Over the last five years of teaching people how to paint I have had many students who have wanted to sell their art online or through traditional venues.
Some just want to sell enough of their art so that they can pay for more art supplies. Art Supplies can get expensive if paint regularly so selling some of your work gives you cash flow to keep buying more art.
Others have wanted to earn a part time income from it. After all … who wouldn’t want to earn an extra $500 to $2,000 a month from the sales of their artwork? For a lot of people this represents a large amount of money and can help with the monthly budget, or allow you to afford some of those nice things in life that the current budget does not allow for.
And still many others have wanted, like me, to earn their full time income from their art. They love the creative process so much that all they dream about is producing their art all day long and earning a full time income from it.
For me that was a strong driving motive.
I used to day dream about getting consistent and reliable sales of my art so that I could replace my day job. It wasn’t until I developed a plan on how to get there that it started to happen.
So if you have a desire to earn an income from your art then this article will help you identify what you need to do and how you need to think about the process of making and selling art for income.
Sidenote – Some purists will tell you that artists should not concern themselves with the idea of money, sales, marketing and self promotion. They reason that if you just focus on the art and let someone else worry about selling it then your success is assured. This is true for about 0.5% of artists who make it to the top but not for the majority.
So lets look at what you need to think and do to create a consistent and reliable income from your art.
For a century or more the art sales market has been controlled by Galleries and large Auction houses like Sotheby;s, For most artists the goal was to find a good gallery to represent you and hold successful exhibitions. If you were good enough this was a sure path to success.
Many of my artist friends, some who have been professional artists for thirty years or more, made a living following this path.
To succeed in this system you had to be at the top of your game. Galleries had to make money so they were selective in who they could work with and rightly so. In effect though they became the gatekeepers of who made it in the art world and who didn’t.
Then everything changed.
The Internet has been busy disrupting practically every industry there is.
Look at Uber and the Taxi industry as a classic example. The old way of doing things is no longer relevant.
Blockbuster went from being a $6 Billion business to bankrupt in ten years because of the growth of the Internet and a little start up called Netflix rose to power in the same time frame. Incidentally the brains behind Blockbuster did not believe the market would pay for movies on a monthly subscription basis. They put their heads in the sand and refused to believe the changes would impact them.
The same thing is happening in the art world right now.
Galleries are closing as its no longer viable to keep the doors open for many. Good galleries remain and will always have a place in the market no doubt. Its just that the number of galleries available as venues for artists to sell their works has diminished significantly.
At the same time there are more artists than ever before.
In the USA alone more than 30,000 new graduates each year all have hopes and dreams of earning their living as artists. Combine that with the rise of the baby boomer generation and their new found love in art. The number of artists in the world is in the millions and a lot of us would love to be able to sell our artwork.
So fewer galleries (channels to the market) and more artists competing for visibility.
As with the Blockbuster Netflix example though … the decline in the gallery system has also seen the rise in online sales of art.
In a recent Forbes magazine article titled ‘Art Market Cooling, But Online Sales Booming’ they said this …
The art market is changing, and social media has become the primary way consumers discover art, according to a study commissioned by Invaluable. The survey found that nearly a quarter (22.7%) of art buyers find new works of art via social media, which edged out museums (20%) and galleries (15.9%) as buyers’ primary source of discovery. Millennials are leading this change, with 44.3% of young millennials (ages 18–24) and 33.8% of older millennials (ages 25–34) saying they discover art on social media. Millennials are also increasingly buying art online, viewing the purchasing of art as both a long-term investment and a unique experience.
It’s clear that online art sales is where the art market is shifting and when you think about it, it just makes a lot of sense.
Here is the exciting thing for us artists who are not in the top 0.5% … this shift in the art market puts the power back in our hands. For artists there has never been a better time in history than right now. The technology available to us online enables us to reach out around the world, attract an audience of fans for our art, and systematically lead them to purchase our art.
And if we do it right and put the right systems in place then we can create a consistent and reliable income stream from our art.
To do so though is going to take YOU taking control of your own art career.
Those artists who are doing well today and will continue to prosper into the future are what I like to call ArtPreneurs.
They are artists who love creating their art so much they look for ways to earn their income from it so they can create even more. And in the process they adopt entrepreneurial thinking to building their art careers.
ArtPreneurs recognise the following truths:
If you want to start selling your art, even if its just to make a few hundred dollars a month, then you need to start thinking and acting like you are in an art business.
That means you need to split your time between creating and business.
It also means you have to create product that there is a market for … or you have to build a market for the product you create.
Read that last line again.
