Opening up a shop and selling your artwork can be scary. I remember the first time my Etsy shop went live a whole whirlwind of thoughts went through my head: what if people don’t like it? What if it doesn’t look good? What if I haven’t priced the products quite right? The reality is, there will always be things you change along the way, and it’s better to start somewhere, test the water, than not try at all.
I’m still learning how to be a seller, and I know there are things I could do to further improve my shops. But, for the most part, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made and forever grateful for the support my art and Etsy shop have received. In this blogpost, I want to offer my top tips about artwork presentation and pricing that I’ve learnt along the way. If you are thinking of or already sell your artwork, be it paintings, drawings, prints or other handmade crafts, I hope this helps!
What’s the best way to present my artwork?
Without a doubt, making sure your photographed artwork is clear, bright and good quality (high resolution). This makes it look professional and smart, as well as more aesthetically appealing to look at. I always go for white backgrounds for my artwork as it tends to be colourful and detailed, so having a busy background would take away the focus from the piece. In more technical terms, if you’re into editing your photos, my main advice would be to increase the exposure to brighten the overall image, enhance the contrast slightly to create more refined edges and depth, and adjust the cast to get rid of any yellowing from the light. Using all-around natural light, or if you’re lucky to own studio lighting, are best for taking photos. Additionally, making sure all your photos follow a similar theme is key, as this looks more concise and is generally easier for the eye to follow.
How should I price my artwork?
This is something I am still learning – and having spoken to numerous other creatives – it’s not an easy field to navigate. However, after working for another artist, who has a variety of experience and knowledge in this business, I’ve learnt quite a lot that I was originally unaware of. The points I’m about to go through are the ones that made me realise I was undervaluing my work quite significantly:
- Time. If you wish to sell, being an artist should be considered similar to any other job – you need an hourly rate. This is totally up to you, but I would recommend no less than £10-15 an hour (for some of the pieces I have sold, I charged too little because I didn’t consider this). This can change over time if you begin to sell more. This time should cover not just the process of creating the piece, but the time it takes you to perhaps set up any equipment (for example if you’re creating a large piece, the time it takes to set up the easel, floor coverings etc.) and going out to buy equipment and actually travelling to the post office to post the piece. In my case, my paintings tend to take a minimum of 4 hours and up to 12 hours (spread across a couple of days), with the addition of hand-making, gluing and screwing the wooden frames. Admittedly, there are still pieces I am underselling, however I am working towards an average price that pays for my time but is still relatively affordable (see ‘Audience’ point).
- Materials. You need to take into account how many and how costly the medium or mediums are that you’re using to create your work. In my case this is the price of the canvas, the paint and the wood and assets for the frames. If you’re creating things that require a lot of electricity usage, it’s important to include that cost as well. If you’re selling prints and have them made via another company, you need to take into account that the print itself is still a version of your original piece, as well as the cost to have them made and postage from the company.
- Packaging. It’s best to buy recyclable packaging in bulk as it tends to be cheaper, and it’s good to support eco-friendly methods (this may not always be easily available, but a good to involve in any way you can). I use cardboard for prints etc. and padded parcel envelopes with bubblewrap for my originals. Always protect your artwork to prevent it from being damaged and therefore losing time and money. And, of course, it’s always nice for customers to open something that is packaged smartly (I use pretty tissue paper for paintings and always have handwritten thank you notes).
- Postage. If you’re selling your work on Etsy, the ‘Free UK Delivery’ option statistically encourages more sales (I don’t think anyone likes paying postage!). However, if you can’t afford this, you can incorporate the postage cost into the price of the product. I regrettably didn’t do this in the past, and ended up losing around £5 on postage of original paintings. If you’re unsure how much the postage will cost, look at your courier’s website and they will list the sizes of packages (envelope, large envelope, parcel, boxes etc.), the weights and shipping classes which you can calculate overall.
- Audience. Who are your current or target audience? This is difficult because the audience can consist of a variety of people, but it’s good to consider who will want to buy your work. The more consistent you are, the more likely you’ll have returning customers. Additionally, although I have emphasised the importance of accounting for everything that goes into creating your work, make sure the final cost of your work still sits within your audience’s affordable price range. If it doesn’t, you will either have to increase your prices or consider quicker and slightly cheaper methods (which is something I need to work on).
So as you can see, there are a lot of elements that you should take into consideration when setting up your own art business. I am by no means an expert, but I have learnt a great deal from experience. It’s important to remember that your art business might start of slow with gradual growth (mine did and still has quiet periods) and that you will likely make mistakes – but that’s how we learn!