When I was eight years old, I had high hopes of one day having a career as a flourishing artist. I would spend hours drawing, coloring, and painting hoping to improve my skills. Unfortunately, like most artists, my dreams were eventually shattered by the opinions of others who were “kind enough” to let me know that artists don’t make any money.
“Why don’t you just go to nursing school and just worry about art in your free time?”
“Art school is a waste of money. You aren’t guaranteed a job and you’ll be in crazy debt.”
Sadly, I succumbed to the fear of being broke my whole life and attended nursing school. To make a long story short, I ended up hating nursing and switched to business during my last years of school. What was interesting about my shiny new business degree is that I had a great deal of difficulty finding a job with it.
So through trial and error, I decided to buckle down and find a way to sell my paintings and sketches. To my surprise, people actually wanted to give me money for my works of art. I haven’t made nearly enough to make it a full-time job, but my art skill brings in extra money throughout the year for me.
I’ve compiled a list of crucial things you must do if you want to make that first art sale. Don’t give up or think selling art is for a select few. Put that creative brain to work, and in no time you’ll have the coveted ability to bring in income from your craft.
Step 1: Put Your Work Out There
I know this seems obvious, but so many creatives are perfectionists, and can’t seem to part ways with their work until it’s 100% perfect. One of the most of helpful things I’ve learned is to put myself out there even if I don’t feel qualified.
You can’t just post 1 or 2 pictures and expect to call that a portfolio. Gather your best sketches, works in progress, and artworks and upload them to Instagram, Facebook, or an artist website. People like to see bodies of work.
Eventually, people will be interested in your work and can’t wait for you to post your latest sketch or painting.
Step 2: Social Media
It’s very unlikely, in this day and age, that you don’t have some form of a social media account. I made my first sales by posting a picture to Facebook of a watercolor painting. I had absolutely no intention of selling it. Actually, I was still in the phase of putting myself out there. I was also pretty discouraged at this point because I had posted a lot of art and received little likes or feedback. Then one day, I posted a watercolor painting, and someone inboxed me. “Tina, how much are you selling that painting for? I HAVE to have it.”
My first instinct was to say, “Are you crazy? It’s even that good.” But thankfully, I kept my mouth shut and took the money. If you continue to post your art, eventually there will be a customer who resonates with that piece and ultimately will exchange their money for it.
Step 3: Broaden Your Horizons
When I wasn’t making the sales I hoped for with my paintings, I decided to learn a new skill that incorporated my love of visual art: Web Design. Web design was incredibly difficult for me at first because I came in with absolutely no knowledge. I never had great technical skills growing up, so I tended to shy away from all things related to the computer. Thankfully, I ignored my inner critic and learned web design and computer programming. Both are skills I have grown to love. I immediately realized how in demand a skill like this was. Subsequently, the money flowed in after that.
Maybe web design isn’t for you, but this is just one example. You can also make your artwork available in prints, t-shirts, notebooks… etc. You can go the graphic design route and make artwork for groups or businesses. One of the best ways to broaden your horizons is to turn your knowledge into teaching. Teaching not only gives you credibility in your field, but increases your income because not only do you make money from your classes or books, but this gives your own art exposure and will increase sales in that as well.
Whatever path you choose, the point is not to let a lack of sales discourage you from producing amazing art. Find alternative routes to get your artwork in front of people or broaden your skill set. It’s not always easy, but it’s totally worth it to be able to make money from doing something you love.
Step 4: Be Consistent
Don’t post a picture of your art, disappear for two months, and expect customers to start pounding down your door. If you want to make sales you have to be consistent. There’s only a limited amount of time you have on a newsfeed before your content is lost in the shuffle and replaced by newer stuff. So even if it feels repetitive in your mind, post the same thing several times over the course of a few days.
I like to think of this as a reminder for people. In fact, many have told me, “Oh, I’m so glad you posted that again, I would have forgotten if I didn’t see that on the newsfeed again.”
Don’t worry about being pushy or over the top. Just do friendly reminder from time to time and this puts what you have to say in the back of people’s minds.
I hope this helps you on your path to making your first art sale. Let me know what methods you like to use for making art sales!