It’s no secret that the Internet offers significant opportunities for artists who want to gain exposure, network with fellow artists, and sell their art. It’s also clear, however, that it usually takes more than just talent to succeed online.
As gallery director of the curated online art gallery, UGallery, I’ve worked with thousands of artists over the past nine years. In that time, we’ve identified some important practices that help artists successfully sell their art online year after year.
Here are five activities that simply can’t be beat if you want to accelerate your art career online:
1. Determine your online strategy
There are countless ways to promote your art on the Internet, so the first step is to research your options.
At one end of the spectrum you’ll find open marketplace sites, like Etsy, where anyone can post work. These types of businesses typically have a large customer base, yet they also show tens of thousands of artists, so it can be easy to get lost. Additionally, sellers are responsible for their own marketing and shipping.
At the other end of the spectrum you will see sites like my company which offer a more full-service experience, but receive a higher commission on sales. We coordinate all of the marketing and fulfillment on your behalf. Artists apply to exhibit, and our curators review each application and every piece we exhibit.
In general, here are a few questions to think about as you choose a platform:
• Are you more drawn to an open marketplace or a curated site? The commission structure will vary from 3% to 50% depending on the level of service.
• Do you want to manage your own marketing and fulfillment, or work with a company that takes care of it for you?
• Does your work fit the style and price range of the site? It’s important to spend time browsing each venue to make sure your art complements the collection.
I also recommend limiting yourself to no more than two or three online venues. Clients are likely to google your name, and if your art appears on many different platforms, it can be confusing and make your work seem less precious. If you do show on multiple platforms, I would suggest exhibiting unique pieces in each place.
2. Meticulously finish every piece
When it comes to the presentation of your work, take no short cuts. Art that is well-constructed and finished with care will stand out and elevate your career.
For starters, always use the highest quality materials you can acquire. Saving a few dollars by painting on thin, flimsy stretched canvases will end up costing you much more down the road. And once you complete a piece, make sure it is presentation-ready.
For painters, this means finish the edges of your canvases and wire them to hang. For sculptors, make sure pieces have suitable bases for display. Also, sign and date every piece (on the front, side or back).
3. Present your art with professional-quality images
The single most important factor in selling art online is presenting the work with professional-quality images. This includes pictures of the front and sides of a piece as well as in the context of a space.
At UGallery, we sell twice as many pieces that include well-shot detail images as those with just a main image. The reason for this is because clients rely on your photography to understand how a piece will look and feel in person.
I recommend four images for every piece:
1. A cropped main image
2. An image of the side or edge of the work to show how the art is finished
3. An image of the art positioned on an easel or hanging on a real wall—no Photoshopped rooms—to give an idea of scale
4. A high-resolution closeup so clients can see the intricate details of the surface.
If you’re just getting started, here is a useful article on professionally photographing your art at home.
4. Exhibit a consistent body of work
Whether applying to a curated gallery or putting together a portfolio for a marketplace site, its always best to choose a consistent body of work.
You may be tempted to show a variety of pieces to demonstrate your diverse skill, but those kinds of collections can end up looking scattered, and clients and curators may not be able to truly understand your style.
Present at least five to ten pieces that are part of the same series. This approach will make your portfolio look more thought-out and polished.
5. Write a compelling story
When buying art online, clients seek to make a personal connection with you by reading your biography, artist statement and notes about your work. Good storytelling helps close sales and leads to more engaged, long-term clients.
For each piece you show, you should includes notes about what inspired you, what the work means, the materials you used, and any special processes in your art, such as painting with your fingers or shooting photography with a homemade camera.
In addition, spend time drafting a rich personal biography. Here are a few prompts to consider:
• How did you get to where you are today? Any defining moments or obstacles?
• What is unique about your creation process?
• What does your workspace look like?
• What do you do when you’re not making art?
I often see artist statements and bios where artists speak in general terms, such as being inspired by nature, family, or travel. Whenever possible, dig deeper to unique personal stories and experiences.
In other words, what will make a client feel like they really know you?
Once you determine your online strategy and have your artwork and personal materials ready, get posting! With these practices in place, the single most important factor for prolonged exposure and sales is regularly adding to your portfolio, so stay consistent and upload at least a few pieces each month.
Before you know it, you’ll be shipping your art to clients near and far.
Alex Farkas is the co-founder and gallery director at UGallery, with over 9 years of art curation experience. Learn more at UGallery.com.
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