Knowing how to sell art online will help you grow your art business.
It's one of the many ways to generate income which doesn't have a limit to earnings or any gatekeepers to bypass such as galleries.
Apart from teaching art, working as an illustrator or art licensing.
Knowing how to finally sell art online will open up the door to more income and overall satisfaction as an artist.
How I learned how to sell art online
I spent the first 18 months of my art business barely hanging on by a thread. I had just graduated from art school with student loan debt. With just random jobs animation studios and a few illustration commissions here and there, I was barely hanging on.
My art business was scattered and unfocused. I didn't understand how to build different streams of income.
Like most artists, I had always wanted to sell art online. Selling everything from original drawings and paintings to limited edition prints. Maybe an occasional private commission here and there.
However, up until those early months after art school graduation I had a sinking feeling the only way to sell art was to get permission from a physical art gallery to sell my art and give them half the earning.
Or worse, online art sales were ONLY a bi-product of being famous or having THOUSANDS of followers on social media.
Then something happened to me in year two and three after graduating that changed everything. I invested in online business courses and started to apply marketing strategies from other industries (like the movie industry) and developed a repeatable path for creating art sales online.
I learned that the process of how to sell art online is nothing more than getting traffic to your art website, building familiarity with my art newsletter subscribers by sharing my creative process, and inviting my audience to collect my work in a natural storytelling way.
I remember one morning, I checked my sales stats after doing a small art launch before heading off to a freelance animation job.
I had made more money selling limited edition prints of my drawings the night before while I slept than I was going to make all month working 160 hours.
By taking the time to learn how to establishing some basic business systems I had created an additional source of income. A source of income that doesn't require me to exchange my time for money.
Now many years later these same strategies generate art sales no matter where I'm at in the world. Even when I'm out away from the computer, art sales happen automatically.
During a trip to Cambodia, art sales kept happening…
Two things you absolutely need in order to sell your art online.
Before you set out to sell your art online, you need:
- A consistent body of work
- A website you're in control of
If you don't have an art website yet, here's an article I wrote showing you the best options for building one: 5 Ways you can build your artist website
Before we dive into each of these steps we NEED to clear up some common myths about selling art online.
What NOT to do to sell art online
Every day, you and I have a million different options on how we can grow our art businesses:
- Pay for expensive ads
- Blog more
- Redesign your website
- Trying to get the approval of galleries and agents.
- Attempting to get THOUSANDS of followers on social media.
And on and on…
When faced with this infinite number of choices, what do we do? A little bit of everything!
“I know… I’ll start a Twitter account…then post on my Facebook fan page a couple times a day… and try to write more on my blog on the weekend…”
Pretty soon, we wake up jumping from tactic to tactic.
- No time for our art.
- No time to understand the things that actually matter.
It’s no surprise we’re tempted to upload our art everywhere. As if being everywhere online, getting lost in crowds of thousands of other artists online will help.
Here's one thing to remember: Your art business needs to have an accelerator you're in control of.
Your business shouldn't be based on luck. If all of your social media accounts and ads were to get deleted tomorrow, you should still be able to make money in your art business.
You can run your art business in a way where your earnings are directly correlated with your actions. If you push harder on the accelerator, your art business will grow faster.
What NOT to do
I’ve found most artists get stuck focusing on marketing activities they don't control.
This is a problem.
When you want to start and grow your art business online, you must be RUTHLESS with how you spend your time.
- You might want to keep re-designing your art website.
- You may want to keep trying to get THOUSANDS of followers on social media.
Ultimately, you're better off spending your time on things that WILL grow your art business.
And in my experience, you need:
- A measurable – reliable – and repeatable – method for getting traffic to your art website
- A measurable – scalable – and effective – method for selling them things.
The keyword is measurable.
Before you commit to what I'm about to share with you over the next week, you must be willing to get rid of the things that don't matter. So you only work on things that DO matter.
