Ideas on how to make a living as an artist
Based on the survey posted on the LinkedIn group, the number of comments as well as private DMs I think that I have gained a pretty good overview of options that are available for the artists in terms of the 3rd party websites.
List of the reviewed 3rd party websites:
I would like to mention right at the beginning that this is not a scientific study but a blog post where I publish my subjective feelings and impressions.
What does it mean?
If someone shared his or her experience saying that they achieve a steady income then I have to take their word for it. It is not like that I have asked for proof of income for the last 10 years in a form of bank statements.
In addition, a steady income is for some 100 EUR per month while for others it may be 10 000 EUR per month. The blog post represents my subjective interpretation of messages, emails, comments, and discussions I have hold based on the survey.
How do I group the 3rd party websites?
The way I separate 3rd party websites is whether or not the artists can join the platform straightway or if they have to wait for approval. For example Saatich Art and Fine Art America you can join immediately but for Singulart you have to fill an application and wait for approval.
The other aspect is if the artists can do it by themselves or if they have to be represented by a gallery. For example, even for Singulart you can fill the application as an artist but to use Artnet, Artland or Oculart then you have to be represented by a gallery that actually collaborates with the chosen platform.
If the artist has to be represented by such a gallery then I did not include such a platform in my survey at all.
Let´s first start with the large platforms focused on the US market such as Saatchi Art, Singulart, and Fine Art America. Then I will talk about more European-based platforms, non-European ones, and India.
In the end, I mention the small, private, or community-based platforms.
I guess that it comes as no surprise that the most used platform from the poll is Saatchi Art with nearly 70% of the participants having their profile on Saatchi Art. I have received a lot of insightful information that I am happy to share.
A large number of you finds it useful to be on Saatchi Art because of its power on Google ranking, which means if you are on Saatchi Art then you are easier to be found on Google.
Why is it important to be found on Google?
Well, because that is the place where most people go if they want to find something.
Like with everything there are pros and cons to be on Saatchi art. For some the pros are the Google ranking, the fact that Saatchi art collects the payments, otherwise it would be difficult for the artists to receive a payment for their artworks.
For others, it is that the customs paperwork is taken care of by Saatchi art or that if you move as an artist from a continent to another continent and you already have established reputation in one then you don´t have to start from scratch.
Now it is fair to talk about the cons, because of its sheer size many of you feel that Saatchi art is oversaturated and that it is very difficult for an artist to stand out.
I have already spoken of the general Google search results but there are other search results that should be taken into account as the search results within the platform of Saatchi art. Several times it was said that it is very hard to stand out within the search results of Saatchi art because there are so many artists underneath the same keywords.
The Other Art Fair as means to catch the eye
In regards to standing out, a vast number of you spoke of The Other Art Fair organized by Saatchi Art as an efficient way to get noticed. It is an event that is organized on regular basis in many cities across the globe such as Los Angeles, Sydney, Toronto etc., but the disadvantage is that you have to apply for it, then to be selected and you are charged for the participation in the art fair, which means yet another expense.
On the other hand, you can do it as an individual artist and you don´t have to be represented by a gallery.
Coming back to the general cons, many of you mentioned that Saatchi art has recently started to push too much on artists to offer discounts on their artworks and you are not comfortable with this kind of pressure.
Based on the responses I have received, I would say that those who actively participate in Saatchi Art make stable sales but it takes a long time, actually years, to create the steady influx of income.
As I have already mentioned The Other Art Fair is one way to begin. Many of you spent years creating a substantial base of followers, for example, on Redbubble or FB before they joined Saatchi Art while others participating in various competitions or art prizes just to increase awareness about their art practice.
Some of you made the first sale on Saatchi art within weeks after joining the platform but to some it took years.
Overall, I would say it takes a lot of persistence to be a part of Saatchi Art but reasonable results can be achieved.
The pool of artists in Singulart
The second most frequently used platform from my survey with 16% is Singulart. Here the situation is a little bit different because to be able to create a profile here you have to apply for it and wait for a committee to decide whether or not you will be admitted.
