As an artist, you appreciate fame, recognition, and praise for your work, but one part of your artistic success will always be the ability to live off your work. No matter if you’re already an established name or fresh out of university, as an illustrator, designer or photographer, selling your artistic prints can make quite a sizable contribution to your income. The challenge is knowing where to start. New online vendors and printers pop up all the time, all with their own business model, it seems.
We’ve done the research to identify the more lucrative opportunities for artists. Whether you’re into illustration, design or photography, we’ve compiled the best ideas for maximizing your artistic success. Learn how to effectively promote your art and sell printed versions of your artwork to pocket some neat cash at the same time.
Before we jump into ideas and techniques for promoting and selling your art, let us explain why we think printed posters are ideal for illustrators, designers, photographers and a wide range of artists for selling their artwork.
Some artists wrinkle their nose at the idea of selling posters of their work. But chances are, you cannot sustain yourself by producing solely originals, let alone find enough buyers for them. Here is the thing with prints: Giclée, art on canvas, and photos in fine art quality all come with an upscale price tag. To make a profit, you’ll have to charge even more. At the same time, high printing costs prohibit you from ordering large numbers of your artwork. Traveling to art fairs with a lot of bulky prints is inconvenient and exposes your merchandise to the risk of damage without a guaranteed sale.
Truth is, artwork best-sellers are postcards and posters, as any museum visit that exits through the gift shop will attest (Walter Keane notoriously capitalized on this in the 50’s). Posters of your artwork printed in bulk offer many sales advantages:
Promoting your art should primarily be about enabling people to discover you and your work. Reeling in your audience and making a sale is the second step (“Like what you’re seeing? Buy a print!”). Here are top ideas on how to get your art out there and in front of people!
Every artist needs a well-organized portfolio with appealing photographs and images and detailed information about each piece. As a professional artist, your own portfolio website is the best opportunity to showcase your art and tell your audience the story behind the creation, inspiration, and materials used.
Your online presence puts you in direct contact with your audience. Your work can be found, shared, and achieve a great level of recognition. Photographers, writers, designers, illustrators and all artists should harness the power of their own website. Keep in mind that there are many platforms out there to showcase your work (be it Pinterest, Instagram, flickr, tumblr and countless others), but your presence on these should focus on driving traffic to your own site. That way your website will always be the center of your online promotion.
Whether you host your own WordPress installation or use a service such as Squarespace, your own portfolio website offers the following advantages:
Many artists overlook YouTube (or similar video platforms) when it comes to promoting themselves and their art. Yet producing an enticing video has never been easier. There are different formulas and approaches you can try: present a time-lapse of a painting, showcase your portfolio with audio commentary on each item, or highlight details of your technique. Videos are simple when you follow a basic outline. Start with a short personal introduction about yourself and the type of art you create. Then move on to the specific artwork you want to highlight. Make sure to cover different aspects and present different angles. You can end with information on how to order prints and your website.
Companies leverage the social network to promote their products, and so can you to tell the world about your art. Create a Facebook page for your artist self and start sharing pictures of your artwork and post explaining the creative process, the history and any news about you and your art. Tie the page in with your website and regularly link to your portfolio (and online shop, if you have set it up). Facebook promotion does not cost you anything but your time. You can of course duplicate your efforts on any other social platform out there, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Unless you’re absolutely certain that your target audience is elsewhere, Facebook is your best bet for building a following.
Local shops, cafés and restaurants have many reasons to exhibit your work. It helps if the owner of the business and the clientele have some relation to your specific type of art. But primarily, an exhibition if a chance for these venues to enhance their ambiance with your art. The advantage for them is decor for free and the opportunity to rotate often.
As a creator, your number one goal is promotion, not sales. Of course, it’s great to have your printed posters on hand so they can be sold, but selling your art does not align with the venue’s motivation. Owner and stuff are too busy to sell your work. But ask for a public reception for the opening and closing of the show, use every opportunity to direct people to your online portfolio (and shop) and ask visitors to subscribe to your mailing list. That way, you can boost your local recognition and artistic success by making contact with potential supporters and buyers.
This is far from a comprehensive guide on how to sell your art. But these top picks for selling primarily posters (or postcards) of your work in quantity are proven to work.
Google Adwords is a powerful marketing and sales tool. Ads from Google are displayed in search results, Gmail and other content sites. If you’re new to Adwords, Google will teach you all you need to know. Adwords only charges you for displaying your ads when someone clicks on an ad. The trick lies in the keywords, with which you can specifically target certain groups of visitors or customers. With Adwords, you can market yourself as an artist or drive customers to your online shop on your website – where you sell printed posters of your work. Adwords can be very effective when you fine-tune it. The good thing: Google will offer you free credit which you can use to experiment.
As we’ve outlined above, printed posters are great for bringing with you to events, fairs, galleries and other local opportunities. Thanks to bulk printing, you can sell large format prints in high quality with a cheap price tag – a great incentive for customers to bring home one or more of your posters from an event.
What kind of events to attend depends entirely on you, your art and where your audience is. Whether you’re holding workshops, teaching classes, exhibit locally or internationally, visit an art fair, are attending Comic-Con or any other convention relevant to your work – make sure you have sufficient posters on hand.
It used to be that people equated eBay with online shopping. Today, it’s definitely Amazon. There is hardly a product the online retailer doesn’t offer, so why not your art as well? More than two million third party sellers are part of the global Amazon Marketplace, generating roughly 50% of Amazon’s total sales.
For individuals, fees are as low as $0.99 per sale, and you can start out by packing and shipping your orders yourself. But Amazon is especially interesting once you have reached a higher amount of orders. Then you can move on to using Fulfillment by Amazon. Simply send your product to the fulfillment center and Amazon will take care of shipping and handling. Large quantities of product are ideal for our bulk poster printing. Through Fulfillment by Amazon you benefit from eligibility for Amazon Prime as well as faster shipping in general. Amazon is also a great solution once your own web shop has reached an order capacity where you don’t want to handle everything yourself anymore.
More about Amazon: In 2014, they teamed up with Blurb so you can sell your self-published book directly on Amazon. Blurb is a platform for creative self-publishers with a refined solution to create photobooks.
Crowdfunding is a way to raise funds for your next project. Printed postcards and posters make for a great reward to offer your backers in the lower tiers. Time and again, successful crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Gofundme have proven that you needn’t be an established artist to make the platform work for you. It’s an opportunity to connect with potential future collectors, but same as with any only art sale, you really have to promote your campaign.
When you make your own merchandise, you have to eat the loss if you don’t sell any product. That’s why many artists who are just starting out turn to online platforms that offer on-demand-services. You can present your artwork, design or photography and customers can choose a variety of items from mugs and shirts to fine art prints, cases or pillows. It’s a great concept that carries little to no risk and doesn’t require skills, time or capital to produce and ship orders. The downside of these services: your portfolio will be one of plenty. Unless your art is very distinctive or your audience niché, you might be lost in the deluge of offerings (while paying a fee to be listed in some cases).
With that in mind, the following are some recommendations for online marketplaces where you can sell your artwork:
This concludes our tips on how to maximize your artistic success with selling printed posters of you artwork. As an illustrator, designer, writer, photographer or creative of any kind, how do you use posters and prints to sell your work and promote yourself? Let us know in the comments!