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This long-awaited episode of the Self Taught Artist Podcast is finally here! I’ve been getting a lot of DMs lately about how to start selling your artwork. Today we’re talking all about how to start selling your art. We’re getting into the nitty-gritty details: what platform should you start with and why? We talk about selling art directly on Instagram or Facebook, starting your own Etsy store, and when is the right time to invest in building your own online eCommerce store for your paintings or artwork. Learning how to sell your art online doesn’t have to be complicated. I introduce my concept of “moving up the sales ladder” to help you grow sustainably. 

Here’s my code for 40 FREE listings on Etsy so you can try it out risk-free. 

What’s right for you — Selling on Instagram, Etsy, or Building Your Own Website? Listen to today’s episode to find out! 

Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. I’ve been getting a lot of messages lately from fellow artists about websites, technology, online storefronts, and shops. I thought it’d be fun to do a quick run through today of different options for how to sell your work. Since I know there are probably a lot of artists out there with the same questions, and I get it! We’re artists, not tech people, so it can be a lot. However, I actually come from the tech world. So this is one of the things that comes really easily to me. I know a lot of artists have a question about when is the right time to start selling their work. We’re not going to get into that on this episode, but perhaps that’s one for the future. For those people who are ready to take that jump into selling their work, and they don’t know how to get started, I think this episode is going to help to really clear the air and answer a lot of your questions.

I think we get so used to looking at the finished product, and not thinking about all the work that goes into it along the way. Artists websites are the same way. It’s really easy to compare yourself to other artists that you see online, or to imagine yourself with a storefront just like theirs. But I’m here to tell you that investing in a website can mean a lot of time, and a lot of money. Even if you build everything yourself, ecommerce website plans are expensive with all of the features that you need. They start at around $312 a year as I calculate it, roughly. You need hosting, a domain name, a website builder, a shopping cart feature, payment, credit card processing, all kinds of things that all go into one e-commerce website. Here’s the catch: if your sales as an artist are not consistent yet, then you probably will not want to commit to a really expensive website plan. The website and all of its fees will sink into your profit, and eat away at your money. So you won’t be able to invest in what really counts: your materials and your skills.

If you’ve just decided you wanted to start selling your art, I know it’s really tempting to want to jump into having your own website right away. However, I really want to convince you that the best way to get started selling your art online is to do what I call, “work your way up the sales ladder.” It takes time and it’s a gradual process, but it is a sustainable way to grow. By working your way up the sales ladder rung by rung, you’re going to save money, save time, save frustration, and not bite off more than you can chew.

Let’s dive into this ladder concept. So where should you begin selling? Well, the first rung of the ladder is to start on Instagram or Facebook (wherever your audience is online on social media). I suggest you should probably pick just one so you can really focus on it. It’s hard to really do a lot of social channels at the same time really well. Personally, my friends and I spend more time on Instagram than Facebook these days. So I started out sharing my art on Instagram. I figured it would be a good launching point.

It can be as simple as posting about your art on your personal Instagram account, and listing a price and just telling people to comment “SOLD” under the message or to send you a direct message if they want it. Really, that’s all it takes to get a sale started! Then you just send them a PayPal invoice or a Venmo request. It’s so easy! It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It really can be just posting a photo and saying “Here’s the price. Who wants it? Comment sold below.” Done. I just wrote your first post for you.

I do recommend listing a price under your artwork if you’re serious about trying to sell it. It’s really awkward when you reach out to someone to buy something, and then you realize it’s a lot more expensive than you thought it was going to be. So that embarrassment actually keeps buyers or potential buyers from reaching out to you in the first place. They look at your work, they think it looks so great. And they think, “wow, I don’t know if I could ever afford that.” Maybe they can. If you put the price on there, then they would know for certain. On the flip side, by putting a price there, you’re also weeding out a lot of questions from people who have no intention of buying whatsoever. If your price is outside of their price range, then they’re not going to message you and you’re not going to waste your time or even get your hopes up about making a sale.

I recommend on social media that you share a little bit about your process. Go behind the scenes, show some photos of you working on your art, and what your art supplies look like. And that’s really all you need to start showing off to your friends and family that you are an artist and that you are investing in your creativity and in your skills as an artist.

