Making Art Sales in a Changing World

by Carolyn Edlund

Are your current art sales falling short of your goals? In a changing world, artists must be proactive about alternative ways to sell.




2020 is shaping up to be a difficult year for many artists who have lost opportunities to sell at live events, art fairs, festivals, open studios, or gallery exhibitions. The list of cancellations and postponements seems endless, and event planners are finding it almost impossible to set future dates. These difficulties force artists to get creative in their approach to marketing and sales. Luckily, creative thinking is squarely in the artist’s wheelhouse.

With a pandemic raging, the internet is the place to be to promote your work and encourage art sales. Technology has been pushing us to do business online for years. Artists who have an existing virtual presence are better positioned to take advantage of this change without too much difficulty. But it takes thoughtful planning to get the most out of the existing climate and connect with buyers who are ready to purchase now. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Our industry has changed forever, and there is no going back to the old ways of doing business. Even traditional selling models will have to develop virtual components—or fail.

Are you using any of the following strategies?

Polish Your Artist Website

Your art website is the best place to showcase what you do, since you control content and presentation. Design it to display your art beautifully with stunning images and plenty of them. If your website isn’t ready for prime time, your sales will suffer. Does your About page share a compelling story? Do you provide information for shoppers about your art and how to purchase it, including terms and policies? Do you have prices listed and a shopping cart? If your answer to any of those questions is no, it is likely there is “friction” on your site that is preventing sales rather than encouraging them.

Get Comfortable with Video

Anyone with a smartphone or computer can make videos. Present a collection of your work and tell your story authentically to reach your audience most effectively. Online tools like Lumen5 are useful for this purpose.

Then, place your video content in multiple places, such as your website and social media profiles. YouTube is a massive platform filled with videos of all types—and as the second-biggest search engine in the world, it’s an excellent place to start. Many artists who teach have switched over from live workshops to video lessons on YouTube with very positive results. Videos are perfect vehicles for Instagram Stories and are also the format for Facebook Live. Sales can literally be made directly on these platforms.

If you’re camera shy, or fear that you don’t take a good photo, it could be slowing you down. Resolve to get past that hesitation. Start now by making a video about yourself and your work, then share and gauge the results. It gets easier over time, and you will most likely be glad you took the first step.

Consider Online Sales Venues

Want to place your art in an online gallery or marketplace? Interested in virtual auctions? Curious about print-on-demand? Intrigued by licensing opportunities? Looking for a gig? Expand your mind and your earning opportunities by visiting our directory of 250+ Places to Sell Art Online which is filled with options for artists who want to take advantage of online sales channels. Many of them can help you leverage your artwork and drive income.

Keep Galleries and Events on Your Radar

Galleries may have closed, but they are finding alternative ways to reopen. Fairs have been postponed, but promoters are working intently to find ways to bring visitors into physical venues safely to browse and shop. Additionally, they are making the commitment to present events virtually and plan to do so into the future. Online event platforms are springing up to serve this need.

At this point, promoters are finding that the number of artists applying to virtual shows is lagging; they are typically getting about 50% of their usual pool of applicants. This presents a huge opportunity for artists who want to get into top fairs and festivals where space may now be available for new blood. Meanwhile, artists who lack a comfort level with this model may fall behind.

Commit to New Ways of Doing Business

As the world adjusts to a “new normal” we won’t revert to pre-COVID ways of doing business. Like many other industries, the art world is in transition, and artists can benefit from this. New hybrid ways of earning have developed that take advantage of both in-person and online venues. This will have a stabilizing effect, diversifying income and adding streams of income to help artists survive and thrive.

Have you made fundamental changes to your own art business? Has this been successful?


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  1. Hi, just wanted to let you know the galleries I’m in are alive and well–thriving in fact. 2020 has already been my best year for sales ever, and people are buying art in galleries and via Instagram.
    Thanks for your informative articles.

    • That’s outstanding news, Rani! I’ve spoken to many artists who are thriving, and others who have experienced no sales. The ones who are selling are focused online, of course. It’s important for our industry that galleries continue to exist, which is a challenge. I’m glad to hear that yours has done well.

  2. Hi Carolyn
    Here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina we have a lot of galleries that are thriving even throughout Covid. Artist I know are using galleries online and in their naborhoods. As a fine art photographer I leave know stone uncovered.
    Regards, David Cochran, Light Through Glass

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