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1. Can you actually make money selling art online?

How to sell art online and make money in 2024

Updated Jan 15 2024

In the fast-evolving digital landscape, artists have abundant opportunities to monetize their work. Digital art, online galleries, ecommerce platforms, and social media have radically transformed the art market. 

However, this new territory can be intimidating, particularly for those new to selling. 

Consider this guide “How to sell art online” your comprehensive primer to successfully navigating and profiting from the expansive world of art. Let’s get started!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • The online art business is booming, offering artists a wealth of opportunities to reach a global audience and monetize their work.

  • A structured approach to setting up an art business online is crucial, involving steps such as registering the business, choosing a suitable platform, and creating a compelling and consistent brand presence across all digital touchpoints.

  • Pricing artwork involves careful consideration of factors like production costs, potential profit margins, competition, and the target audience's spending habits, with distinct strategies for physical and digital art.

  • Effective marketing strategies, monitoring order fulfillment, and providing excellent customer service are essential to attracting and retaining customers, thereby ensuring the business's profitability and sustainability.

  • Utilizing print on demand services like Gelato can simplify the process by handling order fulfillment and shipping, allowing artists to focus on creating and marketing their art.

Can you actually make money selling art online?

make money selling art

Yes, selling artwork online is a great way for artists to make money. It allows you to reach a broad audience of worldwide art enthusiasts looking to own unique, eye-catching pieces.

However, the art market is competitive, so the profitability of your online art business depends on numerous factors. These include:

  • The quality of your artwork

  • The quality of the products you use to showcase your art

  • The effectiveness of your marketing strategies

  • The pricing of your art

The tips we’ll share here will help you with the last three items. If you can produce high-quality, eye-catching artwork, the guidelines here will help you reach customers, drive sales, and earn a profit.

Join Gelato today. Its free to sign up and start selling your artwork

Join Gelato today. Its free to sign up and start selling your artwork

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Choosing a medium: Physical art vs. digital art

Choosing your artistic medium - physical or digital - is a critical decision that can shape your creative journey and business model.

Physical art, traditionally cherished, offers tangible value and a sensory experience that digital art can't replicate. It includes paintings, sculptures, prints, and other forms that buyers can touch, feel, and display. Selling art online involves production, shipping, and inventory management, but the potential for higher price points and emotional connection with customers can make it worth the effort.

On the other hand, digital art - e.g., digital prints, animations, crypto art, etc. - has surged in popularity, propelled by the digital revolution and the rise of NFTs. The benefits include easier distribution, lower production costs, and the ability to sell infinite copies. Yet, pricing can be trickier as digital art lacks physicality, and ensuring copyright protection can be challenging.

Remember: The choice isn't mutually exclusive. Many successful artists balance both, offering original physical pieces alongside digital prints or merchandise. The key is understanding your artistic goals, your audience's preferences, and the demands of each medium.

How to sell art online and make money

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Selling art online for the first time can be intimidating, so we've broken the entire process down into simple steps to help you start making sales as quickly as possible.

1. Register your art business

To sell art online and make money, start by registering your art business. If you’re running your business yourself without any partners or shareholders, you have two main options for business structures:

  • Sole proprietorship: you are legally identical to your business for purposes of ownership and liability.

  • Limited liability company (LLC): you are legally distinct from your business for purposes of ownership and liability.

There are key benefits and disadvantages to both business structures.

Sole proprietorships

A sole proprietorship is simpler to set up and manage. You don’t even need to register as a sole proprietor if you’re using your own name rather than a business name. You’re entitled to all profits generated by your business. You can report your income with your personal taxes by attaching a form to your regular tax return. You only pay taxes on your profits.

However, sole proprietorships suffer from one big drawback. You're personally liable for any debt or legal obligation your business incurs. If your business gets into debt, you're personally responsible for paying it back. This liability can hurt your personal credit rating and leave you at risk of a creditor seizing your property to cover your debt.

LLCs

An LLC structure shields you from personal debt and liability your business incurs. It’s harder for a creditor to seize your car or home to cover your debt. This protection is one of the main attractions of an LLC.

When it comes to taxes, an LLC offers more flexible options than a sole proprietorship. You can elect to be taxed in the same way as a sole proprietorship, or you can be taxed as a partnership or corporation.

