How to Plan, Promote, and Profit from Your Studio Sale

Suzy Kopf | August 25, 2023

As part of artist Rebecca Rath's art business, she teaches from her studio and does studio visits. Pictured here, she speaks in her studio to visitors. "It is challenging to speak to the public about my art process but it is essential to overcome my shyness to connect with people and discuss their interests in art. I really enjoy meeting people," said Rath. Photo credits: Ryan Jenkins Photography

Hosting a studio sale is a great way to clear out older inventory and boost your income during slower times of the year.

The nature of being an artist means that there are busy months during holidays and summer fairs—and periods of financial lulls. 

Your financial fix?

The time-honored studio clean-out sale, which you can have in person if you have a studio where you can host visitors, or entirely online.

Whether you have an overabundance of works in your studio, are looking to make some extra money, or want to connect with collectors, we go over how to host an in-person or online studio sale.

This guide covers in-person and online sale strategies, from curation to promotion, helping artists achieve their financial and creative goals.

Pick Your Priority for the Studio Sale

Is your top priority to sell as much as possible to make as much money on the sale as possible?

Or, is your top priority to open up storage space and clean out your studio—with the income aspect feeling more secondary?

If you care more about freeing up space, consider having an in-person sale and creating boxes or tables of pieces that are one price (such as a $50 drawing box) to encourage more impulse buying of friends and clients. You could also host such a sale online again with a campaign like $200 paintings or an auction-style setup where followers can bid on select works.

You can also do a studio sale as a fundraiser for a cause you want to support with the twin goals of raising money for a worthy cause and clearing some space in your own life.


Determine the Selection of Work to Sell

It has been said that September is the “other January,” so perhaps you’re already feeling the clean-out bug. Lean into that and go through your studio and Artwork Archive inventory. You should be looking for work that meets the following criteria for your sale:

  • Is it more than 2 years old? Or if it is not, is it a preparatory sketch or otherwise abandoned/unneeded idea such as an alternate proposal for a client that didn’t go past the drawing phase?

  • Is it shippable? You’ll be advertising your sale online and may need to ship work out of state. Save yourself the hassle and stress of mailing something fragile and or huge, and don’t plan to include these works in the sale.

  • Is it work you no longer intend to exhibit? Ideally, the work in a studio clean-out sale is still identifiable as your style but shouldn’t be work from a series you are still exhibiting or plan to exhibit.

  • Is it work that you are willing to discount from the original price? We’ll discuss this more in the pricing section below, but depending on where you are in your career and what you typically sell work for, the point of a studio sale is to offer followers of your work access to it at a cheaper-than-usual price. So don’t include work you still need or want to earn full price on.


Organize your art inventory

Preparing for a successful studio sale involves various steps, and one critical aspect is efficiently managing your art inventory. This often overlooked yet essential task sets the foundation for the entire process, ensuring that the rest of the journey to hosting an art studio sale remains smooth and uncomplicated.

Artwork Archive provides easy-to-use tools to assist you in this endeavor. Since you have already determined which works you will be selling, based on the criteria above (or your own unique criteria), you can easily find and create price lists of those works using Artwork Archive. 

If you haven't already, capture high-quality photographs of each artwork. These images play a pivotal role in portraying your creations in the best possible light. Upload those images onto Artwork Archive to showcase the work available, and to keep a record of that artwork after it has sold.

You can search for artworks within a certain price range or that are within a certain date range to easily categorize and identify works to include in the sale. 

Artwork Archive makes the meticulous task of inventory organization easy.

Cull Down Your Selections

While there is no perfect number of pieces to include in a studio sale, we recommend selecting between 15 and 50 original pieces (if you’re selling older prints or editioned work, more is fine). This number is the sweet spot to not create too much administrative work for yourself and also to make the work you’re selling feel special.

Think about how the works will look together on a shop page on your website, displayed as a gallery on Artwork Archive, or posted on social media. Edit down your selections to a cohesive collection of well-documented pieces that you feel motivated to sell. Remember, you can always have another sale at another time for pieces you picked out that don’t fit the current brief.

You can even create collections of the works you intend to sell or use Private Rooms to create a digital experience for shoppers that can't attend in-person. 

