Selling art online may be becoming a more prominent trend — but not just for galleries, and not just in Covid-19 times. With this in mind, we’ve put together this guide to some of the ins and outs of selling your art online.
Artists and collectors seem increasingly drawn to digital platforms as a place to buy and sell art. And the topic itself is gaining increasing attention. This past week, The Art Newspaper featured a podcast produced in association with Christie’s on the topic ‘Is the future of the art market online?‘
For galleries and collectors, buying/selling online can mean fewer resources and expenses than those usually involved in attending art fairs. For artists, selling online can mean greater reach and more options. And it can be done with or without gallery representation.
If you’re thinking about setting up (virtual) shop, here’s our quick guide to help you get started with selling your art online.
What to Consider
Before we get into where to sell, here are a few things to keep in mind when getting ready to sell your artwork online.
Commissions and fees
Think about your budget. Depending on how and where (and in how many places) you sell your art online, the costs can add up. There may be membership/subscription fees and/or commissions on sales. From the standard 50/50 split adopted by many galleries, to lower transaction fees incurred through online marketplaces, it is something to be aware of when getting started.
Documenting and presenting your work
Wherever you present your work online, make sure to provide quality images and clear, up-to-date details. This is especially important when you consider that someone might not have the chance to see the artwork in person before deciding to make a purchase. The images and information you provide, therefore, will play more than a supporting role in making a sale.
Packaging and shipping
Selling your art online creates the potential to reach collectors and potential buyers anywhere in the world. That means you will have to think about packaging and shipping your artwork — costs, materials, services — potentially on an international scale. Without the face-to-face transaction, logistics are something you will likely have to deal with when selling your art online. You’ll want to make sure your art is safe in transit, while keeping it economical.
Keep in mind that providing accurate, reliable shipping estimates to potential buyers is important. And also think about the scope of your online selling. If you are a sculptor, for instance, it could become quite expensive and logistically complicated to ship internationally.
Do some research beforehand. Check out the options and get a few estimates from different shipping companies. Depending on which selling platform(s) you use, there may be integrated shipping features that make the organization and management of this process a bit easier.
Where to Sell
It might be a good idea to try out a few different platforms, if possible, to see what works for you. And in any case, it makes sense to put yourself and your work out there in more than one place.
In addition to commissions, when considering online galleries, keep in mind that it might be more difficult for your work to reach collectors if there is a high volume of artists and works presented on a site. But likewise, if a gallery is small scale or just starting out, they might not have so much marketing budget. Or they might not have as many connections. There may also be options that are better suited depending on the medium you primarily work in.
When it comes to online galleries for selling artwork, there are of course the big ones, like Saatchi Art — which has a large audience on and offline. Saatchi Art allows artists to register and set up a shop for free (commission is taken on works sold). And they even arrange shipping of works sold through the site. Meaning, the artist is responsible only for packaging. There’s a high volume of art and artworks on Saatchi Art, of course, but the site’s curators do make selections of works to feature on the homepage for increased visibility.
UGallery functions a bit differently — as a juried platform that presents a curated selection of artists and artworks. The gallery accepts applications on a rolling basis from emerging and mid-career artists interested in exhibiting and selling their work on the platform (for a commission). While it is possible to sell your art via other channels and venues once represented by UGallery, note that they do require exclusivity on the artworks that are on their platform.
Your Art Beat
There are also more medium-specific online galleries. Your Art Beat is a newer, smaller scale online gallery space designed to highlight digital art, in particular. Artists can join at different membership levels — in support of the non-profit Your Art Beat e.V. Depending on your membership, there are different fees for exhibiting work on the site as well as varying commission.
Online marketplaces may offer a platform to buy and sell a wide range of different products. Or they may be more tailored to a specific category or medium.
Though not specifically for selling art, Etsy is certainly a well-known example. And it’s one that is focused on creative works — like handcrafted and design products. From jewelry to prints, it could be an effective tool for selling single pieces, custom designs, or serial works. Etsy does charge listing and transaction fees. But it is relatively easy to set up and use. And it has a wide reach.
Minted is another online marketplace, which is geared primarily towards photographers, illustrators, and graphic designers. Through the site’s monthly competitions, the public votes on and selects artists, who can then set up their own shop on the site. Minted also produces and sells the winning designs on various media and products, like stationery and decor.
Or, more specifically, Instagram. While Instagram is not an art-specific platform, it is a visual one, which means it may be a good way for some artists to increase their visibility, gain an audience, and even make sales.
To do this, it of course involves the legwork of building up your profile and ‘brand’. This means, posting regularly with high quality images. And creating consistent and captivating content with engaging captions.
Aside from using your Instagram account as a way to reach and connect with potential buyers, it may also be possible to set up Instagram Shopping. For this, an Instagram business account and Facebook Catalog are needed. You can also create and manage your product catalog by integrating with eCommerce sites like Shopify.
Before you can start selling through Instagram Shopping, though, you have to submit your account for review. It takes a few days to get approved. Note that this may not be the most intuitive way to set up an online shop. And it is also not a universally available option.
If you are sticking to using your Instagram account without the shopping feature, make sure potential buyers can reach you. And possibly include a bio link that takes interested collectors directly to a site where they can purchase your art.
If you use your own website, it should incorporate eCommerce tools in order to facilitate sales. You want to make the process clear and straightforward for your buyers. And also make it easier on yourself when it comes to managing orders and payments.
If you are using your pre-existing website, you can avoid commissions and potentially additional subscription fees, as well — depending on how you set it up and what tools you use.
WordPress, for instance, has free plugins that can be used to set up and manage a shop on your website. And Squarespace likewise has eCommerce templates, which can be used with one of their Commerce website plans.
In place of, or integrated with, your own pre-existing website and/or social media, you can set up a shop using eCommerce platforms like Shopify. For a subscription fee, Shopify allows you to create your own storefront website, without the need of a third-party vendor. Alongside integrated marketing and shipping features, among others, it also allows you to customize the design of your web shop.
Whether or not you decide to go the DYI route with setting up an online shop for your art, having an up-to-date, attractive website and a social media presence is important. These channels can be used to market your work and increase visibility. If you want to make sales of your work possible online, then having an online presence is necessary.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s also better not to spend all your time, energy, and resources trying to sell on a single platform. Keep in mind that websites and platforms change their policies and functionality from time to time. You may be hit with something unexpected that hinders your ability to sell your work on a specific platform.
And if you are already selling via other platforms, galleries, or fairs, try to keep your pricing consistent. If you haven’t tried to sell work before, you’ll also have to think about how to price your art. If you’re not sure where to begin with this, check out our guide on the subject for some tips.