friday.
#6: Number of Products
Many e-commerce platforms that target artists don’t offer unlimited products. There is a limit of 5, 10 or 100 products. This can be very inconvenient when you sell hand-embellished works. Each work is unique, you might want to have a separate product listing for each. As you become more and more productive, you will reach the ceiling for the maximum numbers of products.
#7: Images per Product
Some platforms (IndieMade, BigCartel) limit the number of images per product. It’s limiting your ability to showcase your art. Apart from images, you want HD videos instead of SD videos. Those content will help you capture the heart of your collectors.
#8: Print-on-Demand Automation
Most of the eCommerce platforms work with Printful and Printify. Once a customer places an order, it’s automatically produced without you having to do anything. However, if you want to work with some special local producers or fulfilment centers, you need to make sure your e-commerce platforms work seamlessly with the producer of your choice.
#9: Pay What You Want (PWYW)
Pay What You Want allows your customers to price your products. You can use this as a friendly gesture for digital downloads like eBooks or customized art brushes. You can even give away freebies. If you plan to give away often, make sure your eCommerce platform doesn’t charge you for freebies.
#10: Sell Memberships Courses
Apart from selling art, some platforms allow you to sell memberships to access exclusive content, to receive product subscriptions, or to access online courses. You can use open platforms like WooCommerce to install add-ons. Alternatively, you can also use out-of-the-box solutions like Podia. With Podia, you can sell digital downloads, courses and memberships.
#11: Sell Offline
Artists and craftsmen might have their own studio-storefront or visit craft fairs regularly. You need to manage your inventory so you know which products are available. Also, you need a POS system to receive money if people aren’t carrying cash.
#12: Sell Multichannel
Imagine if you are selling on Amazon and Etsy at the same time apart from your own website, it can be very challenging to manage the product listings.
#13: Sell Services
You may ask: ‘How about selling commissioned art using e-commerce platforms?’ Commissioned works and bespoke pieces are ‘services’ that can be delivered both online and offline. In most cases, you can list them as ‘digital products’ as workarounds. By providing some price estimates and mockups, you are bringing your potential customers one step closer to placing the order.
Based in Los Angeles, Saatchi Art is probably the most visited online marketplace for original works of art. Every month there are over 1.8 million visits to their site. They bring potential customers to their marketplace and charge a 35% commission.
Let’s start with some positive things:
#1: No upfront fees
Saatchi Art allows you to access the global art market for free. Artists from anywhere in the world can start selling on Saatchi Art without paying upfront fees. This is especially valuable for artists who do not have art school education or gallery representation. Without Saatchi Art, young artists might not have the same chance of getting their work seen by collectors.
#2: Fair Ranking System
Unlike Amazon or eBay, you don’t need to pay to boost your presence on Saatchi Art. Your artworks will show up when entering relevant search terms (e.g. abstract landscape painting), or when browsing artworks by category. It’s fair for artists who don’t have the money to promote themselves on a platform. It’s a level playing field for everyone.
#3: Easy Interface
You don’t need any IT skills to manage your own artist account. It’s easy to edit the title, tags and descriptions of your listing page. There are some free analytic tools and blogs to help you boost your presence on Saatchi Art. The more time you spend maintaining your page, the more competitive you will get.
Now let’s talk about the downsides:
#1: Disputed name
Many artists know Saatchi Art because of the reputed Saatchi Gallery or Saatchi & Saatchi company. However, Saatchi art has nothing to do with the Saatchi Gallery today. Originally Saatchi Art was a part of Charles Saatchi’s business called Saatchi Online. In August 2014, it was sold to Demand Media, a New York-based company. Saatchi Online was later rebranded as Saatchi Art, with a slogan: ‘Be original, buy original’.
