Selling art to consumers is a tough industry to compete in. It's not enough to paint, draw, or photograph well – you have to know marketing in order to sell art. And it can be hard for artists with no formal art education or art-world connections to break into the business. But, if a “Candy Corn Butt Plug” design can sell over on Nonbeenary Designs, then your art can definitely sell. Here are a few ideas about why your art doesn't sell, and what you can do to fix it.
Art doesn't sell itself — marketing is key to a successful art business. Your art doesn't even have to be that good if your marketing is on point. People will buy literally anything.
Problem #1: Art Doesn't Sell When It Doesn't Tell (A Story)
If you're getting your art in front of buyers, and they're just not clicking to buy, then the problem, unfortunately, might be the art itself. I'm not speaking about that brush stroke that you just couldn't get right, but more – the concept. People buy art when it makes them feel something. It could be:
- Excitement because they think a friend would love it
- Makes them feel seen or heard in one of their identities
- Rouses emotions like sadness, happiness, or wonder
The art you're making has to evoke some kind of emotion or memory in them. If art just doesn't tell a story, then it just won't sell.
Problem #2: Art Doesn't Sell When There's Not Enough Exposure
You can read as many art marketing e-books as you want, but the only way to get better at marketing is do actually do the thing. You need to be able to get your art in front of buyers who are willing to make the purchase. Art doesn't sell when it's not seen.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the key to getting your art in front of buyers online. Your specific strategy will depend on where you're selling, but the basics of SEO are simple: you want your art to pop up when customers search the “right” terms.
Search terms are a trade-off. If you go for really generic terms, you're going to have a lot of competition. If you go for super specific terms, no one will search that and your art won't show up. You have to find a happy medium, and it takes experimentation. Using analytics tools on your platform: Etsy, Google, and social media – can all help you narrow down the best search terms.
The most important thing to do with SEO for art is to just keep experimenting and tweaking. That's the only way to optimize.
Problem #3: Art Doesn't Sell When The Price Isn't Right
Pricing is a huge issue in online marketplaces. Let's say you sell bear stickers. They're adorable – everyone knows it. The problem? You're selling them for twice what your competitors are. Your brand isn't that strong, and your designs aren't twice as cute as your competitors. The result? Your potential customer goes somewhere else.
The problem with pricing against your competitors is that your costs are different than your competitors. So, don't let it be a race to the bottom in the art market. Just make sure that your designs are distinct enough, and your brand provides enough value, to justify your price. You can make extra value in many ways: freebies, shipping or processing time, loyalty programs, or even a strong social media presence.
And remember, when you create art at home, it is going to cut down on costs. You can do things like invest in a printer, laser cutter, or other tools to help you scale your business.
You can also charge extra for art that's a bit more complicated to make. For example, a lettering artist could justify charging more for one-of-a-kind art by putting it in a frame, charging for the extra time, or personalizing the order in some way. Other artists may do it differently – you can always ask!
Helping Your Art Sell
So if selling your own art is a little slow, don't worry. You can work on these three problems to improve your art sales.
Here's a checklist for art that doesn't sell
- Does my art tell a story?
- Am I putting my art in front of the right people?
- Is my art priced to sell?
If you can check all three boxes, then be sure to just keep on creating, tweaking, and you'll get there. At some point, it's just a numbers game. Don't give up on your ability to sell anymore. You'll see success soon.
Should I go to art school?
Only if you want. Your art career isn't really dependent on whether or not you have an art degree. It's dependent on your ability to sell your art to people who are buying. Many artists are self taught, and they just know their target audience, be it gallery owners or craft fair shoppers.