The other interesting thing is that majority of you were actually approached by Singulart. So, it looks like they have a very proactive approach in searching for new talents to join their pool.
Several of you have also mentioned that they have received an art agent who takes care of them in terms of communication and promoting their artwork.
In comparison to Saatchi art a great part of you feel that ranking higher in the search of Singulart is easier than in Saatchi art.
Another shared experience is that Singulart puts artists in touch with buyers or collectors that the artists would not normally even consider that they can be interested in their artworks.
That makes the overall experience with Singulart for the artist much better.
Using a different source of data such as Ahrefs I can see that the popularity of Singulart has drastically increased within the last 12 months. Many websites have a steady rise in popularity but Singulart has had a significant jump.
How do I define popularity? Well, apart from my background in Fine Art, I also work in marketing and for the purpose of this article, I define popularity as an increase in the organic traffic, which I can double-check in a paid tool called Ahrefs.
Just for those who are not familiar with the term of organic traffic, it is a number of people searching for specific words (keywords) in Google search on their own.
Getting back to the topic, in terms of the first sales on Singulart it again varies from a couple of weeks up to a year. Nevertheless, I have gained the impression that on Singulart it goes much faster.
Now, I would like to talk about some cons and it looks like that the commission is 50% as opposed to Saatchi Art where the commission is 35%. but adds the shipping costs to the artist price. After publishing my blog post I have received even more clarification on how it works with shipping costs. Local wise, in most cases the art platforms send to the artist´s studio a courier to pick up the artwork, so the artist doesn’t pay for the shipment.
However internationally, it is a completely different story. Whenever it is possible the artists use standard post office services rather than courier because getting approval for additional expenses regarding the courier, which might be up to 3000 USD, is rather difficult and the client might cancel the whole order.
Moreover, it is wise to be aware that platforms are not flexible towards disadvantages well-known by the locals and often disregards them and in many cases make it impossible to sell the artworks on the platforms.
How about platform Fine Art America
The last substantial platform focused on mainly the US market that I mention is Fine Art America but that one was not included in the survey.
The reason was that it is just too big. Based on the organic traffic measuring tool, Ahrefs, it is at least 3x bigger than Saatchi Art. So, if you feel that Saatchi art is overcrowded and hard to be noticed then Fine Art America has to be even more challenging.
Anyway, still I touch on some basic facts. Anyone can register and after the registration, you receive an email that takes you for a tour of the website.
There are features available for the artists including sale channels, marketing & promoting your art. For some of the features, you have to pay extra. I can imagine that it takes weeks to explore the available options but I would say it is convenient for the artists to have it all in one place.
Keep in mind that I am not an artist and I have never uploaded any artwork to be sold, so I am sharing only my first impression.
Saying that to me it looks like a good training ground because they have covered nearly all major ways how to sell and promote your artwork. This way you can find out which approach is the most suitable for you and replicate it on different platforms perhaps of smaller and more intimate nature.
Let's have a look at the smaller platforms
At the end of the list focused on the US market, I would like to write a few lines about some smaller platforms such ugallery.com, artpal.com, gallerima.com, and redwoodartgroup.com.
In the case of Ugallery.com as an artist, you have to fill an application and wait for the approval
The last one Redwoodartgroup.com reminds me of Saatchi Art because this platform also organizes art fairs in various locations such as Miami, NY, etc, and the artists have to apply for the art fairs and pay for exhibiting at the chosen art fair. To join the platform you have to fill seller's application and wait for the approval.
Is it better to sell on giant platforms or to use the smaller ones?
Well, that depends on what is your goal and what sort of experience in selling or not selling your art you already have.
If you are new to selling art then I would say that at least to register on the big ones and going through the resources regarding marketing for artists is beneficial.
On the other hand, if you get easily overwhelmed by the number of options and tools plus you look for something hassle-free then I guess the smaller ones are better for you.
The Situation on the European market
As many of you know I am based in Berlin, Germany, so I was frequently asked about 3rd party art selling platforms dealing with the European art market. Based on my additional research and your comments a few platforms were brought up to my attention. The platforms were mainly located in France, Germany, and the UK.