Saatchi art might lose its name
However, the name Saatchi Art was not exactly ‘original’. Saatchi Art uses British accent in its advertising, trying to use the misleading association with Saatchi Gallery as leverage. In November 2014, Charles Saatchi launched a secession of lawsuits against Saatchi Art, trying to stop them from using his own family name. According to the news reporting, Demand Media might have breached an intellectual property agreement by using the name Saatchi Art.
What if Saatchi Art needs to change its name one day? Could it still attract buyers? Would it affect your earnings on Saatchi Art?
#2: Saturated marketplace
According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 110,000 artists from over 100 countries selling on Saatchi Art. It’s a very competitive and saturated marketplace. If you are not getting the likes and shares on Instagram or YouTube, likely you will not get discovered on Saatchi Art. When you come late to a crowded platform, you are not getting an upper hand.
#3: Fixed commission rate
If you bring your collectors to Saatchi Art, you are still charged 35% commissions. It’s not fair for artists who put a lot of effort into bringing traffic to their page. Plus, you are risking losing your collectors to other artists on the same platform. It doesn’t make sense for artists to actively promote their Saatchi Art page.
There are better ways to calculate commission rate. For example, Udemy only charges you 3% commissions if you bring your own students, instead of the normal 50% rate. It gives you a lot more incentive to bring business leads, far more generous than some affiliate marketing programs.
#4: Not loyal buyers
Saatchi Art is like the Airbnb of selling art. Buyers will browse through hundreds of works upon entering the site. They are constantly being recommended for similar works by Saatchi Art’s algorithm. Even after purchasing some pieces, collectors might not come back to the same artists. It’s possible they don’t even know the names of the artists they have purchased. Saatchi Art gives its buyers a lot of choices, but for the same reason, it’s harder for artists to cultivate a fan base.
#5: Channel conflict with galleries
Some platforms work exclusively with art galleries. Some platforms work with galleries but not exclusively. However, Saatchi Art doesn’t work with art galleries. Sure, it is possible for an art gallery to sell on Saatchi Art, just like an artist. Their 35% commission rate drives most dealers away, unless the gallery is willing to take just 15% cut.
Now you know Saatchi Art and your potential gallery are not friends, you might still wonder why it is an issue for you. The issue you will encounter is called the channel conflicts.
Conclusion: Great for emerging artists
To conclude, Saatchi Art is great for emerging artists who are new to the global art market, and who do not yet work with art galleries. It gives you the chance of being in front of collectors without paying any money upfront. However, you are just one of their hundreds of thousands of artists on a saturated platform like this. There are always new artists joining and appearing in front of potential collectors, competing for the spotlight. Are you ready for this modern rat race?
Tip from Stamatis Pavlis
If the painting is a resale, you take an extra 5% commission. in the US, the law regarding artworks resale needs an authentication strictly from the site that was the first sale to validate it and for that reason, 5% will go to the artist
In some countries, copyright laws grant artists 5% of the proceeds on the resale of their works. This artist royalty will be paid by the professional intermediates who sold the artworks, to the artists who created them. Saatchi Art sells original and authentic works, therefore you might qualify 5% royalty when your works are sold on Saatchi Art as a resale.
Open Call for reviews
Similar to the Artist Studios article, we propose anyone here to share his/her experience about any selling art platform. Send us an email (veryprivategallery””@””gmail.com) with one high-resolution image of the actual art you are selling plus the most specific answer to those questions.
Sell Art Online Instagram account
We will always contact you back to give you any reason in the case it won’t be published. We will share the link to your website if https secured, or the actual page where the art is sold.
Plus we are dedicating an Instagram account for this subject
- How long have you been selling online?
- What kind of art do you sell online? (e.g. originals, limited editions, hand-embellished prints, signed prints or unlimited prints)
- Which websites do you work with? Why sell on these sites?
- What are the biggest advantages of using these sites?
- What are the problems?
- What percentage of your sales are from these sites?
- Do you have an artist website? (Do you mind sharing it with us?)
- Do you have a web store on your own website? Why?