selling your art online

3 Fundamental Rules to Sell Art Online

Why people like to “buy” and not “be sold”, three rules to learn before attempting to sell art online, and how to use them to tempt art buyers’ emotions and validate their decision to make a purchase.

So, you’re sitting there and you’re wondering: “How do I sell art online?”

Once, as part of my marketing and copywriting training, I learned a classic lesson called “The Three Fundamental Rules of Selling.”

But before I tell you about that, let me just say that in my copywriting and marketing career I’ve learned plenty of useful marketing know-how.

But I don’t always apply everything I’ve learned to my own business, or even to the businesses of the clients I work with.

That’s because while timeless marketing principles do work, they have to be adapted and tweaked for each situation and client. You’ll run yourself crazy trying to force these tips into every marketing plan you have.


Can You Sell Art Online?

Not every marketing or sales tip, technique or strategy is going to work in all situations.

So when I share the “three rules of selling” here, I want you to think of them as the timeless marketing principles they are, and not as “you must do this or you will fail” guidance.

We are creatives, and that means there are things we don’t feel comfortable doing, and things we simply will not do when it comes to marketing and selling our creative talents.

My best advice to you is to approach the three rules of selling your art simply as a deep look into buyer psychology, and take them with a large grain of salt. Think of them as tips for selling art online. Then apply them authentically in your art business, in a way that feels comfortable to you and that serves the interests and desires of your clients, customers and collectors.


The 3 Fundamental Rules to Sell Art Online

#1: People don’t like to be sold

This is the rule I was taught, but the more accurate version is: People DO like to buy, but they don’t like to be sold. This is because buying implies control, being sold to does not.

What does this mean for you? Be kind.

Your job is to help your potential buyer/customer/client solve a problem or achieve a goal, even if that goal is simply to bring a little more beauty into their lives by purchasing a piece of your artwork.


So in your marketing communications, you don’t want to apply undue pressure. Tempt, don’t force. Create a verbal picture that ignites your buyer’s desires and appeals to their emotions, for example, by helping them imagine how wonderful they’ll feel owning that special print or original piece of art, or how great that room will look once they hang it.

#2: People buy things for emotional reasons

We all know this is true.

You may be buying that new iPhone because your previous one is two years old and doesn’t have all the features you need, but if you’re honest with yourself, at least part of the reason you’re buying it is because it makes you feel like one of those hip, savvy, cool people who appreciates beautiful design and owns the latest technologically superior Apple product. Pride, and that sense of belonging to a “special” group, is one of the emotional reasons we buy.


Now, to tap into these emotions when writing copy, I was taught that one must either “Hit ’em where it hurts,” OR, make them feel good. “Hit ’em where it hurts” is a little uncomfortable for some of us, of course.

Yes, in marketing copy, highlighting the problems and challenges your ideal clients or customers face, then positioning your offering as the solution, can be very persuasive. But you can do that without resorting to hyperbole or fake problem agitation.

You don’t have to use the twist-the-knife-and-show-your-potential-buyers-how-dire-their-situation-is-and-how-much-pain-it’s-causing-them approach.


That actually is an approach used by many copywriters for certain kinds of products and services, and always will be, but we’re talking about art and other creative goods here, so show your buyers how good your “solution” (your art) will make them feel instead.

#3: Once sold, people need to satisfy their emotional decisions with logic, so give your potential buyers the rationale

This means that once you’ve made an emotional appeal by showing your ideal buyers & collectors you understand their problems and frustrations, or more likely in the case of buying art, their needs and desires, and by painting a picture of their ideal outcome, you must now give your buyer rational reasons to buy.


After they’re emotionally sold, they need to rationalize their decision to purchase. This is where information in the form of product specifications or service delivery information comes in. This raw information doesn’t sell your work, but it’s super important because it makes the client or customer feel good about the buying decision they just made.

An Example of Emotional Appeal

A great example of this is car commercials. Many of them start out by speaking directly to their ideal customers with an emotional appeal. Think Jeep Grand Cherokee ads that appeal to the rugged individualist who doesn’t play by society’s rules.


The ideal buyer they’re going after is adventurous go-getter, the man or woman who doesn’t take the well-worn beaten path like everyone else. You can tell this by how they “position” the car in the advertising – as if it’s for these special, bold and courageous folks who are different from the rest of the 9-5’ers out there driving to their boring jobs every day in their boring 4-door sedans.

Then after the opening emotional appeal, towards the end of the commercial, you get all the details about specifics like anti-lock brakes, fuel economy, warranty information, and so on. That’s the rationale, but notice how it comes after the emotional appeal.

So when selling your art, once you make the emotional appeal, then you share ordering information, size and material specifications, delivery methods, and importantly, contact information, should your buyers have any questions.


So There You Have It – The 3 Rules of Selling Art Online:

  1. Don’t “sell” to people — Offer them solutions
  2. Tap into people’s emotions
  3. Validate their decision to buy


Kimberly Houston is an AWAI (American Writers & Artists, Inc.) trained copywriter who specializes in helping creative pros rise above the online fray with personality-driven web copy and web marketing.

For more on her services, check out her website.

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