The Business of Art, Part 1:
“How Do I Sell My Paintings?”
Welcome to the first of a four-part blog series specifically about making money with your art business!
I receive a ton of questions all the time about how to do just that, and I think I’m in a unique position to answer those questions since my wife Andrea and I, currently make our full time living with our art business ColorByFeliks.
All the questions we’ll be answering below were submitted by you, my audience! My wife Andrea and I are putting our heads together to answer your questions as best as we can.
This week’s blog will be all about selling paintings: how to do it, where to sell them, and how to get started.
So strap in; because we’ve got some important stuff to cover!
“How and when did you sell your first painting?”
I actually sold my first painting in high school. But don’t let that discourage you if you haven’t done the same; I owe it to a very supportive teacher who liked my work and paid me for two paintings she’d seen during my end of high school culminating project.
I was completely over the moon; more than having money in my pocket, that moment taught me that people really do value art and you can make a living from it.
[This was the cover of my culminating project back in 2009]
“What’s the best place to sell my paintings?”
If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs about the ColorByFeliks story, you’ll probably know that I really got rolling by selling my paintings in local coffee shops, restaurants, and even hospitals.
I still remember the thrill of getting that first phone call from the coffee shop owner that someone had purchased one of my acrylic paintings!
It felt like my art career was finally launching. I also would gather together artist friends and put on shows for our friends and family.
But here’s the thing: local sales really didn’t help with my career in the long run.
While I went on to sell many more paintings this way over the next few years, I wasn’t making all that much money when all was said and done.
Sometimes I’d go months without a sale, so it really was an unreliable thing to depend on and I saw that I wasn’t going to be able to make enough to quit my day job and call art a career.
As I got more serious about starting an art business from home, I decided to take advantage of the Internet and began selling my work on Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay.
The Internet can help you reach so many more people, and this was a move in the right direction, but not the final destination.
When I really started selling a lot of paintings was when I got active on social media.
This was around 2017 and my painting sales started shooting up. This was because social media helped me reach a much bigger audience.
It actually got to the point that I couldn’t keep up with demand and had to stop taking commissions and dramatically raise my prices so I wouldn’t sell out or burn out.
That being said: if you want to sell paintings, investing in your social media marketing is a much better move than trying to sell them locally or even trying to sell them on the Internet with no social media.
“Is there a way to go about selling art the old-fashioned way? Without social media?”
Yes there is, but honestly, it’s a lot more difficult.
Why not use the power of social media to boost your sales?
It’s a huge opportunity and the truth is, social media will help you get more attention and recognition for your art than even some of the best galleries.
The kind of traffic and attention you can get from social media is not even comparable to the traffic you would be able to get at a physical location.
So what you have to ask yourself is this: do you really want to rely on people encountering your work in real life or on gatekeepers like galleries to determine how successful you will be?
I say take the opportunity that social media gives you to carve your own destiny and take full ownership of your career and your artwork!
Additionally, with social media you are able to reach the whole world, not just a specific location. Social media gives you the ability to be in multiple places, showing your art around the world at once which is super cool!
There is nothing wrong with galleries, but my view is that it is a supplement to your social media not the primary goal.
Especially now in the age of COVID, it makes a lot more sense to use the power of social media to reach people rather than waiting for people to see your work in real life.
If you still insist on starting out the old-fashioned way, then I would recommend doing what I did and approaching businesses that get lots of foot traffic so that more potential buyers will see your work. Get involved with artists in your community that are doing fairs, shows and get connected!
At the end of the day, the more people who see your work, the more likely it is that people will buy your work.
Now take that concept and think of the hundreds of local people who might see your work in a coffee shop or show versus the thousands of people who could see it on social media every day.
Not only that, but the people on social media are there to look at art, not drink coffee, so you’re connecting more with your target audience.
Selling paintings really is a numbers game, so play the game in your favor by getting your paintings in front of more people with good social media marketing.
If you want actual tips you can use right now to boost your marketing game, my wife Andrea has a whole YouTube channel devoted to free content that helps you get more effective at social media. She is the business and marketing mind behind our ColorByFeliks brand.
“How do you sell art? It seems impossible.”
As I mentioned above, focusing on your social media marketing is hands-down the most effective and efficient way I can think of to sell your paintings in 2021.
Nobody said it was easy, but me and thousands of others like me are proof that it can be done.
Another important thing to mention - you don’t need to have millions of followers to find success with your art on social media!
That is a common misconception. Everytime you post your work, you are getting closer to your ideal customer seeing your art. So get started today!
Be willing to learn from people like Andrea who have been there and mastered the social media and online business game.
It also helps to be willing to experiment; everyone’s journey will be a little bit different, so the best way to find out what works specifically for you is to share lots of work and collect feedback from your audience!
The same goes for picking the right platform: experiment, and find out which is best for your own style.
Etsy is a great place to start selling, but the ultimate goal should be finding a way to move your followers to using your own website.
Platforms change, but you have total control of your own site.
Now before we sign off, I want to mention one CRUCIAL thing: you don’t have to sell paintings to make money as an artist in 2021.
I had a major paradigm shift where I realized that my real goal was not to sell paintings, but to have the income to enjoy the freedom to pursue art as a passion.
There are many other ways to make money on social media as an artist that don’t involve selling your work, and these ways can even be more profitable!
I think artists think they need to sell art only, but actually I think a lot of it boils down to just wanting that freedom to create when we want and what we want and have our work appreciated.
In a future blog in this series, we will get into specifically how you can make money as an artist online without selling a single painting (only if you want to), so stay tuned for the next three weeks as we continue our Business of Art series.
Remember, starting is the hardest part of building an art business. After that, it just takes not giving up and being creative, and as an artist I know creativity is your strong suit.
It may seem like a lot, but plenty others just like you have made money at their art!
We are here to remind you that it is possible for you too.
You’ve got this!