Online Sales: Tips for Artists

Artists, do you want to sell your work online but have no idea where to start wading through the myriad of platforms? This morning, the Guardian posted an article with tips for exploring online sales. Here are the five points, followed by my additional comments in italics. 

1. Don't confuse networking platforms with sales platforms 

Online sales platforms are designed to generate new sales from new clients, whereas individual artist websites and social media platforms are essential networking tools, designed to help manage existing clients. Social media is rarely considered an outlet for the purchase of art, and the websites of individual artists are becoming increasingly inconspicuous on the web.

While social media sites do not replace e-commerce sites, they are equally important for building your audience and visibility. Be sure to use social media to educate your collectors about what online sales platforms you are working with and create a consistent plan for posting links to highlight individual works for sale.

Your website does not have to be inconspicuous! Educate yourself about SEO and think creatively about posting content that will show up in search results whenever someone Googles your name or artwork title. 

2. Keep working with the traditional offline art market

Never undercut established gallery market prices online and don't use the internet to offload inferior work. Online activities are not an alternative sales tool, but an additional sales tool to complement and support enterprises offline.

If you are represented by a gallery, meet with your dealer and discuss how you can integrate your online and offline sales strategies. Then make a list of what online platforms are suitable for your goals and make appointments to speak with representatives from each site. Find out what they charge for commission, as well as what mediums and price points are selling well - this will give you some insight into their demographic. With this information, tailor what work you will offer on each platform. Consider testing the waters with a limited edition of prints.

3. Be proactive and diversity

Join a variety of different online sales platforms. They offer great convenience and choice to art buyers, much like art fairs, but they all operate slightly differently and so appeal to different art buyers for different reasons.

Saatchi Online takes the idea of a gallery online, Axisweb provides a fantastic industry networking tool, and Visual Art Trader – a site that I founded – is an online art network that appeals to local audiences. There are plenty to choose from, so shop around.

Do your research! If you have any questions, contact a sales rep and be sure to find answers. Be sure you understand the commission rates and who is responsible for shipping and insuring the work. Two resources I have created: a Pinterest board of online sales platforms and a blog post outlining commission rates.

4. Online sales will never replace face to face sales

According to a report by ArtTactic and Hiscox, The Online Art Trade 2013, of those not buying art online, 79% said it was because they couldn't inspect the artwork before purchase. Continue to exhibit artworks in as many offline spaces as possible, including your studio.

5. Keep information detailed and up to date

There are no sales teams online to answer buyers' questions. Buyers must rely on the up-to-date and accurate information provided by the artist. In the ArtTactic and Hiscox report, 92% of art buyers said that the quality of the artwork image and the information presented on the website were the most important factors when buying art online.

Develop a professional archive, with high resolution images of all your work. In addition to submitting accurate information, use social media channels and your artist website to further educate potential buyers. Google your name and a few of your artwork titles. What comes up? Are there errors? Make corrections on the sites you own, and contact the site administrators for corrections on all other sites. Learn more about SEO so that when you do publish content it will show up in the search results. What information can you post to expand your audience?

Header Image: "99 Cent" (1999), Andreas Gursky