Continuing our series on ways to make a living as an artist, we look at the options for making money through third-party seller websites, like Etsy or Amazon, or online galleries.
What is an online art shop or gallery?
There’s never been so much choice when it comes to selling online: Etsy, eBay, Amazon and social media all offer a chance to sell your work, often to different audiences. Plus, you can join online art galleries, from international sites like Saatchi or smaller local sites, of which there are hundreds.
Should you have a shop on every seller site and online gallery?
Probably not. The time it would take to set up and manage would probably leave you little time to work in your studio. There is also an issue of keeping the inventory up to date. If you sell one-off pieces and you have one for sale in six online galleries, what happens if different buyers purchase it from each site?
What’s the best site for selling artwork?
Cost will be a major factor in your choice. Seller sites make their money from commissions, so it is important to calculate how much you will really be making from your sales.
Here’s a breakdown of the main seller sites and how much it costs to sell on them.
Etsy is purpose-built for artists and makers. The site promotes items that are original and handmade.
They boast around 40 million active buyers. But with more than 2 million sellers, its buyer-to-seller rate is a lot lower than other non-specialist sites, like eBay and Amazon. That said, buyers coming to Etsy are more motivated and more likely to be looking for your kind of crafts.
Anyone can open an Etsy shop. The site is mostly populated by hobby businesses, which are businesses that might make a little money, but less likely to make you a million. Average sales on Etsy are at the lower end, but that might be because of the type of sellers it attracts, rather than buyers.
Have a look at shops similar to yours and see what their sale numbers are like. Some shops have only a few sales, but there are plenty that run into five or even six figures.
How much does it cost to sell on Etsy?
Etsy’s fee structure is the same for everyone. They promote a 6.5% transaction fee, but with additional costs the amount is closer to 15 percent.
- $0.20 for each listing.
- Additional listing costs if the listing contains different options (designs, sizes, colors, etc.).
- Transaction fee of 6.5% of your sale.
- A processing fee of 3% of your sale.
- Plus tax is added to all their fees.
For that, you get access to those 40 million buyers and an online storefront that takes minutes to set up, just follow the easy-to-use listing steps.
You can also see viewer habits, for example, how many people visit your products or pages and how many add your product to their basket (but don’t buy). You can also set up special offers. Etsy shops also allow buyers to “favorite” items in your shop, and offer detailed metrics on sales, visits and fees paid.
It also offers an advertising package and a postage service, with a discount, so you can pay and print labels from your account.
Should I sell my art on Etsy?
- Is my art or craft likely to attract viewers and buyers?
- Am I setting up a business or making money from a hobby?
- Are there already lots of people selling similar items? And if so, for how much?
- Do I want to be an Etsy seller if it’s just for hobbyists?
- Will I need to pay for advertising to be seen?
As you would expect from such a huge organization, Amazon offers different selling plans aimed at those selling a few items a month to international brands selling thousands of items.
Amazon boasts 300 million active buyers, including 65% of the American population. But competition is heavy—there are anything from six to 10 million active sellers on the site worldwide.
How much does it cost to sell on Amazon
The individual selling plan charges $0.99 per sale.
If it looks like you are going to sell a lot of items, there are flat-rate plans, where you pay a set fee, starting at $39.99, to sell up to a certain amount.
There are more plans for bigger sellers, but artists and makers are likely to be in the lower end of the sales.
Artists and makers can also apply to Amazon Handmade, which offers a professional-level selling plan, but with no monthly fee.
Should I sell my art on Amazon?
- Does your product meet Amazon’s guidelines?
- What’s the right selling plan for you?
- Can I apply for Amazon Handmade?
- Where in the world do you want to sell?
- Are you selling one-off items?
- How crowded is the marketplace for your offering?
eBay has moved on from selling secondhand and unwanted items. Plenty of businesses now make a very good living by selling new items, either as a manufacturer or an online eBay shop.
eBay boasts 134 million members. That’s a lot of potential traffic, but how many of them are looking to buy art? And how will they find you?
How much does it cost to sell on eBay?
The cost of selling on eBay is varied.
Private sellers get 1,000 free listings a month and pay 12.8% of the sale amount (including the sale price, postage, taxes and any other fees).
There are business accounts for those looking to shift more inventory, but for most artists, 1,000 listings will probably be enough. And setting up a free private membership is a good way to test the water.
Fees for Basic eBay Stores are around $20 a month, but the subscription increases the number of free listings each month and offers an online storefront, essentially giving you a better-looking online gallery.
Should I sell my art on eBay?
- Will an eBay shop devalue my artist credentials?
- Is it worth having an online storefront on eBay or should I focus on my own site?
- Are you selling one-off items?
- Do you want to auction your items?
If you are looking at online galleries, Saatchi Art will usually come out on top. It has a million page views a month and offers a chance to take part in shows.
One of the benefits of online galleries is that they carry more kudos than other online selling platforms. Being sold by Saatchi is about as high as an artist can get!
How much does it cost to sell on online galleries?
For the privilege of being on Saatchi Art, you pay the gallery 35% of your earnings. This is less than commercial galleries (which are more like 50 percent), but you will need to do more marketing and promotion of your work than simply uploading a few images. And there’s a lot of competition.
Other online galleries include Artfinder. Commission is based on the type of seller plan subscription you choose. The free starter plan has 40% commission on sales, with professional and business plans offering lower commissions based on whether you choose to pay subscription costs.
There are dozens of other online galleries, so ask yourself:
- Are there upfront fees or a subscription fee?
- Do I have to pay anything if I don’t sell anything?
- What’s the commission rate?
- How many artists are on the site?
- How many buyers visit the site?
- How many sales does the site make? Look at its conversion rates: how many sales per 100 visits? One sale gives the rate of 1%, five sales give a rate of 5%. Look for sites with a rate of 2.5% and above.
- Is there any marketing or promotion?
- Does the gallery showcase work (i.e., put work on its homepage) and how is this managed?
- Is there any quality control, or can anyone upload artwork? If the gallery is choosy, it will have a higher reputation.