How To Choose Which Platform To Use To Sell Your Art Prints (#SellYourArt Series)

As many of you know, in December of 2015 I decided I wanted to do a yearlong project where I would create and sell a piece of art every day of 2016.

When I started the process of researching how to turn this #AbstractAffirmationsDaily art project into prints, I was incredibly surprised to find that there is a staggering lack of information out there on how artists have been able to turn their creations into tangible, sellable items.

Trade secrets, perhaps? I don’t know.

What I do know is that many of you out there are creative people with an interest in making money doing what you love. (And I'm of the opinion that the world is a better place when more people are able to make money doing what they love.)

That's why I want to offer this ongoing blog series, #SellYourArt. (Simple and to the point, yes?)

Throughout this series, my hope is to pull back the curtain a bit using my own experiences and report back on what I’m learning as I work toward selling prints of my artwork in the Made Vibrant Art Shop. Maybe it’ll help some of you take the plunge and start selling your art too!

Here are a few articles you can expect in the #SellYourArt series:

+ How to choose which platform to use to sell your art
+ How to estimate your business costs to see if your project is financially viable
+ How to choosing a printing method for your art prints
+ How to launch your shop using pre-orders

Let me just reiterate: I'm learning all of this for the very first time! I'm sure there are some of you out there that have experience selling your art online, and I hope we can start a helpful dialogue in the comments so that more makers out there will feel confident in getting their art out into the world and making it a financially sustainable part of their lives.

Now, on to the info! 

Last week I shared with you the launch of the Abstract Affirmations blog feed  to house each daily art piece and post.

The purpose of that was both personal -- I wanted a place to see the entire collection together -- and strategic -- it’s important to build visibility and buzz for your work if you want to create enough demand to make money from a shop.

In this post though, I want to share with you the first few steps I took in the journey to launching the Art Shop, beginning with figuring out what platform to use to host my shop and handle the printing/order fulfillment of my art prints.


Step 1:

Determine how you want to sell, print & ship your art prints.

Based on my limited consumer knowledge, I saw my options for selling my art falling into three slightly different buckets:

  1. Use a third-party creative marketplace to handle printing & fulfillment shipping. (Included in this bucket are sites like Society6, RedBubble, Zazzle and FineArtAmerica. With these sites you simply upload your artwork and the service prints it on a number of different product options.)
  2. Use a third-party “store” to sell but handle printing & fulfillment/shipping myself. (Includes sites like Etsy and StoreEnvy.)
  3. Handle everything through my site and do the printing & fulfillment/shipping myself.

As I considered each option, I saw definite benefits and drawbacks to each, which I’ll list out for you here:

Option 1 

Third-party marketplace (ex. Society6, RedBubble, FineArtAmerica, Zazzle, Printful.)

Pros:

  • Low time investment. This option requires the least amount of time/effort investment by far. All I would have to do is upload my artwork, set my price, and the rest of the process is done for me.
  • Low financial investment. It is also the lowest risk option since the printing is done on-demand and there’s essentially no initial investment (in packaging or printing.)
  • Visibility of an untapped audience. Also, by selling through a marketplace, you get the benefit of additional visibility and discover-ability on that marketplace (yep, made that word up.) Most of these sites make it easy to “discover new artists.”

Cons:

  • No quality assurance/personal touch. Because you remove yourself from the process, using one of these services mean you don’t see or touch the merchandise before it gets shipped. This means you can’t assure there aren’t printing defects or flaws, plus you don’t have the ability to inject your own branding or packaging.
  • Restricted margins. The way that you’re able to make money with these sites is usually that they provide you with a base price for whatever product you want to sell and then you get to set the retail price at whatever you want above that. The third-party keeps the base price amount and you only get to take home your “margin” or whatever you charge on top of the base price. If you want to keep your prices reasonable, this means you might only be making $10-$15 per piece you sell. And because you don’t control how the products are manufactured, there’s no way for you to improve those margins by lowering your costs.

