Research & Refine your Business Idea
Internet provides wonderful opportunities for the setting up of an art-related business. Working with a gallery or launching your own gallery/art boutique can be both costly and complicated. Selling art online comes with reduced overhead costs and a lot of flexibility in terms of reaching prospects.
To help the business idea come to fruition, you will have to pinpoint a specific strategy right from the start.
What exactly will the aim and scope of your business be? The more specific your answers, the easier it will be to identify a niche.
Will you be selling modern art online? Will you attempt to find customers for your own art creations? Do you plan to launch an auction website that will sell art to the highest bidder?
Are you a photographer? Do you want to build a site to sell your photos and find customers? Do you want to sell your art to stock photo websites?
These are just a few of the possible specialisation areas to consider.
To sell art online, you may want to invest in the development of your own website. Alternatively, you’ll have to rely on portals like Etsy or even eBay to find customers. A combined approach may be the best one in the very beginning because it will enable you to reach an already well-established audience.
Creating your Business Website
A business website is a great choice because it gives you independence from art-selling platforms and auction websites. While these are huge and they have massive audiences, you will have to pay fees and commissions to have your art featured or sold.
Your website could be a portfolio that presents the range of art you create or sell.
Alternatively, you can have an ecommerce or auction website built from scratch. Such a website will give you complete control over the art sale process, the charging structure and the interaction with your potential customers.
You can use a website in a number of ways when attempting to grow an art-selling business:
- To build your brand and reputation
- To present the art and get the audience interested
- To carry out the sales themselves online
- To advertise a physical location
- To get people contacting you for the execution of specialised art projects
Each purpose will necessitate the development of a specific type of website. Luckily, building your online presence is simpler and more affordable than ever before.
Many hosting providers have tailored their service around small businesses that may not be tech savvy. We suggest going with BlueHost to host your website. Their service is simple and easy to use/setup and they’re currently offering 60% off hosting, including free domain registration.
Additionally, creating a blog on your website is a great way to attract organic traffic and expand your business. Checkout our full guide on the best and easiest way to setup a WordPress blog here.
Marketing Your Business
While art is often exclusive and non-commercial, you’ll still need to do some marketing in order to attract prospective buyers.
Online advertising is a great choice for your business. It is incredibly cost-efficient and you can also reach a highly specific target audience.
The first thing to do in order to reach these people is have your website properly optimised. Search engine optimisation (SEO) enables your website to rank for keywords and phrases that people will be using to find online art.
If you don’t have SEO knowledge, you may want to invest in professional assistance. The return on investment will be quite high because you’ll notice a quick and sustainable increase in your traffic.
A few other highly effective online marketing techniques you should rely on include:
- Social media marketing via multiple channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn
- Developing your own YouTube channel that will build your online reputation and authority
- Pay per click (PPC) advertising on relevant platforms
- Content marketing that can once again build your authority
- Partnerships with influencers and prominent figures in the art world to reach their online audiences
- Publications in relevant websites, communities and forums
Offline advertising can also be utilised quite effectively. Get in the habit of attending relevant events and seminars. Networking, speaking engagements and partnerships with authorities in the art world can help you gain quick traction for a brand new idea.
Don’t forget to attend gallery openings, exhibitions and art shows where you will get a chance to interact with potential buyers.
Setting Goals and KPI’s
Key performance indicators (KPIs) show the health and the growth potential of your art selling business.
When you sell art online, you have to make sure that you’re reaching the right prospects and that you’re getting them engaged. For the purpose, you can track various metrics:
- Sales growth and return customers: if people are happy with what you have to offer, they will come back for additional interactions in the future.
- Average price of art sold via an auction: an auction website provides wonderful opportunities but this business model could also be risky. You may end up selling art for a lot less than it’s actually worth.
- Quote to close ratio: how many people inquire about a particular piece of art? How many of them end up actually buying the artwork? The quote to close ratio show how effective your sales efforts are and whether you’re attracting the right demographic.
