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December 28, 2022

Have you been working on your art for a while? You probably have a decent portfolio by now. If you are working in a physical medium, space can become a problem. Selling your artwork online is a great option.

You could sell in person or online, physical or digital — there’s no shortage of options.

Want to know where to start? Let’s dig into the details of selling art online to see what’s right for you.

How to sell art online: physical vs. digital

Physical art

Selling your existing physical art pieces is a great way to start. It’s common for artists to partner with local businesses to offer their art, attend art shows, or participate in relevant conventions to sell their art in person. Many artists have found success in brick-and-mortar storefronts. However, overhead and utilities are expensive. That’s where selling art online can be an appealing option.

Physical art takes up space. If you’re making postcard-sized art, you’ll have very different space needs from someone making six-foot marble statues. Consider your space availability when deciding to begin selling art online.

Art also has to get to their new homes. Packaging and shipping become your responsibility, regardless of where you sell your art. Protecting your artwork from damage is essential if you want to keep customers happy.

Digital art

If you are working with a flat physical medium, digital is an excellent option for selling artwork online.  Converting your physical art to downloadable files allows you to sell multiple copies of the same piece of art, deliver instantly, and save on materials costs.

Going digital also opens up the possibility of producing prints. You can create your artwork digitally (or digitize your physical piece) and then sell prints of them. If you are digitizing your physical artwork, make sure that you select the highest quality settings. You don’t want to diminish your artwork by doing a low-quality transition to digital.

With digital work, it’s a little easier because you can export to specific print sizes. When digitizing your physical work, be cautious with your sizing — you don’t want to risk any fuzziness if it’s blown up to a large size.

One potential drawback of digital art sales is the potential for redistribution. Watermarking, signing, or adding a copyright notice to your file can help address this issue.

What you need to sell art online

What do you need to sell art besides art? What you’re selling will determine your needs. Let’s talk about what you may need to have a successful online art business.

Inventory and supplies

If you’re creating physical art, whichever medium you use requires supplies. This can include canvases, brushes, paints, paint thinner, easels, drop cloths, etc. If you’ve been creating art for a while, it’s a good idea to stock up on your most-used supplies.

Other supplies include packing materials. Stiff-sided envelopes work great for thin work, like paper and flat canvas. Boxes and bubble wrap (or other packing material) are better for framed canvas, sculptures, and other three-dimensional artwork. You’ll also need shipping tape, postage, and any promotional materials you want to include in your shipments. Virtually all of these supplies can be customized with your logo or a specific design.

A website

If you want to sell your art online, you need a website. You can also use marketplaces such as Etsy or Amazon. Utilizing marketplaces often means paying listing fees and abiding by the marketplace’s terms and conditions. There are also tons of other artists competing for a sale.

The best way to maintain creative control over how your artwork is displayed and sold is to create your own store. You’ll need a domain and hosting. Nexcess has several great options, including managed WooCommerce and StoreBuilder, to help you get your site up and running quickly.

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Social media

In addition to a website, you’ll want a strong social media presence. Sign up for the social channels of your choice using the same (or similar) name as your business. We suggest Instagram and TikTok because they are largely visual.

Shipping options and electronic delivery

Electronic delivery

Electronic delivery is pretty straightforward. After purchasing, your customers can download directly from your site or you can send them a file via email. Most digital purchases like this are final, as you can’t return a downloaded file.

Shipping options

There are plenty of shipping companies and services capable of shipping artwork. You can work directly with shippers like UPS, USPS, etc. You can also buy postage second-hand from places like GoShippo or Stamps.Com.

If you create digital art but want to sell physical prints, you can use a dropshipping service such as Spreadshirt, Gelato, or Printify. This option eliminates the need to pack and ship your product.

Getting paid

No matter your platform, you’ll have many payment options. Popular payment processors include Paypal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, and Square.

If you’re using a payment gateway, there’s always a standard processing fee (typically 2.9% + .30 per transaction). If you’re using a marketplace or closed-source platform like Shopify, you’re likely getting charged additional fees for each transaction on top of any listing fees.

You’re not getting charged extra fees when you own your store. Save yourself money by selecting a platform that doesn’t nickel and dime you.

Most payment gateways allow you to collect your profits via direct deposit. It can take up to 3 days for the deposit to go through. Most store owners cash out monthly, especially if you offer refunds and returns. If you cash out too often and have to process a return before you’ve made more money, you’ll need to add more funds to your account.

Policies and managing expectations

Having clear return and shipping policies is vital to managing your customer's expectations when selling your artwork online. Be clear with how long it will take you to ship a physical product, when a digital product can be downloaded, and what the customer is allowed to use it for. The more clear you are, the more protection you have as a seller.

How you sell your art

One of the most important things you need to sell your art is a solid customer base. Building a customer base through online engagement is time consuming, but worth it when you’re establishing a following. Good word of mouth from existing customers is key. The clear policies and expectation management will help cultivate customers who recommend your art.

You’ll also want to create a marketing plan as well as a content strategy for your social media. Sharing a video of you creating one of your designs, giving a how-to for budding artists, or showing multiple finished pieces will encourage sharing of your content. Sharing leads to better opportunities to convert to sales.

Give each video or photo time to breathe in people’s timelines. Oversaturating your feed with sales opportunities can annoy people, and discourage them from buying your work. Find a nice balance.

If you already have a store online but aren’t seeing the success you expected, take a moment to check out these tips for increasing your ecommerce sales.

Other considerations when selling art online

Taking commissions

Many artists take commissions in addition to selling their existing art. Not everyone is interested in working on-demand, so consider the pros and cons before offering this option.

You’ll want to establish pricing, fees for changes, and expected timelines. You should have a detailed contract that both you and the customer sign, outlining  the parameters of the piece, the timeline within which you will deliver, how you will deliver, when they will pay you (down payments, final payments), and how much.

How and where to promote your work

Promoting your work is the best way to bring in more customers. Online ads are a great, albeit potentially expensive, option. Research the right demographics for your targeted ads so you have the most effective use of your money. Sharing your finished artwork on social media accounts helps promote your work to someone who might decide to purchase the piece they see, or intrigue them to come back later.

Who are your competitors?

Though “other artists” is vague, you can easily research and find your competitors by searching on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Google for art similar to yours. It will show you who your competitors are and what they are charging, which is good information for you to have.

Pricing your art fairly to you — and your customers

How do you price these pieces that you’ve worked so hard on? You’re not just charging for the piece, you’re charging for the skills and experience you’ve accumulated over the years that allowed you to create your art in the first place. You have valuable experience to offer in each piece you create. Don’t discount what it took you to get here.

You don’t want to price your customers out and you don’t want to diminish the skills and experience that created the piece(s) you have before you. To be able to hit a wider range of financial demographics and to sell your artwork online, you can offer the original piece(s) at a higher price, and prints for those who might not have the budget for an original piece.

With prints, it’s more about the volume of sales, vs. the profit per piece. The profit per piece will be higher on your originals than on the prints, while still allowing exclusivity to one group and affordability to the other. Creating pieces of varying sizes to fit into different price points is another way to help get your art into the hands of your customers as well.

Bottom line: how to sell art online

Now you know how to sell art online and make money. And fortunately, Nexcess can help you expand your reach with an online store.

Managed WooCommerce from Nexcess is safe, secure, and easy to set up and get going quickly. Plus, you won’t have to cut into your hard earned money to pay any transaction fees.

Managed WooCommerce comes with:

  • Security and performance scanning
  • Automated maintenance and updates
  • Beautiful, customizable designs
  • 24/7/365 support

Check out our plans to get started today.

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