In this five-part series, I'll cover the nuts and bolts of actually selling fine art and photography online.
We like to get into the weeds around here on advanced marketing techniques, but those tips will have little impact if you don't have the basics covered.
It's also critically important to understand the fundamentals of the business of selling art so that you can make clear, strong decisions. (I am all about maintaining a high quality of thinking).
If you have an End Game in mind with your art business (earning enough to quit your day job, saving for retirement, or just putting together a reliable source of side income), poor daily decisions are your greatest enemy in the journey towards achieving it.
So let's nail down the basics, starting with the very most essential one: you need to run your OWN art gallery, online.
This is art-selling 101, but so, so many fine artists and photographers alike are completely missing it: you cannot build a reliable future income stream unless you sell through your own online art gallery.
It can't be done. Without your own art-selling website, you could earn a sale here or there. You could even be lucky enough to string together enough sales in a single year to rival a traditional day job's salary.
But that luck won't hold without your own art gallery. It never does. This leads to the high-stress "feast or famine" dynamic of selling art that we all know too well. It's not reliable, consistent, or sustainable - and these are 3 critical elements you need if you want to go the distance with your art business.
→ What about traditional, physical galleries?
They have a place, but if you rely on them entirely, you're setting yourself up for failure. Galleries relocate, they drop artists on a whim, and, most importantly, they close. No gallery will stay in business forever.
→ And how about marketplace websites like Etsy or Fine Art America?
These are even more risky. Not only may they not be in business in 5 years, but before that point they will surely change their algorithms and perhaps even their entire business models.
When algorithms change against your favor, there is massive fallout in earning potential.
If a marketplace you depend on decides they no longer want to promote your particular type of art prominently in their search results, for example, you could lose all your traffic (and sales) and have to start from scratch.
If you ever wondered why there is still a "starving artist" problem, this issue is at the crux of it: online marketplaces are in the business of controlling customer data - not selling art.
Their companies are structured to provide themselves with a reliable income stream, but not you. That's why when you sell a print, they get the customer's email address, shipping address, and phone number, but you don't.
It's now their customer to market to in the future, not yours.
THIS IS A MAJOR PROBLEM! You need to be in control of your own customers before you can hope to build a sustainable business.
Now, all this isn't to say you should avoid these options entirely. If you're currently using them and they are working for you - great! There's no reason to stop. But you should be aware that one day the party will end. And at that point, you don't want to be scrambling to figure out how to rebuild.
That's why it's so important to run your own art gallery online and shift as much of your business towards it as possible.
Most importantly, you can create a repeatable model that nobody can ever take away from you. A repeatable model is what produces a reliable future income stream.
So let's get into what this all looks like practically.
The Role of the Art Gallery in Your Overall Business
Your art gallery is not some little add-on to your business. It is not just a new marketing channel and a way for you to sell to the online market.
Your Online Art Gallery should become the cornerstone of your business.
When transactions happen at your gallery, you own the customer data rather than someone else. When you own your own leads and customers, you are in full control of your destiny. You can market directly to your audience - to earn a second, third, and fifth sale from them.
Now you are building something with value rather than giving it away to someone else, like galleries and art marketplace websites.
Many artists I speak with have never thought about their business in these terms and have a sort of epiphany when they realize they've been spending all their time and resources convincing buyers to go to someone else's business, not their own.
A business that didn't do any of the work and yet reaps the majority of the rewards (including all of your customer information). This is not just bad business, it's insane!
So - to cut to the core of it, the most fundamental element to know about successfully selling art online is that you need to send your buyers to a place that you own – where you make the most money, and where every sale puts you another step closer to your End Game.
Your own art gallery, online. Once this clicks, you'll start thinking of new ways to funnel anyone and everyone to your art gallery website. This is high quality thinking, and it's the same thinking being done by the most successful photographers and fine artists I know.
This doesn't mean you have to change everything you're doing.
Let’s say you are really successful right now selling at art shows. Cool. Keep doing that. I don’t care if you do zero marketing online, just be sure to funnel every lead and customer you get from art shows to your art gallery so that you're able to neatly track your customer information and leverage them in the future.
Over time, you’ll likely double your sales just by doing this. You’ll also transition your business from something that only produces immediate, short term sales into something that produces a reliable future income stream.
Next week: how to generate leads and what to do with them when you have them.
Art Storefronts is where photographers and artists of all levels of success go to build reliable future income streams with their art.
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Nick Friend is an owner of Art Storefronts and a success mentor to its members.
He carries with him 18 years of industry experience, and is committed to building a world in which artists are the ones who profit most from their work.
Learn more in Nick's full bio.
If we can't teach you, no one can!