You’ve been painting for a while now. You’ve got a stack of paintings in your studio (aka corner of your bedroom or kitchen) in addition to hanging all over your walls, your families walls, and even in some of your friends homes. It’s time to start selling these beauties…but where do you start?! You don’t have a name for yourself just yet, so that is going to make it hard to find galleries willing to work with you. Luckily galleries aren’t your only option anymore!
Ebay and Etsy
While Ebay doesn’t have the traction that it once did (miss you 2001), the cost of listing up to 50 items is free. This really should fit most artists looking to sell their work. Sure, Ebay takes a cut of the final sale if it sells…but if it doesn’t sell, you’re not out anything!
From experience I can tell you that smaller items tend to sell better on Ebay (under $50) than higher priced items unless you have a name built for yourself already, so if you’re just starting off, try listing some quick little paintings (maybe a 5×7″ on canvas board). Now I’m not suggesting you sell something you spent a week creating for $50, but if you’re anything like I was when I started painting, I had stacks of canvas boards with simple paintings laying around that I could sell.
Keep in mind, if it sells, you have to ship it. Shipping larger paintings is a PAIN. Between buying a box the right size (which costs more than you might expect), and the actual shipping fees, it’s a huge hassle. This is one more reason to sell smaller pieces vs larger ones.
Etsy is another option, but you have to pay for your listing even if it doesn’t sell. In my own experience, just listing items on both etsy and ebay and not advertising them anywhere else, I sold WAY more on ebay. I do know of several artists who do well selling prints of their work on etsy by running a whole shop full of items and advertising it on social media to have their items found. With etsy, your items are often lost in the crowd of mass produced items (that claim to be hand made but clearly are not).
I’ve sold more work through facebook over the years than anywhere else. The trick is to not spam people but occasionally mention what you have for sale. I used to do a lot of giveaways where the prize was a painting or drawing of the winner’s pet. This was a fun way to both grow my following on facebook, AND get sales. How did I get sales from doing giveaways? Well not everyone who entered the giveaway would win, but lots were still willing to pay for a portrait of their pet.
Don’t forget you’re going to have to ship this work, so again, smaller (11×14″ or under) will make your life easier.
Local Coffee Shops and Small Businesses
There are a lot of smaller businesses that will display your artwork and even allow you to sell it. As I mentioned in my recent video talking about which opportunities are worth taking, visit the shop first and make sure that your work will be safe. If everything looks ok, try displaying some of your less expensive works. Why less expensive? If it is stolen, you didn’t just lose your favorite painting.
I notice you keep suggesting small, but I like to paint large
That’s great. Let’s take the shipping hassle out of the mix (along with the $20 box and $50 UPS shipping fee for a 20×30″ painting). The fact is you’re probably going to be charging more for those large paintings than you do smaller works. You’ve got to build a reputation for yourself that people trust before they’re going to be willing to pay more than $500 (random number, some aren’t going to be willing to even pay that if they don’t know you) for one of your pieces.
You’ve got to build trust with your buyers first. Often times that is with them first buying a smaller painting from you for less money before they come back and are willing to pay more.
Now galleries are still an option, but it’s harder to get galleries to work with you when you’re new. While nothing but time is wasted (and sometimes your pride) by talking to a gallery, at the very least keep in mind the quality and style of work that they’re selling. Don’t go to a gallery who sells abstract and ask them to sell your photorealistic wildlife paintings. That wouldn’t make sense if their target customer is looking for abstract. A good gallery is going to know what their customers want. They have a target market that they’re catering to. A lot of galleries won’t work with newer artists. This isn’t something to be offended by, but a matter of them knowing what they can and can not sell. Remember, selling art is as much about who the artist is and the name they’ve built for themselves as the art itself.
When displaying your work at a gallery (or even coffee shop etc), expect to have your work framed first. Unless you’re painting on a gallery wrapped canvas, you have to frame your work to display and sell it in these places. Many of these places will also take a large cut of the sale price, so make sure you ask about that. It’s not uncommon for a gallery to take 50% of the sale price.
Why would you even want to sell in a gallery then?! Well, people are more likely to drop 1k on a painting they have seen in person than one that is online only. They get the item right now and don’t have to worry about trusting you to send it to them. This means that it’s going to be easier to sell a larger painting than it would be online.