- Sales by channel/contact method: a great KPI that you should use if you’re using multiple channels or communication strategies to reach customers.
- Website traffic and audience demographics: don’t forget to track the performance of your website to see if your marketing efforts are paying off.
Plan your Finances
Selling art online is relatively affordable but you’ll still need to factor in various types of expenditure.
If you’re creating the art on your own, you will need a good idea about how much you’re spending on supplies over a certain period of time.
Website development, hosting, maintenance and marketing will also necessitate a regular budget contribution.
A few other types of expenses to consider include auction fees, shipping and logistics, art storage, salaries for employees, communication costs (telephone and internet bills, software, hardware), bookkeeping, the cost of participating in art events/exhibitions, etc.
Calculating these initial and recurrent expenditures will give you a chance to determine how much funding you’ll need to get your business going.
Next, you can identify sources of funding you can rely on if you lack the lump sum required to get started.
Family and friends could be willing to help you build your business. Consider getting a partner who will share the responsibilities, the financial burden and the operational hardships with you.
Alternative sources of funding include crowdsourcing campaigns, finding an angel investor and getting a bank loan.
Based on your current financial health and the price estimate, you can also determine what an adequate price tag for your artwork is going to be.
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
As an artist, you may find it difficult to consider artwork in an entrepreneurial, commercial way. Still, you need to adopt the right mindset in order to earn sustainable revenue from your online art selling efforts.
An entrepreneurial mindset focuses on a long-term strategy and targeted effort bound to produce a specific result. You can’t rely on chance to attract clients, to make your artwork popular and to achieve regular sales.
The business of art comes with its specifics and you can master the essentials by accessing the right educational resources.
Consider The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield. Battenfield has over 20 years of experience in the field of selling art and she teaches professional development programs at the Creative Capital Foundation. If you’re struggling with mastering art marketing, I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion by Alyson Stanfield will give you great information. An art and marketing expert, Stanfield has worked with artists for over 20 years and she talks about some of the most popular advertising options for creators.
Other things to consider when starting your selling art online business
You will have to set up a corporate entity or a foundation to sell art online. If you plan to create custom artwork for your clients and sell it, you will also need to register with the respective authority in your country.
Another essential to come up with is a legally-binding contract that both you and the buyer will sign upon the completion of the transaction. A good contract protects both parties involved, pinpointing their rights and obligations.
It’s imperative to talk to an attorney that has enough experience with such business registrations and contact creation. Don’t rely on a contract form you’ve found online. It will be generic and it’s not going to address many of the key issue that will have impact on your particular art-related transactions.
Accounting & Bookkeeping:
As a person selling art online, you will have to keep track of every single transaction.
Invoices, contracts and receipts will need to be maintained for a certain period of time, as mandated by law in the country where you operate.
The same applies to the documents that prove expenditure related to the operations of your business.
Attempting to handle accounting and bookkeeping matters on your own can contribute to costly mistakes and even fines stemming from the lack of compliance with the regulatory framework. Hiring an accountant will give you peace of mind and you’ll also get to focus your efforts on what you do best.
If you don’t have the financial resources needed to get an accounting firm involved, look for a freelance accountant that has some experience with the financial management of art companies.
Finally, you may have to acquire some accounting and invoicing software to manage the transactions with your clients. The good news is that you’ll find many free of charge options online that give you access to basic functionalities. For something a bit more extensive, try Xero.
As time goes by and your business grows, you’ll have to start thinking about hiring a few employees to help you out.
If you’re creating the art, you will need someone to handle the business and the customer service side of things. Sales representatives that have at least some experience in the art world will perform the best. They’ll know what clients are looking for and how to handle their inquiries.
Consider getting an assistant who will deal with your website, processing digital orders and making sure that artwork has been shipped to the right client.
In case you don’t want to hire full-time employees or you have no need for such professional arrangements, freelance professionals will offer a viable alternative. You can pay per project or on an hourly basis. Such an arrangement is going to be highly cost-efficient and it will still give you an excellent outcome in terms of productivity and project completion.