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My art isn’t selling online: a troubleshooting guide

By Jessica Craddock

Feb 04
why isn't my art selling online
  In this epic article:

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  • I don't know how to find people who'll love my art
why isn't my art selling online

I wish I could evaporate into thousands of tiny atoms so I could time travel to when you first decided you wanted to sell art online. That way, I could tell you all the steps you'd miss so you could get off to a running start. 

Many people have tried and quit already. But you're still here. You've got the determination, and that's a massive part of the battle. So we don't need to talk about that. 

What we DO need to talk about are the things you don't know yet. 

It's a bit like my sourdough dilemma. 

Stay with me here for a minute. 

I've been trying to learn how to bake my own artisan sourdough since my naturopath told me to cut out other bread. <— (meany head). 

I should know how to create some fantastic sourdough loaves at home. For a year in my twenties, I was a professional baker from 8pm to 8am five days a week. 

I've baked thousands of loaves in my life, but my circumstances are not the same. My climate is dry, I'm not using yeast, and the temperature in my house fluctuates 20 degrees between the day and night. 

The rules have changed on me, so I have to learn the variations. 

If you're used to selling art through galleries, commissions, or friends, and now selling online isn't working, even though you're giving it everything you've got… it's because the rules have variations you haven't mastered yet. 

We're going to be talking about some of my most requested pieces of advice through a different lens than usual.

Sometimes a change in perspective can bring some fresh ideas and a deeper understanding where you're going wrong. 

I've got a few topics in mind, like:

  • 1
    Only my friends are buying from me
  • 2
    I posted my art and got likes and comments, but no one bought it
  • 3
    My website/social media doesn’t get enough traffic
  • 4
    I don’t know how to talk about my art
  • 5
    I don’t know how to reach my target market

But I'd love to hear from you what your biggest struggle is. Maybe I'll talk about that instead, or add another week on to the docket. I'll leave the final line-up up to you. 

homework for an artist's online art business
 

Your homework is easy this week - comment at the bottom of this page and tell me what you need help with most!

Only my friends are buying my art

Wanna hear a crazy story? 

There was this girl I’d met a friend’s house once or twice. She seemed like a cool person, but I didn’t do much to nurture a further relationship.

One day, she showed up on my Facebook feed as a friend of a friend. I clicked and saw she was a photographer. Her photos were amazing so I immediately inquired about getting some done for my family and my business, then purchased two sessions from her. 

That’s not the crazy part. 

When we were doing my business photoshoot, in a town of my choice that she doesn’t live in, we stopped into a little pottery gallery. She said she liked the vibe, and it would fit in well with what I wanted. 

I started looking around the room and saw a mug that caught my eye. It was one of my brand colors and nice and big. “Hey… I like this one," I said. 

She stared at me incredulously for a minute, then said: “turn it over.” It had her name on it. She’d thrown that mug, painted and fired it, and left it at that gallery - forgetting about it. 

me finding my soul mug

photo by Evie Joy Photography

I bought it on the spot. 

If your friends are the only people buying your art online, here’s my advice. It's going to sound cheeky, but I swear I'm serious: Make more friends. 

Yes, it sounds crazy basic, and possibly even seems like a time suck, but hear me out. 

The most valuable thing I’ve ever done for my business is to start talking to people. 

As for Evie, she wouldn’t have two photoshoot fees and a mug sale under her belt had we not bonded over some mutual feelings first. We had never even talked art - but because we liked each other, and she had her marketing all set up to receive me when I found her - she made some decent money. 

For the longest time, I had many beliefs that told me “talking” isn’t a plan, it will eventually overwhelm me, and I’m not that good at it anyway. 

But successful artist after successful artist that I've studied did it. 

So I named who I wanted to work with and what they cared about and what we have in common (you know, friend stuff), and I created a plan to go out and find those people and build relationships with them. 

And it’s magic ya'll. Not to mention, I LOVE doing it. Yes, my introverted, non-conversation starting self loves it. Who would’ve thought?? 

