Any artist will tell you that selling art is not easy. Whether they’re struggling to make ends meet or are an established name in the industry, there isn’t one that will tell you selling your own work is a piece of cake. But, now we’ve driven that damning statement home, here’s some good news – it’s not impossible. You’ll have to work hard both at your art and your marketing and expect a rough start, but if you stick with it, there’s a high chance you’ll get the thrilling experience of being paid for doing what you love. Commonly, only a third of artists’ income comes from their art[i], so don’t quit your day job just yet, but we have some advice on selling your artwork through a profitable independent business. So whether you specialise in painting, prints, drawing, photography or graphic design, here is how you can get started selling your own artwork.
Make What People Want To See
Of course, art is subjective and personal and should express your feelings and opinions, but your feelings and opinions may not be what sells. However, this doesn’t mean you should stop making art for yourself! On the contrary, making art for oneself is a very beneficial hobby and should never be disregarded. Nevertheless, if the main aim is to sell your artwork, you’ll have to consider what your audience will want to see as well as what you’d like to create. Take Andy Warhol, for example – he took popular figures and objects and incorporated them into his paintings. Finding a similar way to merge your artistic desires and the audience’s interests is the perfect way to gain and retain interest.
Stay on top of local and worldwide news, politics, celebrities and trends in colour, fashion and design, amongst other topics of interest, and use these things in your work. As well as what’s popular, include people, opinions, objects, movements and other things you are already interested in, as chances are others will be interested in these too. You could express your thoughts on these subjects or incorporate their images into pieces somehow, but making that connection with the audience will increase attraction.
Once you have a relevant body of work built up and feel ready to start getting it out there, the first step is to market yourself. Don’t underestimate the importance of marketing in regard to selling – without consistent marketing, you’re likely to fall off the radar, especially in such a broad industry as art. You can take several different approaches to market yourself, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get as much attention as you want. Try multiple methods and techniques to find what works for you and your potential audience.
Everyone and their grandparents has social media these days, which making it the perfect launchpad for any independent business.Setting up social media accounts with the name of your business across multiple platforms is one of the most successful ways to get your work out there because it will widen your audience and allow you to interact with them. Set up a regular upload schedule for each account – 2 or 3 times a week is good to stay relevant – and showcase things like your work, supply shopping, your workshop, or your work processes. Try and reply to all comments and messages you get too. This will show that you appreciate what they say, encourage more interaction, and help more people discover your page.
Some good social media sites to use are:
Set Up A Website
Starting up a website where you can showcase work, interact with potential customers and sell pieces is vital to developing your business. There are so many web development services that can make the creation of a website swift and easy, or you can create your own from scratch if you wish. It doesn’t matter how you create your site; as long as you make it user-friendly, easy to navigate, responsive, attractive, engaging and clear, with up to date CV and contact information, you’ll have a good website. If you’d like, you could also start writing blog posts for more traffic to your website. For example, writing about topics relevant to art or your specific niche could draw people to your blog and, from there, to your artwork.
Take good quality photographs of your work or scan pieces in if possible, then upload them to your website with clear labels and descriptions, including the price if you are selling that piece. It’s best to set this up in a similar way to an Instagram feed so that viewers can scroll through different pieces of work quickly and see much more of your portfolio.
Get Yourself Out There (Literally)
Although social media and online setups are a strong starting point, getting yourself physically out there shouldn’t be underestimated. Something as simple as introducing yourself as an artist to everyone you meet, whether a waiter at a restaurant or a friend of a friend, can lead to questions about what kind of work you do and where they can find it. Furthermore, local galleries and art fairs are perfect opportunities to get your work out there and strike up friendships with other creatives. Getting involved with local events like markets or festivals are also an excellent public approach.
How To Work Out A Selling Price
There are several ways to go about working out a selling price for your artwork. If you’re selling your work for the first time, you have to set prices accordingly – just because Banksy sold his latest for £20 million doesn’t mean you can! Consider your status in the industry, the time and effort the piece took and the cost of materials, and be reasonable, not greedy. Here are two of the best formulas for working out a selling price:
(Hourly Wage x Hours Spent) + Cost of Materials
Highly recommended for artists who are just starting, this easy formula ensures that you are paid for the time spent on a piece and the costs of materials. You can decide the hourly wage you set, so make sure it’s reasonable – it’s best to stay around £10-£20 when you’re first starting to sell.
Example: For an artist who charges £15 an hour, works for 18 hours, and spends £60 on materials:
- £15 x 18 hours = £270
- £270 + £60 = £330
(Height + Width) x Multiplier
If you have pieces of varying sizes, this formula will help you easily settle on a selling price that is easy for buyers to understand. Known as linear pricing, you set a price per linear inch (the multiplier) for this method and times this by the combined height and width.
Example: For a 16 x 20 inch piece at £20 per linear inch:
- 16 + 20 = 36 linear inches
- 36 linear inches x £20 = £720
How To Sell Your Art
Okay, you’ve drummed up some interest and got a fair selling price all set up. Now how do you go about finally selling your artwork?!
Sell Art Online
Many options for selling your art online are easy to set up. As mentioned before, creating your own website is best for establishing yourself and showing that you are a professional. That being said, an independent website can be hard to sell your work from since it’s unlikely people will go looking for your website if you’re just starting out. Joining online sites and marketplaces through which you can sell your art helps you get attention, get paid and encourage people over to your website. Usually, the site takes a part of the profits, so directing buyers to your website will mean you get total earnings in the future.
Some good sites to start selling your art on are:
- Paddle 8
- New Blood Art
Sell Art Locally
Selling your art locally is much more complicated than online, but trying will draw attention to your brand even if you don’t make any satisfactory sales straight away. First and foremost, make sure your pieces look presentable – people will be seeing them up close, and they need to look their best. Get your photographs or graphics printed in high quality and ensure that frames and canvases are clean. Then, start setting up local exhibits wherever you can. Local galleries, libraries, cafés, and theatres often host small exhibitions for hopeful artists, so take advantage of this. Get in touch with any art committees in your area to see if you can get involved in local projects, plus businesses that you could provide artwork to decorate their offices. Lastly, getting involved with local charities whose work you admire and giving back to your community will help support the great work they do and your business.
It’s Not Impossible
Once again, selling your artwork is not easy. But it’s not impossible. Staying on top of your marketing, creating a successful brand, being smart with your selling prices, and doing everything you can to get yourself out there will give you and your work a bigger chance of getting noticed and, even better, understood. And it’s this that will lead to those all-important sales. Good luck! Do you have any tips for selling artwork independently? Let us know in the comments below.
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