Let's stop working on things we can’t control:
Facebook has changed the algorithm for their News feed. Lowering how many people of your own audience will see each of your posts.
But you know what, it's their platform. They make the rules.
The artists who’ve depended on Facebook are hurting right now. They’ve relied on something they don't control.
The same applies to other sites like Etsy, Ebay, Society6, Instagram, and more. They make their own rules – rules you have to listen to.
You see, most artists using other platforms to market their art have the illusion of control.
“If I just post my art all over Facebook, it’ll pay off.”
What they didn't realize was they were building their art business on the edge of a volcano. Overtime, it started sending a river of hot lava right over their art business.
They were building an audience they didn’t own.
For example, here's what one of my Art Launch Blueprint students, Marbrisa, experienced:
Marbrisa is an artist who was used to getting 200+ new likes on Instagram when ever she posted a new image.
When Instagram changed their news feed algorithm, she had a huge problem.
In her words:
“I recently lost my biggest source of traffic to my art website, up to 30% of my traffic. It was a wakeup call that my art sales up to this point could disappear at any time.”
We're lucky to have any exposure to the right audience. And sure, we can make strides to try and generate more exposure.
But at the end of the day, many artists are still relying on some third party they don't control.
Which is a huge mistake.
When you want to grow your art business, you MUST focus your time on the things you control 100%.
The only things you control are:
- The content you create and share on a platform you own. (Ex: A WordPress or website under a domain your own.)
- Your email art newsletter.
And that's exactly what Marbrisa decided to focus on.
“I had to diversify. Find more ways to attract collectors to my art website. Then optimize my website to get more sign-ups to my art newsletter!. I'm happy with my new approach to growing my audience. Since guest posting on other blogs and creating more compelling content on my blog. My art business has grown into a business I have more control over.”
For now, before we focus on what you should do, we need to avoid spending time on things we don't control.
- What marketing things do you spend your time on right now?
- What's not contributing to real measurable results?
- What one platform do you spend your time on you don't control?
You might realize you're just running in circles. Or what you’re focusing on doesn’t result in new more sign-ups to your email art newsletter, visits to your art website, or new creative clients.
Here’s what you don’t need to worry about right now. In other words, here are the things slowing your art business down:
- trying to get THOUSANDS of followers on social media
- attending networking events
- trying to get into galleries
- hunting for an agent to represent you
- listing your work on all the famous marketplaces online
- business cards
- a fancy logo
- LLC, DBA, incorporating – if you are concerned about any of the legal elements of your business you should definitely consult with a lawyer.
If you find yourself spending too much time on any of these non-essentials, STOP.
In the next lesson I'm going to show you the two main things you need to grow your email list.
Myths about learning how to sell art online
I understand these myths all too well because I experienced each and every one of these. They were challenging to overcome and understand.
MYTH 1: You need to be thousands of followers on social media to sell your art online
Your success as an artist shouldn't be in the hands of a social media algorithm.
Social media is one of the biggest barriers preventing artists from pursuing their art as a business. Yet so many artists put 100% of their effort in growing their Instagram or other social media accounts.
Even if you do gain a large amount of followers, only 3-5% of your followers will ever see your new content. Leaving you with the option of “paying to promote” your new posts.
With social media, you're building your art business on a platform you're not in control of. They can change the rules on you at any time.
I have been selling my art online since around 2005. Before Instagram and Facebook became a “thing”. I focused mostly on doing interviews and guest posts on online publications related to my art. Which generated more people visiting my website.
On my website I had easy ways for people to sign up for my art newsletter.
Then when I had something to collect, I would share the behind-the-scenes and invite my newsletter subscribers to collect my work in a fun storytelling way. Seriously, that's all it takes to sell art online.
For the longest time I had less than a thousand subscribers. But I was still able to make enough money to not worry about having a 9-5 job. Selling $75-$100 limited edition prints and original drawings for $250-$7600.
MYTH 2: You need to be in a gallery
With galleries, you have to deal with gatekeepers and their rules. Often times, not allowing you to sell art online even on your own website or anywhere else in the same city, state, or region (depending on the gallery).
