If I were going to work with an artist to help them get their first sale, and they had nothing, this is what I would do:
Create Something to Sell – take a high quality picture of your work. It should be a high resolution image taken with good lighting, in a flattering way. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a professional photographer do it. A quality picture with your point and shoot digital camera will do.
Build A Place to Sell It – You need a website of some kind to sell your work online. You can put up an artist website with WordPress in 10 minutes, or you can use whatever else you like. Put up the picture of what you want to sell and some personal information about who you are. Bonus points: leave the Artist Statement for later.
Offer an Email Newsletter – you don’t have to write anything yet, just put up a sign up form on the front page of the website. Mailchimp will allow you to do this for free.
Tell Your Story – This can be really simple. Write 3 – 6 blog posts about who you are, what the piece of art is that you hope to sell, and your inspiration for creating it. These posts can be as simple as 2 – 3 paragraphs. Here’s the important part: within each post, tell your audience that you are going to offer the pretty piece of art for sale at a certain time, probably about two weeks out. Tell them that you will email them to let them know when it goes on sale, so they have to sign up for the email list.
Share Your Story – Share your blog posts on Facebook with your friends and family. Share them on Twitter. If anyone comments or shares the posts, thank them and answer their questions. Be sociable.
Set Up Your Purchasing Mechanism – You will need to decide on a merchant service provider in order to accept online payments. There are many options to choose from. Paypal is a provider that most people are familiar with. It can be as simple as a Paypal button on the site next to the picture. You’ll need to log in to your Paypal account click on Merchant Services, then Buy Now buttons. Follow the instructions for creating a button and then pasting that button into your site.
Invite Your Audience to Buy Your Work – At the time that you told everyone you would, send an email out to your list letting them know that your new work is up for sale. Use your free Mailchimp account to format the email, but don’t go crazy with the HTML. A simple, eye catching header is enough, and the rest can be plain text. Make a solid invite, without being too preachy. Just say something like, “Hey [INSERT THEIR NAME HERE], I wanted you to know that [NAME OF YOUR PIECE] is up for sale on the website now. I only made one, and it’s first come first serve, so grab it right now if you want it!”
Voila. You just made your first sale. It took (maybe) two weeks.
Still Need Help?
Have you been doing something similar to this, but aren’t getting the results? Are you stuck? Over at The Abundant Artist Community, we will be hosting a challenge to help you land that first online sale. If you want to get serious about making that first sale (or about growing your art business into something much bigger), then join the Community and we’ll help you get there.
I’d love to hear from those who have made their first sale online – how did you do it?