Artist at work

Very few people create works of art for profit. At least, that is not their initial motivation; artists strive to create something beautiful or thought provoking. It is often left to chance as to whether anyone else will be impressed enough to actually purchase the work. And that’s as it should be. If your only driving force was money, it is fairly likely that your work would lose some of what makes it special and unique.

It’s also unlikely that your only aim is to sell your work online. You may dream of exhibiting at London’s most prolific galleries, and it’s important to keep that goal in sight.

However, in the mean time, you need to make your art work for you. We live in a world where anything can be bought and sold at the push of a button, so it would be foolhardy to ignore the opportunity for your work to be seen by millions of potential buyers.

This guide will take you through a few simple steps to get your work seen, talked about and hopefully sold online. The process can be time consuming, but if you throw your heart and soul into it, you’ll find it enjoyable and rewarding.

The Basics

Artist at work at her computerBefore you even try to sell your art online, there are a few fundamentals that need to be addressed.

Who is your work targeted at?

Perhaps you don’t have a particular type of person in mind when you’re in the creative process. That’s fine, but it’s more than likely that your work appeals to some more than others; the beauty of anything artistic is that it boils down to a matter of taste. Who has expressed interest and enthusiasm about your work in the past? Are these people roughly of the same age? Does it seem to attract men or women? What kind of income does your audience have? Try and build a profile of the type of person who would be likely to choose a piece of your art to display in their home.

What is your Unique Selling Point?

It’s really important when selling anything to identify what makes a product stand out from the crowd. No-one even considered switching from Hoover until Dyson came along with a better, more functional version of the vacuum cleaner. No matter how many artists are out there in your field, there is something unique about your work. It could be in the unusual materials you use; does your work make use of blown light bulbs or empty soup cans? Maybe you love customizing pieces based on specific events. Find out what makes your work special.

Target specific people

There is absolutely nothing to lose by putting listings on the big sites like Ebay and Etsy, but once you’ve identified your target buyer and what makes you unique it’s potentially even more profitable to explore niche sites. There are plenty of blogs out there about the art world in general; if they seem to be aimed at your target buyer, then build relationships with the authors and their readers by commenting and sharing useful information. When the time is right, you could approach the blog author about featuring you and your work on their site.

Get a website and build a list

Perhaps most crucially, you must have a personal web presence; a place to direct potential buyers that lets them know a bit more about you and the style of your work. Use your website address as a signature in all of your comments on other blogs (but be careful not to oversell straight away – build a relationship first). The big advantage of having a website is that you can use it to build a database of customers. Add an email opt-in form to your homepage (use an email list management service like and offer something unique to people who sign up (maybe a 10-20% discount on all of your work). Then keep them informed via email about your latest pieces or exhibitions in which your work will be shown. If you build up a loyal following, you have a ready-made list of potential buyers; the likelihood is that most of your sales will come from this list.

Selling Artwork on Etsy

EtsyEtsy is a website for buying and selling anything artistic, craft-driven or handmade; an Ebay for a specific niche market. There are a few tricks to getting your listings noticed.

Make your photos stand out

Photos in an online store should do so much more than simply showcase your work. They send out a message to potential buyers about how seriously you invest in your business and the quality of what you are selling. It’s important to use a good camera, have some basic photography skills and take plenty of high quality shots for your shop. If this is out of your comfort zone, and you’re not convinced that the photos will look professional, enlist the help of a friend or bite the bullet and pay someone.

Space out your postings

If you have more than one item to sell on Etsy, it makes sense to space them out over a few days. For a short period of time the newest item is listed at the top of the corresponding section. This increases your exposure on a particular item; if you post lots of items at once you are pushing yourself down the ranks.

Use categories and tags wisely

Etsy has some suggested tags which are based on items people are searching for on the site. Use Etsy’s tags rather than your own.

Take advantage of your networks

Whenever you post an item on Etsy, make sure your cross-promote it on your Facebook page, your blog, or Twitter. Etsy makes this really simple. On the toolbar there are options to share the new listings on these sites. Obviously, you can have too much of a good thing so don’t over-sell; choose your updates wisely and make them unique and entertaining where possible. Don’t only tweet when you have something to sell and don’t just update your blog when you add a new item to Etsy. It’s far more engaging to post the occasional anecdote or insights into your creative process.

Be smart about pricing

Work out the cost of your materials, time and Etsy fees, and give your item an appropriate price. Don’t estimate.

Compare and contrast

Regularly search Etsy for similar products to those you are selling. Adjust your sale price to be competitive. If you believe your work is better, explain why in the listing (obviously without being rude about the work of others).