Marketing for Artists - How to Sell Your Art Online

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

Since selling my art prints through Dirt Alley Design, I have been forced to learn a lot about marketing a product, and the business side of being an's not easy!

If you are an artist interested in selling your work, here are the various sales and marketing tactics I have undertaken, along with the pros and cons of each one.

Marketing Tactic #1 - Craft Fairs

SF Etsy Holiday Fair
During the first two years of my business, I attended many events each year to sell prints in person. These events included small pop-ups at established businesses and larger events with thousands of people like the Renegade Craft Fair.

Pros: A great way to get feedback, figure out who your customers are, meet fellow makers, and make money!

Cons: Time consuming and tiring. You will spend days packing up and pricing inventory and many hours standing and talking to people during the event. You may not make much profit depending on turnout, and the booth fee. Few businesses can make all of their income from events.

After attending many events for two years, I became pretty burned out and am taking a break. If you decide to attend events, try to extract more value from them by surveying your customers or by running a giveaway to gather emails..

Marketing Tactic #2 - Email List

Am I talking email newsletter? Not the traditional "newsletter" but regular email communications with potential customers. You can offer discounts, share blog posts, and new work.

Pros: Good way to stay in touch with folks who may not be ready to buy.

Cons: You will need to dedicate time creating content and making each email every two weeks (ideally).

It can take time to grow your email. I recommend a subtle email signup window that pops up shortly after a customer arrives on your site. Don't offer a discount in exchange for an email signup. People truly interested in your business will signup out of their own interest. Make sure to send them an automated welcome email when they do.

Marketing Tactic #3 - Blogging

Google ranks a website more highly in search results if it is updated often.

Pros: Regular updates to your website will rank you higher in search and keep people on your website longer.

Cons: You will need a content strategy - things to write about! Blogging helps if you enjoy writing and are a strong writer.

My first two years, I struggled with what to write about on my blog. I finally decided to work on new artistic projects daily to thus have more topics to write about.

Marketing Tactic #4 - Giveaways

raibow minneapolis minnesota city map art print poster maze puzzle labynrinth

I haven't utilized giveaways too much, but have found value in offering giveaways at events for email signups.

Pros: If the cost to produce your item is low, giving away a few of your product  is a small price in exchange for email signups or social media follows!

Cons: Giveaways especially on Instagram are a bit played out by now, and people aren't as engaged with them. A huge percentage of new followers will likely unfollow or unsubscribe after the giveaway.

I offered giveaways while at events, and found only a small percentage of people ended up unsubscribing. 

Marketing Tactic #5 - Press/Publicity

side hustle school featuring dirt alley design

It's free, all you have to do is pitch journalists story ideas about your product, or sign up for HARO and watch out for requests from journalists such as gift guides.

Pros: The potential for traffic from a press hit can be big! 

Cons: Time consuming. You will spend hours searching for potential writers, pitching and following up with writers who 99% of the time will ignore your email. 

While getting press does lead to a lot of potential traffic and eyeballs on a project, make sure you know how to leverage that content and traffic! If you do undertake the effort to get press, I recommend you have a few other things in place such as a website with a products and an email sign up, an active social media presence, etc.

Marketing Tactic #6 - Social Media

Being active on social media feels like a "given" when starting out and posting often can feel like you are "doing something." However, it takes a long time to organically build a following and it will require a solid content strategy. Start with one platform (Instagram is great for visual artists) and build from there.

Pros: It's free, but costs you your time.

Cons: It can be time consuming, and you may struggle with content ideas. The social media algorithm is constantly changing, and you will have to just roll with the punches.

Marketing Tactic #7 - Branding

This one is definitely not as important when starting out! As things progress though, you will want to dial things in to better connect with your customers. Branding is more than a logo - it includes the tone of communications, the style of your Instagram photos, and your content strategy. Most artists will probably build their brand around a "creator" branding personality and create content that seeks to inspire others through your artistic outputs.

Pros: Having a cohesive online identity will help your customers connect, purchase and seek you out elsewhere.

Cons: Starting out, you may not know what your brand is (because you don't know yet who your customers are).

These are just a few of the marketing tactics I have focused on, there are many more that I decided didn't fit with my business but which you should definitely explore! Other marketing options include crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon, online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon, paid advertising whether through Google or social media, and video marketing like growing a YouTube channel.

Share what's worked for you in the comments!

About Dirt Alley Design

michelle chandraDirt Alley Design was founded just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in December of 2016 by artist Michelle Chandra. Inspired by the beauty of street grids, Michelle invented maze maps in which she transforms street grids into mazes. 

My maze art isn't just decorative art for your home, it's a real puzzle maze you can solve (if you dare!) I think my maze maps are pretty cool, but don't take just my word for it! My maze maps have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Print Mag and Vice, to name a few!


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