Annie

How To Start Selling Art

This week we have a reader question from Annie, a 2D illustrator who draws various subject matter. She has recently been delayed from her current business endeavors by her health but aspires to make some income if she can on the side with her art. She writes asking  me for advice on how she can start selling her art work.


Annie

Annie

Hey Emily,

I thought I would come to you for advice. I’m really tempted to try and make some money with my art on the side. The only question is how?

It seems like these days, the only way to make money with your art is by selling T-shirts or something. I know that appeals to some artists, but I am not one of them. At least, right now I’m just not in the mood to do that sort of thing with my art, and none of the other things printing websites like Cafepress do seem to appeal to me either.

I just want to make money in addition to what I’m doing with my business if at all possible.

Cheers, Annie


Annie,

Thank you for such a great question, when I started selling my art it was for a mix of reasons. I always wanted to have a business, I lost my employment, my health and my marriage in about a month and I turned to art to cope. I was making so much art I needed to sell it to be able to continue and to make ends meet. Then before I knew it there were people who started offering to buy without so much as me offering it for sale. The universe works in mysterious ways.

It’s Not Always Easy

But it’s not always that easy, and don’t let me sway you from selling your art, but I am going to be truthful – selling art can be really hard to do too. Finding a perfect storm situation is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult, you need 1) a collector who loves your art, 2) wants to buy your art, and 3) has the money to purchase it.

There is plenty of competition and options for “how” to sell, who to sell to, what to sell, etc. etc. There are, of course, the big name options, and the print-on-demand options, the auction options and selling from your own site. They all have positives and negatives. The sites that host your art can get lots of traffic if you know how to work them, but many people also find purchasing from the artist directly to be more personal and attractive option. Choosing the one that works best for you is going to be a process of experimentation.

Selling Art Is A Business

Selling art is a business in and of itself; and many artists, including myself, diversify with various income streams to be able to continue to create art. There are other options besides selling for cash; I have used my art as a bartering tool far more then selling it. My aspirations run so much deeper than just making and selling art. Why?

Becuase it’s a hard business to break into and it’s a hard business to keep up with. We are in the flux of constant change with the economy and everyone having lost (or are losing) their jobs, many are turning to their hobbies and passions to create some kind of income. So what do we do?

Artists who are either solely invested in their art business, or more than 50% invested in being an artist, have a much smaller place to stand now. There are people who are in it solely for the money – the art they make is whatever is popular in the “now” – and they make big bucks doing it too. What about the artists in it for their art?

Staying True

Yes, we are out there! A lot of us still hide much of what we create and keep it to ourselves. But by putting art out into the world, we are starting the path to becoming an artist in business. How can anyone see what we are capable of unless we extend ourselves into the world?

Of course to fully be “in business,” we need business plans, and marketing plans, and a platform to sell our art and there are tons of people out there who will tell you 10 different ways to make all those things come to life, and they are all valid ways to do it. But how do you know what direction to go in?

Sometimes you don’t, you spend years experimenting until you hit the right thing, and all of a sudden “it works.” But sometimes you hit that right thing right away, and you start moving upwards.

What Works For Me May Not Work For You

I can go to 10 different artists and each of them will tell you a different way that works for them, but then again, you will learn something valuable from the ways that each of us have experimented with, failed miserably at, and succeeded at while learning to sell our art. Sometimes sales come from the most unexpected places.

I’ve made the most money selling my art to my friends on Facebook. And not from my page, from my profile. I’ve made the 2nd most amount of money from selling my work on my website. I’ve never sold anything on Etsy yet (I still have faith). I tried about 10 different photography print-on-demand sites and only sold prints to my aunt. I have had marginal success selling my art images on print-on-demand products. But I don’t give up.

Because I know that not all those ways were right for me. And it’s totally ok with me. Now I am building my own way. I’ve spent years dealing with my own issues trying to sell my art and discovering various truths about each method. Each one works for some people – and those are the only stories you hear about – you never hear that “so-and-so service/website/program didn’t work for me” because that’s not good marketing from the person who made it – they only show the glowing testimonials. And they have every right to do so, it is their business. And it’s not an easy market for us if we are just starting out and don’t know where to go.

Where To Go?

When you have no money, or very little money to work with, you choose free options – sell to you family and friends, use free social networking sites. Have a little more bumpkin then that? Use your art to procure what you need – barter it for goods and services – just make sure you value your art beforehand and receive like value for what you are getting in return. Every single piece of art that you sell, barter or gift (for whatever reason) you consider it SOLD. It is valuable just like money is, and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

I have a very different perspective of what success is for selling my art. I don’t look at it just in dollars; I look at it in value, the value of resources. Resources like time, energy and money, they can all be used or abused for success, and I don’t want to abuse any of those resources, not when they are mine or someone else’s. I humble myself before the resources that are available and I find the best way possible to use them to the greatest benefit for everyone involved.

Success

Each small success builds up over time into larger successes and I am humbled that you ask me for my advice, and I hope that you can take what I have to offer and asses it to your own needs. I can’t give a one-size-fits-all answer to your question, I can only hope to enlighten all the various aspects that I see, and have lived through myself.

Yours,

-Emily Rose

Do you have a question about being an artist in business? Send me your questions to contact[at]emilyrose[dot]co and you could be featured on my blog!

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Comments

  1. Annie

    Thanks so much for answering my question, Emily!

    I find it really insightful that you said what’s right for you isn’t right for anyone–it’s very true, and I think I have to learn from it. Making any amount of money from my art is going to require a great deal of learning what works for me.

    I’m also glad you shared the ways you sold your art; that was very helpful!

    Many thanks again. :) I’ll be sure to take your advice.

    Cheers,
    Annie

    1. Emily Rose

      Annie, I’m really glad that I could help, feel free to contact me anytime with questions and I’ll do my best to answer them :)

  2. ben

    I got an e-book “Art and Money”, from the art of non conformity website. It wasn’t bad, it included some interviews on audio, there are definitely people making a living from selling their art.

    Keep the dream alive!!

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