How to make your passion for art pay


By: Margaret McCarty

 

Starving artists can now use the internet to put food on their tables. No longer is their fan base restricted to their local population. Instead, anyone with internet access becomes a potential customer. Creating an online presence is very simple, but utilizing it properly to build up a large fan-base of potential customers will take dedication and consistency.

 

iStockphoto

Of course the easiest way to establish your online art business is to work with an already established company who will do the marketing for you. iStockphoto is the leader of the industry, allowing artists to list their media, photography and design work for sale, royalty-free. Establishing an account is easy and the process is designed to help you become familiar with their website and programs. On the downside, they claim 85 percent of the sale price of products unless you reach the elite “Exclusive Member” status.

Web hosting

Building a website is an option worth considering. URLs are cheap as are many of the web-hosting options available. Unfortunately, the cheaper options also tend to be less user-friendly, so unless you have experience it can be a real investment to create a professional site, both of time and money. On the plus side, hosting your own site allows for customization of the brand you create and the experiences of the customers.

Online art gallery: the easier way

Creating an online gallery is the easiest option for time-strapped ganjapreneurs. It’s faster, simpler and generally cheaper than hosting your own website. Many such services are free or relatively inexpensive, but picking one should be done carefully as they each offer unique features. On top of allowing an artist to sell goods, the various features include blogging, user portals optimized for easy use and navigation, interaction with customers, page-view tracking, and easy connection with social media sites. Be prepared to make a few concessions in order to have the features most important to you. Two good options we found are deviantart.com and Yessi.com.

Deviantart.com

Deviantart.com allows artists from a wide range of genres to upload and sell their artwork, which the site calls “deviations.” They accept work from 21 unique categories including Fine Art, Photography, Motion Books, and Cartoons & Comics. Artists simply create a personalized profile which can be customized with numerous widgets including journaling, featuring specific pieces of artwork, polling visitors to your profile, and displaying who has visited your profile. Potential customers can also interact with artists by leaving comments on pages and creating a list of their “favorites.”  All this comes with the free membership. For $4.95 per month or $29.95 for a year, artists gain access to new features such as ad-free browsing, custom journal designs, extra storage space for displaying more artwork and extra widgets, among others.

Yessy.com

Yessy.com allows artists to list unlimited pieces of art with an annual membership of $59. Yessy.com charges a 10 percent commission on all sales. The site comes with few frills and whistles on top of handling the processing of orders and transfer of funds, a personalized biography page, a contact page and a feedback system where potential buyers can offer critique of your offerings. But if their claim that the “Average artist on Yessy receives several thousand hits per month and you can view your statistics at any time” is true, your sales could skyrocket.

Other options:

Behance.net and Prosite.com

Behance.net is an online networking tool which allows artists to not only search for related jobs, but will also help to build their portfolio. In many ways it is comparable to Linkedln. Artists can add information about their work experience, artwork and personal information. For a more personalized touch, artists can create a unique website through ProSite which they can link to Behance.net, online art stores, and social media sites. For $11 a month or $99 a year, artists can create a custom website using the user-friendly software ProsSite provides. They offer a vast array of layout options,  and templates, allowing for a completely customized website for attracting and interacting with customers.

Getting started

Once the decision on where has been made, the how is pretty simple. Basic information is required to create a personal profile. Then the fun begins. Spending time customizing your profile and online store is important. Good first impressions are crucial to your success. Potential customers will likely spend mere seconds checking out a site before deciding whether or not to keep looking. So put your artistic talents to work so your page represents your personality, tastes and talents.

Social media marketing

Once an online presence has been established, it’s time to connect with customers. The beauty of being online is… so is everyone else! For this very reason, social media marketing is taking over. It is a proven, cost-effective strategy for building on your already established connections to create a whole new market for your materials.

Options

Many online media can be utilized in your quest for expanding your customer base, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram, just to name a few. Each has unique benefits and drawbacks but could be useful depending on your exact goals and target customer. No matter which site(s) you use, there are some important considerations to keep in mind as you build your online presence.  

Establishing yourself

Establishing your social media profiles are just as important as creating your online store, perhaps even more so. It will be what most of your potential customers base their first impression upon and, as noted earlier, a good first impression is critical. So spend time customizing your accounts and learning about the features of the sites you want to use for social media marketing.  

Your online presence

Maintaining an online presence consistently is crucial. It is very easy to put off your social media marketing, but potential customers are only going to see you if you are actively and correctly using the tools are your disposal. Be careful to tow the fine line of posting enough to make sure you stay at the top of people’s feeds, but not so frequently that they feel spammed and start mentally zoning out when they see another post from you. Likewise, keep posts engaging. Keep strictly personal posts, like those we all make about what we ate for dinner or the cool spot we found while walking our dog, to a minimum. With every post, try to convey a message which is relevant to your potential customers or conveys information that helps them grasp who you are as an artist. You could discuss your artistic influences, breaking news in your community, new techniques you are learning, or fun facts. The topics you could choose are endless, just keep it professional, humorous and engaging.

Consistency

Scheduling your posts in advance helps ensure consistent posting and allows even the busiest ganjapreneurs to maintain a consistent social media marketing schedule. Many social media sites allow for prior scheduling of posts for free. There are also online tools which will do the same and more for a fee, such as www.sproutsocial.com.

Engaging

Consistent posting of relevant, interesting material is not enough. The goal of social media marketing is to actively engage your customers so you build a relationship with them and have them help you expand your potential customer base. Every time someone likes, shares or comments on a post, their friends know it and might just decide to check you out. So keep in mind that research shows shorter posts have a much higher chance of actually being read, and those with graphics get seen, liked, commented on, etc. at significantly higher rates. Asking questions encourages interaction, and posts that have a call to action, such as “please like my page,” “check out my newest piece of art” or blog, are effective strategies to engage people online. Be sure to frequently post links to your online gallery or website. Fun fact: When posting a picture on many online platforms, if you include a URL in the description or related post, the link will stay with it and be seen by countless other potential customers.

Branching out

Another important step is joining and interacting in online groups and/or forums which have a large number of individuals who might be interested in your artwork. This will allow you to network, attract attention from potential customers and learn more about the trends and topics of interest within the industry.

Conclusion:

Setting up an online art gallery is inexpensive and simple. Research your options, pick the one which you like the most, and spend some time making it represent your artistic abilities. Then the hard part comes. Driving traffic to your site is harder, but possible to do cheaply using social media marketing. Once again, weigh your options, develop a plan for reaching out to new customers and engaging those you meet and follow it consistently. Although your sales might be slow to begin with, the bottom line is sales is a numbers game. If you are good at what you do, people will want a part of it. It’s just a matter of finding the right people. And with abundant and free social media marketing options, potential customers are awaiting around the world. You just have to make the connection.

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