The art world can be an overwhelming place. From tough critics to discerning buyers, there are many people to please as you try to make it as an artist or a gallerist. How do you break in? While the first step is creating work that stands out, the next step is actually promoting that work and getting it in front of buyers.
For years, this was difficult.
But with more digital options than ever at an artist’s disposal, new ways are opening up for artists to get their work into the hands of buyers. In fact, you could say online art sales are democratizing the industry, giving more artists the chance to promote and curate their work on their own terms.
Here are some of the main steps involved in selling art online:
- Choose how you want to sell online. Common options are through your own personal website or an online gallery.
- Choose an online platform. Find what works best for you — whether that’s a site builder suited for artists, an online art-selling website or a gallery that’s just right for you.
- Classify your work correctly online. Make sure you categorize your work so that it can be browsed easily and helps you put your best foot forward.
- Promote your work. This is a chance to get creative, something artists tend to excel at.
- Sell your work. Set up a way to collect payments digitally.
We’ll walk you through these steps in detail. While each step might look simple, there are certain subtleties you’ll need to understand before diving in. We understand that different types of artists demand different tools and options — so we’ll be sure to outline which tools fit your needs best.
Now let’s get ready to sell!
Art selling: through galleries or online platforms?
So who should sell online anyway? Although this might surprise you, it turns out selling art digitally isn’t just for individual artists hoping to get their work out into the world. Galleries can also use online tools to reach a wider audience. After all, not every art connoisseur wants to travel to a gallery to check out pieces. And as digital tools grow more advanced, they’re better able to capture the true art viewing experience.
In short, everyone is getting in on the fun — and online selling isn’t just for the “little guy” anymore. But there are some differences when it comes to selling as a gallery versus selling as an individual, which we’ll outline below.
Galleries and individuals artists have different demands. From disparities in resources to different workflows, each approaches showcasing and selling work in a different way. Here are a few of the differences to keep in mind when it comes to selling as a gallery versus selling as an individual artist:
Galleries have more resources. This difference is fairly clear to anyone following the art world. Art galleries have the space and staff needed to showcase work in person and in an attractive way. They also connect with special auctions and exhibitors to find artwork and sell it. Overall, galleries run like a business. Although money doesn’t usually change hands up front, galleries showcase artists whose work they’re confident will sell.
Individual artists can develop a personal touch. Many artists at the beginning of their career need to rely on online word of mouth. By setting up a website and engaging with social media, they can begin to develop a personal connection with their fans. While a gallery may be a bit more impersonal — selling a collection of work that doesn’t belong to one artist alone — an individual artist has the chance to forge a world around their art and their art alone.
For galleries, online is supplementary. Popular galleries tend to have a fairly steady level of foot traffic. Lots of people see a gallery’s art in person. So while online avenues can help boost gallery sales and get an even wider audience to engage with their collection of art, they don’t rely on online sales in the same way that individual artists do.
For individual artists, online means freedom. Let’s be real: The gallery circuit isn’t always fair and welcoming. It can be tough for artists who might be just starting out and don’t have many contacts in the art world to gain a foothold.
Catching the attention of gallery owners is an uphill battle that calls for tireless self-promotion and networking. But with selling art online, a lot of that difficult legwork falls away. Individual artists have the chance to put their work in front of the masses without having to seriously penetrate the gallery world. That’s why selling online is great for outsiders and those new to art.
Advantages of online art selling and payment collection
When we talk about selling art online, we typically mean taking advantage of online galleries and creating a personal website to promote your work. This also refers to the technical aspects of buying and selling — such as setting up a way to collect payments online.
Modern tools make it easier than ever to create a functional, browsable website that displays your work beautifully and reaches a wide audience. This is particularly useful for artists who may not have serious tech skills or the means to hire someone to build their site.
The world of buying and selling art online is changing every day. In this section, we’ll learn more about how art connoisseurs are moving online to view work — and explore how this development offers plenty of advantages for the modern artist.
Artwork goes digital
Visiting an art gallery can be a unique, unforgettable experience. You might come face to face with a piece that will forever change the way you engage with and relate to art. Because of these transformative experiences, visiting an art gallery will never go out of style. It will always stand out as the chance to experience great art with your own two eyes.
