How to Sell Your Art Online (Hint: Etsy is NOT the Answer)

Hello my fine artist friends,

Are you thinking about selling your work online, but you don’t know where to start? Based on my own experience selling art online over the past six years, I’m going to share with you where you should and shouldn’t sell your art, and how to get your work seen by the right people.  

So, let’s dive in.

There are so many options these days for selling your art online. When you’re trying to decide which avenue to pursue you need to ask yourself what your goal is and how much time do you have to commit to selling your art. Do you want to sell your art as a fun side hustle? Or are you hoping to turn this into a full-time career with income to match?

If you just want to get your art online somewhere and you don’t really care if it sells, then go ahead and post it on a platform like Etsy or Saatchi Art. The process is fairly straightforward and you won’t have to figure out how to set up your own website.

But, let me just warn you that the chances of actually selling any original fine art on Etsy or Saatchi are slim to none. Sites like this have no real vested interest in you selling your artwork over any other artist on the platform, and there are thousands—if not millions—of other paintings listed on these sites. So it's very difficult to be found there even with really great SEO. On top of that Etsy charges a lot of money in fees to both list and sell your work. And in my experience, my ideal clients just aren’t hanging out on Etsy. So like I said, if you just want to dabble and get some art online this weekend go ahead and give Etsy or Saatchi Art a try.

But when you’re ready to get serious about selling your art online, it's time to move on.

All right, so the obvious answer to the question of how to sell your art online is that you need to build your own website. Preferably one that allows people to purchase directly from the site without having to contact you first. My personal recommendation is to build your site on Shopify. They make it easy for beginners to choose a simple clean template and get a site up and ready to take orders within a few days.

But anyone who has ever built a website and launched their artwork to the sound of crickets will tell you that just having a website does not equal sales. A website is unless you have collectors to send to it.

So the real question is actually not “How do I sell my art online?” but "How do I get the right audience to my website so I can make sales?" And my answer to this question—the answer that has helped me build my art income to six figures—is to leverage the power of OPAs.

What is an OPA you ask? OPA stands for "Other People’s Audiences" and is my favorite way to reach my ideal collectors.

Think about it for a minute. A traditional gallery is a classic OPA. A gallery spends years building up a roster of clients who enjoy collecting fine art. And if you get in front of the right gallery audience, you will likely sell some work. You are borrowing the gallery’s audience and in turn building your own.

But the traditional gallery is just one of many types of OPAs that you can use when building up your own audience. There are online shops, interior designers, galleries, influencers, and brands. You can choose to either sell your work through these online outlets or simply partner with them to build exposure for your art. Either way, by exposing those OPA members to your work, you will bring them over to your own audience and create a collector base for yourself online.

In order to choose the right OPAs for your work, you first need to figure out 1) who your ideal collector is, 2) where they hang out, and 3) what they like (aside from your art).

For example I can tell you that my ideal collector is a woman aged 30-55 who has either recently moved or remodeled her home. She likely has used an interior designer and wants her art to coordinate with the other colors and furnishings in her home. She values handmade items, sustainability, and healthy living. I know she hangs out on Instagram not Facebook, and not Tiktok and she likes checking out interior design accounts. I know the shops she frequents online. And I know the types of images and content she will appreciate.

Once I know what she likes and where she goes online, I can start trying to get my art in these exact places and similar types of places. And because I’m going to choose smaller more targeted OPAs to work with, I know my art is getting seen by the right people and not getting lost in a sea of millions of paintings like on Etsy.

For example, I reached out to an interior designer with a style that my art works well with. She has an active online presence and is someone my ideal client would love to work with. She commissioned a painting for a client, posted images of the finished space with my painting in it and mentioned me several times. Then she interviewed me and featured photos of my work in a blog post and newsletter. From that one one connection, I not only got paid to create a painting, but my Instagram followers grew as did my email subscriber list. I have made several sales to people who mention that they found me through that designer.

As a reminder, building your audience online takes time and effort. This is not a quick process and I always suggest pairing your online audience-building efforts with in-person events. In my experience, if you want to build consistent income that is sustainable, you need to build a diverse business that includes online sales as one of many income streams. 

Thanks for being here and have a wonderful day!

All my best,


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