Not a lot of people believed in me when I first started selling art online several years ago. The internet, and especially social media, was a little different back then and I think some people still held onto an outdated belief that it was all just a fad. But I saw something then that is now widely known: the communities we create online are just as meaningful and impactful as the communities we live in.
Of course, the nice thing about selling art online back then was that we didn’t have a whole lot of competition! While painting and selling furniture wasn’t necessarily easy, the act of putting it on Facebook or sharing an Etsy link for all to see was definitely less strenuous. Back then, all I had to do was take a few really good pictures and put them out into the world. Ta-da!
These days, the competition is fierce. I often meet creatives who feel like they’re already behind before they’ve even begun to consider growing their businesses. I’m here to tell you that’s simply NOT true! Yes, there is more competition and yes, people tend to have a shorter attention span but that shouldn’t prevent you from embracing all the good that comes with selling your art online. And there is so much good!
I’ve made so many powerful friendships, forged partnerships, and hired a fantastic team of women whom I never would have met if it wasn’t for the fact that, once upon a time, I took the leap.
Whether you’re an experienced artist just dipping their toes into selling art online or you’re new to the art and decor world altogether, I’ve put together a list of tips that will help you get more online success, faster.
Selling Art Online
I remember launching my business. Once I had the paperwork all filed I realized that something even scarier was about to happen: I had to figure out a plan. I couldn’t just expect people to come knocking at my door yelling, “Open up, Dionne, we want to buy your furniture!” (Though how amazing would that be?) Instead, I had to show up.
So your first step, after all the legal paperwork bits, is to figure out where you need to show up.
5 Things You MUST Have Before Selling Your Art Online
- A plan. Can you get by just winging it? Sure, but trust me when I say that “I’ll figure it out” is not a solid foundation upon which to build success. Instead, sit down and actually lay out a plan for your business — even a very small and simple one. your income goals and figure out what you need to do to achieve them. Is the answer selling a certain number of pieces or is it raising your prices? Make sure your plan works for your business.
- Photos of your work. Your website and social media pages act as your art portfolio online and, just like we would with a work portfolio or our resume, it’s important to put our best foot forward! Showcase your skill, talent, and vision with high-quality, well-staged photos. (Learn more about that here!)
- A website. Yes, you do need a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect, but it should at least state who you are, who you help, how you help them, and why they should choose you. Whenever possible, optimize your website for mobile devices since that’s how most people are using the internet these days.
- Social media. Be sure to secure your social media handles! I know, I know; a lot of folks would rather perform our own root canals than spend more time on social media but I can promise that there is always a huge return on investment! I have grown my business exponentially by showing up authentically and consistently on social media feeds. (Pro tip: If your brand name is already taken, try adding a qualifier. For example, if @TheTurquoiseIris was already taken I could try @TheTurquoiseIrisArt to be more specific.)
- A way for folks to buy from you. That could be your website, an Etsy page, or another purchasing process but what matters is that people know where to go when they’re ready to invest!
How to Start Selling Art Online
Once you’ve come up with a plan, built your website, and secured your social media profiles it’s time for you to start selling! I know that sounds easier said than done, which is why I’m going to give you some of my best tricks.
Know your audience!
Part of your business and marketing plan should include a highly detailed customer profile. You can create one by analyzing your current audience, sending out a survey, or asking them directly. If you don’t have a large customer base to gather data from, that’s okay! Start with the necessities (Do they need to be local? What is their income level?) and it will grow from there.
This profile should include important demographic information — like where your audience lives, what language they speak, and the pain points that your art can solve in their lives — along with more personalized details that will help you truly understand your customer.
For example, if your ideal customer loves reading the Magnolia Journal (who doesn’t love Chip and Joanna?!) then not only should you add that to your customer profile but you should actually look at the latest issues to see what topics your audience might be interested in. It can help you stay on top of trends, update your own content, and especially help you become a part of the conversations your audience is having, which will help them better connect with you.
Most importantly, your customer profile will tell you where your audience is spending their time online. This information is CRITICAL to formulating a marketing plan. (Read more about that here!)
Do your keyword research!
If you plan to advertise your art online, whether you’re paying for Facebook ads or simply listing your pieces on Etsy, then it’s important to recognize which search terms your audience is using to find what they are looking for. If they’re calling something a buffet but you’re using the term sideboard, then they won’t find YOU when they go searching for the perfect painted buffet to tie their room together.
There are a ton of free resources out there for keyword research, but my favorite is Pinterest! Pinterest is the place that everyone goes when they’re looking to decorate, right? So, naturally, it’s usually the first place you’ll see new trending terms popping up.
I also love using simple free tools like Google Keyword Planner or Answer the Public.
Build a community.
I know all too well the loneliness and alienation that can come with building and growing an art business all on your own. Believe me when I say that there is no community more supportive, empowering, fun, kind, and loyal than the online art community! Call it networking if it makes you feel better, but making new online friends is the fastest and most effective way to build an audience for your brand. I can’t tell you how loved I feel when my online friends show up on my latest live. They give me the strength and belief in myself to keep pushing through even the most difficult moments.
Not sure where to find such a community? The Turquoise Iris’s Creative Connection welcomes all!