How to Sell Your Art
There are two main ways to sell you artwork. Through a gallery, or on-line, and deciding which of these methods should be the first thing you decide. There's nothing to stop you from doing both, however you may see faster results on-line as some art galleries book their exhibitions a year in advance and its hard to get an exhibition if your unknown. You can sell artwork on-line in a number of ways, either through a site you run yourself (weather it be your own domain or on a site set up for artists to sell their artwork) or through a reputable company that sells artwork.
Before you start this process, ask yourself the type of person you want to buy your artwork. Are you after an art connoisseur (usually a lot of money for a 1 off piece of art) or are you more interested in selling to the average person (less money, but you might sell a lot of the same image and make more money) If you want to sell the one off art to the connoisseur, look to a real world art gallery for that. If your more interested in selling as many copies of your art to the average person, look to get on-line.
Neither of these steps will happen overnight (unless your very very good) and it will take some time and work hard. The feeling you get though when you sell your first piece of art makes every second of it worthwhile.
My first piece of serious advice on this is to water mark all your images. This helps stop people stealing your work and posting it to other sites and claiming credit, or worse selling your images and making money off it without your knowledge. DeviantART allows you add a Creative Commons License which adds a DeviantART watermark. This is a great way of doing, but why not add your own watermark with your portfolio URL on it. Then if you use your art on another site as a picture for an article its more advertising for your web URL.
Every city has them, most towns do as well so there are plenty of places you can approach to sell your work. Galleries are the holy grail to an artist. To stand there and watch people admiring your artwork is a wonderful feeling, and sadly one that only a small percentage of artists get to feel.
So how do you go about getting into a gallery? Well, start off by researching galleries, find out if there are any specific galleries tailoring to your style or chosen subject. It doesn't matter how great your art is, if your trying to sell digital painting from the Sci-Fi genre in a gallery that specialises in Landscape water colours, your going to get a no straight away.
Start off by calling them up for an appointment or pop in and have a look round. Talk to the staff and ask them questions, make sure you trust them! If you do get an appointment, make sure your prepared. Take along a sample of your work, not all of it and make sure its well presented. It doesn't matter if there re-productions of the originals as long as there high quality re-productions. Dress well, be confident and most of all, believe in yourself and your artwork.
If you are successful in getting some artwork in a gallery and some of your art sells, expect the gallery to take their commission. It depends on the gallery, but I've seen and helped organise exhibitions in galleries taking as little as 20% going all the way up to 60%. this might seem like a lot, but small inner city galleries have huge overheads and can often only fit small numbers of images on the walls. Remember, there a business, not a charity so they are trying to make money.
Working for an on-line e-tailer of bespoke modern art, we are often contacted by artists and designers interested in selling art. Some are interested in selling one off's, others are interested in selling the image rights for re-production purposes. This can be a lucrative deal depending on any deal you agree with the company.
When approaching a company, act professional. Either email or call them to enquire weather they accept outside artwork. If you intend on emailing them, introduce yourself, give a short bio about yourself. Some say add in any training you have in art, but personally I don't look for training, some of the best artists I've met have none, there just naturally gifted! Also include a link to your on-line portfolio so the company can see your artwork, if they respond you can at least hope for some compliments or constructive criticism. Under no circumstances must you mention money in the original contact and if your art may be offensive in any way (e.g. nudes or political motivated art) mention this in the email before the link to your site. Some companies won't sell certain art so as to not offend potential customers.
What kind of deal might you be able to get selling this way? It all depends on the company involved, and the profit margins on the products. Some will offer to buy images at a set rate (e.g. $40 or £20) and they are then free to sell your image as many times as they can. The other option is percentage or fixed rate per image sold. For example, if you get a deal where you get $20 (£10) for the image up front, then a small amount per image sold you stand to make a lot more money. Some companies will offer a bonus payment if your art sells a set number of images, for example, sell 10 and get another $30. This is only an example, if a company decides to sell your artwork they'll come up with the payment and you'll need to agree with it. Don't set your sites too high, if the company is selling a picture for $200 (£100) don't expect to be taking a massive cut of this, they have a lot of overheads and there doing as much as they can to sell your work.
Getting money per image sold has a massive advantage on-line. Market your images. Through your own site, forums, communities, social book marking sites and even emails you can increase traffic and hopefully sales of your images. This will mean you receive more money, and so does the company selling your artwork. This then might result in an increase in the cut you receive from each sale. Work hard at marketing your artwork and you'll see more money coming in.
Like real world galleries, have a look through the sites you intend on approaching before you approach them to see if they sell similar styles to your own.
DeviantART is a massive art site, they've been going for a little over 8 years. Earlier this year they passed the 50 Million images mark!(currently stand at a little over 66 Million) They often see more than 20 Million Unique users each month and have over 7 million members. They often appear in Alexa top 100 websites for traffic and more importantly, reach between 0.5% and 1% of ALL internet users! With stats like that, if you haven't already got an account, go get one!
One of the features of DeviantART is the print shop. With an account, you can sign up for a free print account where you can sell your artwork all over the world. (For info on the amount you will get from each sale, click here)
A premium Print account cost $30 (£15) for a year which may seem a lot, but you can make a lot more money. After base costs, you then take 50% of what's left.
For example:Wrapped Canvas Image 40" x 30"
Standard account -
Base price - $167.93
Cost to Buy - $285.50
Your cut - $23.51
Premium Account -
Base price - $167.93
Cost to Buy - $285.50
Difference - £117.57
Your cut - $58.75
What a difference a premium account makes! There are other advantages to using the premium account, larger upload image for larger files, 3 months DeviantART subscription and the option to buy your own artwork at base costs make it a good deal. My advice would be to get the free account with DeviantART and start uploading your images. When you start to sell some of your work, decide weather you'll see a massive increase in profit by paying for the premium account.