Setting up and managing an LLC can be more complex than running a sole proprietorship. You'll need to file articles of organization with your state. Filing costs include a small set-up fee and annual fees to keep your company active. Your company can have additional members and managers, requiring more paperwork. When managing your finances, you must separate your business and personal bookkeeping to avoid losing LLC liability protection or incurring tax penalties.

Despite these minor drawbacks, if you're operating your business by yourself, it's easy to set up an LLC and pay your taxes like a sole proprietor. If you're unsure which business structure to use, a tax attorney can help you decide what's best for you.

Some states may require a business license to sell art online. Check your state's requirements to see if this applies where you live.

2. Choose a business name

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If you're registering your business as an LLC, you must choose a business name. You may wish to do so even if you set up a sole proprietorship. For example, you may want to choose a memorable name for marketing purposes. If you choose a name other than your own name, you will register to be a sole proprietor or LLC "doing business as" ("DBA") your business name.

The simplest way to choose a business name is to use your own name or a term that describes what you do. For example, John Doe could register to do business as "John Doe Wall Art." If you want something catchier, you can use a few methods to brainstorm names:

  • Use a name that highlights what’s distinctive about your art.

  • Describe what types of art products you sell.

  • Showcase a benefit of buying your art, such as how your art makes a person feel.

  • Identify who buys your art.

  • Include a geographic reference identifying where you sell art.

  • Choose a name that refers to something meaningful to you, such as the name of a spouse or pet.

It’s essential that both you and your customers like your business name. Consider brainstorming a list of names and narrowing it down to one you really like. Get input from family, friends, and prospective customers to help you select your business name.

3. Prepare digital art for selling

Selling digital products is easier than you might think. By following these steps, you can begin to sell digital art online and earn passive income in no time.

Digitizing your art

Creating a digital file of your art doesn't require expensive technology. To transform your physical art into a digital file, simply take a photo of your work with a high-resolution camera or place it on a scanner.

Both scanning and photographing your artwork will generally yield similar results, but the quality of the digital images will depend on the resolution. The higher the resolution, the better the digital art will be. Check the specifications for your device, whether it's a digital camera, phone, or scanner, to ensure that it is capable of fully capturing the details of your art style.

Other important factors to consider when digitizing your art include:

  • Shadows: A shadow can detract from the beauty of your design. When taking a photo, ensure that you are holding the camera flat over the artwork to prevent shadows.

  • Lighting: When photographing your artwork, use side cameras or natural light. Avoid harsh overhead lights as they can wash out the image.

  • Type of artwork: Scanners and cameras are ideal for different artistic styles and techniques. The textures of an oil painting are more distinct in a photograph, while a flat ink drawing will look crisp and clear using a scanner.

  • Artwork size: Scanners can only capture artwork in limited sizes. For larger pieces, opt for a camera, particularly one with adjustable lenses or settings.

When done well, your digital artwork will reflect the colors, textures, and lines of the original piece.

Protecting your digital art

Creating art is a deeply personal process, and the last thing any artist wants is to have their work stolen. To protect your online art from theft or plagiarism, it's essential to employ strategies that prove your ownership. Possible options include:

  • Copyrighting: A copyright certifies that a work of digital art belongs to you. Submit an application to the U.S. Copyright Office and include a copyright notice on each digital image.

  • Watermarks and signatures: Add a semi-transparent business logo or signature to every digital download on your site. When customers buy your digital products, they will receive a copy of the file without the watermark.

  • Low-resolution previews: Including all of the high-resolution files for your digital art on your online store makes it easy for people to steal them and slows down your page loading times. Instead, use low-resolution files online and offer high-resolution versions for purchase.

If you discover that someone is attempting to sell your original artwork in spite of these steps, file a complaint and ask to have it removed.

4. Create physical art products to sell online

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Selling art prints is a great way to generate significant profit, particularly through a print on demand supplier. Print on demand platforms allow you to sell prints and physical products, such as tote bags and phone cases, that are customized with your digital art.

Choosing a print on demand service

To create physical products to sell, one option is to use manual production methods. However, today’s digital technology offers easier solutions. One of the easiest and most lucrative ways to start selling your art online is through print on demand services.

POD uses digital printing technology to let you store your digital art designs in electronic form. You then can have your digital art designs printed on any surface. 

For example, you can print your art on t-shirts, calendars, or tote bags. Because your design is stored digitally, you don’t have to maintain inventory. You simply print your digital files of art designs when customers place orders. This saves money on storage, increases shipping efficiency, and avoids the need to maintain large cash-flow reserves to cover production and inventory costs.

