the best way to sell your art on Instagram

Want to grow your Instagram account and sell more art? This article will give you a little-known strategy to market your art 10x more effectively than you are now using a simple three-step system! 

hashtags and posts is a broken art business model

Once in a blue moon, an artist gets lucky.

She’s able to organically grow an Instagram account and start selling art...  simply by following frequently repeated advice: post regularly and use hashtags.

This isn’t BAD advice, per se. The problem is it is sold as the cure to all your woes. 

It’s incomplete information! (unless you’re one of the blue moon lucky ones.)

Personally, I’m not willing to bet my business on luck.

Are you?

If you have been around for a while you have heard me say --

There are three parts to marketing:

    Building an audience
    Building relationships

Instagram can help you with all of this - BUT you have to start consciously thinking about how you use it:

    What are you actively doing to build an audience on Instagram?
    What are you actively doing to build relationships on Instagram?
    What are you actively doing to sell on Instagram?

Because, like any other platform, Instagram is just that -- a platform. A tool.

It doesn’t do the work for you. It requires brain space and action taking.

The good news is this doesn't have to be hard or take all your time, it just takes a little more awareness.

For this series, I will be showing you some ways to use Instagram to strategically market your art instead of just hitting publish and crossing your fingers.

get the right art collectors to your Instagram account

AKA: grow your audience

"What are you doing right now to help people find your art?" is one of my favorite questions to start with when I'm trying to get a feel for an artist's marketing experience.

My least favorite answer, as you probably know by now, is, "I post on Instagram regularly and try to change up my hashtags once in a while."

YES -- you should do that. But is it helping people find your art? 

Most likely, no. Or at a snail's pace anyway. 

You tell me! How fast are your followers growing?

If the answer is "not nearly fast enough," try one (or all three!) of these instead:

No. 1: Shareable posts

Yes, there is a difference between a regular post and a shareable post. Different audiences will want to share different types of posts, so how do you know which will work for you?

Start with the data: Go through all of your past insights and look for posts with numbers under the airplane icon. These are the posts of yours that have been shared. (This only works if you have a business account.)

Can you find any trends among them? Maybe it is a specific type of art or a particular topic you posted about. These trends are what your audience is interested in sharing from you! 

If you don't have any of that information, take some time to scroll through your feed and see what jumps out at you that you want to share. You can also look through your past Insta stories and see what you have shared in the past.

Do a little reflecting on WHY you shared/want to share that post. Is it the type of image or graphic? A topic? A certain aesthetic? 

This digging will give you useful insights into what future posts can help you grow your audience. 

No. 2: Collaborations

What other brands have a similar audience to you? Start keeping an eye out for similarities between you and other accounts. Maybe they are…

    Creatives with a similar aesthetic
    Local shops and restaurants
    An account with similar values or interests

These could be good potential collaborators. 

Brainstorm ideas of ways you can help each other by getting yourself in front of their audience and putting them in front of yours. If you do this regularly, you can quickly grow your account, make sure it is full of the right people, and help the person you are collaborating with do the same.


No. 3: Using Instagram as a place to make new friends.

Within the communities that I mentioned in number two, there is an unlimited number of people you have things in common with. 

Starting individual conversations with the people within those communities is a great way to make new friends, be a happier, more connected artist, and sell more art consistently, every time. 

Who wouldn't want that? 

Starting these individual conversations does take more time than No. 1 and 2, but it is a valuable and useful method to grow your community of art collectors.

engage your art collecting tribe on Instagram

aka: build relationships

"Use stickers on your stories!" "Ask questions at the end of your posts!" "Tag every influencer account you know!"


Tried it all, but your engagement just isn’t going up on Instagram?

Instead of worrying so much about increasing the engagement on your account, why not try building relationships instead?

It’s 100x more enjoyable, and psst… it increases engagement too.

All you need is a simple reframe on how you think about the word "engagement."

Instead of ME, ME, ME (like MY post, comment on MY story, share MY art), take some time to think about THEM instead.

Here are a few quick ways you can start building relationships instead of trying to get more engagement:

REFRAME #1: You open up first

When everything you say is surface level or opinion-neutral, people won’t have anything to say about it, so of course they won’t reply!

Think about things you would tell close friends and have conversations around. Sometimes these are a little bit scarier to put on the internet but if you want people to open up to you, you
have to open up to them first.

REFRAME #2: Don’t ask robot questions.

There’s a good chance the questions you are asking sound like they’re coming from a robot marketer, because most people’s questions do.

Take the question from your last social media post. Imagine walking up to someone you know and asking it out loud. 

Would they look at you weird? 

If so, think about how you can reword it from eyebrow lifter to conversation starter.

Reframe #1: If what you are talking about isn’t a conversation they are interested in having, they’re not going to respond no matter how you ask the question.)

REFRAME #3: Show ‘em some love.

Your audience has already come to you, clicked follow, and taken the time to read through some of your posts.

