You’ve put in the early mornings and sleepless nights in the studio.
You’ve taken the workshops and improved your skills. Now you have the artwork to show for it! The only problem? You’ve put it online and nothing is happening.
It’s the question every artist dreads: “Why isn’t my art selling!?”
While the answer to the question of low art sales online seems so elusive (it’s enough to make even the most talented artists reconsider their career path), we recommend going straight to the source: your online art portfolio.
Having an artist website is a fantastic first step, of course. But did you know that when it comes to a digital portfolio, there are certain things you can do that can actually entice art buyers to make the purchase—elements that many artists forget about?
Let’s jump right in:
Establish credibility from the start
There’s a basic rule when it comes to selling: you have to establish trust with your customer.
In person, this is easy. You smile and shake hands, they can ask questions to get to know you, and the work is right there in front of them to see. It’s a captive audience from start to finish. A real human connection is formed!
Selling online, however, is a whole other story.
Anyone with a computer can make a webpage, so why should they believe your site to be legitimate, especially when payment is involved? There’s no human interaction. They can’t look at your artwork in person. They can’t ask questions. Plus, they’re distracted by ads, other webpages, typos, broken links, the list goes on.
But not all hope is lost! You buy things online all the time, right? What makes you trust a certain website?
The best way to form this trust is by being transparent, personable, and professional as possible—just as you would be in person.
Start by completing your art portfolio with all of the essentials: artist statement, biography, professional headshot, high-quality images of your work, details that buyers need to make decisions, testimonials from your clients, links to your social media pages, and a good way to get in contact.
If you’re wondering, “Do I really need ALL of these things?” The answer is a big Y-E-S!
All of these pieces play an important role, answering different questions in a buyer’s mind, fitting together like a puzzle to give the full picture of your art business. You have to tell your unique story and tell it well.
Remember, your portfolio has to speak for you when you’re not physically there. You have to anticipate the questions people need answered before they even think about pulling out that credit card. And the only way to do that is by having as much information as possible at a potential buyer’s fingertips.
Putting it all together
With all the important details included, the only thing left to do is put it all together—because the way you do this reflects just as much on your credibility as the artist statement or photos you include! Remember this formula:
A high-quality portfolio = high-quality artwork + art buying experience
That’s how a buyer’s mind works, at least, and they are going to be looking for it all.
First up on the docket, your online portfolio needs to be nicely designed. (Your talent is supposed to be visual after all!) If things don’t add up design-wise with your art portfolio, people may have doubts about your ability to make art, even if that doubt is totally unfounded. That’s online art marketing for you…
That doesn’t mean your portfolio has to be lacking of all personality, but you do want your artwork to really stand out and do the talking. Think clean, non-distracting backgrounds and colors and easy-to-read fonts. It’s a delicate balance, but definitely not impossible! Think about the artist websites you enjoy visiting, what you like about them, and what will speak to your target audience.
Next, make sure your site is easy to look around and find information. Buyers are trying to get their questions answered and fast. No one wants to be digging around a website that doesn’t make sense. We want happy clients, not frustrated ones. Steer people toward a sale, not away from it.
Finally, no typos and no broken links—anything that could be a red flag against your professionalism.
Buying art is a huge monetary investment, right? People don’t want to be taking chances on an artist who doesn’t have things figured out. Use your art portfolio online to convince collectors that when working with you, they’re guaranteed a professional experience start to finish. Otherwise, they may move on to an artist who—they believe—can deliver.
Keep your “Contact” front and center
Some artists are scared of making their contact info too prominent on their portfolios. We get it, art scams are definitely something to watch out for (you can learn how to spot and avoid fraud here).
But despite those unwanted emails, you really want to keep all lines of communication open.
There’s a number of reasons why buyers may need to reach out, even after you’ve included all that good information on your page. Maybe they have lingering questions about the buying process? Maybe they want to be reassured there’s a legitimate person behind the website? Or, even better, they are ready to buy or want to discuss a commission.
Whatever the case may be, being responsive and available is the best way to make a sale.
It’s like that old improv rule “yes, and..” where participants are supposed to accept what another participant has stated to keep the scene going. A “no” shuts the door completely on what might come next.
So, keep the scene going and don’t hide your contact page! Put it in plain sight, whether that’s in your top, bottom, or sidebars so that it’s accessible any time a collector may want to reach out.
Any and all ways to get in contact with you will help: phone, email address, a contact form, social media, whatever form of communication your audience may use. Otherwise, you may be shutting the door on sale without realizing it.
