General Ecommerce Advice
So you’re an artist and that means you’re probably looking to either make some extra cash or to make a living selling your art. You have plenty of good faith that your art is perfect for people to buy, but maybe you’re worried that you don’t have all the right tools to make a successful business out of selling your art online. While starting any business (even if it’s just intended to make you a bit of extra cash) is a commitment, selling online doesn’t have to be costly and it doesn’t have to suck up all of the time you’d probably rather be spending on creating your work.
Selling your art online is a natural step in today’s environment as online retail continues to grow, with projections showing that by 2025 almost a quarter of all sales will be made online. Plus, selling online is a much simpler process for you than having to cart your art to multiple physical locations to try to convince the buyers who you come across on that day to buy from you. Online selling allows people to remain in the comforts of their home while perusing all of the wonderful designs and concepts that you’ve produced.
Selling your art online comes with a number of different choices that you’ll need to make. This guide will help you work through all of the questions about how to get started, where to sell and how to market your work.
The choices you need to make before selling your art
Below we’ve listed some of the decisions you’ll need to make about how you want to sell your art. You’ll want to read through these before you get started with the specifics of starting to sell. The answers to these questions will depend a lot on what type of artist you are, the type of art you produce and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your business. For some of you, these questions will be easy to answer and you can breeze through to the next step, but for others you’ll need to put some careful consideration into the answers before jumping in. Just remember, there’s no set right or wrong answer, only a learning curve for what will work best for you.
Originals or reproductions?
You can choose to sell originals or reproductions of your work. Much of this decision is likely to depend on what type of art you create and what identity you’re hoping to create in the artworld. Only selling originals indicates that you want an air of exclusivity around your work, allowing you to potentially charge higher prices for each piece. Selling originals requires more effort on your part as you will need to constantly be creating new works in order to keep the money flowing. Selling reproductions of a piece allows you to utilise a singular piece of artwork many times, making the cost of creating that piece much lower for you overall. Additionally, selling reproductions gives your artwork more opportunity to be seen by friends and family of customers increasing your overall exposure. You will need to adjust your price points accordingly as customers won't want to pay as much as they would if they were the only person who would be receiving the product.
If you’re selling reproductions, do you want to limit how many you sell of each piece?
If you’re choosing to sell reproductions of your work, you might want to consider limiting how many of each reproduction you want to sell. Maybe you want the piece to be available to everyone indefinitely, in which case you wouldn’t limit how many you sell. But perhaps you want the piece to be a bit more exclusive. Then you could limit how many copies of the reproduction you intend to produce. Furthermore, you could also limit how many copies each individual customer is allowed to purchase. This ensures that your art ends up in more widespread hands, while still keeping some exclusivity about it.
Do you want to utilise print-on-demand services?
If you’re interested in selling reproductions of your art, then you also might want to consider having your art reproduced on clothes and household items that your customers can purchase through your website. This can be accomplished through the use of a print-on-demand (POD) supplier, such as Printful or Printify. With POD suppliers you simply configure which products you want to sell through their platform, then import them to your website (ShopWired offers direct integrations with both Printful and Printify). When a customer makes a purchase the order can then be sent directly to the POD supplier who will fulfil the order for you. This form of selling is low-risk for you as you don’t need to pre-purchase any inventory that you must also find the space to store. Print-on-demand is more costly than having stock mass-produced, but it offers the perk of low-overhead which might be attractive to your business when just starting out. POD might not work for every type of artist, but it’s a good option to consider, particularly for digital artists.
Will you take commissions or do you prefer to fully make your own artistic choices?
For some artists taking commissions can make the whole process less enjoyable as working to deadlines to make something that you’ve previously made quite a few times can be stressful and feel restrictive to the artistic process. For others, this will be where they thrive. You’ll need to take some time to think about what you want your identity to be as an artist, and what won’t make you start hating what you do. In trying to start a sustainable business, you’ll need to make sure you really know how you’ll be happiest working.
What should your pricing structure look like?
Pricing your art is a delicate balance between not undervaluing what you’ve taken the time to produce and not overpricing your art so that no one buys it. Your pricing structure will depend on what type of art you sell and if you’re selling reproductions or originals. Basically, however, pricing comes down to what realistic value you place on your own art and time.
When pricing your art you’ll want to account for the cost of materials and the cost of your labour. The cost of your labour can be determined by you setting a (reasonable) hourly rate for your work multiplied by the number of hours you spent creating the work. You’ll also want to consider the number of copies you plan on selling of the piece and any costs you’ll incur by selling online (such as marketplace fees).
It’s also recommended that you have a look to see what other artists who produce similar work to you are pricing their pieces at. Just remember that the more well-known an artist is, the higher their prices can be. If you’re just starting out at selling, then you might not yet have the punch behind your name to be able to put large price tags on your creations.
How do you want to brand yourself?
You’ll also need to decide on your branding. What type of artist are you and how do you want that to come across to your customers? What name do you want to sell your art under (it’s fine if you just want this to be your actual name, but remember you’ll need to plaster this all over the platforms you use to sell and market your work)? Have you considered what your logo should look like (we’re sure you’ll come up with something really creative!)?
Most importantly, you should use your branding to tell your story. This can be as personal as you want to be. The connection between an artist and their customer is vital if you’re hoping to make sales based on repeat customers and word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to let your customers get to know you and what inspires you to create.
Platforms you can use to sell your art
Now that you’ve nailed down some choices about how you’ll be selling your art, you’ll need to think about where online you want to sell:
Etsy is a great platform on which to sell your art; in fact Etsy is designed specifically for artists like you to be able to showcase their work for sale to a massive built-in audience. Etsy's 96.3 million active buyers are eager to find artwork which matches their aesthetic. Etsy charges a transaction fee of 6.5% per order + a listing fee of $0.20 per product.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to Etsy (such as, everyone on the platform is selling art, so making yours stand out can be difficult), but a lot of these cons can be outweighed either by the pros of Etsy or by also selling on other platforms.
