A question I get asked A LOT is “Can you sell art on Instagram without a website?” or “Can I just sell art on social media? Do I really need a website?”. My answer to that is always very, very straight. You definitely, in the longer term, need your own website.
It’s absolutely fine to start out selling art on social media, because it’s a very easy, quick and free way of testing whether what you’re creating is desirable to your audience. You don’t want to hinge your entire business on selling just on social media. And here’s why.
I’ve known lots of people (artists and outside of the industry) who have big accounts on social media and build their entire business on it – even some coaches advise you to do that as well. Essentially though you’re putting all your eggs into that one basket, but you don’t own that space on social media. It’s only rented space. Your account can get hacked really easily. I’ve seen it more and more frequently lately. Imagine working really hard and spending hours building up 25,000 or 35,000 followers, and then all of a sudden one morning you wake up and you can’t get into your account. Nightmare! All that work = gone.
If you’ve only built your business on that, and you don’t have an email list of those contacts you have no way of getting in touch with them. You have to start from ground zero again and you basically have no business whatsoever. I don’t like the thought of that. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like to put that much effort and hard work into it and find yourself in the same situation.
The social media platforms also change their algorithm and what kind of things they feature – they can change anything at all. Basically you are at their mercy and have to dance to their tune. It’s very similar with third party selling sites, in my opinion, as well.
We want to be in control of our business and our assets.
If you have a website, and you have an email list, nobody can take those away from you. Yes, of course, people can unsubscribe, but if they do, that’s absolutely fine. We don’t want anybody on our email list that doesn’t want to be there! But at least when you have an offer to make, you have something to sell, or you want to just give some value to your audience, you are in complete control of when you contact them and how you contact them.
On social media, you’ve probably noticed when you put a post out, it can be shown to a small percentage of your audience and then whatever platform it is decides whether it was interesting enough to push it out to more people. You can have built your followers up to 1000 but the platform will only show your posts to 50 of them initially. That’s just no great way of doing business.
Platforms like Etsy and Instagram and Facebook and all those things really valuable if you’re wanting to put the time into them, but they should be in addition to your main website and everything we do feeds back to that main website.
So my advice, is to sell art on social media in the short term and use it alongside your own website as another way of bringing in awareness and bringing in new customers to your business.
Ultimately, we’d like to get them away from social media onto our email list where it’s easier to nurture them and build relationships and offer value to them.
So if you build your business the right way, on proper foundations, it will only get stronger and stronger over time. If you do the quick and easy way, thinking “it’s a bit easier to sell art on social media, I don’t have the cost of a website, I don’t have to maintain it”, then you’re building very weak foundations.
Another thing to consider is the customer’s point of view. As a customer, I want to go somewhere where I can see all of your work together really beautifully displayed with descriptions, with sizes and with a little bit of a bio about the artist. It’s almost like your portfolio, but I can buy there. At the same time on social media, if I’ve seen a piece that I like and then I want to go back to it, you have to scroll down and find where that piece was in the feed. This can cause friction in the buying process between you and the customer which is one thing we never ever want to do. If you want to sell art, you don’t want to make it difficult for your customers.
So, by all means, start selling art on social media. Test the waters. If you have new products, launch it on social media. It’s a great way of finding out what is resonating with your audience, but ultimately we want to build our own website and we want to have that email list.
So hopefully that was helpful for you! If you would like more information, have a read of Website Tips for Artists or watch my free masterclass which will give you 4 simple steps to make money from your art. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I share more tips and advice for artists.