In this blog post we’ll go through whether selling art in person is better than selling art online. Does one method get more sales? Which route should you take to sell your art?
In reality, both methods have their pros and their cons.
In person events are fantastic if you’re sociable and you enjoy interacting with customers, getting feedback from them and having conversations with them. In person events are absolutely invaluable if you enjoy this. They’re also great for when you’re first starting out in business, because you can really help get the word out there, because people that know you in person and connect with you are much more likely to buy initially – that’s why our friends and family are often some of the first people to buy from us. Getting those interpersonal relationships going can be really useful.
The flip side of this is that you have to be open to the fact that some comments that people make as they walk past may not be the most polite, while others may be completely gushing and they absolutely love your work. Try to take that feedback with a pinch of salt, but look and listen to what your customers are saying overall. I’m definitely not suggesting that you change direction after just one art show if people say they don’t like one body of work, or preferred another, but over time you’ll start to get a really good feel for what people are looking for from you within your realm of work, rather than you having to change direction completely.
Selling art in person is really invaluable for conversations and the feedback because you can get a really good feel for what people like, what they don’t like as much and what they want going forward.
A downside to selling art in person is that you’re limited to set times and set dates. There’s a lot of set up involved, setting up the exhibition or the show and your stand, travelling to the venue etc which can all be quite time consuming and tiring. Obviously, there’s only so much you can do in a day and only so far you can travel. You’re also susceptible to shows being cancelled (like we’ve experienced over the last couple of years), events not going too well, and the weather and big sporting events can also affect the crowd that turns up.
Selling art online is great if you’re slightly more of an introverted personality, or if you’re painfully shy and the idea of talking to somebody in person about your artwork just brings you out in hives. If this is you, you may be better suited to having a primarily online business. There is still lots of work to do, obviously, and you still have to reach out to customers, you still have to build and nurture relationships with them, but you can do it all from a distance and still keep your headspace.
You can use different sales techniques like print on demand, where you can have very little interaction with customers directly.
Another great benefit of online art sales is that your business is scalable. With in person art sales you’re reliant on the geographical location and the amount of footfall or people willing to travel to the event. Online, we have stopped being local. It’s now possible for us to reach a global audience and we can be very specific about where we put our work or who we put our work in front of, especially using Facebook ads, Google ads, Instagram etc. You can get very specific on these ads platforms, deciding to show artwork to people of x age in x country who have x hobby or interest, all while reaching a global audience. You have an online business and using things like print on demand, you can scale your business very quickly and to huge numbers.
As an example, if you are using print on demand and you have the system set up properly in your business (and this is one of the topics we cover in Passion into Profit) you could potentially serve anything between 50 and 500 print orders a day because the systems are taking care of it all for you. The orders are being sent to the printers, the work is getting sent from the printers, wrapped beautifully and sent out to the customer direct. You don’t have to physically wrap it, take it to the post office, send all those emails manually etc. That manual system isn’t scalable. The online system, once you have the systems in place, is infinitely scalable.
There are pros and cons to each approach, whether it be selling art online or selling art in person. The ideal solution is to have a blended approach of the two, especially in the early days. You can raise awareness of your online presence by doing in person events and this can work really beautifully.
It can be hard to decide whether to sell your work in person, online only or a mixture of both. What is your personality type? Do you like being sociable? Do you like going to events, setting up, chatting with people and getting that feedback direct? Or does the thought of this make you want to run and hide?
Another thing to think about is your work, and the way you’re set up in business. Using the print on demand example, this is much more suited to an online business. It’s all geared up to work coherently and systematically with your website, creating a really smooth process. If you are offering commissions or public installations, of course you’re going to want to deal with the public. You’re going to have to plan briefs to work with for commissions, and you may have to meet your clients. You can do it via Zoom but sometimes these things work better if you’re doing them in person.
So think about your personality type and think about the kind of work that you enjoy creating. What do you enjoy putting out there? You can then decide what the best approach is for you in terms of marrying the two approaches to sales, or choosing between them.
One final note. If you do have an online art business and you’re reliant on sales of art from your website only, please don’t think you don’t have to put as much work in as people who turn up and do shows because you really do. Having a website is just a tool. It’s like opening a shop, a brand new shop down a back street in a town – no one knows it’s there. You have to draw people in from the high street around the corner to your shop. You have to tell them what you know, what’s there, why it’s beneficial for them to come and see it, and what they can gain from it.
You have to give them a reason to come. You can’t just say “Oh, I’ve launched a new website which is amazing, come and have a look”. If someone is scrolling Facebook or Instagram, they’re busy. What reason do they have for visiting your new website? Should they go and check it out?
Your art business still requires work, whether you do it all online or in person and anybody who tells you it doesn’t isn’t being truthful. Any business that’s built properly requires work and input from you, especially in the early days when the wheels start to turn. It gets a lot easier and it can start to drive itself almost, but in the early days it does take a lot of work.
If you would like more information, I have a free Masterclass which will show you 4 Simple Steps to Creating Consistent Art Sales. Also in that video, I go into the three biggest mistakes a lot of artists make which actually stop them making sales. Come and join the masterclass now.