Selling Art - 14 Tips for Self Represented Artists

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As a self represented artist, who has sold original artworks on ebay for more than a year, here are some tips that I have learnt through trial and error. I don't promise to guarantee your work will sell using these tips but they may just increase your chances.

  1. Before becoming a seller build up your Feedback rating as a buyer. People are more likely to purchase from someone with good feedback (even if all your feedback is as a buyer) than they are if you have no feedback at all. A rating of 10 is probably ideal but 5 is enough to show a bit of a track record. Whilst building up your feedback you'll also learn a lot about how other sellers operate and get a feel for what issues your potential buyers will face when making that final commitment to bid on your item.

  2. Recognise that, unless you're an established artist with a following of collectors, most people will be buying your art because they like your work rather than as an investment.

  3. Design your auction listing to be as professional as you can. You can't afford mistakes as these will discourage some potential buyers. At the very least use proper sentences, good grammer and upload at least one decent size, clear photo of your artwork (minimum of 400 pixels along the longest edge). Always pay the Gallery Listing fee for your artwork's photo to appear in buyer searches. It's your art that will grab people's attention and encourage them to look at your auction.

  4. Create an auction title using general key words that describe the content/subject of your artwork. For example if you have created an artwork of your pet siamese cat called 'Minky', few people looking for cat art will enter the word 'Minky' as part of their search. Make sure the words 'Art', 'Siamese' and 'Cat' appear in your auction title. That way if someone does a search on Cat Art or Cat Siamese your auction will appear in their search results. Your auction title might be something like 'Original Art: Siamese Cat'

  5. If your auction title is short try adding in some more general key words that describe your artwork. Using the last example you could extend it to 'Original Art: Siamese Cat, painting, oil, pets, feline'. Now you've caught people using search terms such as Cat Painting, Pets Feline, Feline Art etc. The trick is to get your work appearing in searches by people who are interested in your subject but may not have been thinking about buying your particular artwork until they saw it pop up in their search.

  6. Try to put some keywords in your auction description that you haven't used in your title however fewer people search on title and description so don't stress too much on this.

  7. When writing your description don't describe the artwork literally (you should have a photo so people can see for themselves what your art looks like). Instead describe what this artwork will bring to that person's life/experience/environment. In other words try to describe benefits rather than features (a key point for selling almost anything).

    Going back to the Siamese cat example above, rather than describing it as 'This is a painting of my pet siamese cat, Minky, who is a real character', you might write 'Minky is a delightful cat who will bring a sense of fun to any home with his cheeky antics in this original artwork'.

  8. There are some features that you MUST include in your description. These include anything that can't be discovered simply by looking at the photo. For example look at the image below:

    What don't you know just by looking at it?

    As part of your description include important, unseen features either by listing them:

    Title: Happy Cat Jac
    Artist: TET (e_tourist)
    Medium: Acrylic and Chalk Pastel on Canvas, Framed.
    Size: 40 x 50cm

    Or by creatively including them into your description:

    This acrylic and chalk pastel artwork titled 'Happy Cat Jac' will bring a sense of carefree fun to your home and will be a great conversation piece for family and friends. Created by Mixed Media Artist, TET, the work is 40 x 50cm in size, painted onto quality canvas and has been professionally framed.

  9. Never set your opening bid too low (especially not under $1.00). It may cost you more in listing fees but I recommend only setting your opening bid to the lowest price you're prepared to part with your artwork for. I've tried setting low opening bids and it is very soul destroying seeing a work sell for less than the cost of postage to send it to its new owner. Sometimes it may take several listing attempts to sell an artwork but if you stick to your prices you should at least make a small profit (or big one if you've priced high).

  10. Be sure to list in the Self Representing Artists Category to capture people looking for 'emerging artists' (artists that self represent usually are) or people who just like good, original art at a great price. However also think about listing in a second category that suits the target market for the subject of your art.

    Again using our Cat artwork example you might list your auction under Cat Supplies (Under the Home & Lifestyle Category). Technically your art isn't a 'Cat Supply' but people interested in cats will be browsing this category and may make an impulse bid on your art. You could even list in a third category but keep in mind, listing in each new category will cost you the same in fees again as your original first category listing. I recommend only listing in two categories.

  11. Try to time your auctions to finish on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening....there's no science behind this tip I just seem to have better sales myself doing this. Seven day listings are good for art - gives you time to advertise your auctions. Most people don't seem to bid until the last minute so don't be discouraged if you get no bids on the first six days. You should at least pick up some watchers during this time.

  12. Set a fixed price for postage (you may have to absorb some of the cost though in some cases the postage may even be less than your fixed price). You'll get paid quicker as your buyer won't be waiting for you to calculate postage. PayPal is a good payment option but using it will eat away a little more of your profit. However, in my experience people who use PayPal to buy pay the quickest.

  13. Always be prompt sending your artworks to your buyers. Encourage them to leave feedback when they have received their purchase and guarentee that you will leave them feedback if they do. (Make that part of your auction terms).

  14. Finally, as part of your terms, always offer a full refund if your buyer doesn't like the work when they receive it. (subject to the work being returned undamaged of course). This is due to the nature of art. You really don't get a feel for an artwork from a photo. The real artwork might be a whole different experience. Having said that the most common feedback I've had is that my work looks better than the photo...I've never had a work returned yet.

Selling art on ebay can be a rewarding experience. However just like selling art through your own web site you have to do everything possible to get your work seen.

As I said at the start, I don't guarantee these tips will work every time but if you implement some of them, you may just see an improvement in the number of watchers you get and even the number of bidders. There's nothing more exciting than seeing people bid against each other to own your original art!

About the Author:
TET (e_tourist) is a self represented artist and a writer of social commentary observations. Find out more about TET.

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