That said, artwork has gone digital. While we sometimes like to believe that art is different from other sectors in some grand way, it really is an industry like any other. And more and more industries are being disrupted by e-commerce, which makes it easier than ever for sellers to sell and buyers to buy on the worldwide web.
Here’s how art is making a foothold online:
E-commerce is on the rise. Now that Amazon, Alibaba, and other major online retailers have risen to the top of shopping world, it’s undeniable that online is the first place people look when considering a purchase. And although it’s important to see a piece in person, art is well suited for online buying.
Purchases that require research and extended consideration on the part of a buyer — a process that occurs if you’re debating buying a major work of art — are perfect for online shopping.
The online shopping experience continues to improve. With the rise of big data and machine learning, retailers find it easier than ever to give users just the thing they want at just the right time. Features like “Customers who bought X also bought Y” drive customers to make more purchases — and can work well in online galleries.
Galleries are struggling. The global art world is currently in a boom cycle, with interest and sales high. But significant closures are putting galleries in a precarious position.
Major galleries like Acme, Wilkinson, and Off Vendome have shut their doors in recent years, blaming sky-high rents. And the expenses don’t end there — paying professional gallerists can be expensive, and too many are underpaid.
While this is a tough blow for the art industry, it’s also a signal that online art selling is on its way to becoming the default mode of transaction.
Say goodbye to the middle man. Many artists say they appreciate getting to engage directly with their audience — without being forced to work with a middle man to reach their fans. The fact is, exhibitions will never go out of style. But with online selling as an option, artists have the chance to constantly exhibit their work to their audience. It puts more power in their hands and gives buyers a direct route to work that excites them.
What’s the future of online art selling? For a while, analysts didn’t believe clothes shopping could translate online. After all, how do you sell someone pants online if they don’t get to try them on beforehand? But advanced technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality have changed everything, giving users the ability to virtually “try on” clothes and ensure they have the right size before hitting “buy.”
Now that concept is coming to the art world, with apps like INHAABIT enabling buyers to preview how a piece looks in their home before purchasing.
It’s safe to say the art world is in a period of exciting transition. As online selling grows in popularity, more buyers and sellers realize they have new options. How will you respond to this new environment, and how are you going to get in on the fun?
Although we’ve hinted at them already, it’s worth laying out the distinct advantages that come from selling art online. Ask most artists — especially ones just starting out — and they’ll tell you that online selling is a source of excitement and increased income. Galleries are also getting in on the fun, finding a new way to connect with art lovers around the world.
Here are a few of the benefits that come with selling art online:
- Democratization. The art world isn’t always an even playing field. Artists who spend time at graduate schools or in major art programs tend to have a leg up in their field. They’re able to make contacts and form relationships with gallerists — something amateur artists have a much harder time doing. For artists who might not have the time or means to go to an elite art school, selling online is a great way for them to get their work in front of potential customers. The same applies for galleries. It can sometimes feel like David vs Goliath, with “mega-galleries” hogging all of the most lucrative pieces. Working online is a chance for smaller galleries to close that gap and find an audience.
- Liberation. The art world can also have quite a bit of bureaucracy. The process of finding an exhibition, reaching out to the exhibition coordinators, and actually getting your work staged at the exhibition can take time — and lots of middle men. When working online, artists and galleries have the ability to work on their own terms.
- Global impact. Art is a universal language. While there are certain hubs of art — like Rome, Paris, Berlin, and New York City — there are artists everywhere and people who want to buy art all over the map. With an online gallery, smaller galleries that are in more remote locations can find a global audience. And artists who might live outside of these hubs of the art world have the chance to connect with art lovers when selling online. In short, selling art online enables us to break down barriers and bring all artists and galleries onto the global stage.
- Inventory. When you do all of your selling in the physical world, it can be tough to keep track of your inventory. But galleries that sell online can always have an up-to-date rundown of what’s on hand.