On top of their “rules”, you split anywhere from 40-60% of the sales with them.
Putting someone else in charge of your art sales doesn't make things easier or guarantee more sales.
Today, audiences prefer to buy art directly from the artist. Which is an artisanal experience a gallery can't offer.
MYTH 3: You can't make a living out of wanting to sell art online.
While I’d never want to say you can't, it’s hard to go from 0 to 100 right away. Even for me, it took me a few years to hit that a “livable” mark. You’ll see that I don't make things fluffy. Yes, it’s super possible to make decent money selling your art online, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen during the first few months or year you start doing it.
It's definitely a marathon to build your art business, not a sprint.
MYTH 4: If my art is great, my art will sell itself.
If only that were the case. Sadly, it’s not. In order to sell your art online, you’ve got to an audience for your art. This means, newsletter subscribers who like your work.
Selling your art online means making art and doing the marketing work too. Luckily, it’s totally possible to do both. Yes, even if you’re awkward or even if you’re an introvert (I'm both).
Having a great body of work is only the first part of selling your art online. Being able to get people to visit your art website, or even better, have people visit your art website and have them sign up for your art newsletter – which too many artists miss or think they don’t need.
MYTH 5: You have to be famous to sell art online.
Probably the most mind-numbing myth is that you have to be famous to make any sort of substantial art sales online.
You can make substantial art sales online, repeatedly, with a small audience. With the right pricing strategies, a small and focused audience will generate significant income for you.
It's easy to overcomplicate the process of selling art online. When in reality, selling your art online requires a simple, repeatable process you can setup in no time.
Too many artists say, “I can’t. It’s impossible. I’ll never be able to sell art online,” and become cynical even starting your art business.
Yet the notion that it's impossible to sell art online couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s never been an easier time to sell your art. I know this from countless stories, thank-you letters, and emails from artists on this newsletter.
I want to put some common myths to rest and show you why they’re wrong:
MYTH 6: Only cheap art sells online.
The truth is, it’s easier to sell art that is affordable (< $100) than it is to sell more expensive originals and prints. This is also true for selling your art anywhere – face to face or in a gallery.
It’s possible to sell higher priced art online, but you have to build-up to it – it’s a process. Luckily it’s a process that can be automated. Here’s how:
When someone purchases an affordable print or original work from you, they’re more likely to purchase a more expensive original from you later. These affordable first purchases are a great way to bring your collectors further into your creative world.
Based on my sales history, I know that 6-10% of the people who purchase an affordable print from me will buy these more expensive options during this automated email sequence.
Most artists think if they want to make a living from their art they have to be selling art everyday that is priced in the thousands.
But when you’re trying to sell your art online you aren’t just trying to sell to fly-by website visitors.
You’re only selling to people who’ve purchased something small from you or raised their hand and said, “Yes, I’m interested in hearing more about you and your art,” and joined your art newsletter.
You’re creating collectors for life.
The easiest way to do this is by focusing on getting interested people to learn more about you and your art on your art newsletter, invite them to grab a low risk first purchase, then automate the way you up-sell with an Evergreen Launch email sequence.
MYTH 7: It takes too much time.
In all honesty, there’s no such thing as setting up a business that requires zero investment of time.
I don’t spend more than 8 – 12 hours a month in front of my computer. This includes, building courses, updating my website, replying to every email, helping students, writing 4 articles a month for artists, managing my blog, sharing my work in targeted groups and communities online, and writing to my art newsletter.
The rest of my time is spent making art, working on illustration commissions, and traveling.
Most of the marketing related work you do for your art can be front loaded and scheduled to go out later.
Knowing what to work on and what NOT to work on. Being specific as heck so you aren’t wasting time second guessing yourself when you finally sit down to work on something.
For example, why would you spend 2 hours a week being active on Facebook when you know 99% of your art sales happen when you send out an art newsletter. Something that should take you less than 30 minutes to put together every week.