This process is my favorite marketing I’ve ever done because it’s fulfilling, it's genuine, and it works. 

homework for an artist's online art business

Make some friends! Talk to people online. Ask questions. Share some love. Pretend they’re real people over on the other side... because they are. How would you interact with people in real life? 

If you’re interested in some private coaching where I’ll help you nail down your Ideal Art Buyer, show you how to find them and how to form relationships with them (aka MAKE MORE FRIENDS!) I’d love to talk to you more about it. Sign up for a chat here.

It's such a pleasure to talk to you every week. I mean it.

people liked my art, but no one bought it

Have you ever felt discouraged because people are liking, but not buying, your art?

Can I give you a little reframe?

Look >> It's a BIG win that people like your art. That means they think it's beautiful. It caught their eye. They were intrigued. They took the time to tell you they liked it, and we all know there's not enough time to go around. 

That is so great!!!

Now you know for sure that your art is appealing to people... they told you so!

Let that sit for a second. Breathe it all in deep and let it sink into you. Start at the top and re-read if you need to.

That means the reason they didn't buy it is a separate issue. It could be:

  • 1
    You didn't tell them HOW to buy it. I see this alll the time - can I even purchase this thing? If so, how? Where? What do I do??
  • 2
    They think it's beautiful, but you didn't talk about it in a way that makes them feel like they need it. What feelings or desires does your Ideal Art Buyer need more of in their life, like yesterday?
  • 3
    They saw it once, liked it, then it never crossed their mind again.

This last one is the one I want to talk about today.

That post they liked? That's not their fault it didn't cross their mind again. You posted it once, then dropped the subject! 

Think of that as your introductory post, then create a bunch more.

Consistency is the key here. That's why I recommend selling only one series per three months so that you can get your art in front of people more than once.

They say someone has to see a product seven times before they pull the trigger, and I believe that the study was done sometime in the 1940s. Who knows what that number is now! Help them decide to buy by being sharing way more than once.

But can I talk about the same thing for that long?

Of course, you can! If you need a daily plan laid out for you, I've got you covered. If you're a DIYer, use these prompts to get the ideas rolling.

  • What inspires me?
  • What techniques do I use?
  •  
    Why do I make art?
  • Why do I sell art?
  • How do I want my art to change the world?
  • Why did I choose this subject
  • What interests influence this series?
  • What values influence this series?
  • Who do I admire?
  • What do I believe in that becomes a part of my art?

Talk about your art from different angles. Photograph the same pieces in new ways to keep your feed visually appealing. Tell them what to do next. 

What if people don't see my posts?

Take advantage of all the features of your favorite platform to get as many views, in as many different forms, as possible. (For example, on Instagram, you can use posts, stories, IGTV, highlights, and lives.) 

What if I get bored with this series?

Going deep and pushing yourself to come up with new ways to talk about your series will help you find more meaning in it and help you grow as an artist. Your next series will always be more powerful and moving than your last. 

Keep your marketing as consistent as you can for these bursts of time. Don't water down your message! Remember, 99% of people won't see everything you put out. 

Side note: You can still make whatever art you want during the period, just wait to post it till that series is your focus.

homework for an artist's online art business

Think about what you really, really want to sell right now. What lights you up the most? Start talking about it!

Does your marketing feel separate from your art, even though you know it shouldn't be? I'd be honored to help you figure out what to talk about that will show your personality and voice. If you're interested, follow the link to sign up for a chat!

no one visits my art website

Too often, artists are playing "defense." They're making sure their website is good enough, writing their email series, thinking what would make people sign up for their email list…

They're so busy making everything perfect that they neglect to remember the most crucial part of all... people need to visit for any of this to matter. What good is a beautiful website that no one sees? It's like that saying… "Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound?" 

Maybe. But no one heard it. So it really doesn't matter.

The same thing goes for social media. Planning posts and editing photos for hours won't do you much good if you're just sitting there hitting the refresh button to see how many likes you have now.

The thing that will make the most significant impact on your art business is learning how to go out and find your audience, then interact with them.

You want more engagement? You go first.

