In 2016, art insurance group Hiscox stated that online art sales jumped 24% from the previous year, totalling $3.27 billion in artist earnings.
E-commerce has certainly evened out the playing field for artists at different career levels, but a huge problem remains: in a vast sea of online platforms, how can individual artists stand out from the pack to forge meaningful connections and boost their sales?
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Increasingly, the answer is in selling to business clientele—such as hotels, office buildings, or other semi-public spaces—because unlike personal collectors, these commercial clients (and their interior designers) are always in need of artwork.
Here are a few helpful tips for navigating commercial art sales online:
1. Pinpoint the best clients for YOUR artwork
Interior designers often turn to social media to plug into current art trends and up-and-coming styles. This makes platforms like Pinterest and Instagram great tools for understanding a specific client or design firm’s aesthetic, and then connecting with key players on those teams.
Keep a list of details you would need from a potential client—do you need to know the project budget? Conceptual inspiration? Color palette? Or something else entirely? You’ll know a client is a good fit for you if they can present these things up front.
You can take an even more direct approach to uncovering commercial art buyers through sites like Houzz, which brings together interior designers, or Indiewalls, which allows artists to directly pitch their work and commission ideas to a range of commercial clientele.
2. Highlight your art and your ideas, not your CV
Whilte traditional galleries and consultants may base their choices on an artist’s CV, online platforms work a little differently. No matter which one you choose, one fact is true across all of them: buyer engagement is driven by your images and your creativity.
At Indiewalls, we encourage artists in any medium to apply, but we’ve seen a recent extra-high demand for installation, video, mural, and sculpture work among our commercial clients. Don’t waste time pitching to projects or clients that you don’t feel are the right fit; instead put that energy towards pushing your own boundaries in custom commission and calls for art.
Databases like ArtFinder and Indiewalls are end-to-end consultancies, so they will handle all client communication, framing, shipping, print production, and other logistics in house. You bring the big ideas, and let the platform take care of the rest.
3. Stay flexible
Commercial art sales are very different from traditional gallery sales. An interior designer may fall in love with the style of your artwork, but want to incorporate custom changes to licensed prints, or even commission similar artworks to those you’ve already created.
Because of this, the more willing you are to work with the client’s direction, the more sales you’ll secure. Flexibility in composition and color palette (especially) will often seal the deal for many commercial clients.
Of course, you’ll always be commander-in-chief of your own artwork. Sometimes the flexibility is just in how you offer your work for sale.
As an example, Mark Samsonovich first began working with Indiewalls on a series of giant, abstract murals but smoothly transitioned into custom installation and print projects when he saw the opportunities posted. As a result, his portfolio has expanded and diversified right alongside our growing clienteles.
4. Always follow up
A happy past client is one of the best gateways to new clients. After completing projects with a consultant or a designer, make sure to follow and ask for constructive feedback on the process.
Was the client happy? Could anything have been done to make the process easier?
Always keep in touch with your consultant or clients, and continue to pitch new work to them frequently. This extra attention to your clients will help make you stand out and will streamline the process for future sales.
Special thanks to Lauren Schleider, Senior Art Curator at Indiewalls, for contributing this article. Indiewalls brings together artists and commercial art buyers, giving artists more control over their creative careers through direct sales online.