Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yes You Can!

by Kate Dardine

Can you really sell art on the internet?
The answer is yes…IF.

One of the biggest misconceptions artists (for the sake of this article, photographers and other 2-D artists will be lumped together under the umbrella term “artist.”) have is that by having a website, or joining an “online gallery” such as Art for Conservation or other online galleries, that sales will just “happen.” There seems to be a thought process that goes something like, “I put my images ‘out there’ – now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the buyers to buy!” You could be waiting a long time. With all the images “out there” on the internet, what is going to make a potential purchaser find YOUR art?

For those of you who have read my posts before, you know my mantra. The internet is not a magic bullet. Tried and true marketing techniques still come into play. And as much as all of us would like to be able to just create and let “someone else” handle the marketing aspect, the truth is that it is up to you, the artist, to create the buzz about your work that will lead to sales.

So how do you create a buzz? The easiest way is to use social networking sites such as Facebook. I recommend having a “personal” profile for posting events about your life that are NOT necessarily related to art and a professional fan page where you can promote your art. One of the biggest benefits of posting your images on Facebook is the immediate feedback you get from comments and “likes” – you know pretty quickly which images resonate with your fan base and which don’t. In my earlier post, Marketing Your Art With Social Networking, I cover this subject in detail.

The second part of creating a buzz is to get your fans involved. Have a “name this image” contest or post a “daily painting.” Two artists I know have had great success with their daily painting series – check out Kimberly Kelly Santini’s “Painting A Dog A Day” blog and Deborah Flood’s “Painting A Child A Day” blog. Both these artists have done a great job creating buzz and getting fans and friends involved by asking for photo references to paint from. In addition, Kimberly goes one step further by aligning herself with animal welfare organizations and donating proceeds from the sales of her Dog A Day paintings.

Partnering with established non-profits is one of the best ways to get your work in front of buying eyes. For instance, the Art for Conservation online gallery requires all artists to donate a percentage of proceeds from sales of prints to a conservation or social justice organization.
Those who are having the most success on the site donate a substantial amount and make sure the organization who is benefiting is aware of what the artist is doing. They ask the organization to link to their work on the site, and to promote the fact that buying art benefits the organization.

For example, a few years ago, artist John Fawcett created two stunning paintings of the racehorse Barbaro. All proceeds from the sale of prints went to the Thoroughbred Charities of America. Did TCA promote John’s work? You bet they did!

Selling prints of your art through an online gallery site is perhaps one of the safest ways to promote and sell your work on the Internet. Most require purchasers to pay with credit cards, and most, like AFC, will do the printing without charging the artist upfront – their fees, commission and material costs are taken out of the sale price of the print.

Selling original art or photography from your own website can be a little trickier. First, you don’t have the luxury of lots and lots of people finding – or stumbling upon – your work (at least not at first). Second, there is the risk associated with payment. I have a paypal shopping cart attached to my website, and handle most payment that way. Sometimes buyers would rather send a check – and I let them. However, I don’t send out the painting until the check arrives and clears.

My first sale from my website (which I have through Fine Art Studio Online) came about three months after I first put my site up. The funny thing is, I didn’t even know I’d made a sale. I saw the sold button had popped up on a painting, but didn’t have my paypal account set up to send me notification when someone purchased from me. I thought something was wrong with my site! The poor guy waited 3 months before writing me an email inquiring when, if ever, I was going to send his painting. Of course I did right away! Strangely, that is the only sale of an original that I have made from my website that I can’t trace to my own marketing efforts. He truly did just stumble upon my website when he was trawling the artist websites on the FASO website.

So the bottom line is this - whether you are selling your art through your own website or through an online gallery site, the same principals of marketing apply. You must use all your marketing tools to drive potential buyers to your work. When adding new work to my website, I make sure to add in relevant keywords and phrases that someone might use in a search. I use Facebook, my blog, a weekly e-letter, Twitter and occasionally "snail mail" to keep my name and images in front of potential buyers. I also promote my work on two "daily painters" blogs. In addition, I regularly donate reproductions to non-profit organizations.

During the month of January, I turned what is normally a pretty slow sales month for me into one of my best sales months ever - by promoting my studio sale of older works, studies, and slightly damaged paintings. I am also promoting my Painting A Day project - 52 small (up to 6x8") studies in roughly 52 days. Since I know a good portion of my fan base is struggling in this economy, I am keeping the price of these paintings under $60. My fans are happy - they can get an original piece of art, and I am happy having a cash and energy flow!

Lest you think that all I do all day is paint and promote my work, think again - I do all of this AND work 32 hours a week at Fine Print Imaging. If I can do can you.

1 comment:

David Leland Hyde said...

Hi Kate, excellent article, in my opinion, for two reasons: one because my father, Philip Hyde, made a living as a full-time conservation photographer for 58 years and I can verify that what you suggest works, and two, because you have given me some good reminders of what I need to be doing as I get rolling on sharing my dad's work with the world. Please say hello to your teammates Mark and Linda who I know and Maria who I don't yet. Great work all.