But knowing what does and doesn't work can take weeks and months of experimenting with.
For example, I could lose all of my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter followers tomorrow – and my art business won’t be affected at all. (I'm just on those platforms for fun and to geek out on other artists work.)
Interesting facts about selling art online
Individual artists can now compete with galleries and sell art online directly to their audience.
I argue that galleries are struggling to compete with individual artists selling their work online.
Because only an artist can talk about their art. Only an artist can connect with their audience via sharing their creative process and compelling content.
There's a level of personable authenticity a gallery can't replicate in the online world.
Based on a survey of only 506 international art buyers by the British fine art insurer Hiscox. They found these interesting facts about online art sales:
- Art collectors and art buyers are already buying art online. 64% of collectors surveyed have bought art sight unseen through a website with little or no interaction with the artist.
- Buying art based on a digital image has become the norm rather than the exception. 71% of art collectors have bought art online sight unseen. 89% of art is sold on the basis of a digital image only. Suggesting art buyers are confident in buying art without first seeing the actual work. Which opens up significant opportunities for an online art e-commerce market.
- Art buyers seek to buy unique works online. Limited edition prints and photography are the most common online purchases. 45% of the art buyers surveyed have brought works of art sight unseen online. 59% of the art bought online are limited edition prints and photography based work.
- Younger buyers increase the potential of the lower end of the online art market. Currently, 43% of the 25-29 year olds surveyed have bought art online (sight unseen). Furthermore, 67% of this age group said they were likely to buy art online in the next year. This suggests there is a new generation of art buyers emerging. Who prefer to use online channels when buying art.
- All ages buy art online. Generational differences in online buying behavior is much less evident in the art market. 55% of respondents in the 65 year plus age group said they had bought art online. 82% said they had bought an artwork based on a digital image only. (See not everyone needs to walk into a gallery to buy art.)
The biggest takeaway is art DOES sale online. And it's easier for the individual artist to accomplish more than ever.
It doesn't matter how “weird” or niche you think your work it. You don't need the permission of a gallery or be the top listed artist on a popular art community site.
You can build your own platform (your art website and email newsletter) and sell the things you make in a natural and storytelling way.
Why today is a great time to sell art online
For the first time, you can share your work, get commissioned by, or sell your art to anyone in the world. You don’t have to live in a major city. Or need any money to set-up a brick and mortar shop.
Now is the perfect time to start your art business.
Just think about what artists had to do in the past: Sending physical prints of their work out to decision makers, physically walk their illustration portfolio into an ad agency. Or walk into an art gallery to try and get their work accepted.
Or set up their own physical art gallery and wait for people to walk in their door.
How many artists hope for a journalist to write an article about them so the world will finally know about their art? And if it didn’t happen, oh well.
Today, things are different:
- We don’t have to wait around for bursts of luck to just happen.
- We no longer have to bypass a gatekeeper to get permission to earn from our art.
- We don’t need a writer from some popular magazine to interview us.
Right now, there’s nothing between us and the largest audience in the history of this planet — the internet.
You can now find and share your work with specific groups and communities who will dig your kind of art and what you stand for as an artist. The exact people who want to hear your story and see your creative behind-the-scenes. People who want to give you money for your art.
No crazy expensive art degrees required.
So what is required to start selling your art online? It's simple –
All you need to get to started at making a living from your art is to have a platform you share your artwork on. Preferably a platform you own, a WordPress website under a domain you own (www.yourname.com) and and something for people to buy.
Once you establish these basics and you sell just one piece of art you can scale and grow. You can automate, create sales funnels, and build systems that make you money even when you’re at out at night or off doing something else.
AUTOMATION: Once you setup some systems for telling your story, you can build systems so your business keeps selling art — even if you’re asleep, on vacation, or out fighting crime. I do this with automated email sequences in ConvertKit.
You'll realize if you can get 1 person to buy, you can get 5. And if you can get 5, you can get 5 per day. It’s not magic or luck, it’s math.
