Monday, March 30, 2009

Selling Your Art Online: Getting started

I've decided to blog on a topic that I get asked all about all the time. Selling online can seem like an unknown world to many fledgling sellers. It is usually a lot different than what they bargain for. I figured that I would offer up my experiences all in one place. Keep checking back Mondays for more in this series!

Please keep in mind that these are merely my experiences. I have seen other artisans sell far more at far higher prices and others that try it and stop because they have sold nothing. What works for me, may not work for you and you will likely find someone else who does it far better than I do.

One thing I do know is that selling online takes a combination of plenty of factors - it is up to you to keep tabs on all these factors and assemble them into something that works for you, your art and your schedule.

The first thing to consider is your art. Honestly, sell what want - but don't be surprised if it doesn't sell. There are thousands and thousands of people out there who are also selling art. If you have produced a small body of work that you hold in such high esteem that you cannot part with it for under $50 000, that is fine, but do not be surprised if it doesn't sell.

You are also not online to do the other new seller temptation: give your art away for free or even worse, at your own expense. $1.99 starting bids, free shipping on top of that and you see that it is a painting on a $4.00 canvas that took 5 hours to paint and will likely cost the seller $7.00 to ship. Not to mention listing fees, paypal fees and other associated materials. Why frustrate yourself? Yes, I know it is nice that someone likes your work, but if they truly liked you they would have paid something higher than that. This is the online equivalent to begging.

Online selling can be a fantastic way to supplement an income, to be a "work at home parent" or as a lead in to an exit from your mundane career. You can place the building blocks of your dream life by starting to sell online. The possiblities are as far reaching as you are willing to take them.

Remember though, this is hard work. You need to try your best, keep your ego (or low self esteem - whatever you struggle with) out of this and price yourself in accordance to the venue you are selling in. You may sell some work for a song... if the idea of this really bothers you, you might want to consider a different venue. If you view that as a building block or a way to establish customer relationships, it might be an option worth exploring further.

Your prices will increase, but it may not happen overnight. I have followed a number of artists over the years and I can remember their early days when they let paintings go for the price of a pair of jeans. They have worked very hard and years later, you can see that they have a sustainable career. The key here is that they didn't stop when something sold for less than they were hoping, they kept painting.

If you are looking to pop some pictures onto a website and waiting for adoring crowds to come flocking around, unfortunately the reality will probably be a little different. For me, it took two years to work up the courage to even list an auction on ebay. I can remember waiting with held breath to press the "list" button for a ripple in the universe or something.

The first thing that happened? Absolutely nothing. It was sobering. I did sell that piece, but there was only one bidder and I learned the "don't start with a ridiculously low starting bid" lessson right off the top. There are many many pieces that I didn't sell, more that I sold for not a huge profit and some that I did decently on.

Why do I do it then? I doubt I will ever be Elton John rich with online selling. I do know that I have built a core client list of regular patrons from sellinig online. It has broadened my audience from selling at local artisan markets to selling overseas. In this I have built relationships and gone on to do challenging commissions and other projects.

I find selling online keeps me motivated to paint. I know I can do more with my work, I may one day move to more traditional selling venues like a gallery, but for now this is working for me. It is nice to have my work going all over the map rather than collecting dust in my studio. It pays for all my materials and provides some icing on the cake in our budget. You may well take this info and do far more with it than I do!


Joanne said...

Thanks for the honest and revealing information!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for sharing this info-sobering houghts indeed!