The Saatchi Gallery
This is another great place to open a portfolio site. Sadly there is no way to directly make money, however, if you go to the home page and see how many hits the site has had in the last 24 hours, you'll realise why its worth hosting some images there! (October 10th 10:22 am GMT – last 24 hours – 72,002,573 – Alexa ranked number 224) Its also free and very simple to use. There's some very well known artists on there, as well as a large following of students who are trying to get some constructive criticism on their projects.
This is another well known art based site. Originally designed to share photos around the world. you can't sell through Flickr, but you can use it as a portfolio site or as an addition or a DeviantART account or your own web page.
There are some great features including a slide show box you can mount on your own sight or blog. This allows the user to interact and scroll through your images easily, without taking up to much room. Flickr, like DeviantART gets on average 20 Million unique views a month so there's plenty of people out there to find your art, appreciate it and hopefully buy it!
Everyone knows Ebay, and everyone knows you can sell anything (within reason) on Ebay. There are some benefits of Ebay, you can start selling straight away, and they don't take a large cut like some other sites. However, there are some draw backs to Ebay.
Its not an art based site, this means that if you search 'ART' in Ebay, you end up with 406,102 items (correct at 16:40 9/10/2008 on ebay.com) and obviously, your art will get lost in there! Obviously your going to attract people with more defined key words in the search, but that's a lot of art (and after spending 3 minutes looking, I do use that term loosely! I would still recommend a portfolio site to any wannabe art seller, so if you can, avoid Ebay and head for something more specialised.
This site is great if you already have a lot of one off art work that you want to sell in an attempt to fund the building of your own site, or materials for any current or future site. Remember, one mans junk is anothers treasure.
Driving on-line traffic to your Art
Marketing your art is a lot like marketing any on-line blog or article. Its all about getting the maximum possible viewers. After setting up an on-line portfolio you want to start doing some SEO (Search Engine Optimization)to promote yourself.
The best places to start are social bookmarking sites (Digg, Mixx and Stumble Upon all have an Image Upload) and you can always Stumble on your own site. Getting on these sites has a 2 fold effect, firstly it can help get some traffic to your site and secondly it helps you get some of the crucial links to your URL. Another great tip for anyone with images Is to make sure they are correctly tagged up (Alt tags - height, width description tag) This helps Google know what the image is and helps you get a higher placing on Google images.
If you have a unique style of process to your artwork, write some articles on it. The best thing about art is its much easier to create a fully interactive web 2.0 web site. This again helps with your SEO as Google is open to giving higher ranks in its search engine to sites which give a user interaction. Make some videos of you painting in your style. Add images, lots and lots (of correctly Alt tagged) images. Search around for some interactive flash add on's so you can let your views get into your site, hopefully come back and most importantly, buy your work!
Below is a video by Street Artist Joshua Allen Harris. This a great way to increase your traffic. This video has been seen all over the world after getting linked on the Wooster collective blog. Who says art has to be a painting?
Would you class Joshua Allen Harris's Plastic Bag Animals as art?
Interview with a man in the business
I spoke with Andy Harper owner of WHoArtNow, producers of bespoke modern art for some tips
What would you advise someone to do if they were looking to promote and sell their art?
Well first thing to do is get a website to showcase your art, a CV of what you can do. I get 20 emails a week from artists and designers who are looking to do business and it amazes me some of them don't have a web page of sorts. If there's a website, I'll always have a look, you never know what you might be missing out on!
Does it matter if its not a website but a portfolio site?
No it doesn't have to be your own website. I'm an active member on DeviantART and FlickR so even if we don't business, you might find me becoming your friend so I can keep track of your art. I might be a businessman, but my love is still for the art.
Can anyone sell their artwork?
In theory yes, I do think you need to get some feedback off people before you start approaching companies. Plus, look at your work from the point of view of business, is it commercial enough? I see a lot of very good art, but only about 5% of it would be commercially viable enough for our site. Be positive about your work, but accept criticism well. The companies you'd be looking at contacting are busy places, and sometimes emails can slip through the cracks, so follow up with them by phone. Don't overdo it though, leave it a week first.
Any other tips?
Yeah, agencies can be brilliant. I worked for Saatchi and Saatchi in London a few years ago and remember seeing these massive files of people's art. They'd be sent in on the hope of getting work, and if they liked your style, they'd keep a record of you. When they got new contracts they'd flick through the files to see if anyone fitted certain criteria and then they'd give them a call. There some 14 yr olds in the portfolio!
Thank you for your time
I'm passionate about art, and I love to find some new art by some unknown artists, especially when it blows my mind! Marketing and selling your art is not easy, it may take years to build up a fan base and start selling. For the best results though, I'd recommend getting your artwork up in as many places as you can to get the maximum exposure.
Never take rejection personally. Have faith, and some confidence. Be patient. The more you put into your art and marketing your art, the more you will get out of it. Most importantly though, love you art, and have fun with your art.
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Some useful Links
One of the largest online Portfolio sites. A must have for every artist.
Online Photography site that has an increasing number of artists work as well.
- Saatchi Gallery
One of the top traffic websites in the world. It might be a UK site, but anyone can join.
- Creative Commons License
One of the best ways to copyright your images.
- Frazier Boyd
Up and coming stencil artist Frazier Boyd. He images used above with permission.
The worlds largest and well known online auction site.