Option 2

Third-party store. (ex. Etsy, StoreEnvy)

Pros:

  • Artist/handmade search engine. That’s pretty much what Etsy is. It’s arguably the most well-known place to shop individual makers, and they have a lot of power in the visibility that can bring. I’ve heard a lot of success stories of artists doing well on Etsy, especially when they can get things off the ground with an existing audience. Basically I see it as a great way to find new customers.

Cons:

  • Pulls focus away from your site. If you’re listing your products on Etsy, your customers are having to go to a whole different sandbox to buy. The brand experience from browsing to checkout is essentially controlled by Etsy. And if you’re a business that relies on other sources of revenue (like myself), you’re essentially sending people AWAY from you, not pulling them toward you.
     

Option 3

Do the whole kit and kaboodle yourself!

Pros:

  • Maximum control. The truth is, I’ve worked really hard to build the Made Vibrant community brick by brick and I want to make sure that I’m able to create the best buying experience possible for customers. I want to see each print as it gets packed and to know that the quality is up to my standards. I want to send a happy note along with every package and to feel connected to the process. I also want to be able to control my costs and have total say in what my margins are so that I can make sure this endeavor is contributing as efficiently as possible to the financial success of my business.

Cons:

  • Largest time, effort and financial investment. This option is by far the most complicated, and I know that. Getting the printing done is a beast all its own, but so is managing orders, handling shipments, and posting products to my website. There are a lot of moving parts, and as of now it’s just myself and my assistant, Laura, taking it on ourselves. The downside of taking on everything yourself is that you risk having it overwhelm your time and other projects you might want to tackle.

______

So, what were the defining factors that led me to Option 3?

Well, as I do with all business decisions, I had to take a step back and ask myself: 

What do I VALUE most?

When it came down to it, I value having maximum control over the buying and shipping experience. I want the entire process to feel like Made Vibrant through and through, from the buying experience to getting your package in the mail. And I’m willing to take on the risks associated with that because I also highly value learning. I know that things are almost guaranteed not to go according to plan but I look forward to facing those challenges and adaption (and sharing every bit of it with you guys!)

I also feel comfortable enough with the audience I’ve built up on my own through this email list and on Instagram that the allure of using a third-party site wasn’t enough to persuade me to take the experience off my website and onto another. If I was an artist just starting out with no audience, I think I’d probably choose Option 1 or Option 2.

Anyway, I hope that helps some of you with the same big looming question I had in the beginning: Which platform do I use?

Of course this was just one decision in a whole string of decisions I had to make when it comes to selling my art, but I look forward to sharing that with you guys in the coming weeks! 

Next up I'll be sharing with you how I estimated my costs and revenue before embarking on this endeavor so I could make sure selling my art was a sound investment of my time and money. 

Side note: thanks to Self-Made Society email subscriber and artist Kristin Cronic for replying back to one of my emails with the RedBubble/FineArtAmerica options which made me realize I should go over these platforms more in-depth! 

Thank you SO SO much for your continued support of my art and of my weekly letters. I love learning new things, but what I love even more is sharing what I learn so other people can benefit!

Until next time!

 
 
 
 

Abstract Affirmations Daily: Week 1 Recap

I'm only a week in, but already the response to the #AbstractAffirmationsDaily project on Instagram has been amazing! Thank you guys for that!

Painting the pieces, choosing the phrases and then sharing what those phrases mean to me in my writing -- every step of the process is so enjoyable to me and I'm just glad that it seems some of these messages are resonating with you. 

My plan is to share a recap post here on the blog each Thursday so that you can see the pieces together and read a week's worth of posts in one place. When the official print shop is open (soon, I hope!) then you'll be able to click through and purchase a limited edition print of your favorite pieces. I also plan to show a different process video each week so you can see the layers that go into each piece.