Working with a reliable and reputable print on demand partner is critical to the success of your art business. When researching your options, consider these key points:

  • Pricing: To improve your profit margins, look for a print on demand service that offers affordable products. Overpriced items are less appealing to potential customers.

  • Product selection: Consider what types of physical products you want to sell and ensure that the supplier offers them. You may want to start with only a few items, such as canvas prints and acrylic prints, before branching out to products like ready-to-hang posters, wood prints, and mugs.

  • Product quality: Adding your graphic design to a custom T-shirt offers no benefit if it falls apart in a few days. Order test samples of different products from potential suppliers so that you can personally check for quality issues.

  • Shipping rates and locations: To reach customers in multiple markets, look for a partner that ships to a wide range of locations at a reasonable fee. Excessive shipping costs deter customers from making purchases and can cut into your profit margins.

  • Speed: Customers don't want to wait weeks between making their purchases and receiving them. Determine how quickly on-demand print shops produce and ship products.

  • Platform integrations: If you're using an ecommerce platform for online sales, it's important to choose a printing company with seamless integration. Likewise, if you make sales through your own website, investigate how you can connect it to a supplier.

  • Customer service: A print on demand company with prompt, responsive, and helpful customer service can greatly facilitate smooth operations and swiftly address any issues or concerns you may have.

There are many print on demand services available for online shop owners, but many of them offer subpar products and have unreasonable fees. Fortunately, there are superior alternatives available, like Gelato, which offers high-quality art prints and a variety of physical products. Gelato's fast shipping and affordable prices save your customers time and money, which ultimately translates to greater trust and loyalty for your business.

Adding your art to print on demand products

When choosing which types of products you want to sell online, consider factors like your artistic style and what's currently trending, keeping in mind that some of your art might lend itself better to certain products.

With respect to product selection, consider factors like your artistic style and what's currently trending. For example, Gelato lets you print your art on a range of popular products, including:

This variety of products allows you to promote your art to many different market niches.

When designing your products, only use high-quality digital files of each piece so that the images don't appear grainy, unclear, or faded. Apply your art to each product and get ready to make money online.

Sign up for print on demand with Gelato and get 50% off your first order

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5. Select a platform for your art store

You can sell digital art products through a number of different platforms, and the right choice often depends on how much time, money, and skill you have to invest. Each selling platform offers distinct benefits and drawbacks, and it's important to carefully consider which is the best fit for your online store.

  • Your own online store: Using your own online store gives you the most flexibility, but it also requires you to invest in web development and management. Gelato's API offers a solution to connect your store directly to our 100+ production partners worldwide.

  • Shopify: Shopify provides more customization options than Amazon but reaches fewer customers. You pay a subscription fee and a percentage per transaction and are responsible for marketing, production, and shipping.

  • Etsy: Etsy is more customizable than Amazon and less expensive than Shopify, but not as flexible as the latter.

  • Amazon: Selling digital art through Amazon relieves you of the need to set up a website while providing you with access to Amazon's marketing tools, customer base, and order fulfillment services. However, Amazon limits your customization options to their website format while taking a cut of your profits.

  • Social media platforms (such as Facebook Marketplace or Instagram Shopping): Social media provides access to a large audience and great marketing tools, but your storefront design options are limited.

  • Zazzle: Zazzle handles production and shipping for you. However, customization options for your storefront are limited, and you only earn a commission percentage.

  • Redbubble: Redbubble lets you sell POD products for free, but its marketplace is competitive.

Online marketplaces have a built-in customer base that allows you to reach a wider audience more quickly. Because these marketplaces are well-known, they also encourage a certain level of customer trust. A customer might feel more comfortable entering their credit card information on an Etsy shop rather than an unknown website. However, marketplaces offer limited customization, and your products will be listed with many competitors, making it more difficult to stand out.

Many artists use social media platforms for marketing and selling digital art. But if you want to develop a more established online business, an online platform or marketplace allows for greater customization of your storefront.

Ecommerce sites offer customization and prevent the on-site competition that artists experience when they use marketplaces. They also allow for data collection that you can use to improve future product campaigns. On the other hand, these platforms require a larger initial financial investment and take longer to get up and running.

Selling art online through our own website offers the greatest level of control and customization over your product pages, website structure, and branding. Unlike an ecommerce marketplace or platform, a website is also multipurpose. You can sell art, add videos, describe your background, and add a daily blog post in one place. However, running your own website requires much more time and technical knowledge than making use of an existing art market.

