How to Sell Art Online and Make Money: Passive Income for Artists
Note: The term ‘Etsy’ and other Etsy graphics are trademarks of Etsy, Inc. This article is not endorsed by Etsy.
Long gone are the days of the starving artist stereotype! Now that ecommerce is booming, anyone with talent, vision, and diligence can make a living with their art.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the main steps of turning your art into profit, so you can both manage your business and sell more art anywhere in the world.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick roadmap to successfully making a passive income with your art. Save it on your device or Pinterest board to keep it within hand’s reach. Be sure to come back later and explore the steps in more detail!
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Let’s start your journey of making profit as an artist.
What art can I sell online?
A good way to start selling art online is by print-on-demand. Print-on-demand is a drop shipping model where products with your design are only made as orders come in. That way you save both time and money you can spend on creating more art and developing new skills.
For example, with Printful you can customize over 260 products using your artwork as a design. From there you can connect your Printful account to your online store—that way we’ll receive your orders automatically and send them for fulfillment (making the products, packaging, and shipping).
To get started, you need to find your playing field—your niche. A niche is a specialized market that targets a specific audience and customizes its products to meet this audience’s needs.
If you had to pick a category, think where you would place your art. Are you a nature photographer? Or maybe your biggest strength is vibrant paintings? Don’t be afraid to mix things up and target more styles than one, that’s the amazing part about art—it’s fluid and encourages experimentation. You can be brave, combine styles, and create a niche of your own!
Once you find (or create!) a niche you belong in, it’s time to transform your art into sellable goods. Here are some of the most profitable artist product favorites.
1. Wall decor
The wall decor market made $60.7 billion in 2016, and will likely hit $78.5 billion by 2025. What makes wall art so highly demanded is that it’s a real treat for both art collectors and anyone who wants to decorate their living space. A quality print can be both a luxurious collectible and an affordable home decor.
When selling wall decor you can change the look and feel of your product by adjusting several features. First, what’s the product your art is printed on? Go with photo paper prints for a laid-back poster-like feel. Second, you can dress the wall decor up with frames for a more classic look.
Then there’s the wall decor staple—canvas prints. This is a great option if your tools of choice are the old brush and paint, as printing painted artwork on a canvas will give it that authentic paintbrush stroke look.
Find out more about print-on-demand wall art that you can sell online—choose a product to put your artwork on from a selection of wall prints.
2. Art merch
Bold statement artwork works great on everyday merch like t-shirts and hoodies. If large-scale art pieces or patterns are your playing field, your art will look stunning on all-over print clothing like leggings, hoodies, and dresses. Your design becomes a message your customers can wear and that way share it with others.
Find out more about how to create custom products with your artwork.
3. Digital art
Art can generate profit without being a tangible product. Digital files of artwork are traded by the second on online stock photo websites and ecommerce marketplaces like Etsy. Your artwork could become one of these digital products—whether that’s a photo or a doodle. Here are few ideas:
- Pattern design
- Customizable prints (calendars, invitations, greeting cards, etc.)
Selling downloadable files of your art will cut down a lot of otherwise unavoidable expenses like shipping and production. Digital art files can be downloaded just like any photo, which grants your customers instant delivery.
To keep your art safe, make sure to inform your customers that, while they can use your art for personal use, they can’t resell or reproduce it.
If you’re looking to sell your art on stock photo websites and marketplaces, I suggest expanding your work. People turn to stock photo websites like Shutterstock with various needs—some are looking for a generic group shot for a marketing poster, some are scouting for an inspiring cityscape to feature on their newest blog post.
Practice taking on new challenges to match customers’ needs—try new color schemes, layouts, and themes regularly and broaden your portfolio’s horizons.
4. Original art
You’ve finished your painting. You’ve turned it into a design file and used it to create print-on-demand and digital art products. Where does the original painting go?
You sell it! Once you develop a loyal customer base and some regulars, put your original painting or sketch up for sale as a collectible on your store.
Of course, the original is exactly that—one of a kind. That means you’ll have to create a new piece of art for every original art sale. While not a passive income, it’s a great way to add extra value to your store and solidify your artist status in the market.
Where to sell my art online?
Now that you figured out your product, it’s time to sell it on a platform where people are most likely to find it. Let’s look into some of the best places for your artwork.
A storefront on ecommerce marketplaces
A budget-friendly option for beginners are ecommerce marketplaces. Etsy is a winning choice for many artists. Not only that—it’s also a favorite among shoppers looking to find their next art piece. Etsy’s 2nd worldwide bestselling category is Art & Collectibles.
Besides tangible art pieces like photography prints, Etsy shoppers often purchase downloadable art files as well. You can sell both physical prints and downloadable files on your storefront. Customizable templates for invitations, home decor, and stationery, are popular among digital products on Etsy.
Another artist-favorite marketplace is Storenvy. It’s known to be an easy to manage and affordable starting point for many upcoming artists looking to try their hand in ecommerce.
