How to Start Promoting and Selling Your Art
Quite often, emerging artists ask me for advice about how to get their art out there into the world. It can be overwhelming to find your way and it requires a LOT of hustle. But I definitely believe that there is room for everyone, and even with the seemingly limitless amount of incredible artwork out there, it is still possible to find opportunities to show and sell your own work. Here are a few tips on how to get started:
Design a Personal Art Website
This is absolutely mission critical. Your must have a presence online!! But don't panic. It is actually super easy and even FREE. There are a lot of template website services out there but my favorite is Weebly.com. It's free to start and it's sooooo easy and intuitive to use.
The one thing that I think is worth upgrading and paying for, however, is a personalized url, (ideally it should be your name.com). I recommend godaddy.com for this, just because it's what I used like 9 years ago and I haven't tried anything else. But they make it super easy to link that url to your weebly site once it's registered, and it's a lot cheaper than getting your url through weebly.
A lot of artists open an Etsy site and wait for the sales to roll in the next day. I was no different. The problem is, Etsy is SATURATED with sellers. I opened my Etsy site and it took over a year before someone (who I didn't know) bought something from me. Etsy is a great way to connect with buyers who already know about you and are interested in your work, but you have to find those people yourself. Most likely, just listing your stuff on Etsy alone will not do this for you, and you can't expect it to.
Online Art Product Sites
I'm not sure what these are called exactly, but basically they are sites where you upload a high resolution file of your art, and the company prints and ships your work to customers, and takes a cut of the profit. They will print your work as traditional prints, but also as various products. You can see my Society6 shop here.
Another popular site is Fine Art America. Again, don't expect your work to just magically sell, you still have to find buyers yourself!
My understanding of how to sell art really opened up once I started doing craft fairs. There are several in Austin you can apply for, including Craftriot, Renegade (although it's very highly curated and features sellers from across the nation), and Christmas markets like The Blue Genie Art Bazar. You can also pay to set up a table of your work at a farmers market, or flea markets around town.
The benefit to these markets is that you actually meet people who are interested in buying artwork or related products. Unlike Etsy, where no one can find you, hundreds (or even thousands) of people who attend a craft fair will browse by your work, which will give you the opportunity to connect with real people who like your art!
I have been in a few galleries, but I was always solicited by gallery owners or friends. There is a whole art to how you are supposed to prepare and share your portfolio, so maybe just try googling for a better resource than me.:)
I have shown my work at dozens of coffee houses and eateries over the years, mostly when I was younger and establishing myself. I would say keep your expectations very low for this kind of a setting. I have sold work, but I think most coffee house patrons are mildly oblivious to the work on the walls.
If you have a cafe in mind, first check their website for info, and if there is nothing there, you can call. They will need to see your work, so luckily by now you will have a beautiful website to direct them to.
A great thing to do to get your work out there, once you have your awesome website, is to send your work to blogs who you think will connect with your style. Ideally these blogs will want to use some of your work as part of a curated post.
There are a zillion lifestyle and fashion blogs out there. Once you find one you like, see if they have directions on how to solicit them. In any case, you should always be complimentary about their blog and say (very briefly) why you think your work will fit with their blog. You might even suggest a "give-away" if you have a print or something you can give to the blog's readers.
Several years ago, I designed a print inspired by a rug I bought at West Elm. I snail mailed them pictures (!) and they were thrilled. They made two blog posts about my work, and eventually connected me with another blogger, Camille Styles, who then invited me to a show she curated of Etsy sellers at the West Elm store in Austin. So you never know where your efforts will lead!
It's important that you do not get discouraged. It's inevitable sometimes; artists face A LOT of rejection. It's going to happen! But you have to remember that you are the one who has to find opportunities for yourself. Each opportunity will lead to something else, even things that are seemingly small.
Work hard, create great art, and then get it out there however possible! With time you will start to connect with opportunities you never imagined. Wishing you the Best!
Check out this book: Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon. This book will give you everything you need to know to start your art career from scratch.
If you are interested in making products, writing kids books, designing textile patterns etc. there are some excellent courses you can take through Lilla Rogers called Make Art That Sells.