Here is a selection of the French 3rd party websites selling art online. The biggest one is Artsper.com but as an artist, you have to fill an application and wait for the approval.
Another one with application approval is Kazoart.com. Most of the website is in French and the application regarding joining the platform can be found in the Q&A section but sadly there is no English translation. So, it is a little bit of adventure to find it.
Artmajeur.com is also French, here you can register and upload your artwork straightway but no approval is needed.
While talking about the French territory, I would like to point out a platform Artphotolimited.com which is dedicated only to photography. You can create your profile, upload your photographs and start selling straightway.
The next website concentrating more on photography and prints is Artrepublic.com but that one is located in the UK. To join as an artist/photographer again you have to fill an application, upload your portfolio in a pdf format and wait for approval. The same goes for Artfinder which scored 10% in my poll. The approval might take up to 8 weeks
The German ones are a little bit specific such as Arsmundi.com which is focused on paintings, sculptures, and jewelry replicas but you can apply as an artist. I would assume that they would be looking for a very specific type of artist.
Artmo.com is a newish art community-based platform in Germany where you can sign up as an artist. It looks like that the artist can directly communicate with the buyer or art collectors.
Talking about newish platforms you can have a look at Upncoming.art, which is focused on upcoming talents. The platform is based in Netherlands and artists have to pay monthly membership plus commission on sales.
Speaking of the paid membership, in the comments there was another platform called Artstorefronts.com where you have pay the membership to place your artwork for sale but this one is based in the US.
How is it outside of Europe and the US
Now, I would like to pay attention to some non-European platforms such as Arthive.com which is an alternative focused on the Russian art market and it also offers art apps for artists, gallerists, collectors, and art professionals. The artist can sign up and no application approval is needed.
Mojarto.com is an Indian art selling platform. Any artist can register but there is a non-refundable registration fee of Rs 500 (6 EUR). The same goes for a platform Gallerist.in including the fee. Moreover, it looks like you have a limited number of artworks that you can upload on both of the platforms.
Here is one online platform that introduces Egyptian contemporary artists, Racotis.art, but I do not think that you can apply as an artist. The platform represents the artists and it looks for buyers outside of Egypt.
Types of platforms: - Open or closed platforms which depends if you can apply as an artist or not - User-generated or curated which depends if you have to wait for approval or not - Some requesting fee to join them
Are there any other alternatives?
The last section of the blog post and probably the most interesting one I devote to the alternatives of the large platforms.
What do I mean by the alternatives?
Well, it is something with a little bit different approach such as Turningart.com because here you can apply as an artist and your artwork will be placed into businesses, offices, and real estate. The business is located in Boston, Massachusetts, so I am not sure if they are restricted just to the US market or if they serve worldwide.
Often we could have read in the comment section that artists are tired of the major platforms and that they prefer to focus on their regional community such as a group of Australian ladies centered around a cafe Plunge Forster.
The ladies formed a collective, Bluedustcollective.com.au, and the collective, apart from selling their artworks online, also offers workshops and local art shows.
Here I would like to talk about the Berlin-based platform Artconnect.com., which was founded in 2011. It began as an art blog focused on helping emerging artists navigate the art world and meet new people from the local community.
Since then, ArtConnect has grown organically, becoming the leading platform for artists, curators, art organizations and art lovers to discover and share art and opportunities from around the world.
Inspiration in the community spirit
The whole idea of locally run art platforms and encouraging local artists to take part and sell their artwork online is a great idea.
Each location has different options because the location in Australia can offer different things that a gallery based in Norway like Gallerihuset.com or in Germany Derfeineartshop.com which run by 2 moms on their maternity leave.
4 Tips How To Attract More Visitors to Your Website
Presence on Social Media
The local touch has reminded me of Airbnb Experiences. We all know that Airbnb offers accommodation but before the pandemic, it started to do Airbnb Experiences which was essentially accommodation with a taste of the local culture.
