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The art world is changing.

Historically, artists have depended on galleries to showcase their work. Art galleries have the space and resources to display work they feel confident will sell. They also offer an experience — visiting an art exhibit can introduce people to works that transform them forever. The ability to view artwork with one’s own eyes will always be a unique and highly sought-after experience.

But technology has changed how artists showcase their work. As galleries struggle to stay open due to exorbitant rent and poor staff retention — not to mention a global pandemic — artists have taken to selling their work online. This digital democratization has transformed the industry, taking art that’s traditionally only shown in major hubs (e.g., Paris, New York City, Rome) and making it widely available for anyone to enjoy.


Democratizing the Art Industry

For artists, having the right background and the right connections traditionally meant everything. Artists who lack the time or resources to study in elite programs and schools have found that one of the biggest challenges of being an artist is making contacts and forming relationships with gallerists. Those artists who were able to attend more premier institutions often had a leg up when it came to selling their work in the past — but the advent of e-commerce has changed everything.

Before e-commerce was an option, artists had to contend with a fair amount of red tape to spotlight their work. They faced an uphill battle when it came to finding an exhibition, contacting coordinators, and getting work accepted as part of a display. When selling online, though, both artists and galleries have more control. They aren’t limited to an audience of gallery visitors; they can now display their creations for a global audience.

Selling art online has also enabled artists to connect with more people. Because so much of success in the art world is determined by knowing the right people, the ability to connect with other artists, art lovers, and galleries has major implications. Being able to share work alongside other artists lets creatives connect and find inspiration from the marketplace. By stripping away some of the biggest barriers to entry, selling art online levels the playing field for artists everywhere.


Common E-Commerce Mistakes When Selling Art Online

Artists make a few key mistakes when selling online, the first being that many of these creatives give up too quickly. While choosing to sell art online certainly opens up several possibilities, it doesn’t guarantee immediate sales. In other words, you’ll want to have a supplemental source of income. Leaving a 9-to-5 job to start selling artwork online isn’t the best approach. It’s better to find work putting those creative skills to use to ensure you have the resources to cover your living expenses while still pursuing your dreams on the side.

A failure to promote artwork, both digitally and in physical spaces, is another common shortcoming when artists explore e-commerce. Galleries will display work, and sometimes spaces in the local community will, too — think of hotels, offices, public buildings, etc. Artists can use physical spaces and personal websites to showcase themselves and their work, ideally including a link to an online marketplace such as Etsy.

In the end, one of the biggest mistakes artists make is selling without the right audience in mind. Screening the best buyers for artwork has long been an important part of the process when art is displayed in galleries, and it remains true for those who sell art online.

The Best Path Forward for Online Art Sellers

For artists seeking the best ways to sell art online, here are four steps that can help them gain attention from art lovers on the internet:


1. Define your work.

Before selling your art, you need to classify it. Clearly defining which piece of art belongs to which category will not only help you stay organized, but it will also improve your customers’ shopping experience. Depending on the kind of art you create, this could mean separating black-and-white from color images; it could also mean categorizing your work by medium. Part of this process should also involve sorting your work by relevance. The newest pieces and the work with the broadest appeal should appear first, allowing buyers to filter and access what they want to see.


2. Find the right audience.

Deciding to sell art online opens up significantly more opportunities for people to see your work, but that doesn’t mean you can have a target audience of “everyone.” It’s still critical to understand who your ideal buyers are and how to engage them. Luckily, online marketplaces will often let you specify your audience parameters, enabling you to get your work in front of the people who want to see it most.


3. Identify the best way to engage.

Once you’ve identified your audience, you have to determine how to promote your work. Start by outlining a social media strategy. This will be one of the best tools you have to promote your art online because it lets you develop a community of collaborators and other artists in addition to your target audience. You can also use a blog to keep your community updated about your work while building anticipation for your upcoming projects or events.


4. Choose a website builder.

Finally, you’ll want to find a website builder that allows you to feature your art and serve your potential buyers. Make sure your site is user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing; it should also be able to integrate with any tools you need. Consider the cost, but don’t sacrifice quality. Your audience should admire the site rather than feel frustrated by it.

Just as technology has transformed countless other industries, it has changed the way the art world operates. Artists are no longer limited to sharing their work through galleries and connections that come from having the right background. They now have access to the online marketplace and can create compelling websites and communities for potential buyers. This digital democratization has opened doors and will continue to do so long into the future.