Remember: These options aren’t mutually exclusive. You can combine them and sell art online through multiple avenues.

6. Set up your online store

Setting up your online store might take a few moments or several weeks, depending on your chosen platform. Regardless of your choice, there are some key steps to follow before you can sell your digital art online:

  • Creating an online store account on your preferred sales channel or building your custom website.

  • Integrating any necessary ecommerce plugins.

  • Hiring a graphic designer or creating your own sleek logo that reflects your style.

It's crucial to customize your website, sales page, or social media profile to mirror your unique brand. This isn't just about aesthetics; it's about creating an immersive, consistent experience that reflects your art style, philosophy, and what sets you apart as an artist. 

Tailoring your digital platforms to your brand involves carefully choosing color schemes, fonts, visuals, and even the tone of your content, all designed to resonate with your target audience and enhance the overall appeal of your artwork.

Once your branded storefront is set up, it’s time to start adding products. 

Upload high-resolution product images and write engaging product descriptions to attract customer interest. Make sure that your product descriptions and images both accurately represent the size, material, and features of each product, and use keyword-targeted product titles to rank higher in search results and improve visibility.

Now that you’ve got the basic infrastructure of your online art business in place let’s turn the focus to marketing and selling your art:

7. Price your art

Whether you're selling physical or digital art, pricing is a crucial step that requires careful consideration. Your pricing strategy should strike a balance between being appealing to your target market and ensuring profitability. To do this, it's essential to understand both the costs associated with creating and distributing your work and the potential profit margins you can aim for.

Costs

The costs associated with selling your art online can be broken down into several categories. These can include:

  • The base cost of using your print on demand service to order and ship your physical art products.

  • Any relevant design costs for your art or website, such as investing in software or hiring a graphic designer.

  • Any relevant listing fees.

Your costs set a lower price limit for you to break even. To earn money from your business, you’ll need to establish a profit margin that exceeds your costs.

Profit margins

To set a price that ensures a profit margin:

  • Mark up your base cost to generate a profit.

  • Estimate your potential sales volume.

  • Consider your niche: If your artwork is particularly unique and occupies its own niche, there will be less competition, allowing you to charge a higher price point.

  • Set competitive prices that draw potential customers in but still convey the quality and value of your art. Note that cheap isn't necessarily more appealing if you sell to a luxury market or art collectors.

  • Set promotion and discount prices high enough to encourage sales but low enough to maintain a profit margin.

Your pricing should adapt to your market rather than remaining fixed. Monitor customer feedback and sales data and tweak your pricing strategy as necessary.

8. Market your art

Setting up a storefront to sell art online is a remarkable achievement, but your work isn't quite done yet. Promoting your online art business allows returning customers to find you and draws in new customers who aren't yet familiar with your work. There are many paid and free marketing tools available to help you reach a broader audience:

Here are some tips to help you promote your products more effectively:

  • Create eye-catching promotional graphics for your art products.

  • Create blog content on your website to drive traffic from search engines.

  • Take advantage of social media marketing by posting images of your art on platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Increase customer engagement by interacting directly with your followers.

  • In addition to free advertising, run paid ads on social media platforms or search engines like Google. Create attractive, informative advertisements that invite customers to visit your store and discover your products.

  • The best art customers are often other artists, so share your work with art enthusiasts online. Promote your art in virtual communities like DeviantArt and Facebook groups with fellow art lovers, successful artists, and art collectors.

  • Give customers on your social media pages and website the opportunity to sign up for an email list. Keep them updated with newsletters featuring new art, promotions, discounts, and news from your business.

  • Offer discounts and freebies to customers who have bought your art.

  • Collaborate with successful artists and brands to cross-promote your art.

To effectively sell your art online, it's best to combine several different promotional strategies that drive traffic to your ecommerce store. For example, you can use search engines and Facebook to drive traffic to your online art business and invite visitors to join your email list for follow-up marketing.

9. Monitor order fulfillment and shipping

A smooth order fulfillment and shipping process for your physical art products will drive customer satisfaction and repeat purchases. To optimize your order fulfillment and shipping processes, here are some key steps to follow:

  • Ensure you fully understand the production and fulfillment process of your chosen print on demand supplier so you can inform potential customers what to expect.

  • Be prepared to offer exceptional customer service and field any customer questions about the shipping process.