- Ease. Avoiding bureaucratic red tape isn’t the only reason selling online is so easy. It’s also become a quick three-step process on many websites. Simply take a picture of your art, click upload, and then add a description — and you’re well on your way to an engaging online portfolio!
- Community. Online art isn’t just about selling. It’s also about connecting — with other galleries, other artists, and other art lovers. Having your work alongside other artists in an online marketplace will motivate you to turn out new work and keep up with the latest trends. It will also inspire you to experiment with new forms.
It’s a whole new world for artists and galleries. Working digitally means a bigger audience, a lower barrier for entry, and an even playing field. But enough talk: How do you get started selling online?
How to get started selling online
The advantages are obvious — so now it’s time to learn how to sell art online and make money. For independent artists who are just trying to make it in the art world, it’s important to first learn how to promote your work online, then figure out how to make it as easy as possible for people to buy your work online.
Keep in mind that you might not make a ton of money right away. There’s a bit of a learning curve in terms of figuring out how to promote your work and finding buyers for it. So it’s important to find supplementary ways of driving income as an artist. We’ll outline useful artist “side hustles” — like teaching an online course. You’d be surprised to learn how many creative ways there are to make money as an artist.
Finally, we’ll outline which sites you should use to sell your work. While making a personal website to show off your portfolio is crucial, it’s also good to research various online marketplaces where you can post your work and connect with art lovers. These websites don’t just serve a practical purpose — they also connect artists with a community of like-minded individuals who can motivate and inspire.
Learning how to sell art online and make money can open up so many exciting avenues for you. And as technology advances, you’ll be excited to learn that getting started with this process is easier than ever.
People need to know about your work before they can buy it. Art galleries connect your work with a legion of art lovers. The internet has turned this system upside down, giving independent artists plenty of new and effective avenues for promoting their work. But before you can dive in, it’s worth assessing what kind of art you’re making and who your audience is.
- What are my options? When it comes to self-promotion, you have many options. Physical spaces, like galleries, work well. You can even reach out to your community and see if offices, hotels, or public buildings want to feature your work. It’s a great way to get more people aware of the work you’re creating.
You also have online options. A personal website is a good start. That can be a central repository for your work, while providing important information about your background. You can also post your work in popular online art marketplaces, like Etsy.
- What kind of art am I making? Different forms of art call for different forms of self-promotion. For most visual art, a combination of galleries and a regularly updated personal website are good routes. You’ll want to give people the ability to see your work in person but learn about it online.
Custom-made items are perfect for online sellers, especially if you’re collecting orders electronically anyway. And if you’re creating digital artwork, you’ll probably want to rely on a personal website.
- Where is my audience? You know the art you’re making and the audience it appeals to, but where is this audience? Luckily, there are many resources to help you answer this question.
A variety of websites point toward specific audiences — such as those looking for more advanced visual art or those looking for fun customized art. Online marketplaces even give you the ability to specify your audience as a particular subculture — like fans of a certain TV show or sports team. Use these options to meet your audience where they are.
- How can social media supplement my self-promotion needs? Of course, social media is a must if you’re trying to promote your art online. Not only can you connect with a large audience of art lovers, but you can also find communities of artists who support each other. You can find useful opportunities, collaborators, and more. And most important, you can build a community around your artwork, where people can give feedback, spread the word, and buy!
- How can I keep my audience engaged? It’s one thing to have an audience; it’s another thing entirely to make sure they’re satisfied by and engaged with your work. Posting frequently on social media and keeping your website up to date are great ways to make sure everyone is in the loop.
Some artists have even experimented with writing a blog to keep fans abreast of their progress and aware of their upcoming projects. This is especially useful if your work is going to be in exhibitions and you want to spread the word and drum up excitement.
Self-promotion is key when it comes to a career in the arts. And don’t worry: There are plenty of ways to promote yourself without taking away from your work. Tasteful options like a well-designed personal website are a great way to get your work in front of people.
Overall, online options are becoming more than a supplementary tool for artists — in fact, in many cases they’re becoming the primary way artists connect with art lovers.
