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  • Writer's pictureMitch Smith

How to Sell Your Artwork (Without Gallery Representation)

Selling your artwork as an independent artist can feel like a daunting task. As a collective, we’ve had some wins and losses when it comes to flogging work over the years. So we thought it might be helpful to others if we share some of the things that worked.

We’re not here to tell you that selling art is going to be easy, but these tips should help you consider important aspects of marketing yourself as an artist.

Framed watercolour painting, red and blue
I Dreamt You Killed My Onions - Holly Watson

Is Your Art a Sellable Product?

Right, we know this sounds a little shallow. After all, art is about the process and motivation, it’s about the vibe and the reason. But, we’re talking business right now and this has got to be the biggest factor of all - whether that’s shallow to you or not!

Performances, videos, digital art - just doesn’t sell fast. Sure, some well established artists can quite easily package up non-physical artworks and sell them, but for most of us artists who have a small to medium audience, this may be worth aiming for as a long term goal so that you can focus on physical items.

If you are looking to start making some money with your art right now, consider scaling things down slightly. We generally prefer bigger paintings because they tend to have more impact - but smaller works are quicker and cheaper for you to produce, they are also cheaper for people to purchase and easier to carry home from an exhibition. Plus, small works can be charming in their own way and this doesn't mean you can't be creative with them.

Making a few runs of prints from a painting is also a great way to extend it’s sellability, if the original painting is a bit of an investment for your average gallery goer, a print can be within their budget and you can sell heaps of them. This is why most well established artists tend to make a mixture of artworks, some big, some small - this is effective when it comes to selling because you’re catering to a range of budgets and attracting all different types of collectors.

Is It Easy for Someone to Actually Purchase Your Art?

Ask yourself, if I was my own customer - how would I purchase something by this artist? Do you have a clear prompt on your social media profile about this, or on your website? Would someone have to message you to get a conversation going, how are they supposed to know this? And what about payment, how can someone pay for your artwork? Would this be by bank transfer, PayPal, Monzo?! There are so many options and quite frankly - this is an early step of selling artwork that many people don't even consider, and that's OK! Because you haven't put the process in place just yet.

By establishing some avenues for clients to purchase from you, you'll make things a lot easier for yourself in the long run. Plus, this will help you close sales when you're actually in the thick of the conversation, rather than causing delay and for the potential buyer to drop off due to losing interest.

Consider setting up an Etsy store or Saatchi account where you can sell your work efficiently. Sure, this will take a bit of prep work, such as getting dimensions and shipping figured out, but once the process is in motion things will be easy. If you don't go down this route, just try to make the general process of buying as easy as possible for people contacting you. You could even stick up a highlighted story on your Instagram profile that advises potential buyers about the steps involved.

Kornel Anderson

Are You Really Marketing Your Artwork?

As the saying goes “If you build it they will come”. Actually, we kinda disagree... Sure, making art and sharing a couple of nice shots on your socials may generate a bit of a buzz. Maybe you’ll sell one or two pieces to family or friends, or to a stranger if you’re lucky! But in terms of marketing, there is far more you can do to take your sales to the next level.

If you’re really pushing your work, we’d recommend posting regularly (1-2 times a week at least) on Instagram to keep your audience engaged. Take advantage of the fact that you can now schedule posts within the IG app itself.

Another easy win is including prices. Many artists won't want to include figures when sharing work because it may detract from the meaning or muddy the illusive appearance of their work, but doing this can be really beneficial. Even right now, some of your audience may assume your artwork is not affordable - but if they see the cost they may find they can afford it.

We also advise to consider adding call to actions to your posts, something that encourages potential buyers to message you to discuss a purchase.

Keep in mind that only posting sales content can quickly become exhausting for your audience, so be sure to break it up with other content such as behind-the-scenes shots of you creating your artwork. By sharing your process and personality, you'll help your followers feel more connected to your work and brand. At the end of the day, nobody is going to invest in someone who is just churning out sculptures for money, you've got to show people that your hearts in it.

