Selling Art Online vs Selling Art Offline – One Artist’s Comparison

By Karen Middleton in Misc > Art Opinion

No one can deny that the internet opens up numerous opportunities for the artist. . . but how does selling online compare to a more traditional route?

Today I want to compare and contrast attending, say, a craft show in person, versus selling your artwork through an online gallery.

1. Dealing with the elements

At a show:

If it’s bad weather, trying to find a close parking space and carrying your precious artwork across the wet (or icy) parking lot is no fun at all. If the event is outdoors and it’s raining, then your work is even more at risk. And of course, in bad weather there will also be fewer people in attendance.


With your work floating over the web, you’re as warm as toast and dry as a bean, barring the occasional power outage, of course.

2. Getting seen

At a show:

You’ll have an opportunity to get noticed by people who may not ever think to do an online search of you—show attendees are often all ages and all walks of life, and they WILL see you and your products.


Here you’re seen 24/7—unless your SEO isn’t working for you. Then you may not be seen at all.

3. Stock control

At a show:

If you run out of something that proves to be very popular, you’ve just lost money. Sure, you can take down the customer’s information, but most of the time people visiting shows will buy on impulse, and usually like to take something away with them. It can be hard to re-connecting by email or telephone after the show.


With the benefit of print-on-demand (and other instant manufacturing and delivery options), you can often wait until the order comes in before sending your own orders out.

4. Receiving feedback

At a show:

Whilst it is healthy and encouraging to get feedback in person, it’s not always easy to use that feedback to help with your brand and marketing—something said in the moment is hard to save for later, and attribute properly.


Comments left on your blog or website by happy customers are freely available to display and be seen, thus helping to reinforce all the positives associated with your business and product.

5. Maintaining your “unique” factor

At a show:

Many good show organisers will not allow too many exhibitors with the same type of product in order to keep things interesting for visitors. This means that usually there will be few other artists, if any, selling the same kind of product.


You could be one of thousands selling something similar. . . so much so, that online galleries often suggest “related artwork” to visitors as they view your work.

6. Cost of marketing materials

At a show:

Good quality marketing materials, such as flyers and handouts, need to be printed and paid for before the show.


Uploading your art to the web may be free; or, for more specialized online galleries, you could pay a monthly or yearly amount for the privilege.

7. Engaging with potential buyers

At a show:

Meeting the artist can often be a special treat, especially if the artist is well known in their field. . . being photographed with, talking to, or seeing the artist make their art is even better.


Things are kept a little more distant, although blogs and photos do allow fans and viewers to enter the artist’s world. Learning how the artist creates their art, or just getting a glimpse into their studio and life is greatly enjoyed by many.

8. Buyers’ comfort level

At a show:

Many buyers prefer seeing items in real life, and like to get up close and study the artwork from all angles before purchasing it. There’s no fear of loss, damage, or delay in shipping, either, since the purchase is made in person rather than at a distance.


It’s hard to know what a piece will look like if you’re only viewing a photo on a screen. In addition, buyers often attend shows to seek out more unique, local, or lesser-known pieces that simply aren’t available online.

So is one method of selling better than the other?

I wouldn’t say so.

Whilst the internet has opened up many new opportunities, I believe it shouldn’t be solely relied upon, since more traditional routes still have some great advantages and real selling potential.

My recommendation is to use all of the opportunities open to you—online AND offline. The web may be easier, but offline promotions, such as approaching retailers, galleries, solo shows and house-to-house flyer drops are still good ways to sell.

If you find it difficult to split your attention several different ways, then make a list of every possible method of promotion you can think of, and plan your upcoming year in the fall, giving yourself blocks of time (days or weeks) to accomplish specific tasks.

The more ways you promote and sell, the more windows of opportunity will open!


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