With unemployment rates at the highest they’ve been in five years[i], people are being pushed to look at their skills and what they can do to earn money outside of traditional employment.
For some people, becoming unemployed presents an opportunity to try self-employment or to have a go at making money doing something they love. During the Coronavirus pandemic, thousands of artists flocked to platforms like Etsy, Red Bubble, and TikTok, attempting to sell their art and build bigger followings. With the technology we have in 2021, it’s easier than ever to sell art online. Although this is great in some respects, it can make it harder to stand out amongst the crowd, and knowing where to start can be a struggle.
How to Sell Art Online
There is no easy method of selling art online. If you want a steady flow of income, you need an outstanding idea that’s sellable, profitable and difficult for others to replicate.
Below, we’ll walk you through what you need to do to start selling your art online.
1) Digitise your artwork
Digitising your artwork is the first step to selling art, whether you’re only selling originals or you want to sell prints. The process is simple enough, but you’ll need some equipment to get started.
- Scan it in. If your art is smaller than A4, you can scan it in easily. You’ll need to make sure the scanner you use is of a high quality so you don’t lose any details. If you’re proficient with photo editing software, you can use it to touch the scans up if they need it.
- Take a photograph. This is the best option for anything that won’t fit in a scanner. If you have a camera, take a photograph of your art and upload it to your computer. If you don’t, ask a friend with a camera to help you out or go to a professional for high resolution shots.
If you’re digitising to make prints, remember that your copy will need to be of printable quality. This means it needs to be correctly sized with no streaks, light glares or other imperfections.
2) Make your prints
You can skip this step if you only want to sell original pieces. It’s commonplace for flat media artists to create a painting or drawing and sell prints of the original instead of replicating it. Prints are generally a lot more affordable than original pieces and are a great way of making your art more accessible to fans whilst still making a profit.
After digitising your artwork, you’ll be ready to make prints in one of the following ways.
Print them yourself
Handling the printing yourself means you get more profit for each print, and you can print art as and when you sell it. However, you will need to splash out on a high-quality printer and choose quality card stock. Upload your product to your preferred platform, and when you get an order, print & send it out.
Use a professional printer
Choosing a professional graphics printing service is a good plan when you’re getting a high level of orders. This will save you splashing out on a printer, ink and card. The cons of this are that paying for this service will eat into your profit margin, and if something goes wrong on their side your customer will be waiting a lot longer to receive their print. You’ll also need to try and predict how much stock you’ll sell when you order from them, which may result in you having excess prints.
Use a print on demand service
This is a very popular option for artists and photographers. You upload your artwork to a platform, and the company in question will print and send out orders as they come through. This limits the amount of manual work you have to do, but your profits won’t be as high, and you won’t be able to add a personal note or nice touches to your packaging. Some popular print on demand sites are Redbubble and Printful.
3) Price your work
Putting a price tag on your art is tricky, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s vital not to overprice because your sales will suffer, but you also need to know your own value to make it worthwhile. A good guide for pricing your artwork is as follows:
- Cost of materials – how much did the materials cost that you used to make your art? Double this cost so you make back everything you spent
- Cost by size – how large is the piece? Some artists calculate cost based on square inch (square inch x £)
- Cost of labour – how long did it take you? Some artists follow this formula: hourly wage x hours spent + cost of materials
Of course, prints will come out a lot cheaper. Consider the cost of materials, the time it takes you to make and package a print, the popularity of the print, and how much profit you want to make from it.
4) Choose a platform to sell on
Choosing a platform is relatively simple, and the best part is that there’s no limit to how many platforms you can sell your art on. However, there can be quite a lot of admin associated, so don’t overwhelm yourself.
Carefully read the terms and conditions for each platform for an idea of if they charge you to sell and what potential limitations there are. These are some of the most popular places to sell art online:
- Etsy – the perfect platform for smaller indie stores. Etsy takes about 10% of the profit from sales.
- Folksy – another great platform for smaller stores. Folksy also takes around 10% of the artists profit.
- Not on the High Street – better for bigger sellers with an established customer base, this platform only gives 75% of the sale price to artists.
- Amazon – this is better for bigger stores, but can be quite profitable if you’re mass-producing prints, canvases, printed clothing or framed art
- Your own website – if creating and selling art is a full time job or even a profitable side-line, it may be worth setting up your own Ecommerce site. Doing this will give you more freedom in terms of design, technical elements, and will mean you get 100% of the money from each sale. Shopify, Wix and WordPress are some great website builders.
5) Market your art
The methods you choose to market your artwork will make or break your success as an online art seller, so it’s important that you get it right. These are the best ways to market and promote your art:
- TikTok – with 800 million active users, TikTok is a platform that is worth investing time in. Spend just a few minutes scrolling and you’re bound to find at least one resin artist, painter, or graphic designer showing off their skills. Going viral here basically guarantees you’ll sell out of stock within 24 hours – just don’t forget to put your shop link in your bio.
- Stay on brand – although you aren’t a multimillion pound business, you still need some level of branding to keep your marketing consistent. Choose a logo, a colour palette and a message to stick to.
- Other social channels – Facebook & Instagram still have their place. Getting in the right groups and using the right hashtags will help you to succeed. The key to getting sales here is posting consistently high quality content on a regular basis.
- Participate in forums – forums may seem like an internet dinosaur, but they’re still thriving. Get involved in forums with other artist and become an active member of a community. Even if you don’t get too many sales, it’ll help you stay connected.
- Keep it local – now more than ever, people are desperate to support local businesses. Take advantage of this by advertising your goods in local Facebook groups, support other businesses in your area by commenting on & sharing posts, and collaborate with other local artists.
- Enter competitions – take some time to find and enter competitions within your niche. It’ll get your name and artwork out there and could lead to a nice amount of sales.
- Put on or join in with art shows – art shows are great for many reasons. They give you a chance to show off your best work, generate sales and give you an invaluable opportunity to network with other creators. They’re also good fun!
6) Don’t be afraid to change tact
When you enter the art game you have to be prepared for some level of turbulence. If you’re going at it for months and you aren’t seeing a return on your investment, you might need to change the direction you’re going in. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it just means a change in perspective. The internet art niche is busier than ever, sometimes you have to try a dozen different tactics to break through to your audience. Your hard work will pay off eventually!
Thicknesse, E., 2021. UK unemployment rate jumps to highest for five years. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cityam.com/uk-unemployment-rate-rises-to-highest-since-2015/
[Accessed February 2021].