Although being a profitable artist seems like a pipe dream, it’s actually a very attainable goal. Thousands of artists have found a way to make money by selling their art online.
There are only a few steps to take to achieve this goal, and some of them take longer than others, but if you follow these steps carefully it will help you get to where you need to be to make your dream a reality.
Here are the steps you need to take:
Make Your Art Available Online
This seems like an obvious start but it’s often the hardest step for artists to take. It’s hard to find the right sites or online marketplace to put your art on and many artists find the process overwhelming and confusing.
It all depends on the type of art you create. If you are a painter or illustrator, the easiest thing to do is to set up an account on www.fineartamerica.com.
Fine Art America is a print-on-demand service that will print your images on canvas or paper, frame it for you and ship it for you. It requires very little effort from you, aside from uploading your image. Standard accounts are free and premium memberships are $30 a year. There are no commission fees. Payments are made on the 15th of each month via Paypal.
If you’re not interested in selling on www.fineartamerica.com, there are plenty of other places to sell. Do some research to find the best place for you and your art. Find 20-30 artists online with a style or subject matter similar to yours.
Look into how much they charge for their art, check out which websites they sell on or if they sell on their own website through an ecommerce store. After doing all this, you’ll start to see where your art fits in online.
After you find a place to sell online and get your art up on the site, then you need to learn how to send traffic to the site so people can buy it.
Build Up an Online Presence
To get started selling, you need to find fans. One of the most effective ways to do this is to build up a social presence online where fans can find you and interact with you. This involves setting up a personal website, social media accounts and building an email list.
First, start with a personal website so you have one central location on the internet where any fans you make or already have can always find you and, preferably, sign up for your email list.
Although you can start a free blog or website on sites such as blogspot or etc, it is not really advisable because you don’t own those sites and are always at risk of having your site deleted or shut down at the discretion of the owner.
Imagine spending years building up your site only to have it deleted overnight because you violated some small condition in the terms of service? It would be devastating to your business.
That’s why it’s best to buy your own domain, preferably with your name in the domain or the name of your art business. Domains only cost about $10, depending on who you buy it from, and hosting costs about $9 a month, again depending on who you buy it from.
Things you should include on your website are: a contact page so people can get in touch with you, a short bio or artist’s statement and photos or images of your artwork, a blog section and a sign up form for your email list in the sidebar and at the end of each blog post. If you can’t afford a paid email marketing provider, you can sign up for a free account with Mailchimp.
You don’t have to post on your blog every day but do try to post somewhat frequently, at least once a week or even a couple of times a month.
Use your blog to help build a relationship with your fans by sharing personal stories with them, discussing what inspires you, talking about your background, discussing how or where you learned to paint or create, post photos of your art (note: make sure the images are 1000mb or less to prevent your blog pages from loading slowly) and post links to your art on www.fineartmerica.com or wherever you decide to sell your art online.
Next, you should set up some social media accounts so you can reach fans and build one-one-one relationships. Some of the most popular social media networks are facebook, twitter, tumblr and pinterest. You can also start a podcast or youtube channel, if you have the equipment and are comfortable working in that medium.
Try to keep your brand consistent across the different social media networks by using the same profile image, bio and etc. You want your brand to be recognizable the second someone sees it, regardless of where they are on the internet.
Once you have your online presence established, now you have to find and nurture your true fans.
Nurture Your True Fans
There’s a great article by blogger Kevin Kelly titled 1000 True Fans, which states that an artist can make a living off of just 1000 true fans. He argues that you don’t need a huge audience to make money with your art, you just need a small yet incredibly devoted pool of fans who support you and buy what you sell.
These true fans help in three ways: they tend to purchase more per person, they spend directly so the artist keeps more per sale and they help spread the word about you and your art.
The reason they will do this is because people will only buy stuff from you because they know you and they like you. Most people aren’t going to buy your art after simply landing on a landing page or an e-commerce store for the first time. They buy after they have been on your email list for a while, or have been following you on social media or have been reading your blog and have come to trust and like you.
So if you build a small group of 100-1000 devoted fans that you’ve developed a relationship with, you don’t have to produce a large amount of stuff to be financially successful. You just have to produce for your small base of true fans.
In addition to supporting you financially, word of mouth and giving direct referrals are another way your true fans help you become successful. All it takes is a couple of influential fans in your audience to help spread the word about you and boost your career in a major way. These fans will talk to their friends who will then talk to their friends and so on. This is important because recommendations from trusted friends are very powerful promotional tools.
The thing to remember is that it’s going to take time to find and nurture your true fans. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it can happen. And it can only happen through one-on-one relationships with them.
To find these true fans, you need to post on social media, your blog, record episodes of your podcast, send emails to your email list, etc and start talking directly to your audience in your own voice to get them more in tuned with who you are and what you are doing.
Once you’ve been tweeting or posting for a while, you’ll start to notice some people in your audience are more vocal and enthusiastic about what you do than others. They tweet back to you often, they comment on all your blog posts or hit “like” on all your Facebook posts. These people are your true fans, or at least they could be in the future, and you need to reward them for their loyalty and nurture them so you can build up a relationship with them.
Some simple ways to nurture your true fans are:
♦ Listen to feedback
What are your true fans saying about your art, either good or bad? Their insight is very valuable and should be taken into consideration so you can show your fans that you hear them and understand what they are saying. When someone knows you’re listening to what they have to say, they’re more likely to talk. The more they talk, the more you learn.
When fans engage with you on social media, respond back and keep the conversation going. Don’t tweet back a simple “thanks.” Reply with a real and authentic response. This will allow you to develop a genuine conversation with your fan and help you build a meaningful relationship with them.
♦ Recognize your loyal fans
Give your true fans a shout out on social media, feature them on your blog, or even share exclusive content or previews of new pieces with them. Since they are already engaged and interested in your work, they’ll be a great source of feedback and insight.
♦ Reward Referrals
Referrals and lead generation is a powerful marketing tool. Encourage your true fans to spread the word by giving them incentives, such as discounts, free products, a referral fee, or even a small commission for every piece they help you sell. To make the process easier, you can set up your own affiliate program or referral program so you can give your true fans an affiliate or referral link to help track and reward their success.
Although this blog post is targeted towards artists, this method of finding and nurturing true fans will work for anyone in a creative field, such as music, acting, performance art, etc.
Once you get yourself out there and start to connect with your fans, things will slowly start to build. Eventually, if you keep working at, you’ll get to the point where you’ve built up a fan base of very supportive and emotionally connected fans that love you and your art so much they will do everything they can to continue supporting you.
For more info on becoming a successful artist, check out The Abundant Artist website.
For more info on online jobs, check out our article: Types of Online Jobs for Teens.