Click on the pieces below to read more about each affirmation, and you can stay up to date by following along on Instagram here

You can also join the email list, Self-Made Society, to be the first to know when the shop opens and when new pieces are added each week. There will likely only be five prints of each design available so those on the list will get first dibs!

Thank you guys again for supporting my art and for encouraging me as I continue to evolve my work. It means a lot! 

 
 

Introducing Abstract Affirmations: My 2016 Daily Challenge

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of committing to daily challenges.

It all started back in the fall of 2013 when I decided to up my lettering skills by posting a different hand-lettered movie quote every day. 

I was looking for a way to hold myself accountable to consistently creating and devoting time to make things each day. The ultimate goal was to cultivate a daily creativity practice where making was a well-integrated, intentional part of my everyday.

I had no idea how many unintended things would spring forth from that one decision. That one 30-day challenge morphed into a lettering practice on Instagram, which turned into a hand-lettering e-course, which has turned into a community of thousands of lettering lovers all over the world, working to create art they love every day.

Now I'm happy to report that my original goal has been achieved: art and expression are both very much a part of my daily life.

It no longer feels like I'm "making time" because it's virtually automatic the way my brain now carves out time from each day. Still, as the holidays rolled around this year and 2016 started to turn the corner, I realized it might be time to issue myself a new challenge. Not one that would help me create more every day, but one that would help me finally commit to a goal that's been on my list for the past two years: evolving, sharing and selling my art.

If this past year was about exploring styles and learning to play, this year is about honing what I've learned into a focused creative voice that I can confidently share with the world through my art. 

I have found myself incredibly inspired by friends like Crystal Moody (Year Of Creative Habits), Tiffany Han (#PostItDaily), and Casey Neistat (daily YouTube vlog) with their daily projects, and so I began to think:

What's one thing I want to commit to doing every day for a year? 

I knew -- of course -- that I wanted it to be creativity-related, but how could I up the ante so to speak and make steps toward a bigger goal of mine? 

That's when I was reminded that many of you have been asking for months now if my art is available for prints. I guess selling my art has always been a part of the plan in one way or the other, but for so long I still felt like I was in the experimentation phase -- still trying to find my voice, my unique lens with which to project my experiences through. Until now. 

Enter... Abstract Affirmations.

Combining my love of abstract acrylic art and hand-lettering, my plan is to share one piece every day in 2016 that expresses a different "affirmation" -- my catch-all term for the lessons, insights and positive messages that help remind me to live as my brightest self. Here's a small preview of what you can expect:

 
 

After diving head first into acrylics and art journaling for months now, I finally feel I've hit upon a style that feels my own and reflects the values and unique voice of Made Vibrant.

Using movement, color, contrast and pattern to convey a message, I want my work to represent a whole-hearted rejection of restraint. In other words, I want it to make you feel FREE. 

I want each piece to remind you that imperfection is beautiful, that convention is over-rated, and that personal authenticity is your beacon for true happiness.

I never start a piece with a finished product in mind, and that's intentional. I want you to feel the spontaneity of each color palette, each brushstroke.

On top of that, I've never been more convinced of the power words have to shift our thinking and change our lives. When we speak things out loud, especially on a regular basis, they penetrate our psyche and they have an impact on the way we act and think. That's why including the lettering within each piece is so important to me. I want them to serve as positive messages to reinforce our thinking.

Now for the truly ambitious part:

I plan to make every single one of these daily pieces available for sale as limited edition, high-quality giclee prints. 

I'm working right now to solidify a printing partner, and as soon as I do, I'll be launching the official Made Vibrant Art Shop. Once a week I'll release the past week's pieces as prints into the shop, with VERY limited quantities of each to keep inventory lean.

If you want to receive email updates about the shop opening and print releases, make sure you're subscribed to Self-Made Society -- Made Vibrant's email community for soulful creatives. If you're not already subscribed, just pop in your email address in this dandy field below and hit that purdy orange button!