When should I put money into my online art business?

By Jessica Craddock | Weekly tips

Jun 25
should i spend money on my art business
  In this epic article:

(click title to scroll)

  Coming soon to this article:
  • Should I be spending money on an email list right now?
  • Should I be spending money on an app/program right now?
  • Should I be spending money on a coach right now?

*This post may contain an affiliate link, which means I will either make a small amount of money or receive free services if you decide to purchase my recommendation. I only recommend products or services that, at other times, I spread the word about whole-heartedly without compensation. 

should i spend money on my art business

This morning has been a rough one.

One kid throwing up... one kid won't take his nap... I haven't taken a shower yet.... But whatevs. That wasn't going to stop me from talking to you today. I just had to do it a little differently.

Instead of receiving your usual written weekly tip, I recorded it — with a 7-month-old cooing in the background & kicking the computer — and a sick girl crawling on top of me. Gotta do what I gotta do!

In this video, you'll learn:
  • If you should be spending money on your business
  • Which of four categories of people you fall in and the advice I have for you
  • Five questions to ask yourself when you are deciding whether something is worth spending your money on

Click the above to get to watching!

Marketing started out as a job for me. A job in a creative field, but it was a job nonetheless. It was hard and stressful and used up all my energy.

After I quit my job and started marketing for my own business... it was still an energy suck.

It was something I knew was necessary to sell online, so I took a deep dive into studying marketing. I read, took courses, and tried out everything I learned. The more I tried, the more I realized what I was missing.

Here are the two big lessons I learned that made me love marketing:
  • 1
    Automation is a great tool, but not when you sacrifice talking to people, making friends, and building relationships (even if you're a big introvert like me!)
  • 2
    Marketing is an art project. You decide what you want to create, research and brainstorm creative solutions to get there and know what comes out the other end will look different than your original vision because you'll follow creative ideas that pop up along the way. 
Marketing should be fueling your energy, not draining it!

In that spirit, I decided I wanted to try something different with this weekly tip series. I'm taking your questions to help me write this month's tips!

This week I took questions on whether you should be spending money on your art website. 

Thanks to everyone who contributed their questions! Here goes...

I am sending people to my website and think it should be more presentable. Right now it's a mess. Perhaps a better website would lead to more sales? Should I spend that non-existent money now? 

A website alone is not going to lead to sales. It's part of a whole strategy, so don't invest money thinking it will solve all your problems.

However, you should always be sending people to your website, period... even if it's a mess. 

When they get there, you should be collecting their email addresses. 

This is how you form your customer base. They've given you permission to contact them about selling your work.

If your website truly stresses you out and you aren't ready to improve on it for whatever reason (money/time), ditch the web page and create a landing page instead. 

A landing page should have your elevator speech, a few examples of your work, a place to sign up for your email list, and any social proof you have (things like "I've been featured in this place", "I'm in the permanent collection of so and so", or "I'm regularly seen at this location".)

Should I make a website even though I don't have enough inventory? It crowds out time to just make art. My last for-money piece was a commission, and so is my next one. 

I would take time to think about your business model. Do you want to be a commission artist? If so, you should build your website around your commissions. What type of commission do you do? What sizes do you offer? How much are they? What kind of questions do people have around those commissions? Add some testimonials at some pictures of past work. 

If you don't want to be a commission artist and you want to sell originals, then you should put originals on your website. If you don't want to sell your originals, you should put prints on your website, and so on.

Even if you only have one example of your work photographed, you should still have a website. In this instance. I would probably refer back to the landing page advice in the last question.

You don't have to have tons of work on a website. Too much work can even be overwhelming and create too many choices... so sometimes less is actually better. 

What are the biggest pros of having a website as an artist? Most artists I know make sales through their galleries, their social media or word of mouth, then have a website as a portfolio. I've had a website before, but it never felt worth the time and effort.

There are many ways you can make money as an artist. I teach the long game. I want you to build a business that is sustainable and grows with time, one that you own and that no one can take away from you.

Like I said earlier, having just a website will not get you anywhere. The website is part of a bigger plan. It takes more traffic than most people realize to start forming a sustainable business. 

For example, statistics of an average website show between 1-3% of people that visit will sign up for your email list. This, of course, can be increased with testing sign up forms and learning to talk about your art.

After that, the average is that between 1-3% of your email list will purchase from you. Again, this can be increased with improving your emails.

If random sales are your goal, you just want to make a little extra cash, then you may just want to sell through social media. When the winds of social media change though, and they always do, that platform you worked so hard to build it will go with it.

Sales through galleries often take as high as 50% of your commission. Unless they're exclusively featuring you all year long and doing a good job marketing your work, you're going to have a hard time creating a sustainable business this way. 

Referrals are another good way to make sales. BUT think about all the referrals you're losing by not being able to contact them. If you can get a referral to join your email list, then remind them you exist once a week/once a month/quarterly, you'll have a much higher chance of actually selling to them. 

This is my first year in business where I may actually make a profit. I have no idea how much is a good amount to spend on someone designing my website. I see packages that range in the thousands.

First of all, a pretty website is always better than an ugly website... but it is not the most important thing. Or even the second most important thing.

If you want to invest in a web designer, I strongly urge you to find one who understands marketing just as much (or more than) design. They should help you create a website that puts function first -- encouraging email subscriptions first and sales second (you don't want to lose them forever if they don't buy on their first visit!).

If they're really good, they will also help you talk about and feature your art in a way that has personality and resonates with your visitors.

If you can find this magical unicorn, their packages could be anywhere from $10-20k.

Before you think about spending this kind of money, I personally recommend that you be in business at least another year or two and learn some of these things yourself. Use some smaller investments to guide you. That way you'll already have an idea what you want and can use their expertise to its full extent.

In the meantime, find a designer who will create a basic branding package for you for $500-1000 and use this to make your site prettier on your own. This should include things like heading and body fonts, colors, a few variations of a mark to use as a logo and a template for images to use at the top of each page.

You may even find when you eventually have the ability to invest big on a website you'll already be happy with what you've got.

I have a website, a blog, and an Etsy account, but my shop's not open. I also have an Instagram for my art business, which I post on occasionally, with only a handful of followers. I have hardly used any of these elements and I want to reverse that to have an active business. What should I spend money on? 

This is a great question. First, read this article about the basics of marketing online to see where you should put your focus. As you'll see, you'll need a way to get traffic, a website that functions as your hub, and an email list.

This is the most effective long term strategy to build your art business as you're not counting on other platforms to stay popular. Being able to own a list of people who love you and your art is invaluable.

If this is your strategy, I'd sign up for a free trial of the Artist's Marketing Basics Bundle. The free trial will get you started with a simple way to start learning who to talk to, how to price your art, how to build trust with people who don't know you and how to talk about what you do.

If you decide to sign up for the paid program, it will continue you down the path of setting up an easy, simple website you can sell through that will be complemented by your new, fully-functional email list.

If that's not your jam, I would recommend starting with picking the main way you want to get traffic to your site and take a course on that. Traffic to your site makes everything go round. If no one is seeing it, you won't be getting anywhere. It's a great first step that'll make an impact!

homework for an artist's online art business

Leave a comment below with your question related to your email list, app/program or coaching so I can answer those next!

If you liked this article, sign up below to get more just like it in your inbox every week!

Do the work & create your luck,

Does this post speak your language? Please share it with other artists!

About the Author

Jessica Craddock is a consultant for artist entrepreneurs who have started building their following online but haven’t figured who would buy their art. They’re tired of being all over the place and don’t know what to say or how to say it. She teaches them to work smarter and be “authentically them” so they can sell more through their website & spend their days creating beautiful things.