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How to Sell Art Online: The Big Basics

By Jessica Craddock

Feb 26

I want to make sure you have the big basics to selling art online nailed down. Knowing these will get you further than any single selling tactic out there. 

The information is organized more like Color Theory than Architectural Drawing 101. I will teach you the basic rules, then you can decide if you prefer to paint with split-complimentary or monochromatic color schemes.

In fact, you can mix and match any marketing platform with these rules. Can’t decide between Instagram and Facebook? Shopify or WordPress? Video or gif? It doesn’t matter. They’ll all work if you know the rules.

Having the big picture nailed down first will keep you from getting distracted with every shiny new course. It will allow you to pick the marketing platforms that work best for you, and still reach the finish line.

Here’s what you need to know to answer the big question, “How do I sell art online?” 

Big Basic #3 - Know the purpose behind each of the main puzzle pieces.

Then use them. Practice makes perfect.

There are three main puzzle pieces you need to know if you want to sell online. Each of them makes the other two more effective. They are...

Most of the people that find you will probably do so using social media. If they like you, they'll go to your website. If they still like you, they'll join your email list. The deeper they go into this process, the more likely they are to buy from you.

what pieces do I need to sell art online

Using each piece purposefully will send people who find you to the end of this process (your email list) where you are most likely to get the monies in your pocket.

Here's the scoop:

Social Media

Main Purpose: Make friends. Get to know people and help people get to know you.

Purpose #2: Tell people what you do.

Purpose #3: Selling - selling yourself, selling your email list, selling your website, selling your art (in that order)

Common Mistake: Making most posts about buying. If your followers don’t relate to who you are and what you’re about first, trying to sell art will fall flat.

Focus on getting traffic this quarter if: Your website visitor numbers aren’t high enough to reach your monetary goals.

Your website

Main Purpose: Communicate what you sell, why you’re different, and why they want to buy your art

Purpose #2: Ask people who relate to you and your art to sign up for your email list.

Purpose #3: Be a storefront for people to get all the information they need (what would they ask a clerk?) + buy your art (have a “cash register”)

Common Mistake(s): Using your website as a portfolio. Thinking people will take the time to figure out how to buy the art when the answer isn’t right in front of their face. Thinking the art will speak for itself so you don’t take the time to figure out your message and communicate it clearly.

Focus on your website this quarter if: Your website visitors aren’t converting into email subscribers.

Your email list

Main Purpose: Again, make friends. Offer pieces of yourself. Share in your own style - whether that is teaching, inspiring, building a community or going behind the scenes.

Purpose #2: Remind people what you do.

Purpose #3: Ask directly for sales by linking to the purchase page on your website or replying to your email.

Common Mistake(s): Each email basically says “look what I made” and not much else. Not communicating with your list on a set schedule consistently.

Focus on your email list this quarter if: Your emails aren’t converting into sales.

It may seem counter-intuitive not to make selling your main focus. But with an online art business, you have to work a little harder to be personal. Remember, they can't look at your aura or body language across the room and decide what they think of you. That makes the art of talking indispensable!

Big Basic #2: Use your website as your hub. 

Not Etsy or Instagram. Your website. 

It’s your art gallery + business card + brochure + salesman + cash register all in one. 

No other platform will give you full control to say what you want to say, when you want to say it, how you want to say it.

Let's go through a few scenarios to illustrate why your website is so crucial to your success. 

If you are talking one-on-one

If you are telling people to go somewhere other than your website to check you out, that’s one more layer between them and your email list. 

Say you meet someone, start talking about your art, and tell them to look you up on Instagram. Now you have to be compelling enough on Instagram to get them to quit their mindless scrolling on the app to go to your website where you then convince them to get on your list. 

You could’ve skipped straight to asking them to visit your website or, if you’re feeling confident, told them how awesome your email list is and how to sign up... on your website. 

If you are on social media

If you remember from last week, social media is a way for people to find you, decide if they like you, and be convinced to go deeper with you (aka check out your website and get on your email list). For this reason, the call to action at the end of your post should often be joining your mailing list. Where do they have to go to do this? … your website. 

If they are already on your email list

You’ll STILL be sending people to your website. Your website acts as a way for them to get more information while they’re considering purchasing from you. It also acts as a way for you to collect payments, keep track of what’s sold and available, tell them what you’re good at, and remind them who you are when you send out too few emails.

Big Basic #1 - A clear message is, now and forevermore - no matter what changes in the world - the key to your success.

If you want to become a known and respected artist… If you want to make a good living while creating an impact on the world with your art… this is the one you really have to nail. 

If you want the world to understand and appreciate your art, you’ve got to be able to nudge them in the right direction. They’re not gonna get it unless you help them! They aren’t mind readers. 

They’re not going to take the time to analyze your latest masterpiece up and down in a web browser. That’s just not the way people use the internet. It’s fast paced. It’s grab my attention, REAL QUICK, or I’m gone. 

If you don’t have a clear message yet, here’s a few tips to help you get started:

  • Focus on one type of art... for a time. Immerse yourself in it until you figure out what you are trying to say, the feeling you want to convey, how it can help them or why it’s bubbling out of you. Journaling helps!
  • Streamline... for you and for them. While you are working on your one type of art, try to make them all one size, one price, framed one way, etc. This makes it easier for you to focus all your attention on the art itself. (Bonus!: It lets people know what to expect from you too, so they can also focus on the art without getting caught up in the details.)
  • Make a list of everything you’ve said about your art and what other people have said about it. Search your emails and replies, social media, website, artist statements ... wherever there are words about your art. Putting all these words and phrases in one place can be surprisingly effective to see the big picture when you’re stuck in nitty gritty.

That’s it! Once you get these three Big Basics perfected (by practicing) your art will sell. If it’s not selling, you’re not quite there. Keep practicing. 

When it finally clicks, everything will work together. You’ll have a process that moves newbies from finding you online to buying and appreciating your art. It’ll be beautiful.

If you need help implementing these ideas, check out The Artist's Marketing Basics Bundle.

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.

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