You’ve made the decision to start selling your art online. Congrats! But where to begin? Head on over to Google and punch in the search term “online art gallery.” You think this will be a good place to start, but now have the misfortune of sifting through 363,000,000 search results in the hopes of finding an online gallery that meets your needs. By our last count here at TAA, there are over 300 websites that specifically sell original art online.
Things are obviously boomin’ in the online art world. New (and younger) buyers are emerging as viable art collectors for the first time in years as prices and options such as limited edition prints are becoming more readily available. It’s a trend that’s been particularly driven by the sheer volume of online art websites that include the ubiquitous Etsy but now also encompasses world-renowned leaders like Saatchi and Christie’s.
We recently chatted with Jonas Almgren (CEO at Artfinder.com), Nicolas Sarazin (CEO at ArtMajeur.com), and Alex Farkas (Gallery Director and Co-Founder of UGallery.com) to learn more about how they operate. You’ll find some helpful and exclusive advice from them below.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH COMMISSIONS?
The commission structure is determined by four main factors:
- the level of service
- the amount of curation
- the reputation
- the roster of clients of the gallery.
For uncurated open marketplace sites (think Etsy), the company is relatively hands-off, charging a low commission or a small listing fee. The marketplace sites are often crowded and an artist’s work can often get lost. In this case, the artist will need to market their portfolio to generate sales and fulfill the orders themselves. Frankly, it’s a good idea for artists to do this no matter which sites they’re on.
According to Alex at UGallery, for premier curated online art galleries, their role is the same as a brick and mortar gallery. They will help prepare your work, which includes setting prices, posting photos, and writing descriptions of the work and a biography about the artist. They will merchandise the art on the site, adding it to collections and featuring it where possible. If the gallery is curated, they will ensure your work is unique relative to the other artists it represents. They will also advertise on your behalf so your work has visibility to a growing set of clients.
A site like Artfinder sets their commission at 30-percent, enabling them to promote their artists online and offline; recruit new potential buyers (they have 350,000 members); give special promotions like free shipping weekends; and offer free returns at no cost to the artists. On the other hand, a site like Artmajeur only charges a nominal commission on free accounts, but cancels this out when an artist pays for a monthly subscription. How much a site pays out to an artist truly varies from one end of the spectrum such as 20-percent (DeviantArt) to 100-percent on a site like Artplode because they charge no commission.
At the end of the day, Alex at UGallery told us, “The key question to ask is how much you want to do yourself versus outsource to a gallery in terms of merchandising, marketing, and fulfillment. If you’re unsure, my recommendation is to try two or three websites and see which channel is the most profitable for you.”
HOW DO I KNOW AN ONLINE GALLERY IS REPUTABLE?
Wading through the volume of online galleries can get overwhelming, so how do you figure out which ones are worth your time and money? Based on our conversations with the founders of these three sites, they recommended that artists look at factors like longevity (how long has the site been around?), membership size, and artist reviews to help in the decision making process.
Jonas/Artfinder: I would look at how long the gallery has been around; how many users/members the gallery has; and customer reviews. For example, in the past six months, Artfinder has received over 2,500 reviews of which 94 give the artist and Artfinder top marks for order experience. Those kinds of results speak well for a quality site. I would also check in with artists selling through the gallery to see what their experience is as sellers. We offer an artist forum that allows artists to share their experiences and tips.
Alex/UGallery: There are a few sources to check out when researching online galleries.
- First, do a Google search for some common keywords – online art gallery, buy art online, etc. – and see if the gallery advertises or appears in the search results. Clients are Googling these same things, so you want to make sure you’re represented by a gallery established enough to appear in a client’s research.
- Second, look through lists of the best online art galleries such as Apartment Therapy’s list or Emily Henderson’s list. TAA Note: You can sign up for our Members-Only Resources to get a full list of all online art galleries with information on search rankings, approximate traffic, and other site stats.
- Third, browse the gallery’s website. Often you can tell a lot just by looking through the site. See if the art looks high quality and is merchandised well, and what the shopping experience for a client would be like. Also, see how often they update their inventory or their blog – you want to find an online art gallery that is active and up-to-date. Lastly, browse the gallery’s press page to see if they have earned notable press in the past few months.
HOW’S SHIPPING HANDLED?
Shipping is handled in a variety of ways, depending on the online venue you choose. For most marketplace sites like Etsy, shipping must be fulfilled by the artist. The artist is responsible for buying the packing materials, packaging the work, and dropping the piece off at local shipping center. The artist also will typically pay for the shipping, which means they have to estimate the costs up front so they know how much to charge the client. For full-service online art galleries, shipping is handled by the gallery.
Jonas/Artfinder: At Artfinder, the shipping is the responsibility of the artist. The artists set the shipping costs when they upload an artwork to their Artfinder store. The buyer is charged for shipping, and the artist is reimbursed by us. We offer advice and support when necessary, and handle all shipping arrangements if an artwork is returned for any reason.
Nicolas/Artmajeur: We provide shipping service. The shipping cost is registered on Artmajeur by the artist for a region or a country. The buyer is in contact with the artist and negotiates shipping directly with them. For the print product, we have different worldwide partners with a worldwide distribution.
Alex/UGallery: At UGallery, we send the artist a professional art box that is custom sized for the specific piece. The box contains foam layers rather than peanuts to protect the art. An artist prints the pre-paid shipping label from their UGallery account, so there is no need to pay for or estimate shipping expenses. It only takes a couple minutes and a few pieces of tape to package and ship artwork. We also coordinate freight shipping on behalf of artists for larger pieces.
HOW DO ONLINE GALLERIES SUPPORT ARTISTS?
How do online galleries help support their artist base? Offline and online galleries have a similar goal: get qualified buyers to view your art. While brick and mortar galleries often rely on more traditional methods, online galleries do most of this by driving traffic from search engines, blogs, and social media sites to their website. These sites also offer tools and resources that educate artists and help them promote and sell their work as well.
Alex/UGallery: At UGallery, we advertise through search engines (Google, Bing), social media channels, and online magazines. If a prospective client searches for an artist’s name or where to buy art online, a UGallery ad will appear in the search results. An online gallery also seeks placement in the press to bring more visitors to the site. Lastly, an online gallery typically has a robust email program to send marketing updates to its following – from new listings to promotions to blog content. Each online gallery has a different approach to marketing, but fundamentally they all invest in bringing new clients to their site every day.
Nicolas/Artmajeur: Artmajeur has developed a lot of tools for artists to help them sell their art. Our platform is available in 12 languages, and we can see from our statistics that artists and collectors appreciate and use the platform in their mother tongue for buying art. We also offer a lot of services free or charged to help them promote their art. We have created the possibility to follow an artist and comment on their pictures. Everybody can create their own collection with the art they love and share the artworks they love on social media. One of our biggest goals is to make art more accessible to everybody thanks to the internet, and help all artists to sell and promote their art.
Think of an online gallery as a business partner. They want to succeed, and have developed tools and put a lot of money into play to make sure that happens. That means your success is their success. Doing your research based on the factors and advice you’ve learned in this post will go a long way toward ensuring a measure of success with an online gallery. The biggest gripe we hear from artists is that they sign up for one of these sites and don’t get any sales. Remember, at the end of the day it’s still up to you to spend time promoting your work and making sure it gets seen by your target audience. Creating your own website, blogging, building an email list, sending out a newsletter, and consistently posting to social media will not only help your business succeed overall, but will also ensure you get sales on third-party sites as well.
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