Do I really need an ecommerce store to sell art?

By Jessica Craddock | Artist Website

ecommerce store to sell art

You’ve probably put a lot of time and money into your artist website already. Is it really worth investing even more to set up a store on your website? What if it doesn’t work? Heck, you might even have an ecommerce art store already and be wondering if it was worth it.

Deep breaths. Let’s talk this through a bit…

In a perfect world, you would be able to set up a store (let’s pretend its a real brick and mortar store on Main Street with a sleek sign and overflowing planters outside), flip the ‘Open’ light on, and customers would come flowing in to buy art from you - all day, every day.

But imagine this.

You've done everything right, except one thing…

You forgot you needed a cash register. 

That means you have no way to sell your art without asking your customers to email you what pieces they are interested in buying so you can get back to them, and then figure out payment, and so on.

All those people who are holding things they were thinking about purchasing? Well, they don’t really want to send an email and then wait - they wanted to make their impulse buy now. They're late for an appointment, their kids have to find a bathroom because they have to pee nowwww, and they haven’t had their coffee yet.

They lose interest, say “maybe I’ll come back another time” (but never do), and leave. 

Here’s the moral of the story:

MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO BUY FROM YOU.

But ecommerce stores are more expensive than the website I have now.

Just about any way you splice it, a reasonably priced store is going to cost you around $30/month.

Isn’t $360 a year worth seeing if you can make your dream come true?

Close your eyes when you walk into Target and don’t open them until you get to the paper towel aisle. That little trick right there will save you $360 in one to three months.

But I’m not very techy. Aren’t ecommerce stores are hard to set up?

They can be, depending on the website building platform you’ve chosen. WordPress is often a first pick because it is possible to get set up cheaply (which has its own set of problems), but if you aren’t very good at figuring out technology and want to set up a store in WordPress, it will be a beast. Get out now.

Try a platform like Shopify or Squarespace to make setting up a store MUCH simpler.

(Sidenote: I use WordPress and I love it. I’m also good at figuring things out on the computer. If you are too, it might be your cup of tea.)

But I don’t sell my originals/prints/art products, I sell commissions or another service-based art.

Depending on what your process is to get people to book you, you can probably get away with not having an ecommerce store.

At the end of each page, instead of having a buy button, you’ll have a ‘hire me’, ‘book a sit down’ or other button that should make it really easy to do what you want. In this case, I recommend using a program like Calendly that will allow them to get their first appointment booked on your calendar and accept payments.

But can’t I just use Etsy or something similar and save myself the trouble?

Yes, yes you can. Etsy is a great way to earn a little extra dough on the side, but it’s a terrible way to try to build an art business. Why?

  1. You don’t ‘own’ your list of previous customers or inquiries. You aren’t allowed to add them to your email list or conduct business outside of the Etsy platform.
  2. If Etsy loses popularity or changes the rules enough, your art business will disappear into the toilet and there’ll be nothing you can do about it if your business is based on it. (This will happen… the question is when.)
  3. They can charge whatever fees they want and increase them at any time. Right now they include $.20/listing, 5% of sale + shipping + wrapping, payment processing fees, and some optional fees to get your listing seen (like advertising/promotional listings and Etsy Plus).
  4. The competition is fierce on Etsy. To make sales, you’ll likely need to compete on pricing which will drive down your profits and increase your workload.

Use Etsy as a side gig if you want. Use them to drive traffic to your website. DO NOT base your business on Etsy.

But I already have an ecommerce store and no one is buying anything.

Hooray! You already know one thing - the problem isn’t having a ‘buy’ button. Now get your butt in gear to focus on one of the other problems it might be.

Psst… the answer is usually A. not enough visitors or B. you aren’t selling yourself or your art. But we’ll get to those another day.

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About the Author

Jessica's college experience was spent falling in love with getting her hands dirty. She showed her paintings at art galleries all over the city, but kept waiting to "make it". After the galleries took 30-50%, she would never be able to pay the bills. Determined to learn where she was going wrong, she took a job at a marketing firm where she managed over 50 projects at a time for three years, then ran her own web design company for the next three. Combining all of her unique skills, she opened The Artist Market Co. to teach artists techniques to create a thriving online business from their craft.

  • Tracy says:

    What ecommerce platforms do you recommend and why?

  • Tracy says:

    What ecommerce platform(s) do you recommend and why?

    • Jessica Craddock says:

      I don’t know your tech skill level, but when I had a webdesign business I used Squarespace because it was easy for clients to get the hang of once I passed it off. They make ecommerce really simple. I also know from looking around quite a bit that people love Shopify. I think most platforms will do a decent job – the question is really what features are you looking for?

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