Ignore these invisible scripts
When you set out to sell art online, it might be the first time you're really putting yourself out there. It can feel strange at first. Remember one thing, everyone wants you to do well and see your process. In order to sell art online you have to overcome these invisible scripts.
- “Why would anyone buy from me?”
Why would anyone choose your art out of all these other artists online? Some of them have had websites for years. They have way more traffic, more connections, more money. Why would someone choose you? How would they even find you?
- “All artists are starving artists!”
The invisible script of being a starving artist is probably the biggest hurdle for artists to steer away from. Selling art is literally just like any other type of business. You have to treat it like a business from the start.
- “I don’t know where to start!”
Where do I start? Ugh, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc?! Which one will benefit me the most? Do I need to be on EVERY platform? How do I put the pieces of the puzzle together?
- “I hate selling!”
Selling = sleazy. Does anyone really LIKE to sell? Selling your art is nothing more than telling your story. Why can’t you just do good work and get noticed? How can you start a business on your terms?
- “It’s not a good time right now”
How much time will this take? Who has the time to start another personal project? Especially if you’re not sure it’s going to succeed? Maybe one day when you have more time.
5 Simple steps to sell art online
I love processes. I'm a total geek about them.
When it comes to knowing how to sell art online here is a simple, five step process to constantly refer to.
- Get traffic to your art website
- Grow your art newsletter
- Establish familiarity
- Invite your audience to collect your art
- Automate everything
1. Get traffic to your art website
This is actually a pretty complicated question, so I want to dig deep into it because it's an essential ingredient to sell art online.
A lot of people will tell you:
- “You need to do SEO.”
- “You need to do advertising.”
- “You need to get on social media.”
It’s important to remember there are different stages in your art business.
In each one of those stages, you can focus on different strategies and tactics. But you don’t need to overcomplicate things in the beginning.
At different stages, you can try different things, moving from beginner to more advanced later on. But you can’t do it all upfront.
For example, “pay per click,” (PPC) refers to paid advertising.
You’ve probably seen these types of ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. PPC is great for more advanced businesses because when you get it working, it’s very scalable and provides a predictable ROI if you have a well-performing sales funnel.
For every dollar you put in, you might make two dollars, three dollars or even four dollars. It can be a really powerful tool to help your art business grow.
But the downside is that you need to know your numbers. You need to know what your LTV, or lifetime value, is for every art collector. You need to know your conversion numbers.
To really do PPC right, it also takes a lot of analytics. Most people hire other people to handle this for them.
That’s why I recommend you DON'T start with PPC ads. You should really wait to do this because there are better ways you can get free traffic in the early stages of growth.
Here’s another advanced online business topic: SEO or “Search engine optimization.”
SEO is when you type something into Google, results come up, you click, and you’re like, “Yes! This is exactly what I wanted.”
That’s an example of good SEO in action. This tool can be incredibly powerful for your online business.
Anytime that you generate leads or get traffic to your art website from SEO, you’re getting really high-quality people coming to your site with what’s called “search intent.” All that means is that the person was searching for what you have to offer.
The problem with SEO for artists is that it takes a lot of work and time to start seeing results. It’s also not directly in your control where you rank.
Google might change their policies or how they rank certain key terms. It also takes time for your site and posts to rank really well.
The best recommendation I have for you on SEO is to write authentically about you and your work on your art website. Writing blog posts about your creative process is a big part of selling art online. You may as well optimize each of your blog posts to target specific keywords. Then overtime, your blog posts will slowly generate traffic to your art website.
SEO is an easy win, but is slow. Which is why I don't suggest relying on it in the early stages of your art business.
The BEST way to get traffic to your art website is by getting featured, getting interviewed, and creating guest posts.
Getting in front of the already established audiences of others is the most effective way you can start getting traffic to your art site.
Getting featured in front of the right audience tomorrow could mean hundreds or thousands of new people on your email list this week.
