Artists function like freelancers. They make their own art and are in charge of promoting and selling it themselves. Artists have long been challenged by the notion of the “struggling artist,” but there are several different avenues for artists to earn revenue.
Commissions are how many artists first transition from creating art as a hobby to monetizing their talent. Fine artist Isa Marquez from the University of Miami says, “I decided to start [selling my art] when I saw people wanting to commission me to do certain pieces or when I saw a few people begin to be interested in buying either my paintings or prints.” Artists can take advantage of their personal network when starting to sell their pieces and this can be a stepping stone into growing their platform.
Creating a website is an excellent professional way to display your inventory, include information about yourself and sell your work. One popular resource is Big Cartel, an independent company that helps artists build a unique online store, sell their work and run a creative business. Some artists also use a website called RedBubble to sell their work in a variety of mediums, from prints to stickers. Shopify is another resource that can be used for general ecommerce businesses, although Big Cartel and RedBubble are better catered for artists.
There are several social media platforms that can be used to promote and sell art. Instagram works well as a way to visually show one’s pieces. It also has features for sellers to create a business account in order to have their contact information, inventory and prices in one visually appealing place. Tik Tok does not have selling capabilities, but it is a visual tool that could be used to show the art creation process through videos and target a younger audience. Facebook could also be used as a tool for professional connections and organizing community events, such as an event for an art show or joining community art groups. These groups can be used to network and share your art. Twitter is a platform that celebrates creativity and is a great platform for gaining recognition for your art, although it is not shaped for business owners. According to Marquez, “although it is very easy to sell via Instagram, I have found that Tik Tok and Twitter are better in terms of exposure and engagement… I think Tik Tok is becoming very artist friendly and I heard they will start monetizing so that probably will be a good way to go about it.”
An art show does not need to take place in a museum. You can have your own art show in your house or backyard (for free!) and invite friends and family. They can see your art in person and leave with a new piece.
Submitting your art to a contest can be a great way to get exposure, strengthen your credentials and possibly win a cash prize.
If you would like to pay for an agent, you can hire a representative from an art agency to find clients for you and manage your marketing needs. For example, Miami has an agency called The Art Plug (artplug.com) that provides these services for artists in Miami.
Tips for Artrepreneurs
Selling your art can come with some drawbacks that you should be aware of. In the experience of Marquez, “it can be very difficult and/or draining to sell art because in most of the cases, it is what the artist is least interested in. It can also be time consuming and off-putting to try to be in a market that follows certain trends or guidelines.” This market is often influenced by trends that become popular on social media. Marquez points out that Instagram used to be the best platform to sell on, but “the newest algorithm does nothing to benefit artists.” She has also had Instagram take down her paintings of human sensuality because they were flagged as nudity. Twitter also will report these paintings, posting a message that says “The following media includes potentially sensitive content.” One valuable takeaway from Marquez’s experience is diversifying where you put your art. “Diversifying has been key for me. Putting my art on tote bags, mugs, lighters, shirts, etc. Some people don’t see the value or aren’t interested in buying a print, they want functional art.” This is something for artrepreneurs to keep in mind when selling their art.
If you would like to explore Isa’s work, make sure to check out her Instagram @isamqzart or her website isamqz.com.