Do you know who they are? If they commented, would you know anything about them? 

If you are not genuinely interested in the people around you, they are probably not going to foster much love for you either. 

Remember, this is a social network. We are creating friends, superfans, and buyers.

REFRAME #4: Video is more personal than text.

You might be scared of video because it’s not as edited as a post would be, but that’s why it’s better.

People can feel like they know you when you’re on video. Video displays your quirks, the way you speak, your mannerisms, and vibes. This is a good thing!

There are so many different ways to use video on Instagram. Instagram lives, IGTV, reels, stories… Start with the one that is easiest for you and work your way up. (If video terrifies you, 
check out this post.)

These are just scratching the surface of what you can do to build relationships on Instagram! 

homework for an artist's online art business

Pick 1-2 of these to try this week, or come up with your own. Whatever you choose - build relationships intentionally. At the end of the week, look at how that affects the engagement you've been working so hard to get!

engage your art collecting tribe on Instagram

Ever wonder how that artist you follow on Instagram is always selling work, but she doesn't seem to be doing anything different than you?

You both post four times a week.

You have a similar number of followers.

Your photography and art are as good as hers.

But she's selling, and you're not. What gives??

It's not that she's better than you. It's that there's more going on behind the scenes that you wouldn't know by looking at her Instagram account. The most likely candidate is that she's built up more relationships before she tries to sell.

Having people in your orbit who feel connected with you makes finding your art a new home a much simpler process.

But relationships alone aren't enough.

You can have lots of friends, but if you don't ever offer up your art, they won't buy it.

(Remember: step 1: build an audience, step 2: build relationships, step 3: sell)

The good news is -- selling on Instagram does not have to be uncomfortable.

It can be enjoyable, even if you feel resistance to it right now.

I find the best way to do something new, like actively selling, is using baby steps. Choose the one that's easiest for you and work your way up.

Way to sell on Instagram #1: Selling posts. 

When you have a piece of art you want someone to buy, mention it is for sale and how to buy it. Please don't assume that they will go looking for how to buy it. Hand it to them on a platter. Make it easy.

(I can't tell you how many times artists tell me their art isn't selling, then I go to their account and don't know that their art is available to purchase.)

In selling posts, try to show them the art through a new lens that adds value:

    Why would they want it? 
    How would it change the feeling of their home? 
    What would it remind them of?
  • How can it change their thinking? 
  • What are the benefits to the person who would own it?

Way to sell on Instagram #2: Individual customer service

As much as I would love to say talking about how to buy your art in your post is enough, depending on how much money you want to make, you'll probably need to take it a step further.

Think about personal selling as a proactive customer service. 

Who has mentioned wanting to buy a piece from you or always raves about your work? 

How can you give those people the most excellent customer service in the world? What do they need or want to consider buying a piece? If they are short on time, maybe they'd appreciate a catalog of all your work in one place. If they are just indecisive, perhaps they'd appreciate you offering a virtual studio visit. 

Imagine you are a high-end $10,000/painting type studio. What kind of customer service would you offer? How can you use that now to wow your customers, receive amazing word of mouth, and grow your business to where you want it to be?

By no means do I want you to spend hours or days behind the scenes creating something to send to one or two people. The point of this section is high touch - high contact. Every time you wow one person, one time, that's one chance to sell art.

If you wow five people, that's five chances.
If you wow five people five times, that's twenty-five chances.
If you wow one hundred people, that's one hundred chances.

I like more chances, not less. How about you?

Way to sell on Instagram #3: Selling videos

This video type has a different purpose than I mentioned last week in my email about building relationships.

Pretend you are in a situation where you are interested in a piece of art. What type of video would get you even closer to hitting that buy button? 

Selling videos are a mix of the two categories above. These videos can make potential buyers think about your art in a new way (see post ideas above) or perform a customer service function.

    What do you have for sale? 
    Why might they want to buy it? 
    What does it feel like to own one?
  • How would you recommend hanging this piece for maximum impact?
Video can help bring context to the size, show more detail, and associate feelings with a piece more easily.
homework for an artist's online art business

Choose one of these categories to work on. If you really need to bring in some money, choose the one that seems most challenging to you. If you are just dabbling in selling art, start with the easiest and work your way up.

You've got this!

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Do the work & create your luck,

About the Author

Jessica Craddock

I mentor intuitive visual artists who are sick of one-size-fits all formulas sell more work, more consistently, at higher prices — with better work/life balance. My clients regularly make 3x more in art sales within a year.

Using my signature Consistent Income method, we’ll push you over the precipice of some really amazing growth so you can become the creator of your next chapter.

My secret sauce is that we focus on not just the "doing", but also the "being". Affirmations, trusting yourself, knowing when to go slow and when to go fast, practicing getting out of your comfort zone and making room for the feelings that go with that... all this is equally as important as the action steps.

For once, you'll be ahead of the game and understand what's right for you.

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