It doesn’t cost you money like PPC. It doesn’t require you to know your sales funnel conversion numbers as paid advertising does.
It’s actually really straightforward.
Getting in front of the already established audience of others just involves you reaching out to niche websites that have more traffic than you do and saying:
- “Hey, I have something that I think your readers would find interesting.”
- “Can I do a guest post for you?”
- “Would you like to set-up a quick interview?” or “I see you feature _____, will you feature my work?”
To this day, I still get traffic from small features and quick write-ups I had on sites from over 5 years ago.
So how does it work?
First of all, you don’t need to go directly to top-notch niche websites in the beginning. That’s really important to understand. Don’t go find the biggest website related to the work you make on the planet and pitch them. It doesn’t make any sense, and you don’t have the credibility just yet.
Instead, you start off small, finding people who are one level above you, and you say, “Hey, I noticed that you have an audience that’s interested in this topic. I think that your readers will probably find my work interesting.”
Then based on the type of content they publish (interviews, guest posts, features, etc…) Ask to be a part of it.
Most niche website owners would love to feature you and your work. You're making their job of creating content for their audiences easier by offering up you and your work.
As you get good at this, you'll be able to leverage this domino effect of reaching out to larger and larger audiences.
For example, you could say, “Hi Niche Website #2, Nice to meet you. I did an interview with Niche Website #1. Their audience loved it! Do you think we could do an interview too?”
Then, you could do this again and again, and again.
You’ll keep moving up the chain, and, soon enough, you’ll be on massive sites. Resulting in the traffic you need to significantly grow your email list.
2. Grow your art newsletter
we're going to talk about getting visitors to your website to actually sign-up for your art newsletter.
Which involves using what's called – a lead magnet
Your lead magnet is a compelling reason for website visitors to signup for your mailing list.
This compelling reason is called your lead magnet.
A lead magnet is something you offer for free to compel the visitors to your art website to sign up for your email art newsletter.
Understand that asking and getting a stranger’s email address is a transaction.
You have to offer something of interest in return for their email address. Preferably something related to you and your art.
If what you offer is something people want and it seems to be worth going through the hassle (typing the email address, worrying about spam, etc…), you’ll gain a new email address to your art newsletter.
The speed of growing your art newsletter subscribers depends on your lead magnet.
Yes, the look, location on your site, and usability of the email optin form all matter – but the actual lead magnet itself is what ultimately get’s people to sign-up for your art newsletter.
The higher perceived value of this, the more email subscribers you’ll get.
Why should you create a lead magnet?
Even if someone comes to your website for the first time and LOVES your work. The chances of them ever coming back on their own is SLIM.
This has nothing to do with you or your art. It’s just how people behave online.
People have to be reminded and stay in the loop about you and your art. The most effective way for staying on the radar of your interested fans is with your email art newsletter.
Even if someone follows you on social media, the chances of them seeing your new content and updates is low. On social media you can expect 3-5% of your followers to see your new content.
On your email art newsletter, you can expect 40–60%+ of your subscribers to see your new content.
It takes time to build trust, instill confidence, and build a relationship with your fans before they decide to buy. Engaging with your mailing list establishes a relationship. A relationship based on consistent content surrounding you and your art.
This is the long game of sharing your ongoing creative story.
Having an attractive lead magnet will dramatically accelerate your email list building.
I'm offering a simple two minute video of me drawing a raven. That's it. As soon as someone signs up, they're taken to a simple thank you page on my website with the video.
If you're just starting out, your could also create a 12-21 page downloadable PDF art book of your art.
This doesn’t have to be anything epic. Just a written intro, bio, and single image on each page will work. You can easily create this for free using Google Docs.
Downloadable PDFs are great lead magnets because they’re as tangible as you can get in the digital world. They’re a digital “thing” or “item”.
Other ideas could include a PDF of any of the following:
- Who and what inspires you.
