Now that you've mustered up the courage, created the work and taken some quality images of your stuff, it is time to start getting your name out there. The world wide web is a HUGE place and it will take some work to even scratch the surface of getting noticed.
Oftentimes, when you take this step and you effectively say "I am here, I am willing to sell my work" friends and acquaintances will approach you saying "I've always loved your stuff - I didn't know you sold it!" If you give them the discreet opportunity to check out your prices (because people close to you are often scared of offending you by asking) you may make some local sales right off the top.
Tax Stuff: Before you begin, remember that selling your work online is essentially being in business for yourself. This is not the same as having a garage sale - it would serve you well to be familiar with your local and federal tax legislations and figure out what you need to do to ensure that you are all clear when tax season comes. Your government websites should point you in the right direction on this. Most selling sites have a component built in that allow you to charge state or provincial tax should you need to (and you don't always have to!)
This should not scare you off. Honestly, you are not going to be raking in the cash the second that you hit "list" on an item. You do need to be aware when you hit certain limits on your profits, what sort of records you need to keep and also what benefits (tax deductions) you may qualify for once you start selling your work.
Pricing: Next, you need to determine your prices. Here are some thoughts on pricing - this is something you need to decide for yourself. Don't let your ego/low self esteem get into this, if you spent 2 hours on the piece, do not compare it to something that someone spent 15 hours on. On the flip side to this - people who work on their craft every single day will probably be really really efficient. If they spent 2 hours and nailed it bang on the first try - they can command the price they do.
Don't charge people for your inefficiencies - if you made a mistake that takes you 4 hours to cover over and redo, that isn't something that builds into the value of your piece (as in a $$$/hour structure) You really should fix glaring issues though, its part of perfecting your craft and your public will see the quality of your stuff because of it.
If you are really hesitant on the issue of pricing your work then I suggest you look into the subject deeper, this book was helpful to me. My rule of thumb is "how badly do I want it hanging around my studio if it doesn't sell vs. will I feel regretful if I sell it for too low"
Online Venues: The number one suggestion I have for people is get a blog. Don't worry about a website yet, don't stress on auction vs. buy it now. A blog is free and you will be able to connect all those other points to it when you are ready to conquer those things. (and we will cover more of this in the coming weeks) Go to a blogging site, register and you can be posting and uploading your quality images and ready to sell in an hour.
Once you have an online "home" it is important to post a little about you (schooling, influences, reasons you create the work you do), post regularly, and put beautiful pictures of your pieces up for people to enjoy. This is just a start, you can build on this in the coming weeks.
I have found that it is really important to keep the "What You See is What You Get" mentality when dealing with your audience. Be upfront. If you have a price for your piece - list it. If there is additional shipping, say so. If you are going to throw in a bonus print or postcard - may as well tell them. All these details are going to build customer confidence in you.
It is also important to take the work off of your customer's hands. They are there to appreciate and purchase, not to do lots of legwork - a lot of people buy impulsively, which is to your advantage. I sell a lot of things in the middle of the night (another advantage to online selling - the store never closes!). Those customers are not always willing to wait around till I get online in the morning to answer questions on my work. They may just go spend their money elsewhere.
If a customer is presented with two choices "email me for details" or "this painting costs: $___US. Shipping to the United States is $____US. Allow 2 weeks for delivery via Canadapost" they will usually go with "What You See is What You Get". If there is an unknown or mystery surrounding your piece, people may be too lazy or scared off to inquire further.
Also, be prompt about inquiries - if your upfront details haven't totally sold them, but built their confidence in you, they will contact you. They might want to know about combining shipping, custom work or using an express shipping company for example.
If you are selling online, you need to make the commitment that you will check your email regularly and respond accordingly. Even if you hate email and only check it once a week, you need to stretch yourself here. This is about selling your artwork and when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you want to sell online, you need to realize that this is the price of doing business.
Accepting Payment: You will also need to sign yourself up for some way to accept money. Personally, I use paypal - mainly because it is so prevalent and that is what was available. If you want to find another option, by all means do your research. Generally the seller pays for each transaction that they accept money on. (Buyers do not pay for transactions, this is why it is an attractive way for people to pay for online purchases) Read the fine print for whatever company you use, paypal will just automatically take their percent off the top when you receive a payment.
"What about skipping the fees associated with paypal and only accepting money orders?" You can offer that option if you want, but honestly, most people who are buying online are set up to pay you instantly. You will want to be aware of the fees that will be charged to process your money transaction and build that into your price.
If you only accept money orders keep in mind that people will likely have to purchase your item, wait till a business day (that is convenient for them), stand in line at the bank, pay a fee for the money order (which may be a turn off all by itself), put it in an envelope, purchase a stamp and mail it. This may scare off a buyer. You will also risk a "where is my artwork" email - people forget that it takes so many days for the letter to arrive at your house, you have to wait for the money order to cash and then shipping time for the piece to arrive at their house. The whole transaction can take weeks.
So, to sum up this post: Get up your nerve + get your quality images + see what record keeping you need to do + figure out your prices + get an online home (blog) + find a way to accept payment = you are in business. Now, this is just the start so don't stress out, now we focus on building the business! Check back next Monday for more on this!