As an Artist you know there is no greater thrill than seeing your artwork on someone’s wall; knowing that they love it, that you have brought joy into their world. Whether you’re a part time hobby artist, a full time professional or somewhere in between there is always opportunity to sell your work. You may find that one or more methods work well for you. Pursue them. Hone your skills. Reap the rewards! Remember the old adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained …”
Your Local Art Community
If you haven’t already done so, check out your local ‘art scene’. Many communities have organizations designed for the budding Artist. They offer classes, exhibits, information on local events (booth opportunities) and general art related resources. You may also fine resources through the Chamber of Commerce and your local Colleges and Universities. It’s a great place to start.
Word of Mouth
Everyone loves to sell by word of mouth. It’s free and you know people are talking good things about your art. Great word of mouth is every seller’s dream.
Advantage: Someone else is marketing for you simply by giving their recommendation to a friend.
Disadvantage: In order for “word of mouth” to be affective, people have to know about it first!
Conclusion: It takes time to develop ‘word of mouth’ selling. Produce good work, conduct yourself with integrity and a great reputation will follow! It is worth its weight in gold.
With commissioned work, you sell it before you create it.
Advantage: You can pretty well expect to get paid for the job, assuming you deliver as promised.
Disadvantage: You have to market yourself to get the job. And you are obligated to paint within someone else’s parameters rather than yours completely.
Conclusion: Working within boundaries forces you to solve the problems it presents. It forces creative solutions. Many of us do our best work when presented with unique challenges!
Event booths can be a fun way to sell your artwork and participate in the community.
Advantage: Booth rentals can be relatively inexpensive. You get to talk with people and promote your work. You get instant feedback. You know immediately how people feel about your artwork; everything from style, content, size and price. You get a ‘feel’ for the market. You have the opportunity to get the word out about you and your art; give out business cards or email contact.
Disadvantage: You have to deal with how you will accept payment (credit card, cash, check). You don’t want someone to walk off with one of your paintings and find out their check was bad. You need to sell enough to cover your expenses. Event opportunities may not come around often enough to suit your taste or you may not have enough pieces to warrant having a booth.
Conclusion: Consider these – renting a booth with other Artists if you don’t have enough work to fill the space; excepting credit cards or cash only; selling low price point prints or cards of your artwork to passers by (for spontaneous sales). Market yourself to the hilt. Tout your web site.
Your Own Web Site
Nowadays everyone seems to have their own web site. If you have anything to sell, people expect you to have one.
Advantage: It’s fast, convenient and you’re not confined to any one location. Your artwork is available for people around the world to see 24/7. Getting online can be done on the cheap. If you’re willing to do the research, the world is literally at your fingertips to learn the In’s and out’s of being online.
Disadvantage: Getting on the web is one thing. Getting found by people searching for your product is quite another. Getting listed on page 158 on a Google search doesn’t add up to sales. Unless your prepared to take on the full time job (and expense) of marketing your site, you will most likely only be found by people to whom you have personally given your web address. You will also need to have a payment and delivery method. And work out things like who pays shipping.
Conclusion: If at all possible, at least get a web page. Give people a convenient way to see your work and contact you by email. It’s expected.
A Hosted Website
Showing your artwork on a hosted web site is a fairly fast and easy process.
Advantage: When you show your work on someone else’s web site, you don’t have to market your art or your website. It is relatively inexpensive. There are online companies that will ‘host’ your artwork and often for free or a small annual fee. Buyers are then directed to you; where you handle the sale and shipping, etcetera… Some of them even take care of accepting payment, shipping and returns if you sell prints of your art that they produce (for a fee of course). Luckily many are able to print on demand, so you don’t have to ‘buy’ the print until someone places an order for it.