Provide a Premium Experience for Clients

Retaining clients is just as important as acquiring them. If you want to ensure that collectors come back for more, you need to pay attention to the details. From the moment someone contacts you about purchasing your artwork, all correspondence should be professional, consistent, and timely. Whether it's a simple email to thank them for their purchase or to answer any questions they may have, make sure you are always representing yourself and your brand in the best possible light. (Extra tip: Don't reply to their message at 1am, it will probably annoy them).

If someone purchases a work at an exhibition, make a point to thank them in-person and have a chat, they’ll appreciate it. Take an interest in their decision to buy your art, ask them if they have other artworks and what they enjoy about the work. You can also follow up to ask for images of the artwork in their home, with some context. These types of shots are also great for encouraging more sales!

When it comes to shipping, it's important to put just as much effort into the packaging as you did into the artwork. Consider adding a touch of personality and professionalism by purchasing coloured tissue paper or packaging material that goes with your brand's aesthetic. Make sure it's shipped by a responsible courier to ensure your client receives the artwork safely. Take it from us, it’s no fun losing an original artwork in the post.

For original works, including a certificate of authentication is an extra step you can take to provide a premium experience, not only that - it’s kinda important if you’re taking this side of things seriously. This document will enable the collector to showcase your artwork in the future and sell it on again if they wish to do so.Make sure it's signed and feels legitimate, don’t just print out some random template. By paying attention to these details and providing a high-quality buying experience, you'll keep your customers coming back for more, and potentially referring their friends and family to you as well.

Fluid - Anthony Irwin

Stay On Brand, Stay Consistent

Building a brand as an artist is key to standing out in a crowded market. While each of your artworks may be unique, there should be some level of consistency that ties them all together. This can be achieved through creating a cohesive aesthetic, vibe, or feeling in your work. Even if your pieces aren't part of the same series, they should feel connected in some way.

Take a step back and look at your artwork as a whole. Is there a consistent theme that emerges? Perhaps it's a particular colour palette, subject matter, or just an overall style. By identifying and focusing on this theme, you can create a brand identity that resonates with your audience and helps you stand out.

Your brand identity should also extend beyond your artwork to your online presence, packaging, and marketing materials. By creating a consistent look and feel across all touch points, you'll create a memorable brand that your audience will come to associate with your work. So, take the time to consider your brand identity, and how you can create a cohesive and memorable experience. This parts it's own process and you don’t need to have everything figured out right now, you’ll learn as you go and pick up new things. Plus, your artwork will change over the years too.

When it comes to consistency, we mean that if you’re selling multiple paintings - for example, it could be a good idea to use the same size and weight of canvas. Having this consistent format will create a uniform look to your artwork and this will also be easier for you when it comes to shipping as you’ll have a familiar process in place.

Does Your Artwork Seem Like a Good Investment?

As an artist, it's easy to be inward focused, concerned with your technique, materials, ideas, and just breaking even or finding energy to make it to your studio. But don’t forget that taking part in exhibitions and events is another factor for selling works.

Potential buyers are often looking to invest in more than just a decorative piece - they want to feel that they're investing in the growth and potential of an artist. By taking part in exhibitions, attending art events, and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the art world, you demonstrate to potential buyers that you're committed to your career and are actively working to grow as an artist. This communicates that your artwork is a good investment and has potential to grow in value.

Not only that, exhibitions are great opportunities to showcase your work to a wider audience and to network with other artists and industry professionals, you may even sell something there. By building these connections and fostering a strong presence in the art world, you can increase your visibility and attract new buyers. So, get out there and get involved.

Installation shot from Work 227b, Black&Smith

Selling Artwork Is Hard

Let's be real - selling artwork is hard. It's a competitive market, and sales can come and go unpredictably. One month you might feel like you can't keep up with the demand, and the next you might not sell anything. It can be a discouraging experience, but it's important to keep at it.

If you find that your work really isn't selling, it’s time to analyse each part of your practice and marketing in general - starting with the artwork. Don't be afraid to seek feedback from your peers and other artists. They might be able to provide some insight into why your work isn't resonating with buyers or offer suggestions on how you can improve.

It's also worth considering whether you're marketing your work effectively and reaching the right audience. Experiment with new approaches and strategies. Remember that success in the art world is almost never overnight - it takes perseverance, hard work (and a bit of luck).

P.S. Don't forget to pay your taxes, once you are generating steady income from your artwork


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