How can I best sell my artwork online?
I have an accessory line that I have started and will also be putting my canvases up for sale. I need to create a way for people to contact me and also make them able to purchase my products off the Internet. People have told me to start a blog, others said a website. I know it costs money to keep a blog and a website, but I am completely clueless. How much should I be paying to have a website and a blog? Which is better for my business?
Given that you're an artist, I suggest that your best bet is actually to start small, listing your artwork on a centralized site with a simple adjunct that lets you share more of your own creative process, then work your way up to a bigger, more complex site as you find success online.
There are a number of ways you can sell your paintings online, including notably eBay and Etsy. Let's talk about eBay first, as it's the most popular, but also the least focused of your options. By using eBay, you can get started as quickly as a day or two: it's quite easy to create listings and offer your works to the eBay community. eBay has about 30,000 paintings for sale as I type this, you can see what's listed.
Possibly a better option for you is Etsy.com. The site's focused on arts and crafts and do a far better job of presenting your artwork in an attractive manner. The problem is, while there are a ton of paintings listed (almost 200,000 at this moment in time), I believe that the site attracts more people interested in crafts than in art. It's well known for jewelry, quilts, pottery, clothing and handmade toys, for example, but isn't top-of-mind for paintings. See what they've got listed.
The trade-off between these sites is the same as with any other site where you can list your works: a narrow focus on your medium, style or theme versus a more broadly focused site that has greater popular interest. In the former case, it's akin to having your work displayed in an exclusive gallery that doesn't get many visitors, but when it does, they're good prospects for your artwork.
By contrast, if you can display your paintings in a popular venue where lots and lots of people will see them, even if any individual is less likely to buy, it's quite possible that overall you'll still sell more art by winning this numbers game.
Each of the sites takes a piece of your transaction too, so if you really want to make $500 from a painting, you're going to have to charge the buyer closer to $525, depending on the site. Etsy charges $0.20 per listing and 3.5% of your transaction. Ebay is more expensive and its transaction percentage is based on selling price: a listing fee of $0.10 or more, plus a complicated transaction fee of 8.75% of the first $25, 3.5% of the next $975 and 1.5% of the remaining.
I strongly recommend that you build - or have someone build - a site for your work too, so you can present it in the way you want, with large, attractive pictures, along with your story and history as an artist. Add information on how you created each piece and what you're trying to evoke too. In that regard, a blog really is a good choice, as long as it gives you the flexibility to present your art in a way that's most flattering. For an example of an artist's blog, see my sister's site: Art Dolls.info.
The other approach is to build your own online store with a service like Shopify.com. Nice, but be careful you don't end up being an ecommerce expert rather than being able to focusing on your art. For some people, it's a profitable diversion and answering email from potential buyers is a great way to spend their morning, but for others, the entire selling piece is but a necessary evil.
Now, finally, price. You can jump onto somewhere like typepad.com or wordpress.com and start up a blog for almost nothing. Add in a nice professional design and you're still at $250 or less. Hire someone to build an entire Web site for you, however, and you might well be looking at $1000 or considerably more, especially if they're going to integrate some ecommerce elements.
As I said, start out simple, get the hang of it through experience, and grow your online business as you start to learn how to sell your artwork online. And good luck to you!
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