When you want to unlock more sales as an artist, you need to have an audience and you need to be building your audience over time. An audience is comprised of people who care about your artwork, who enjoy looking at your artwork, and people who might be a potential buyer. I started a dedicated Instagram account, just for my art so that I could start building my audience. This is separate from my personal Instagram where I have all my friends and family. Yes, I do have friends and family who follow my art account, of course, but they’re the ones who are interested in it and want to see what I’m up to. And who knows, maybe they could be potential buyers one day! You want to grow your own audience because that’s the key to sales.

On my Art Instagram, I can post about my art every single day. Because I know that the people who signed up to follow my art account, want to see my art. I can’t say the same for my personal Instagram. I know not everyone on there wants to see my art every day. They might be fine with seeing it every week or every other day. But I’m really trying to post a lot on Instagram, so it’s better for me to have a separate art account. That’s what has worked for me. That’s what I know. If you want to do it differently, be my guest.

Once you have a few sales through social media, that’s the time when you start thinking about moving up the ladder. So what’s on the next rung of the sales ladder? Etsy. Etsy is an online marketplace full of makers, creatives and artists selling all kinds of products. They make it really easy to open up your own online storefront and to create listings for each item you want to sell. They have lots of tools to help you as a seller, and they really streamline the whole process and walk you through it. It does take a little while to get your store set up, walk through the process, add photos and describe each item really well. Actually, there’s a whole science behind Etsy listing optimization. But that is a conversation for another time. Today, I want you to think about how you just have to start somewhere, so don’t get bogged down in SEO and listing optimization. Just get your store started. Sooner is better than later.

There are a lot of benefits that come along with using Etsy. In particular, I love how easy Etsy makes shipping. Etsy is integrated with major postal carriers so you can calculate your shipping, print your shipping labels and pay for your shipping labels all on the Etsy platform. You just type in the dimensions of your box, you get the weight of your item, and you can print the label and pay right there. You even get some small savings on USPS pricing, which is really nice. Every dollar counts you know! Etsy is truly fabulous for shipping and really makes the whole process a breeze. I actually find that shipping is one of the most time consuming parts of running an art business on the business side. It can really be a pain and confusing to figure out.

Another big benefit of Etsy is that they handle all the logistics for you. All the hosting and website stuff behind the scenes, Etsy handles it. Credit Card Processing, no problem, Etsy handles it. Mobile app and easy shopping experience for customers – done – Etsy’s already done it. Do you need to charge sales tax to sell to your buyer in a certain state? No problem, Etsy has got you covered. It’s so easy. It really streamlines all of these business pieces, and I recommend it for those reasons.

We also have to talk about the downsides of Etsy. The biggest one is simply that it is so crowded, you really cannot expect to list items on Etsy and just start selling them left and right. Etsy is full of a ton of items, a ton of makers, a gazillion shops, and yours will probably get lost in the shuffle. However, if you have your own audience already, Etsy is great. Just send your interested buyers to your Etsy listing page to complete the checkout process. If you’re promoting your art on Instagram, or Facebook, it’s really simple to point people toward your Etsy shop when they’re ready to buy. It keeps track of your inventory for you. If you’re doing a big launch where there’s a lot of demand, it can really simplify things for you and your buyers.

As you grow as an artist, it’s really important to grow your own audience so that you can choose where the e-commerce transaction will take place. While you may get the occasional buyer from Etsy, I count on most of them being sent there by you directly. It took me months in order to get my first organic Etsy sale. And still, to this day, they come pretty rarely.

We can’t talk about Etsy without also talking about their fee structure. It actually costs 20 cents to add a listing to the Etsy marketplace listings are active for four months, or until they sell. On top of that 20 cent listing fee. There’s a 5% transaction fee that you pay to Etsy. And then there are payment processing fees of 3% plus 25 cents. Now I know the fees sound pretty complicated. But when you add them up, I don’t think they’re too bad, in my opinion. It does cost you something but Etsy earns it by facilitating the sale. I think for the ease of use, Etsy is probably worth it, and is a great way to start selling your art to your audience in a more streamlined way that will make things easier for you administratively. Also, as a treat for all of you listeners out there. Here’s a code for 40 FREE Etsy listings. This way you can try out Etsy at no cost to you and see if you like the platform. So here it is: . You just type that into your search bar in your internet window and an Etsy screen will pop up and give you credit for your 40 free listings when you set up a brand new Etsy store. Again, check out the show notes and there will be an easy link there for you to click.