Worry less about a purchase link and more about your email list
Of course, a direct purchase link is a pretty obvious way to land more art sales. Attention spans are short these days, and even shorter on the internet. If buyers are ready to buy now, let them!
And a “buy now” button definitely gives collectors a quick option to purchase, be warned: it is not the be-all-end-all in art sales.
For most, shopping online is a matter of convenience. It’s a way to find what you are looking for, make the purchase, and move on—but it’s not about relationship building. And relationships are what make the art world tick.
One of the common themes we see when talking to successful artists is that a significant percentage of their sales come from existing customers. Existing customers tend to buy more expensive works, be more invested in your progress as an artist, and be the first to jump on new works. They trust you, know the quality of work you deliver and are willing to invest in your career because of that.
“The purpose of your art marketing should be creating human connections not selling. Selling is the result of making repeated successful connections.” - Sergio Gomez
Quick fix and one-click shopping is great for some products and lower-priced works, but it’s not everything for someone looking to form lasting customer relationships. Buying an artwork shouldn’t feel like you are purchasing another thing off Amazon.
Providing ways for potential clients to communicate with you directly and to inquire about a particular work gives you a better opportunity to build a relationship.
The hard truth of it is, despite everything you do to create a great online shopping experience for buyers, most visits to your online art portfolio will not result in an immediate sale.
The best thing to do is focus less on the "buy now" button craze and keep the conversation going by including a spot for people to subscribe to your newsletter! With all those captured email addresses, you can reach out time and time again with content that gets fans excited to make a purchase, instead of boring them with simple, in-your-face sales pitches. Check out some fun newsletter ideas here.
Always keep it up-to-date
What if a potential buyer or gallerist asks about your most recent work and you have nothing to show? You are pretty much guaranteed not to make the sale.
Often times, it feels like the opportunities just aren’t coming. But is that because there aren't any opportunities or because we aren’t ready? Ready or not, opportunities will come. Keeping your portfolio stocked with your latest and greatest pieces allows you to jump on any opportunity that presents itself.
Get into the habit of putting your artwork up on your site right away by viewing this task as the last step to creating your art. Your new piece might just be what they are looking for that day!
Don’t make more work for yourself, either! Why not find a way to manage your inventory and your portfolio at the same time?
With Artwork Archive’s website integration tool, you can effortlessly sync the online portfolio of your artwork (and all of the art inventory details stored on Artwork Archive) to your own artist website including Squarespace, Wordpress, Wix and more.
This saves you endless hours—time that you’d probably rather spend in the studio, by allowing you to enter a piece’s information once, and only once! Information flows from Artwork Archive to your website, so your online portfolio is always up-to-date and ready to be sold.
Make sure they are able to find it
It doesn’t matter how great your artwork is or how beautiful your portfolio is if it’s not optimized for your ideal collectors to find it. So, let’s talk about SEO (also known as search engine optimization), a term thrown around art marketing a lot.
“Optimizing for search” just means using the same keywords in your descriptions that art buyers use when searching for artwork online.
Remember all of the basic elements of your portfolio we had you include, like an artist statement and bio? Those are actually going to help people find your work online, too! You just have to use the right keywords in your writing.
And, don’t stop there! Add those key SEO terms to title tags, image labels, etc., get other highly credible sites like Artwork Archive to link to your portfolio, and adding some entertaining content for your art fans to keep people clicking around your page longer (Google rankings takes all of this into consideration!)
Since everything on the internet is catered to fast results and instant gratification, you might expect SEO to act the same way. That is not the case. SEO can take a few months to build and develop as your links become more credible and authoritative.
It is definitely a marathon and not a sprint, but the payoff will also be long-lasting.
You can learn more about SEO here.
Share, share, share
The internet is vast and competition is fierce. Hopefully, your pages contain enough SEO to direct people to your work online, but it’s not enough to create a website and just let it sit.
There’s no time to wait around until people randomly happen upon your portfolio. You need to be proactive if you actually want art sales! Sometimes you have to give them a gentle nudge and put it out there for the world to see.
The more you are active in sharing and promoting your site, the more page views you will get and the higher your website with rank on Google.
You can start by sharing your website in your newsletter, on social media, your artist blog, within your email signature, and adding your URL to all your marketing materials like business cards and event handouts—anything that feels natural to your art business and personality and gets the word out.
Need a simple solution to get your artwork online?
Artwork Archive provides a whole suite of tools to make running your art business a breeze, including a Public Page of your work on our Discovery platform.
It’s your own polished online portfolio ready to share with potential buyers and collectors, with dedicated sections for your Portfolio, About, News, and Collections. And the Public Page artworks instantly update every time you update your Artwork Archive inventory.