How to successfully sell art online 2020: A comprehensive guide for the aspiring artist.

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

I’ve compiled the information below from a wide number of sources to try and build a comprehensive bank of knowledge for young artists trying to build their career. Selling art is a major component of becoming an artist full-time.

I’m making this guide partly as a way to brush up on my own knowledge on the subject, but also because it would have been something I would have loved to have read when I first started working professionally as an artist.

I don’t believe you should be making art to make money, there are certainly easier ways to make some cash if that’s what you’re interested in but if it's your goal to sell your artwork this guide will be a perfect starting point.

I’ll begin by discussing the reasons why people buy art online and then I’ll go through as many practical tips as I can muster. I hope this helps you navigate your way through selling your artwork on the web!

  1. Why do people buy art online?

  2. Factors for making an art sale online

  3. How should I price my artwork?

  4. Use social media to your advantage

  5. Driving traffic to your website or store

  6. Converting traffic into sales

  7. Create Engagement on Instagram

1. Why do people buy art online?

There are three main reasons people buy art online; emotional impact i.e how it emotionally affects them first, if it fits the aesthetic of the room they plan to hang it in and its potential investment value.

Emotion - How does it make them feel? What does it remind them of?

Emotional context plays a huge part in the way the buyer engages with an artwork. For example, they may have already met the artist and developed a personal connection with them, or the artwork may have triggered an emotional response due to the buyer's past experience.

Aesthetics - Does it fit in with the style of their home or office space?

Aesthetics and matching with home style and decor and the emotional context at the point of purchase are actually the two biggest drivers of online purchases! This can be something to remember for later when you’re trying to determine the audience of your artwork.

Investment - Will this purchase gain value over time?

Believe it or not, investment is not a significant driver of online art sales. An investment purchase is more likely to happen in person than online, this can be due to a number of factors but is most likely the fact that the buyer will not have a chance to build an authentic relationship with the artist or the piece itself by browsing online. It takes this build of trust between the buyer and the artist to spend more substantial amounts of money on an investment piece. Because of this selling online is very different from selling in person or in a gallery.

2. Factors for making an art sale online

Provide ample information on the piece and its inspiration, the edition number if its a limited print run, and of course if the buyer actually likes the work.

Information on the artwork

It's so important that you include detailed descriptions and context to the artwork when selling online as you won’t have the opportunity to chat with the buyer and gain their ever-so-important initial interest.

It’s important to deliver information about the artwork correctly since the buyer won't have the opportunity to see the artwork personally, you’ll have to deliver the closest experience possible through image and description alone. To do this you’ll need to invest time into quality pictures of the artwork, from multiple angles and as part of the decoration of a room, helping the potential buyer to see what it would look like in their own home.

Text is also an important tool for delivering information about the artwork. Be sure to tell a short story about each artwork, when and where it was made, and also mention the ideas and inspirations behind it. You need to help create an emotional connection between the art collectors and the artwork, and having a background story can help accomplish that.

The main things that a buyer concerns themselves when considering buying a piece are;

  • Do I like it?

  • Will it fit in with where I want to hang it?

  • There is also a limit to what they are prepared to pay. If it's not within their budget they won’t be able to buy no matter how much they love the artwork, so this is an important consideration when pricing.

Something to note; people tend to pay less when buying online rather than buying in a gallery. You are however able to sell in much greater volumes due to the larger potential audience compared to a foot-fall gallery and fast-paced nature of internet marketing.

Limited editions

Are a common way to drive urgency, as well as increasing investment value so I'd recommend considering them even if the investment is not the purchased reason. Limited editions are much more valuable to the buyer as there are only a limited number of the released prints which holds more value. It’s basic supply and demand. Some artists have even been known to increase the price as prints are running low, not something I’d do personally but this is entirely up to you.

Typically there are two ways to sell limited edition prints:

  1. A time-specific event such as a weekend print release,

  2. A limited-edition number of say 30-50 prints. Of course, the number of prints can be as many as you wish, even anywhere into the thousands. However, limiting the number printed at a lower number will increase the inherent value of these prints so selling 50 as opposed to 2000 copies is usually preferential.

Limited editions are an ethical investment agreement between the artist and the buyer, once you release the prints you should not change the total amount of prints, and no reprints either! If you plan on another print run in the future, perhaps at a different size or on canvas for example, make it explicitly clear you plan to do so. If you break this bond of trust with the buyer you risk ruining your reputation by devaluing the sold artwork. Why would someone buy from you if they can’t trust you?