For example, I remember that in Berlin, you could have stayed in a loft of an art studio and later on take a tour in the local art galleries with the artist or participate in a workshop together.
So, this was a way how the artists could help themselves budget-wise and expand their network of people who were interested in their artworks.
Another advantage of using Airbnb is the large scope of potential visitors and it has a dedicated audience seeking cultural engagement.
The cons of Airbnb Experiences are that it was available just in certain locations such as Berlin, Paris, and other places but it is not a universal thing for all locations.
Regarding the local approach of any art gallery or artist studio or art cafe or workshop that has a physical location and wants to attract people to their physical location, I would recommend GMB – Google My Business which is a free tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.
I am leaving out the philosophical question of whether or not you want to be found on Google, I focus on the practical side of our life, which is a steady income to support whatever you like doing. Therefore, you want to be found on Google.
GMB is not complicated and pretty easy to use. You have to fill in your physical address and you will receive a mail via post to verify your location. Once the location is verified you can post for example ads that if there is anyone within a radius of let's say 25 km from your art gallery, studio, or workshop, then they might come to see your art studio or gallery or you will be able to send a push notification and so on.
The third tip on how to make your website visible on Google is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which might sound intimidating but from my point of view, it is necessary especially for new websites and businesses.
SEO marketing is a pretty substantial area in marketing but for our purpose, I will target keywords that I have spoken of earlier on. The keywords are linked to the traffic to your website and it indicates the number of visitors on your website.
Learn more about SEO Marketing for artists and small art businesses at courses of The Art of Selling Art.
As you might have noticed that there were areas which I did not cover. In one of the comments, a kind soul shared a list of 3rd party websites selling art online. Among others, there were websites like Etsy, Shopify, or Amazon.
Honestly, if I do research as a curator for artists then I would not choose to search on either of the three websites mentioned above. I know that we all use Amazon but I use it for books, groceries, and practical stuff than works of art.
However, just to round up the information I will list them here and my impression of them. As alternatives to Etsy are ArtFire.com or Society6.com but that one has a focus on home decor. The website Zazzle.com does product design on T-shirts, mugs, and similar, Redbubble is the same type of website.
The advantage of those websites is a relatively small commission starting at 3% as opposed to Saatchi Art charging a commission of 35% or Oculart with 50%.
Email marketing can do the trick
To be fair, I do not want to dismiss the websites because they can be used as an efficient tactic to gather dedicated followers & clients. In my professional life, I have met people who sign up for such websites just to create a mailing list of people who are curious about their type of artwork.
At first, they started with something practical like prints on bags or home decor stuff, and later on, it was much easier to sell more arty artworks to those people who were already familiar with the artist´s style and are willing to spend their money.
Saying that it is a long-term goal, it took them about 3 years to collect about 2000 emails but they built a dedicated audience which is the goal of any marketing to have a relatively small but truly appreciative audience.
Because if you try speaking to everybody, then you will end up talking to nobody.
Keeping that in mind, Deviantart caters to a very specific audience. I guess that it can a good platform for growing your skills and collecting tips & feedback about your artworks because of all the forums available on the platform. I am not sure how it works with buying or selling the prints via the platform.
Social Media Presence
It has been a while since I published the blog post. There were a lot of comments, debates and I received plenty of private messages, DMs and emails. 'On a number of occasions, I had the opportunity to discuss the blog post face to face with Berlin-based artists who invited me to their studios for a visit.
Based on those conversations I have learned that there is a large proportion of artists who do not know how to start their social media channels or how to advance their existing accounts.
Drawing upon my knowledge and existing practice in online marketing I have altered the current questionnaires that I usually send to my clients before starting a collaboration to fit the needs of artists. Filling the questionnaire helps me to create a strategy for the social media accounts of the artist and it also becomes clear to the artist who is his or her ideal customer.
Learn how to own your online presence The Art of Selling Art by Jason Matias
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I hope that this blog post has the readers helped on their quest how to earn living as an artist. I wish you good luck and a massive thank you to all who left their comments or reply to my messages & emails.
Written by Veronika Hykova
All photos are from Unsplash