Learn more about how to use Private Rooms in this short video

With Artwork Archive's tools like inventory lists, artwork labels, invoices, and Private Rooms help to lay the groundwork for a successful studio sale. By carefully curating your offerings and employing streamlined methods for documentation and storage, you ensure that your artworks shine their brightest, captivating potential buyers and facilitating a smooth sales process.


Schedule Your Sale and Begin Promotion

Once you’ve decided to have a studio sale, look at the calendar and establish when and for how long the sale will take place, so you can begin promoting it. You can even add reminders on your Artwork Archive calendar to keep up with your art-specific tasks. 

Generally speaking, give yourself two weeks of lead time on social media to start mentioning the sale to your followers. Plan to send out your email newsletter a week before the sale begins and then a reminder the day before the sale starts.

Typically, work sells in the first 48 hours for online studio sales, so consider if you want to have the sale last longer than a weekend for any reason. An in-person sale does not need to last more than five hours on a weekend day.


Price and Upload Your Work to Your Digital Sales Spaces

Once you know what and how much of it you’re selling, price it.

It’s a good idea to offer a range of prices so you can meet the demand of a wide range of interested customers. You can promote this range alongside the sale.

There are many sales strategies you can employ when pricing the work. Perhaps consider if you want to offer a blanket coupon code discount such as 20% off all works for the month of September or prefer to show works with the original prices crossed out and the temporary sales prices filled in.

Even if you opt to have your sale in person, it’s good practice to use Artwork Archive to create a gallery of the inventory you are selling so you have a clear record for your taxes of what you sold and at what price. You can also link directly to this gallery of works when promoting the sale so people know what they can look forward to seeing.

Additionally, working out a way ahead of time for people to pay using a credit card or preferred digital method like Zelle or Paypal reduces the friction on closing sale. Artwork Archive has an invoicing feature you can connect to your Paypal account to accept payment easily.

Learn more about how to use the Invoices on Artwork Archive here

Artist Bonnie Levinson giving a talk to the community about her work at the Arts Warehouse.

Package the Work, Advertise, and Promote Your Sale

The administrative work of a studio sale does not stop with uploading the images and setting up your payment methods. Advertise your sale to your audiences on the social media channels you use and send at least two email newsletters that link to the sale and share the information about it. This is the part of doing a studio sale that most artists skip out on because self-promotion can feel uncomfortable, but doing the necessary promotion will be worth the time you spent putting it together (even if you have to push yourself a little).

We recommend devoting a set number of hours per day to make the most of your two-week promotion timeline. This way, you work those tasks into your day-to-day schedule and 

If you are selling exclusively online, you can order materials and package up work in advance of the sale so all you need to do is pay the postage when it sells. If you’re hosting in person, assemble some packing materials so clients can take the work away with them. Be prepared for people to offer you less than work is priced for and decide in advance if you are willing to negotiate or take payment in installments.


Keep in Mind the Details During the Sale Itself

If you’re hosting in person, set out some snacks and drinks, and play music to create a more casual experience. Put out a signup sheet for your newsletter and leave business cards out, you never know who might have wandered in or been brought by a friend!

If you are having an online sale, make sure to update what has sold. If you’re selling in person and people are paying cash or Venmoing you in addition to using the online sales platform you set up, take a picture of what has sold before they leave with it so you can do a proper inventory after.


Don't Neglect to Follow-Up After the Sale

Mail sold work immediately after you’ve received payment for it. Thank any clients who have previously bought work from you who supported the sale, and follow up with any new customers by mentioning upcoming projects and ways they can follow your work moving forward.

Update your inventory to reflect sales made.

Take some time to examine what sold well and what did not sell at all. What price point were people interested in the work? Keep in mind your audience for a studio sale might not be your regular audience of clients.


Remember, it takes courage to put yourself out there!

Hosting events can be inherently stressful. There are a lot of unknowns.

Will anyone show up? Will I be prepared? What should I even wear? 

Hosting an open house with your art can be even more vulnerable—especially if you haven't hosted one before. 

But, remember that the worst-case scenario is that you simply learn from the experience, make some connections, and probably make a few bucks. 

The best-case scenario, and more likely scenario, is that you clear your older inventory, build long-lasting relationships, and boost your income for the year. 

Looking for more art business tips, news or advice? We'd love to stay in touch! Join our free weekly newsletter to get the best monthly art opportunities, art news, and interviews. 

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