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Five Things you Need to Know to Successfully Sell your Art Online

Author: Stephen Tanenbaum

The Internet has become an indispensable tool for artists. With the click of a button, art enthusiasts around the world can view your artwork. But before you begin posting your images on the web, there are five important things you should know. The following is a guide to effectively selling your art online.

1. Where to Exhibit – There are thousands of online galleries, so how do you decide which ones are best? Do your research. You need to find out how much they charge in fees or commission, what services they offer, if the gallery is curated, what type of marketing efforts they participate in, and most importantly, how much art they sell. Some of these questions can probably be answered right on the gallery's website, while others will require a phone call or email. Their contact information should be easily visible on the site. If not, that should raise a red flag. By contacting them, you are also testing their customer service. See how knowledgeable they are on the phone, or send them an email and see how quickly they respond. Overall, you want to determine that they are working hard to promote the art they display, and not just making money off of signup fees and advertisements on the site.

2. Approaching a Gallery – When you are ready to put your art on a site, there are two things you need: great images of your work and an artist's statement. Most online galleries are not curated, which means that anyone with a paintbrush and money to cover the signup fees can post their art. Be cautious of these sites. Instead, you want to apply to a gallery that has reputable curators who oversee the quality and direction. This is where great images and a statement are crucial; they represent everything about you and your art, and make it much easier for the gallery to see what you do. Once accepted to the gallery, these things will also be important for customers, who will be able to see your art clearly and understand it. As a result, they will be more likely to make a purchase.

3. Professionalism – Throughout this whole process, professionalism is key. You must respond promptly to emails and phone calls, do what you say you are going to do, and be conscious of small things like typos in your artist's statement. Above all, you need to know your work. If you are a photographer, than you need to be an expert about everything related to your camera and prints. Are these pieces in a limited or unlimited edition? How many prints in the edition? Signed and numbered? To truly be a successful photographer or painter or anything else, you have to know your trade. Professionalism will show your gallery and customers that you are a serious artist worth their representation and money.

4. Pricing – Pricing your art can be one of the most difficult aspects of being an artist. Your prices should be based on the size, medium, and complexity of the piece, and your sales and exhibition history. If the only work you have sold has been to your family, or you have never sold anything, you need to start low. It may be less than you want in the beginning, but that is how you work your way up. If you throw a $10,000 dollar price tag on your first painting for sale, it's probably never going to sell. Start with a couple hundred dollars and if the first pieces sell quickly you can raise your prices a bit; a ten to 15 percent raise is considered standard gallery practice. One important thing to remember is that you should almost never discount your art if it's not selling. It makes collectors very unhappy, and it can devalue your whole portfolio. If someone buys a piece from you for $1,000, and then later you lower the price of a comparable piece to $500 because it isn't selling, in effect you've just decreased the value of the first piece to $500 as well. Galleries and buyers will catch onto this and keep away; no one wants to put their money into a risky investment. Start low, be patient, and the right buyer will comes along.

5. Personal Websites and eBay – We've talked about online galleries, but what about creating a personal website? Selling your art on a personal site is difficult. The reason you pay signup fees or a commission to an online gallery is to handle things like building an e-commerce site, pursue marketing opportunities, and fostering relationships with customers. Having the time and resources to do this yourself is rare. eBay is even more dicey than a personal site. Although the customer base is there, it is somewhat of a black eye to the art world. Forgers go there en masse to offload knockoff paintings. Beyond that, you are probably not going to build a proper sales history that you can take to a physical gallery selling your art this way, which should be your goal.

Do your research, find a gallery that works hard for you, be professional and realistic, and your chances of being successful will increase infinitely. Once you build a sales history online, it will be that much easier to approach physical galleries. And the best part is, you can use these same five points.

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