Getting Your Art “Out There”
In the previous two articles on establishing yourself as a professional artist, I’ve covered some of the initial basics you’ll need to take care of and now it’s time to shift the focus to the nitty-gritty. You’ve got a stock of art, your business name, tax id, and are working on a regular schedule, and of course, you’ve got good quality photos of your art.
It’s time to put it out there and, hopefully, start selling. There are many avenues in today’s world in which to market your art; your own webpage, on-line markets, brick and mortar galleries, art shows… and the trick is to find the sweet spot for you and your art.
The first thing I did was to create a website for my art and business. (Here’s where you put those good quality photos to use) People need a way to find you and learn about your work, and a web page dedicated to your work is key to making this happen, first and foremost. Before you embark on this all-important to-do, you need to decide what the purpose of the site will be. Do you want to sell directly from your page? Do you want it to be an online portfolio of your work with links for purchase or contact information only? The answer to these questions will inevitably be a factor in how much money the site will cost. You may be a digital whiz kid and have the ability to create your own from scratch or have a friend who would be willing to do that for you for free or perhaps in trade for art or a service you can provide them, and there are tutorials out there to guide you, but as for me I took the easy (pay someone else to do the heavy lifting) option. (No matter what you choose, if you pay-keep a receipt for tax purposes)
For the first few years, I chose to go with Squarespace. Squarespace is a one-stop, get everything you could possibly need (for a fee) design-your-own webpage service. They have a chart of plans and what each offers, from online portfolios to full-on selling with some pretty nifty perks depending on which plan you go with. There are pre-created webpage templates where all you have to do is pick the one that best suits your tastes and needs, upload your art, and add your information. For the most part, it’s pretty easy and self-explanatory. I loved the analytics and ability to work on my page from my phone. I chose to go with a plan that integrated e-commerce because I thought I’d be selling prints from my site but came to realize I had been wasting my money for that level of service. I just wasn’t selling enough directly from my webpage to warrant spending $382 annually on the plan, which included my domain name and a linked Gmail account listed as “my name@site name.com.” You can use your existing email, but I chose to add this feature because it looks more professional. Yes, I did benefit from the site as a number of commissions came in over the years, as well as resulting sales through my traditional galleries, but the amount I was spending for the e-commerce was a waste of money for me.
Another great site is Shopify, however recently I’ve switched to Wix for my webpage service. They essentially do the same thing Squarespace and Shopify do, but I was able to save some money by making the switch. I chose to go with more of a portfolio style page, with a link to PayPal for any potential sales and links to my traditional galleries for purchasing art since I don’t normally keep an inventory of work at my home. Even my prints are now sold in a brick and mortar gallery, so when I do get a request for the occasional reproduction I can manage that on a case by case basis, and either have a stand-alone order placed with my printers or direct them to the gallery. All three web hosts are great options. I would recommend visiting their sites, asking artist friends for recommendations or when you come across a page you particularly like scroll to the bottom and see which company manages their site. I now spend $293.00…saving me $89 a year. No matter what you choose, get a web presence going sooner rather than later, and keep taking those high-quality photos for uploading to your webpage, and also to use in having prints made. I can’t stress this enough.
Selling your art online is a great option, and once you have your webpage up and running you’ve jumped a major hurdle in getting your art seen by the art buying public. There are many online market options out there as well, such as Redbubble, and Society6. Check out this Lifehack article for a listing of 25 online marketplaces along with a brief synopsis of what each does and links to their sites. Start slowly and add sources for selling your art as you grow so it doesn’t become overwhelming. The nice thing about many of these sites is their print on demand feature, and the fact you don’t even have to worry with shipping…they do that too. Of course, you don’t make as much money, but the other side of that is you don’t have to do as much work either. On a side-note: If you choose to do both traditional galleries and a print on demand site, think carefully about how you approach that. For example, if you sell prints in a gallery for “x” amount, then be sure you are not undercutting the gallery on what you charge online…that makes for poor business relationships.
As for traditional galleries, I love them. I will always want to be in a place where you can walk in, see the art, talk to someone, and get a feel for the art with your own eyes. There are those that believe that brick and mortar galleries are a thing of the past, but not me. They will always have their place in the art collecting market and can’t be beat for a personal touch. Traditional galleries typically work on a consignment type arrangement, splitting the sale (normally 50%) between the gallery and the artist. In reaching out to request representation you’ll want to be able to provide the gallery owner or director with a link to your website, along with a few high-quality images, your artist CV and an email that is brief in length, yet packed with a strong message. Please read my article “Pick Me, Pick Me” for more tips on reaching out to galleries. Everyone’s path in this business is different. I aim for a multi-pronged approach; I started with a webpage first, then worked on gaining traditional gallery representation and am now moving into online virtual galleries. In an ever-changing world, the professional artist has to be ready to change as well. Until next time -