If you're ok with waiting for years for a lucky break, great. You can disregard all of this. But if you're ready to start sharing the message of your art with the world, now, you're gonna need to be a little more proactive.

How do you do this?

  •  
    Look at the interests and values you have in common with your Ideal Art Buyer. What do they care about the most? What types of groups/hashtags/brands/podcasts/etc. are they interacting with?
  •  
    Make a list of these places and go start conversations regularly
  •  
    Find people in these places that could be Ideal Art Buyers. Start conversations with them as well!
  •  
    Think of people who have said they're interested in your art or already purchased from you. Do you stay in contact with them?
  • Be consistent. Take notes of your interactions. Set follow up dates. 
homework for an artist's online art business

Start by finding 5-10 places your Ideal Art Buyer hangs out and set calendar reminders to go there and be your awesome self.

If this is something you would really love to nail... taking out the guesswork, having a weekly plan, understanding how to find these people... I'd love to talk to you some more.

Visit this page to book a call with me to get more info.

I don't know how to talk about my art online

"I don't know how to explain why I paint and how to attract a person to want to buy it. When I do try and do a post like this it doesn't feel right, I'm basically just making up words to get a sale and it doesn't feel natural. So if I can sense this they must be able to as well."

Notes like this end up in my inbox, over and over, and over. I want to put a stop to all this madness.

How do you talk about your art? I'm going to give you an introductory crash course, right here, right now. 

Earlier in this series, I suggested you focus on selling one series at a time for three-month intervals, and included some prompts to get you started.

But, to make them really resonate, you have to break your ideas down into teeny tiny chunks that allow people to sink their teeth why you just said that thing. Let me show you what I mean.

One of those prompts was "What inspires me." Now, start a list. Maybe it looks something like this:

  •  
    The changing seasons
  •  
    Flowers
  •  
    Sitting quietly
  • The artist I did a big report on in school
  • Colored pencils

Now, if write "my art is inspired by nature and the changing seasons," that's fine, but it's not juicy or very relatable.

Pick one of the items from your list and break it down. You can do this process with all of the items on your list. For the sake of making this as clear as possible, I'm just going to choose one.

I'm inspired by the changing seasons because:

  •  
    The cycle is never-ending 
  •  
    It's a reminder of how quickly time moves on
  •  
    It helps me slow down and appreciate the subtle differences in color from day-to-day

Do it one more time (or even more if you feel so moved)

I'm inspired by the never-ending cycle of the changing seasons because:

  •  
    I know something new is always one day away
  •  
    When I have a bad day, I remember tomorrow will be different.

These last sub-topics are how you talk about your art while being 100% natural and real to you. They'll help you explain why you paint and turn your posts into interesting topics that your people will love to read about. 

Plus, they have the added bonus of giving you TONS of ways to talk about your first layer prompt: "what inspires you."

Here's an example of a post using this method:

I had a really crappy day today. My dog disappeared for a few hours, my kids were overly tired, and there was an incident I don't feel like getting into. At one point, I knew I just had to take a minute for myself to regroup before I lost it too. I went out onto my patio, took a deep breath of fresh air and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I saw a lone bee - flitting around in the sun. Last summer, there were swarms of them, but during the winter they all but disappear. The bee made me remember how quickly the seasons change. Spring is almost here even though it feels like winter just began. Every day, there's something different when I look outside. I remember tomorrow will be different for me too - and my outlook switches into uplifted and hopeful - but also grateful for what I have right now. This series is heavily influenced by this idea that tomorrow is always something new. The changing of the seasons anchors this idea throughout the images. I have four new originals available in my shop available for purchase. You can view all four by clicking the link in my bio!

Ok, there you have it: "How to Talk About Your Art on Social Media 101". What do you think? Are you more confused now? Does this help? Can you do it?

homework for an artist's online art business
 

Create one post this week by breaking down "what inspires you" into subtopics like I just showed you.

Want some personalized help figuring out what to to talk about? We can do that too. Learn more here.

 
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Do the work & create your luck,

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.

  • Brittany says:

    Thank you for this…really straight forward and things I can easily improve on…I’ll start implementing and we’ll see what happens!

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