- 3 of your most interesting blog posts (with images)
- An illustrated story or comic (if this aligns to your work)
Creating a compelling lead magnet will be worth your initial investment of time in the long run if it means growing an audience of fans.
Remember, you're putting in the hard work of getting traffic to your art website by doing the following three things:
- Getting featured on a relevant blog, website, or online publication.
- Getting interviewed
- Guest posting
So you want to make sure your lead magnet is interesting, compelling, and most importantly – related to your art.
You don’t want your lead magnet to be attractive to everyone, just your ideal collectors.
Sure, you could give away free iPads all you want, but how many of the people interested in those would be interested in actually buying your art later? Lead quality is very important and you only want to focus on your target audience.
Making a lead magnet that’s ultra-specific and aligned with what you’re ultimately selling (your art) is the best way to grow a highly engaged audience for your art business
- Get creative and spend the day creating a lead magnet as an incentive for your website visitors to join your email list.
- Send me a link to your lead magnet when you're done.
3. Establish familiarity
The key ingredient for selling your art online is your ability to establish familiarity with your audience.
Familiarity is created by sharing your ongoing journey as an artist.
Sharing things like your sketchbook pages, the progress of what you're working on, and other aspects about you and your work.
When you've established familiarity, the easier it'll be to sell art online. It's as simple as inviting your email list to collect your work in a chill and confident way.
Why should you have to worry about things you're not in control of like galleries, social media algorithms, and trying to get famous when you can make art sales again and again with a small email list of fans.
Even if someone comes to your website and loves your work, the chances of them ever coming back to visit your site is SLIM.
This has nothing to do with you or your work, it’s just how people behave online. They have to be reminded of you so they'll come back to your site and take action. The best way to do this is by focusing on making a compelling and easy for your website visitors to signup for your art newsletter.
After you share your creative behind-the-scenes and process with them for a while, then invite them to collect your work in a natural way. You'll be able to sell art online.
So take your time to nurture the people who come in, show an interest, and most importantly join your email art newsletter.
People who sign up for your email list are massively more engaged than your social media followers.
Which is why it’s crucial you grow an audience on a platform you own – an email list.
On social media you can expect your followers to see 3-5% of your new content. With email, you can expect 40-60% of your audience to see your new content. There's no algorithm to think about.
Personally I use ConvertKit to power the way I send emails to my art newsletter subscribers.
Once a week, I share my creative process with my email list. Simple things like sketchbook pages and random thoughts about my process.
A few times a year I invite my email list to collect my art. From selling limited edition prints, original art, or private commissions.
4. Invite your audience to collect your art
After you have been sharing your creative process for a while on your art newsletter, you're ready to invite your audience to collect your art in a limited window of time.
This is also referred to as launching your art.
This can be anything from original art, limited edition prints, or limited slots for custom art commissions.
Today, we're going to talk about the third, and probably the more overlooked part of selling art online:
- Thing #3: Launching (a natural, storytelling way to generate art sales)
Launching is a natural, storytelling way to sell your art online
It doesn’t matter whether you make portraits, abstracts, comics, photographs, nudes, wildlife, landscape, or any other obscure kind of art – launching works.
Launching works because you're finally able to attract the right audience, build a relationship with them, and make art sales in a chill, confident way.
When you eventually do your first art launch, you aren't a stranger to your email list subscribers. You're a familiar artist to them. They've been getting your weekly emails where you've been sharing what you've been working on.
Even artists with THOUSANDS of fans can’t sell their art without the right launch plan
Don’t fall into the trap of “announcing” your art. Which is what most artists do.
I learned about announcing the hard way…
A while back, when my email list was around 1,500+ subscribers I thought it would be easy to sell a handful of art prints I had collecting dust in my studio.
So one night before I went to bed, I sent out a quick email to my list announcing they were for sale. I went to bed expecting to wake up to a bunch of orders the next morning.
The results? I didn’t sell a single print.
Why? Because I sprang the print on my audience before I built up interest. I just announced it.
