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1 Easy Rule to Sell More Art Online

Don’t worry, I’m not going to force you to read this whole article to pay out the click bait title. Here it is, a new mantra to build your wealth and happiness as an artist:

Make your art available for sale before you promote it online.

This is so obvious, you may not consider it worthy of a written article and yet, ask yourself if you’ve actually followed this rule. I’m committing this to writing because it has become the most common piece of advice I’ve been offering to my compatriots. Too often, I see people do a wonderful job sharing their work, only to have the party clear out before they set up the merch table. Bands make sure their shirts and CDs are for sale while they are still on stage and so should you.

Let’s break it down.

Why this is so hard

There is a very real resistance to making your art for sale. The process of creating a sales listing prior to ever sharing the artwork feels supremely presumptuous. Whenever I finish a painting, my first point of order is to create product shots and upload a listing for it on my website. This happens before I post the work anywhere, even on the site itself. Every time I do it, there is a tug of resistance that leaves me a little queasy. The fear that the work won’t sell is almost too horrible to focus on. When the only way to avoid this thought is to avoid selling the work entirely, there is a powerful temptation to procrastinate. Telling you to not procrastinate doesn’t account for much, but I can tell you that this feeling is shared by your fellow artists and that it’s worth fighting through it.

Creating "pre-sales" for prints

Beyond the emotional aspect of it, there are also logistics to worry about. Stocking a print, prior to knowing how popular an image will be could be risky. If you’ve never done it before, I recommend starting with a “print on demand” service like InPrnt, RedBubble or Displate. If you’ve proven the value of your work, I recommend finding a printer to work with and ship them yourself. You can find all the necessary packing material from companies like Uline. Typically, if I’m selling a new print or playmat, I create the listing right away and stock it as soon as possible afterwards. This leaves a bit of a lag time on the first wave of orders, but it’s better than losing those orders entirely. If you prefer. you can list your products as a “pre-sale” with a clearly listed shipping date if you believe the turnaround time will be more than a week.


Make it clear your originals are for sale

As for originals, please don’t rely on inquiries via email. Those emails are time consuming for you and off putting for people who want to own your work. If you don’t tell them which pieces are sold and which are available, it’s fair for them to assume that none of them are available. It’s easy to set up a shop on Squarespace, Etsy or Big Cartel. Creating listings for available originals as well as sold ones will make it easy to entice people exploring your work and make a case for them to buy before someone else snags their favorite piece.  Even if you don’t want to create a shopping cart or list prices upfront, at least publishing a catalogue that lists availability will enable your customers to buy from you. The tools required for building a point a click website these days are cheap and dead easy to use. I’m personally a big fan of Squarespace for this reason.


Thanks for reading

If you like learning about the business of art, check out the links to my show, One Fantastic Week. My friend Sam Flegal and I talk about the intersection of art and business every week, live on Youtube. It’s all free.


Peter MohrbacherComment