How To Start selling Your Art Online
For many artists just starting out it can be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out how and where to sell their artwork. There are so many options available to us now, and I feel like it is one of the best times to be an artist. In this post I want to share some of the platforms I’ve tried and give you a bit of an overview of each. At the end of the day, you’ll have to see what works best for you and the kind of art you make, but hopefully I can help make the decision a little bit easier for you and take some of the initial guess work out of it.
This is one of the most popular options for anyone trying to get their feet wet selling their art online. It’s a simple platform that doesn’t require you to custom design your shop or figure out how to set up listings. Etsy has prompts when you upload a new item with suggestions for different product photos, titles, keywords, descriptions, tags and so forth.
However, Etsy has opened up their marketplace to include not just handmade items or artwork. They allow people to sell vintage clothing, furniture, and other items they might have found online and decided to re-sell. Because of this, it can be difficult to get your work found on Etsy and to keep your prices competitive.
They also charge a listing fee as well as a re-listing fee and a processing fee when you make a sale. Most places will have a processing fee, however Etsy encourages their sellers to re-list their items daily or at least weekly to help them rank in the search; and these fees can add up quickly. This, coupled with the fact that I was trying to keep my prices affordable made it so that I was hardly earning anything on my sales. And I found myself begrudgingly fulfilling orders.
Recently, Printful has integrated with Etsy so that you can easily drop-ship your orders instead of having to manually fulfill them, which took a HUGE burden off my shoulders. You no longer have to make, package, and ship each order manually. Instead, your orders go straight to Printful and can be quickly fulfilled from around the world. Just bare in mind that there are additional processing fees that go along with using Printful, so make sure you know what the total cost of each item is before setting your prices on Etsy.
I really loved Society 6 when I first joined because in addition to selling art prints you have the option of selling products (pillows, clocks, phone cases, stickers, etc.). You have control over the price of your art prints, but they set the price for the rest of the products you offer.
What I really enjoyed about Society 6 is that once you set up your items in your shop you don’t have to do anything else. They fulfill every order for you and send you a percentage of the sales at the beginning of every month.
It does take some time to gain traffic to this shop, so give it about a year before you expect to make consistent money. And, beware that you have no product-control through this platform. They do a large volume of orders and I’ve seen photos of products people have purchased from me through them and the art wasn’t cropped correctly on the product. The customer didn’t seem to notice, but it made me realize that because Society 6 is such high-volume, sometime the quality of the product isn’t always perfect.
RedBubble, in my opinion, is a step-up from Society6. Their quality control is better and you have more control of your store front. It’s like a morph between Etsy and Society6. RedBubble allows you to create products in addition to selling your art prints and they fulfill all of the orders for you and send you a payment each month.
Their products tend to be higher quality than what Society6 offers and their quality control is much better. You also get to control how much of a profit margin you’d like to make from each product. Overall, you have more options with RedBubble then you would have on Etsy (unless you’re going through a 3rd party like Printful) and you have more control over your prices then you would on Society6.
Squarespace(or, your own website)
Before you start selling your art on any of these other platforms, I suggesting building you own website. There are so many easy ways to build a website these days. I built mine on Squarespace, and I used to have it on Shopify. I just preferred the look of Squarespace to Shopify so I switched a couple years ago. Both are very easy to use and integrate well with other plugins.
There reason it’s so important to have your own website is because you own your site and its contents. With the other platforms I’ve mentioned, however, you don’t have complete control over the look of your shop and your shop could be shut-down if you fail to follow the rules these platforms make for their sellers. There are also fewer fees when you sell on your own website as opposed to selling off a third-party site like Etsy or Society6. Which is great because it means that you get to keep more of the income from your sales.
Lastly, your website is able to curate all of your content from every platform, including YouTube, Instagram, your blog, interviews/press, etc. It can serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for everything related to your artwork; which makes it easy for your followers to keep up with you without having to follow you on all the social media platforms.
I don’t think you should limit yourself to just one or two of these platforms. I try to keep my prices as consistent as possible across each platform, however the more places you are the more chance you have of people discovering your artwork. The only things I limit to my website exclusively are my original artwork and my limited edition signed & numbered prints. As far as poster prints and products go, I don’t mind ‘over saturating’ the market with those items.
I know a lot of artists have mixed feelings about this, and I have definitely struggled with it in the past. But it all comes down to what your goals are regarding your art career. If you plan on being in galleries and/or museums and selling your work for $10K + then you definitely need to limit the amount of work you produce and make available. I would also strongly recommend you try contacting Ali Cavanaugh if your goals are to be in galleries and sell high-ticket artwork. She has a mentorship program and has navigated the gallery scene successfully for many years.
But for artists like myself, making my work available and easy to find has been what has made my art career a reality. Selling prints or products and putting your work on multiple market places is in no way ‘selling out’. It all boils down to what your goals are as an artist and what feels right for you.