Yes I did just call your artwork a product.
A business needs products that they can sell and if they do not have such a product they don’t stay in business long.
ArtPreneurs recognise that the artwork they produce is a product that needs to resonate with a marketplace who will buy it.
You don’t want to be like many artists I know who have a garage or store room full of art they can’t sell.
If you can make the shift though and start seeing yourself as an ArtPreneur and embrace the opportunities that online technology gives us then there has never been a better time in history. Any artists with a strong enough desire can rise from obscurity to earning a six figure income in time if they build a business around their art.
The opportunity is the same for all of us … the only difference will be who recognises it, develops a blueprint for their success, and then works hard enough to create a business around their art that earns them an income into the future.
In my case I went from doing my first oil painting in November 2010 to a full time income from my art in just six years. I worked out how I could leverage my art into multiple streams of income that is consistent and reliable.
You can do the same and reach whatever income goals you have if your deisre is strong enough and you find someone who can outline a blueprint for you to follow.
Lets now consider what you need to focus on as an ArtPreneur …
There are a number of key areas to focus on in order to build a successful art business. The main ones I found to be most important are:
The first place to start is with YOU.
In order to create success in anything you need to have the right mindset and personality. So most of us need to work on ourselves first and foremost and put in place a program of self development.
If you want to sell your art then you need to ATTRACT and audience to you. In order to attract them you need to have an attractive personality. So the more you can do to work on developing an attractive personality the better.
In my case I joined Toastmasters (as one example) in order to develop more confidence in speaking to people. Being a natural introvert speaking to people was not my strong point so I had to work on it.
What do you need to work on?
Is it self belief? Are you too negative in your thinking? Do you resent others who are succesfull?
Success as an ArtPreneur requires a positive empowered mindset and a pleasing personality.
You need a plan to reach your income goals.
Start first with setting an INCOME TARGET.
In my case my first income target was $5,000 a month. I knew if I could consistently and reliably earn $5,000 a month then I could sack my boss and focus full time on my art.
What’s your INCOME TARGET? Without one you will be lost. You need a target to focus on. $5k became my single minded focus until I hit it and then re-adjusted the target.
When you know your INCOME TARGET you next need a SALES PLAN.
How many pieces do you need to sell each month to reach your income target?
Is it …
1 x $5,000 = $5k income?
10 x $500 = $5k income?
or perhaps …
100 x $50 = $5k income?
What is your plan going to be?
Note – smaller pieces under $250 sell best online.
You need to develop a plan of how many pieces you will sell each month. For most a higher volume of smaller works at lower prices is the place to start. This will give you lots of practice creating your art and help you work out what the market responds to. It also gives you a greater chance of making sales … the more you have for sale the more chance you have of selling.
If you are of the mindset that you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you can create your artwork then perhaps being an ArtPreneur is not for you.
You need a consistent studio practice where you produce more pieces each month than your sales plan calls for as most of us don’t sell everything we create.
That means you need to have set times where you are in the studio producing product.
You need to shut out all distractions.
Look for ways to create faster and being more productive.
Next you need a platform online from which to sell your Art.
If you want to sell lots of art then you need to have lots of art online with a BUY NOW button next to it. People often purchase art on the spur of the moment but if there is no way for them to click a button and enter their credit card details in then they are lost … the moment is gone and the desire fades.
Make it easy for people to purchase your art.
I can not tell you how many artists websites I have looked at that display this amazing array of works with no way to buy them.
So you need to build a PLATFORM from which to sell your artwork online.
It starts with a WEBSITE where all of your available art is listed with prices and buy buttons so someone can see your art and pay for it right there and then.
Without this PLATFORM for sales your chances of selling online are greatly reduced.
I have found WORDPRESS to be the best website management system and use it to run all of my art related websites. I manage them selves because I don’t want to have to pay someone every time I want to change something on the site.
I highly recommend you find and learn a website publishing system like WORDPRESS and build out your sales platform.
Next you need to start building an Audience.
These are people who love and follow YOU and your ARTWORK.
There is more than 2 billion people online today. Fortunately you don’t need to attract all of them. Just a few thousand raving fans is all you need.
Today through social media it is easier than ever to reach them and attract them to you. You can build a large following through your social media presence and then lead them back to your sales platform (website).
Engagement is key. You need to not only attract them but also connect and interact with them.
Now here is a big mistake I see many artists making on social media, especially Facebook. They are all promoting their art to each other. Now some artists do buy art no doubt. But if all you do is share your art in posts to groups of artists then you limit your market considerably.