Once you have more consistent sales and interest in your art, you can start thinking about moving up the sales ladder once again. The next move is to create an online website and gallery for yourself. This means you’ll have your own web address and home on the internet that you own. That’s a key differentiator. You have to figure out everything from scratch or pay someone to help you with it. So this rung of the ladder is a little more complicated than the last ones. For this stage. I recommend using a drag and drop Website Builder like Squarespace or Wix. They have templates that you can use to create a website yourself. No coding skills are required and you can do it in just a couple of hours. As a plus, there are tons of YouTube videos and resources out there that can help you out along the way if you get stuck. I always recommend Squarespace or Wix to people who asked me how they can build their own website. I think for aesthetically minded people like us artists, then Squarespace templates are perfect. They have a lot that are minimal, that will help your artwork shine and steal the show.

I recommend building your website first, as just a home base on the internet. I’d recommend at first adding an artist bio, a little bit about yourself, some photos of your work, a gallery that specifically shows the work that’s available and for sale, and another gallery of your past artwork. On my website, I also have a section devoted to Commissions. When you first have a website like this, you don’t have to have all the fancy e-commerce features enabled. You have two choices. 1. You can either direct people back to your Etsy storefront to complete their purchase. Or, 2. You can have people email you and complete their purchases directly with you. You’ll pay less for a basic website without all the E-commerce features. It’s a great way to do it as you’re figuring out the platform and still building up your audience. I think of this whole stage as a preparation for doing your own e commerce, and just getting ready for that stage when you’re ready to turn on those features.

Once you have your own website, and you have semi consistent sales, or at least enough to justify a cost of $300 to $400 on your website annually, then finally you have reached the top rung of the ladder. At this point, you turn on the E-commerce features on your website and upgrade to the E-commerce tier on Squarespace or Wix. These two platforms make it really easy. And since you’ll already know the platform and how it works, it should be just an addition to what you’ve already done. They’ll give you new functionality with the E-commerce features. And you will have to learn some new technical aspects of integrations with payments and stuff like that as you go.

I find that letting your website grow with you is the most sustainable approach to starting to sell your work online. In the beginning of your art selling journey, the last thing you want to do is spend too much time on building your website. Because it doesn’t really make a difference for you. You should be spending your time on what matters – that is, building up your skills and spending your money on buying art supplies. You tell your audience how to buy from you, and you’ll find that the vast majority of people don’t care if they’re paying through a PayPal invoice, on Etsy, or on your own .com e-commerce website. As long as you tell your audience how the money and the art exchange will work, they will pretty much follow along as long as you sound like you know what you’re doing. So have a plan for how you will collect money, how you will ship your products, and have some faith that your buyers will come along your journey as you move up the sales ladder. That is, if you want to move up the sales letter. I know of a lot of super successful artists that still sell a majority of their work directly on Instagram. They really just have people comment “sold” under the picture that they want. They have trained their audience, that’s how it works if you want to buy art from them, and the audience is okay with that. I know other artists that have sold 1000s of pieces of art (fine art!) on Etsy, and they have zero intentions of ever leaving Etsy. And you know why? Because Etsy handles all of the back office stuff for them and shipping so they can spend more of their time on painting.

You don’t have to look fancy to sell a bunch of art, and you don’t even have to have your own website to be a real artist. I really want to challenge you and challenge those assumptions you’ve been making about what it means to have your own store and what that looks like. Do what works best for you and invest your time and money where it really counts into your artwork. That’s where you’re really going to see return on your investment.

That’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoyed this episode. I especially hope this one made you think a little bit. Let me know if you have any lingering questions about technology or starting your own store or just getting ready to sell your art. Send me a DM on Instagram. I love connecting with my podcast listeners. And look me up on Instagram – I’m at LaurenKristineArt. You can also check the link in the show notes. Please, please, please leave me a rating and a review on this podcast in Apple Podcasts. It would mean so much to me and help me to reach more self taught artists out there. Until next time, my friends! Happy Creating!

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