Disadvantage: The hosting site makes the bulk of their money by selling their services to you (hosting and producing prints), not by selling your original pieces of art. In other words, they do not target sales to a specific market of art buyers; but rather you, the Artist. You may have to provide your own digital capture. If you want to offer larger prints you will need to use high end capture methods (professional camera or scanner). The hosting company may also take a % of the sale for themselves.
Conclusion: It’s a fantastic way to get your art ‘on the web’ without a lot of time or expense involved.
Art Shows & Galleries
Art shows are often hosted by galleries and organizations that can attract lots of interested buyers.
Advantage: The event is advertised by the host, so you don’t have to. Art shows can be a great way to introduce yourself and your art to the local market (and possibly larger, if a licensing agent sees your work). You have the opportunity to sell your work or walk away with an award. Everybody loves an ‘award winning’ artist! Many Artists get their start via shows and galleries.
Disadvantage: You may not be accepted into the Show or you may have to pay to enter. Galleries are very particular about the work they carry. Once you are accepted, if you are accepted, you can expect the Gallery to take 40-60% commission right off the top. You must do your homework and deal with reputable galleries only.
Conclusion: The Internet is great, but it’s impossible to beat the ‘real thing’ when it comes to viewing art. Viewing the original up close and personal is the true art experience. The high end sales are still made in the galleries. Go for it.
Selling prints of your original art is easier today than ever before.
Advantage: You can sell prints of a popular piece at an affordable price. You can sell the original as well or choose to keep it in your own private collection. Fine art printing companies are widely available on the Internet and elsewhere. Many of them do digital capture as well as the printing itself. Depending on your budget, and quality of digital capture, you have control over the type and quality of the Giclee Prints created. You also have choice of selling limited or open edition prints.
Disadvantage: You have to invest in the digital capture and printing services and hope that you can re-coup those expenses through the various methods of selling your art.
Conclusion: Whether to sell prints or strictly one of a kind, originals is a personal decision. The advantages are obvious, yet for some, it goes against the grain. Follow your heart.
License Your Art with a Company
Your “license” is your permission for someone else to market and sell images of your work. How the image is used is agreed upon in the contract.
Advantage: Your art continues to work for you long after you have created it, generating a passive income.
Disadvantage: These companies usually license art only for their own use. Meaning the art is used strictly for that company’s product.
Conclusion: Once you have a contract it is a no hassle way to sell your art. Be sure to sell your license, not your copyright!
License Your Art with a Commercial Licensing Agency
With this type of licensing your image is contracted out to manufacturing companies through the Agency. How the image is used is agreed upon in the contract. It could be used on anything from mugs, dishware, cloth, napkins, art prints, T-shirts stationary and any number of things in the manufacturing industry. Licensing art with an agency is the professionals’ game.
Advantage: Once you create the original artwork and sign a licensing agreement, you can return to the art of creating great Fine Art, all the while earning passive income.
Disadvantage: The licensing market is highly competitive. Agents will only license what they believe they can sell because it literally costs them thousands of dollars to land good contracts with manufactures, publishers and various agencies. They need art they ‘know’ they can sell. Some licensing agents will ask you to put up a significant sum of ‘good faith’ money to help off set their expenses. Then you both cross your fingers that it sells. If the agent doesn’t get paid, you don’t get paid. You get 30-50% of the contract price the agent makes with the purchasing company; about 4-10% of the wholesale price of the product (not retail sale price).
Conclusion: Even at a fraction of the wholesale price, the profits can be huge. If you are talented enough to play that game, my hat goes off to you. Well done!
I am sure you have noticed these selling channels are interrelated. Many Artists will participate in event booths; selling prints, handing out business cards with their web address, drumming up commissioned work and developing a good ‘word of mouth’ reputation all at the same time! And why not? The more you put your work ‘out there’ the more chances you have to sell it. Whether you just dabble in art or make it your bread and butter, there are selling opportunities for you. Some obviously require more time and effort than others. The great part is, between the Internet and local organizations you can get as little or as deeply involved as you want. Keep it fun and enjoy yourself!