- I didn’t get anyone excited, tell the backstory about the print, or create a fun sense of urgency to buy it.
- I didn’t have a CONVERSATION with my email list about the print before I made it available for purchase.
- I just announced it. Which wasn't a great experience for my audience.
This same mistake is made all the time by artists who are puzzled why their THOUSANDS of fans don’t drive meaningful sales.
Taking your time to share your creative process and behind-the-scenes is ESSENTIAL to making art sales.
When you take the time to share what you're working on at least once a week, your audience will never feel like they’re being “sold” to or spammed. They’re simply following along on your creative journey through thoughtful emails you send.
Ever notice how Hollywood sends out sneak peek trailers every month up to a year before a movie is released? Then the closer it is to launch weekend you start to hear more and more about the movie with actor interviews and behind-the-scenes?
They've turned the release of their movie into strategically planned launch.
Selling your art is no different.
What's better about launching your art is that it's way less complicated than a movie launch.
The simple act of sharing your creative process and behind-the-scenes with your email list once a week, you're already building up to a launch.
Launching can seem complicated:
- What do you write in these emails?
- How do you time the sending of your emails?
- How do you ask your audience to collect your work without sounding salesy?
This is where having a launching plan helps…
To make art sales you have to have a launch plan
A launch plan is a way to use strategically timed and written email to build-up to the moment you invite your email list to collect your work.
A launch plan helps you know:
- how many emails to send
- when to send them
- what to write
- how to ask for the sale without sounding salesy
There are three reasons launches create more sales than simply leaving your art products sit in your online store.
Perhaps the strongest reason people buy anything online is the sense of something going away. When there is a limited amount of time to collect something, it'll prevent people from putting things off. “I'll just get it later, my credit card is upstairs…”.
Scarcity is a natural part of selling art online. When there is a limited amount of something to collect, it'll help generate more sales. Selling limited edition prints, scarcity is limited by how many prints their are.
Artist James Jean combines urgency and scarcity into his print launches by only opening a 24-hour window to collect a print. ONLY printing however many prints were purchased during this 24-hour window.
Perhaps the most powerful psychological reason people buy from artists online is the sense of reciprocity.
It's like those moments someone randomly gives you an unexpected gift. The immediate sense of wanting to give back is reciprocity. Reciprocity is a natural side effect of consistently sharing your creative behind-the-scenes of what you're working on every week.
It's this combination of urgency, scarcity, and reciprocity that art launches encapsulate to generate sales.
From art launches you can do in the beginning if you have ZERO people on your email list. Simultaneously growing your email list WHILE making art sales. To automating the entire art launch process so you can make art sales while you're out enjoying life or working on your art.
5. Automate everything
Automation is probably one of the most overlooked benefits of being able to sell art online. While nothing is ever completely automated, you can automate key parts of selling art online as you'll always be making new work and sharing new content about your creative process.
Most of this automation resides in automating email sequences which establish familiarity.
Final thoughts on how to sell art online
The time you dedicate to sell art online shouldn't feel like a strain on your energy and time.
All efforts to sell art online should be enjoyable for you – while also creating the most authentic experience for your fans when you invite them to collect your art.
Keep the following in mind as you're running your art business:
- You have the “permission” to create a “boutique” personal brand for your art.
Often when you hear about marketing your art online you immediately think it’s tainted in tackiness and brashness. Running your art business doesn’t have to feel this way. Rather, think of your art business as “artisanal” and “boutique”, the whole idea of self-promotion and marketing doesn’t have to be tacky or spammy. Your art business can turn into something that grows naturally while being authentic at the same time. Authenticity and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive.
- Speaking to your audience with genuine care and respect.
In the online world, there is a lot of sleazy advice with a disrespectful tone. The whole vibe is just not something I resonate with. I'm sure you don't either. When I started marketing my art online, I was turned off by all the brash marketing tactics being used online.
The more dialed-in you get with your audience, the more you share your creative process, more opportunities you'll get to sell art online.