Find creative ways to make money as an artist
We’ll be real: Artists need to hustle! While you might be able to make a large portion of your income from art sales, you’ll probably want to work on additional sources of income. It’s important to remember that as an artist, you have a skill to offer. You can use this flare for the arts to generate additional income in creative ways. This blog post outlines some of the creative ways artists can supplement their income.
Best online art selling sites
Promoting your work is just one step in the online art selling process. The other crucial step involves actually selling your work. The good news is that there are lots of great art selling sites, which makes the process easy for artists and buyers alike. In this blog post, we highlight a few of the best sites that make selling art online easy.
How to curate your work on a website or online selling platform
Presentation is key when it comes to promoting your art online. You always want your website to do your fantastic artwork justice — so that all of your work looks attractive and ready to buy. Many artists spring for professional photographers to get the best possible pictures of their art. Others tap into their own artistic skills and photograph their artwork themselves using a powerful camera.
No matter how you capture your artwork, it’s only one part of the equation. You also need to classify your artwork correctly.
Whether you’re an independent artist or represent a gallery, building your website is a form of curation. What work do you want to highlight? How are you going to highlight this work? How are you going to organize your work so that individuals can digest your work in a clear, satisfying way?
Many website builders for artists make it easy to classify your work effectively. In other words, there’s no excuse to not have a beautiful, easy-to-navigate artistic website given all of the tools at your disposal. So let’s get ready to build!
Your website should be organized with your audience in mind. What do they want to see? What don’t they want to see? Try to put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to scroll through a million pages?
Labeling your art and characterizing it by type and other characteristics is a great way to make the online browsing experience seamless. And many websites are designed to make the process of setting your website up easy. Here’s what you should know:
- Classify by type. You might be selling lots of different kinds of art. You don’t want to make your customers fish through a big jumble of all your art. Clearly delineate the different types of pieces and set up filters. For instance, if you’re a visual artist you may want to separate black-and-white images from color images. Or if you used a certain medium to create the piece, you’ll want to classify so that users can find any watercolor they want with the click of a button.
- Sort by relevance. Whether you’re a gallery or an independent artist, you should make sure your art is laid out in a relevant fashion. This means prioritizing newer pieces and featuring the work that you feel there’s a large audience for. If you’re making customized work or fan art, it might be good to have a “top sellers” section so that users can navigate to the most popular pieces on your site without having to click through multiple pages.
- Put your work first. Make sure your art is in a position to be admired — without distractions of any type. This includes busy background color schemes or third-party advertisements. People are on your website to see your art — not an ad or a particularly creative website design. That’s why many artists favor using a minimal white background.
- Be descriptive but concise. Many websites give you the ability to add descriptions under your artwork. This enables you to give a bit of background about your piece. But again, remember your site is about letting your work do the talking. So don’t get overly detailed with your descriptions. If someone has questions about a certain piece, they can use the contact section of your website to get in touch.
Artists need to do everything they can to make their work sing. Classifying your work with accuracy and taste is an essential first step, enabling art lovers to easily find and buy your work.
Best website builders for artists
There are a wealth of great website builders out there for artists. From the versatile heavyweights to the more specialized artist-focused options, there’s something for everyone. And it seems like every year a new website builder pops up — boasting new features and a new level of usability. In this blog post, we outline the best website builders on the market for artists of all types.
Embedding JotForm into your website
You’ve set up just the right website. It features your work in an attractive, easy-to-browse way. It lets you put your best foot forward, while also enabling you to give some background about yourself and your artistic experience. It even includes a contact page for inquiries.
But wait. You’re missing one thing: a way to collect payments!
Enter JotForm. No matter which website builder you end up using, JotForm is a great way to collect information from potential buyers or set up an in-person meeting. And the best part is, you can easily embed JotForm forms across platforms — whether you’re using one of the site builder heavyweights or even something more obscure.
Here’s how to get started:
- First create your form. With JotForm, you can customize your form to your heart’s content. Add the fields you need and integrate with any feature you might need — like a payment processor. Learn more about creating a form and integrating with payment processing apps.
- Once you’re finished, go to the Publish tab in the Form Builder. Then select Embed from the left panel and click on the Copy Code button. Boom! You have the code you need to embed your form.