Usually being an established name, marketplaces are a good place to start selling your art and gather a loyal customer base.
Your own online store or website
A website can be one of artist’s best tools to build and maintain their public image and story. But, aside from showcasing your portfolio and sharing your personal journey, it’s also a good place to keep a storefront.
Having your own online store gives you a lot of control and creative freedom than you would have if selling on a marketplace, from technical features to visual appearance. There are plenty of ecommerce platforms you can design, build, and have your website and store up and running all in the same day.
Most ecommerce platform services will cost you money, varying from $15 to $250 a month. That money goes into keeping up servers, so your store doesn’t break down, customer support team, and more. Some ecommerce platforms, like Ecwid, offer a free plan. But free plans come with limitations like fewer promotional options or marketing and analytics tools.
If you’re looking to sell your art using print-on-demand services, look into some of the best ecommerce platforms and marketplaces. After creating your store, you can easily connect it to your Printful account.
Selling art on stock photo websites
Stock photo websites are one of the main focuses when it comes to passive income for artists. After your artwork goes on sale, there’s no worrying about shipping, packing, or running out of product stock. The most popular stock photo websites among both artists and customers are Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock, and Getty Images.
Even though these directories are most famous for stock photography, they’re a popular choice for buying and selling illustrations as well. To up your sales, add commonly used illustrations to your portfolio, like icons and logo templates.
Stock photo websites have guidelines on file quality, resolution, and other factors, so make sure your work matches their standards.
If you want to find out more about what kind of art products sell best and on what ecommerce platforms, here’s our infographic for upcoming art entrepreneurs:
Use this infographic to find your way through selling art online.
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How do I market my art online?
So you know what you want to sell and where. You’ve set up your store and added products with your artwork. Now what? Time to get noticed! There are a lot of creators out there, so you’ll have competition.To help your customers find and fall in love with your art—get to marketing.
Market your art on social media
Start off by creating social media profiles to showcase your store and artwork, and to connect with your fans. Use social media to show the behind-the-scenes of your art—share the creative process, sneak peeks of upcoming masterpieces, and all the effort that goes into creating your artwork. Use Youtube for detailed videos of the process or Instagram to share short snippets and sneak peeks. Showing your customers just how much it takes to create each artwork and product can create a stronger bond between you and your customers.
To attract new customers, post photos of your finished work in everyday settings—a canvas print on a living room wall, a person wearing a hoodie with your art—and show people what beautiful art prints and other products they’re missing out on! Your go-to channels for beautiful visuals of your artwork should be Instagram and Pinterest.
To give your social media marketing an extra boost, use paid ads. Facebook is known for its intricate Ads Manager. Facebook Ads Manager also allows you to run paid ad campaigns on Instagram. Another way to gain new followers that doesn’t necessarily require paid ads is hosting giveaways of your artwork.
Plan your marketing activities wisely—the best time to launch your art product promos is from January through March. During the beginning of a new year, many people act on the new year, new me resolution. This often leads these people to completely reinvent their own style and redecorate their home. Your art piece could become a part of their new me!
Another important time to market your art products—ecommerce holidays. These are spending events when online shoppers get extra busy making purchases. You’re already familiar with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas shopping. But did you know there’s more to ecommerce holidays than the end of the year? Check out our ecommerce holiday marketing calendar and start planning your marketing activities.
Share your artist story on a blog
A blog is a great way to further connect with your customer base. To make sure your blog generates traffic of incoming art lovers some SEO efforts like keyword research are a must.
Use your blog to share your journey as an artist—what artists inspire you, what are your biggest struggles and wins as an artist, tips for others to overcome a creative block, and more. Read our guide and see how you can make sure to always have a good topic idea for your blog content.
If keeping up your own blog seems too time-consuming, try writing for other art blogs like Canva, Juxtapoz, or Daily Art Fixx. These blogs have an already established following and will help you get discovered by potential customers. Find out more about how to get featured in well-known industry blogs.
Stay connected with your customers
Once you’ve set up your marketing channels, be sure that every newcomer feels welcome in your community.
Stay connected with your customers and reach out through email newsletters. Keep your customers in the loop about what’s new with your store, upcoming sales, and other art updates. To make sure you nail your email marketing campaign, use some of these email marketing strategies.
Build social proof to sell more art
People trust other people and do their research based on previous reviews before making a purchase. That’s why product reviews, both on and off your store, are a crucial way to boost your sales.
Connect with customers that recently bought your art via email or social media and encourage them to leave a review. You can also offer little gifts like discounts for their next purchase as extra encouragement.
Gogh sell some art!
To recap, here are the main things you need to do:
- Pick your art niche and products
- Choose the platform you’ll sell your art on
- Market your artwork
- Connect with your customers and build social proof
It’s time to be brave and have faith in your talent—it’s time to put your art on the market and start making money with it. Someone is currently scavenging through the internet to find an original art piece, digital art, wall decor, and other products that you could be selling. It’s up to you to get on their radar on time!