As I’am a former CEO many artists ask me how to sell their art online and make money. Rather than answering every time, because I don’t like personal requests and discussions, I will answer them here. A simple and straightforward blog article to understand the foundations of the art market. I will regularly update this post to explain from the basics to the more advanced aspects.
1 – The Credibility
To sell your art online, you have to be credible as an artist. Credibility today does not come through media exposure but rather through the personal ambition of becoming an artist and selling one’s works. This means, clearly: that the artistic project must be approached in a professional, rational and financial manner.
Approaching an artistic project or an artistic concept in a purely artistic way will systematically lead to failure or post-mortem fame. We must therefore create credibility with a fundamental point: that of adopting the codes of the spheres in which we settle. Examples :
- Copy the business models that work: Etsy , Prints , etc.
- Offer content similar to that which works on social networks: Stories, Real, Discord, etc.
- Offer a website similar to those that work for other artists: WordPress , Shopify , etc.
In short, it is essential not to innovate. Innovation happens through the artwork, not the approach to selling art online. You should not believe that success comes alone. It takes work but above all getting into the mold. In the following points I will explain the basics to you.
2 – The Online Presence
It is essential for an artist to have an online presence. In my specific case I only have a few followers, and yet I sell very (VERY) well. The reason? It is not the number of followers that will determine your sales, but your way of being present online. For this, many sites allow the artist to be present online:
- Saatchi Art
A majority of them are free. These allow the artist to put their artworks online and create their portfolio. Here the issue is crucial: each site will allow the artist to appear in Google search results (!!!!) each time someone searches for the artist in question.
This aspect is fundamental and the first basis for establishing a presence in minimal line. Next will come social networks:
These social networks are essential. Of course there are others but these allow the artist to publish different content and above all to have an ever-increasing online presence. Of course it takes time to create so many profiles, but it’s worth it.
Facebook allows you to share your art in groups, Twitter allows you to be connected to a community, Pinterest allows you to generate a lot of traffic, and Youtube allows all of these points at once. Finally, Instagram allows significant sharing of visual content adapted to the artist’s profession.
The choice not to appear on these sites is normal. I am not fond of them myself, these sites are time-consuming, addictive and are all intrusions into private life that many do not want. However, and this is another fundamental point: without social networks, the artist can only count on his network or his ability to generate money via other methods which I will detail.
Beeple, one of the most expensive contemporary artists who sold an NFT for several tens of millions of euros, has a significant presence on Instagram and Twitter. Without these media the artist would not be one of the dearest contemporaries: art must be shared, and it is essential for the artist to understand it. Staying in a network or amateur circle will produce too much tension and uncertainty to be viable.
In short, it is essential for the artist to begin, after having decided to make a living from his art, to begin creating a rational and professional online presence. 3 points to respect:
- A similar profile photo on all sites and social networks to truly be recognized by all and establish profile strength.
- A similar bio/catchphrase that clearly describes who the artist is. Who are you ? The New Basquiat? A man of the progressive left? A right-wing woman CEO of 3 companies?
- A harmonious visual identity: both publications and visuals must be organized. There is too much chaos in artistic profiles, visitors and potential clients must know at a glance who you are, what you do, what your style is.
3 – Have a Proposal
Too many artists think they are artists. The main problem here is that they are not. The fundamental difference between an artist and a craftsman lies in whether or not the mode of remuneration is indexed to the hourly rate – at least after the 19th century and the photography.
Let me explain.
The craftsman produces an object in 10 hours of work, these 10 hours constituting remuneration. He works 10 hours at 15 euros per hour, the price of the item is 150 euros + any costs. The more he works on the object, the more, technically, his object will be worth, because the time provided constitutes above all a labor force to be remunerated accordingly.
The artist is different, the working time provided will not influence the remuneration or the sale of the latter’s work. An artist can work 100 hours or 10 minutes on a piece of art, the final price will be equivalent for the work that took 100 hours or 10 minutes. His salary, his remuneration is therefore not based on his work force, but on an irrational aspect which is above all a unique or rare proposition and which appears non-conformist, at the same time as it seduces individuals with the ways to purchase this proposal.
In fact, an artist must have a conceptual vision of his work. He must be able to understand what art is, and to propose rather than respond to a request. Too many people consider themselves artists because they draw, paint, sculpt or create. Yet few are: they reproduce dead artists, provide consensual messages capable of meeting demand, and offer current visions of things: ecologies, progressivism, freedom, peace, etc.
Here they are more artisans: able to conform to what society desires, to respond to an idealistic request, a request for well-being, a consensual request that will delight everyone. For this reason we see generations of painters creating Disney or Pokémon characters, generations of painters imitating Basquiat or Picasso, generations of budding activists advocating ecology and world peace.
The artist must not fall into this type of proposition, unless ecology, peace, progressivism are imposed on him not as a doctrine but as an ideal. As an aspiration. However, many people produce art to avoid controversy, earn a little money, network or be famous.
Whether conservative or progressive, the artist must not create anything for these reasons, otherwise he falls into craftsmanship and as such will have no chance of lasting. If the fashion fades soon, we will forget it.
The artistic proposal must therefore be unique, personal and represent the essence of the artist. Basquiat, Picasso, Haring , Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Manzoni, etc. are known today for this reason – which is not the only one – they had a vision. A proposal. Their art is not consensual, it was controversial, but it brought them together in their entirety. The artist must print himself, kill himself on the canvas. Leave his demons, his sorrows, his victories, his passions there, in short: he must offer himself through his work. In a simpler way: he must find a style, his signature, something which imposes him as alone in his kingdom. Something that makes him recognizable among 1,000.