- Paste this code into your website. Choose where you want to paste this code. You might have a specific page in mind, like your purchase page. In this case, use your site builder to navigate to the correct page and edit the HTML. Most sites make it easy, even for technophobes, to edit the site’s HTML. For instance, on Wix you simply click Add on the main editor, click More, and click Embeds. Then you simply drag the embed code to the correct area of your page or click HTML iFrame. Enter the code, and you’re good to go!
JotForm isn’t just useful for payment processing forms. It’s also a great way to collect potential client contact information, especially if you’re making a custom piece with several specifications (like size, medium, extra instructions, etc.). And for a gallery, JotForm is a great way to help artists submit their work for consideration or organize your latest exhibition.
Your options are numerous. And the best part? Embedding is simple!
How an art gallery can use JotForm
Believe me: We understand that running an art gallery isn’t simple. There’s a lot of curation and organization that goes into such an enterprise — and oftentimes art galleries have limited staff.
Every minute — and every dollar — counts. There’s no time to waste, and efficiency is key. You need tools that you don’t have to worry about, that are easy to learn, easy to use, and provide results. That’s where JotForm comes in. Our simple, customizable Form Builder can come in handy in a variety of situations for art galleries.
Collecting submissions as a gallery
On our blog, we’ve highlighted some of the ways art galleries can use JotForm to collect submissions in a streamlined way. Running an exhibition isn’t easy, so having an organized approach to submissions is the best way to make sure you’re featuring the best work and making life easier for artists.
But while submitting work is a central use case for JotForm that we’ll highlight below, there are a few other powerful use cases that are also worth mentioning:
Collecting art submissions. Galleries are always on the lookout for great work. Making it as easy as possible for artists to submit their work enables you to collect a great deal of high-quality work. If you’re looking for submissions for an exhibition, you can quickly collect contact information and allow artists to attach their work to the form. They can also include background information about themselves or a description of the work they’re submitting. Here are two JotForm artwork submission forms that we like:
Collecting submissions is one thing. Keeping track of these submissions is another task altogether. Luckily, doing this is easy with JotForm. You can get email alerts for form submissions and automatically organize all of the submissions in a spreadsheet with the Google Sheets integration.
Signing up exhibition attendees. Are you organizing an exhibition or gallery opening? Using JotForm to keep track of attendance is a great way to make sure you collect contact information in a clear, streamlined way. And if attendance costs money, you can integrate with payment processors like Stripe or PayPal to ensure easy payment. Collecting all of these signups in a spreadsheet makes it easy to check off attendees at the door as they enter on the day of the exhibition. You can also make an attendance form that shows slot availability.
Collecting feedback. Art galleries are always looking to improve, to create an experience that celebrates artists and art lovers alike. One way to improve is by collecting feedback from visitors and exhibitors. You can easily customize your forms to adjust for gallery attendees versus artists. For instance, did artists have an easy time submitting work? Did they get something out of exhibiting? And did attendees have an enjoyable experience? Did they buy something from the gallery?
Running a class or lecture series. Art gallery programming can be diverse. It isn’t always an exhibition that needs to be organized. Maybe a guest speaker comes to the gallery for a lecture. Or you’re running a class for artists who want to practice a certain skill. In this case, JotForm can once again help. For a class, you might find you want to collect more than just contact information and student names. You might also want a better idea of a student’s experience level and specialized skills. In this case, you can include form fields that collect this information and arm you with the information you need to run a useful class.
Holding fundraising events. People love supporting the arts. It’s a chance for them to enrich and celebrate the artists who make our communities more vibrant and beautiful. Art galleries can be a hub for fundraisers. Some of these fundraisers might also use art sales to collect donations for a charity. Once again, JotForm is a helpful tool in this situation. Here’s a generalized fundraising form — and here are some more reasons why you should use JotForm for donations.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a gallery. Why not outsource data collection to JotForm instead of manually collecting data? This way, you can spend more time improving your gallery events, showing off great artwork, and enriching the community. Meanwhile, we’ll make sure you have the information you need, when you need it.