If being a part of a community of other artists, receiving exclusive partner discounts as well as being able to sell your art to a ready and eager global audience sounds appealing to you, then you might want to consider listing your art on Artfinder. To sell with Artfinder you’ll need to complete their application process. You should also be aware that they do take a commission of 33% - 40% for each piece that you sell.
eBay's reputation for being a reputable marketplace along with their large volume of users (after Amazon, eBay boasts more visitors than any other online marketplace, with about 689 million visits each month), can lend itself to your own credibility. While we wouldn't recommend only selling your art on eBay, it certainly can't hurt to have another avenue where customers can find you. To sell on eBay you'll need to have an eBay seller's account.
Your own ecommerce website on ShopWired
While marketplaces are a fantastic resource that you absolutely should utilise as an artist, they just don’t quite give you all of the branding and customising options that you might need to really make your name known. For that you’ll need a website. Building a website from scratch might seem overwhelming and like more work than it’s worth, but to really have your business taken seriously, your customers will expect a site they can visit for an experience tailored to your branding. But just having a website explaining your story and displaying your work won’t be enough to help you grow. You’ll also need ecommerce functionality so that your customers can buy straight from you without any hassle. Luckily, there’s a very simple solution to creating a whole website with ecommerce functionality built in: an ecommerce platform like ShopWired. Here's a brief overview of how to get started building your website with ShopWired:
Choose your plan
ShopWired's pricing plans have three tiers: Pro, Advanced and Premium, starting from £29.95/month + VAT. ShopWired doesn't charge any transaction or commission fees on your sales. Most of our apps are provided free of charge, with just a select few incurring a small extra monthly fee.
Choose a theme
When creating your website, you’ll need to pick a theme. This basically determines how your website will look to your customers. When choosing a theme on ShopWired there are a few which are perfect for selling art as they are crisp and simple, which allows the focus to remain on your work, rather than on the pomp of the website. The best part is that all of ShopWired’s themes are included for free (unlike on other platforms such as Shopify).
Here are some demos of the ShopWired themes which are best suited to selling art:
Create your products
Each piece of artwork that you want to sell can be created as a separate product on ShopWired, with individual pricing, stock and variants. You'll want to upload at least one picture of each piece to be displayed directly on your website. Make sure that the pictures that you take are of high-quality and really show your work in its best light.
Features within the ShopWired platform that can help you sell your art include:
- Integrations: ShopWired offers direct integrations with print-on-demand platforms Printify and Printful, email marketing platforms Klaviyo, Mailchimp and Mailerlite and marketplaces eBay and Etsy.
- Digital downloads app: With the free digital downloads app you can easily sell your digital art as files can be attached to products and are automatically sent out when the customer purchases the product.
- Voucher codes and gift cards: As a marketing tactic you can create voucher codes specifically for social media customers or for return customers to encourage their business. Additionally, you can offer the purchase of gift cards for your customers who would like to gift your work to a friend or family member but aren't quite sure which piece is best for them.
- Product feed: Using a feed of your products you can easily upload your products to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as to the Google Merchant Center so your products can be included in Google Shopping results.
Finally you’ll want to think about how you plan to market your art. Putting your work and your brand out into the world is a big undertaking and (aside from actually creating your art) will be the most time-consuming aspect of your business. Outsourcing to a company or individual who can help you with a marketing plan would be helpful to you in the long-term, but while you’re just starting out, here are the basic things you should do to start making your art visible:
Post consistently on social media platforms
Create profiles/pages on every social media platform that your target audience utilises (hint: this is likely to be all of the core platforms: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat), and start making your brand known. Helping potential customers find you is the best way you can start to make a name for yourself. Your social media strategy should compose of consistently creating and posting relevant content and engaging with your followers/fans as they respond to your posts or discuss topics relevant to your work.
Through your ShopWired account you'll be able to utilise a feed of your products to easily insert your products on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, allowing users to see that you're actively selling your art and how they can purchase it. Incentivise your potential customers by creating and promoting voucher codes and special offers specifically for the users who find you on social media.
A monthly newsletter is a great way to showcase any new designs that you’ve created or a special, specific piece that you're particularly proud of. As you sell more, you'll start to grow your fanbase, capturing email addresses that you can use to kickstart your email marketing campaigns. Use this method to market to past buyers to encourage them to make more purchases from you. To set up professional looking emails you'll want to use an email marketing platform, such as Mailchimp, Mailerlite or Klaviyo (all of which are integrated directly with ShopWired). Keep your correspondence on point and not too long to encourage your customers to read it. If you're struggling for ideas of what you could discuss in your newsletter, here are a few ideas:
- Your work, why it's important to you and why you create it
- What in the world inspires you
- Other artists who inspire you
- Your background, including your life story and where you learned your craft
Pay for ads
As part of your marketing budget, you’ll want to make sure you include some cash for online advertisements. Advertising on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bing and other popular sites with a lot of traffic is a good way to increase your brand awareness. You’ll need to be careful before you start throwing your money at these companies, as if you don’t know what you’re doing when creating and targeting ads, you might just end up throwing away your money. Popular marketing company Hubspot have put together an in-depth guide to online advertising covering the basics for each different type of advertising, which we strongly recommend you read through, in addition to doing your own further research, before diving into the advertising sector.
It’s essential to your business that you begin to have at least a basic understanding of SEO. SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ and is how you can drive organic traffic to your online store by boosting your rankings in search engines. We recommend reading through both Neil Patel’s step-by-step guide to SEO and Google’s own SEO starter guide to start familiarising yourself with the terms and strategies.