There are so many sites, places and ways to reach an audience online … I recommend starting with just a few. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram is where I suggest you focus.
So you want to build an audience through your social media channels.
You also want to build an EMAIL DATABASE as well. Email marketing is still one of the most powerful ways to reach your audience and make sales.
Also consider this … there are lots of online sales sites artists can use. Sites like eBay, Etsy, Daily painting sites, online galleries all offer the opportunity to sell your art online. The way I view these is as part of my marketing to build my audience. There are buyers of art on these sites so use them to get visibility of your art and grow your audience.
Now you have an audience growing who love YOU and your ARTWORK you need to promote to them.
This is the part artists dislike but its only because you are thinking about it all wrong.
Here is a simple plan you can follow that is easy to do and your audience will love you for it. I have found that the general non-artist but art loving public are fascinated by artsists. They have this romantic view of artists and their world. So you can promote in such a way that feeds that view and they will connect with you even more.
So a simple plan is this …
Plan to create a release work in a series. Four times a year. Each series might have 20 to 30 pieces in it based around a theme.
Spend a month or two creating the work for the series.
And document every step.
Take photos of your work in progress. Write blog posts about the ideas behind each piece, why you created it and what your creative process is. Record videos on your phone of you talking about the work in progress and some of the finished works.
In other words create content around the series you are working on.
And feed that content to your growing audeince in the lead up to the launch of the series of work.
Then hold an online exhibition of your new series which is closed to the general public but your audience gets two week access. Combine that with a discount code valid for the two weeks.
This will stimulate sales of your work.
You see … promotion can be fun and engaging for your audience if you do it right.
When you have the following 6 keys in place then its time to look for leverage.
You need to look for ways to earn multiple streams of income from each piece of artwork you create.
If you just create and sell original artwork then you never build an asset base in your business apart from your audience.
So every piece you do make sure you take high quality photos at a high resolution. And catalogue every piece.
You can then use the images, as you retain the copyright, to create additional products you can sell.
There are a ton of options available today which is part of the reason I say its the best time in history for artists.
Firstly there is a huge market for licensed artwork. Corporates will pay money to license images from artists to use in their products. Many artists make their full time income from this alone.
Secondly the print on demand industry has opened opportunitites to merchandise your art into additional products like pillow covers, iphone covers, notepads, placemats and more. This market is ideal for creating gifts with your artwork on it. These types of products are an ideal entry point or introduction to your art for many new buyers. Put these buyers onto your database and lead them to purchase more expensive originals in time.
Thirdly the print market. Sites like Fine Art America make it possible to sell unlimited framed prints of your work.
Fourthly teaching how you create a piece of art. There is a massive growing market of people who want to learn how you create your artwork. You can created DVD’s, online course, books, art classes, and more teaching how you create each piece.
These are just some of the ways you can create leverage.
There are many other income streams you can develop as well. Everything from sponsorship, publishing deals, to building income through sites like Patreon and more. You just need to open your mind to possibility however you need to master the other keys first. Having a huge audience opens the door to greater leverage.
The information in this article is a high level overview. Clearly you will need to dig deeper into each of these keys and really master each of them one by one to build a solid consistent and reliable income from your art.
Any one can load a piece of their art on Facebook or Etsy and make a one of sale.
But building a long term income stream, in other words a successful art business, takes more skill, knowledge, effort and focus.
It can be done and many artists are doing it right now.
Twenty years ago I would have had no hope in becoming a full time artist and earning a six figure income from my creativity. No hope because my art is just not good enough to get into top galleries and have sell out shows yet. Today its entirely possible for me and you because of the doors being opened up through technology.
The first step in you becoming an ArtPreneur is you making the decision and committment to do it.
You have to decide that this is what your future path will be.
If you make a firm decision that no matter what happens you will figure out the way to become an ArtPreneur and reach your income targets then you can do it.
Everyones path will be different.
We all create different art so we will need to build our art business around our art.
However there are certain fundamentals you need to follow.
There is a blueprint for success you can follow that will fast track your learning curve.
I hope this article is the spark for you to becoming an ArtPreneur like I have.
Note – If you need help with becoming an ArtPreneur then you may be iterested in joining my private coaching group. It’s a a 12 week coaching program where I walk you through the process of starting your ArtPreneur business following the keys we talked about above. It’s particularly focused on selling art online. If you are interested in joining then email me at rodmooreart @ gmail.com and put ‘ArtPreneur Coaching Group’ in subject line
I have recorded an overview video and map of how to sell your art online:
To watch the video overview and download the blueprint visit http://www.SellingArt.Online
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