  • Monitor your sales metrics and inventory to ensure prompt fulfillment without delays.

  • Investigate and resolve any problems with your order fulfillment and shipping procedures.

For best results with order fulfillment and shipping, choose a reliable print on demand provider. A POD provider who handles your ordering and shipping for you can help you avoid issues you’d encounter handling orders on your own. With 130+ production hubs in 32 countries, Gelato produces, ships, and delivers to customers around the world, cutting down on shipping times and rates.

10. Build a profitable online art business

Once your marketing and sales operations are in place, you can shift your focus to growing your customer base and building your online art business. Here are some tips to help you grow your revenue:

  • Use business analytics tools to monitor key metrics, gauge your success, and determine areas for improvement. Key performance indicators to monitor include conversion rates, average order value, return on investment, and sales revenue.

  • Network with other artists and POD art sellers to discover what works for them that you can replicate.

  • Offer multiple product offerings to add additional income streams. For example, if a design is selling well as a wall art product, consider offering it on calendars as well.

Use these tips to attract more customers, sell more art, and earn more revenue.

Sell art online and make money with Gelato

Selling art online and making money can be easy when you know how to do it and where to go for help.

Anyone can follow the routine procedures of registering your online art business, choosing a print on demand service, and selecting an ecommerce platform for your online store. It takes a little more research and effort to price, market, and sell your art, but if you follow the marketing tips shared here, you’ll be headed in the right direction. Once you begin promoting your art, monitoring order fulfillment is easy.

With these preliminaries in place, you can focus on producing quality art and growing a profitable business.

Gelato is here to help you grow your business by providing an easy way to sell print on demand products. We provide in-demand products like wall art prints, calendars, and clothing you can combine with your art designs to offer shoppers customized selections.

Simply connect Gelato to your ecommerce platform to start selling your products online. Once customers buy your products, we take care of order fulfillment and shipping for you. All you have to do to make money is produce quality artwork and promote it.

Sign up for Gelato and start selling art online and making money today.

Sell art online FAQs

What is the best way to sell my art online?

The absolute best way to sell artwork online would be to create a personalized ecommerce website on a platform like Etsy or Shopify. Etsy is the ideal choice for creators and artists to promote and sell their crafts and art. You can also integrate your ecommerce website with Gelato’s print on demand platform to turn your artwork into tangible items, such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, etc. You can also leverage social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to sell or spread awareness. Just understand your target audience's preferred online shopping platform and start promoting and selling your art there.

What type of art sells the most?

Selling art online can be difficult due to its broad and subjective nature. Profits usually come from selling prints, allowing you to generate a steady income from a single piece. On top of that, if you set affordable pricing, it increases sales volume compared to original art. Curators should monitor art and design trends to understand buyer and collector preferences and then collaborate with artists who have high success potential. Creators can easily benefit from developing their best style and creating a dedicated follower base.

Can you work with galleries to sell your art?

Certainly, you can! Many artists work with galleries to sell digital art, and so can you. Both online and physical galleries are constantly on the lookout for new talent that they can represent. They can help with online art sales and even promote your original work in gallery exhibitions. You stand to benefit significantly from this type of collaboration. Send them an email with your portfolio link and find out about each gallery's submission process.

Do I need a license to sell my art?

Yes, you will. If you want to sell digital artwork legally, you must get a license. It is a government requirement, so failing to get a license to sell any art can result in fines. A business license also protects you against potential disputes with customers and other parties you work with.

How much money can you make selling art online?

The amount of money you can make selling art online varies widely based on factors such as your reputation, the uniqueness of your artwork, pricing strategy, and marketing efforts. Artists can earn from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per piece, with consistent sales potentially leading to a substantial income.

Which website is best for selling digital art?

Websites like Etsy and Artfinder are popular for selling digital art online due to their large audiences and artist-friendly features. For artists focused on digital prints and merchandise, platforms like Gelato may be ideal as they handle production, shipping, and customer service, allowing artists to focus solely on creating art.

How do I know if my art is good enough to sell?

Although many people may appreciate your work, that doesn’t guarantee your art is good enough to sell. Critical self-assessment and objective feedback from others will be essential here. Engage with your audience online (if you have a website or maintain social media accounts) and observe how they react to your art. Are there many people liking your pieces and subscribing to your profiles? Do they comment positively, with some commenters encouraging you to take the professional route to promote yourself? These are some ways to know if you should start selling your work.

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