20 Ways to Boost Your Art Sales

The coronavirus pandemic might have canceled in-person exhibitions and art fairs for much of 2020, but it’s not all bad news for the art industry, as online sales have boomed.

According to ​a recent report​, pure, online-only sales from the top three auction houses (Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips) from January 1st to June 28th increased by 436% over the previous year. In April, Sotheby’s set a new record after generating more than ​$6.4 million​ in an online sale.

In today’s ever-changing market, artists--like gallerists and dealers--are learning as they go, swapping ideas, and trying new things. They’re juggling traditional gallery shows and online events, attending virtual art fairs, hosting video walk-throughs, and thinking outside the box. Ultimately, they’re also finding new and creative ways to feed their practice and boost their sales.

We asked nineteen working artists, established and emerging, to tell us their secrets for building a client base, selling their work, and growing a career. Read on for their best tips and insights.

© ​Will Teather

Don’t sell yourself short.

“Never sell anything for less than you can afford to live off,” the British painter ​Will Teather advises. “Factor in all your overheads and expenses and time spent promoting, delivering work, doing the admin, etc. Have faith that, if you stand by that mantra, it will work out, even if it takes a bit longer to happen than you might hope. Work part-time in a related job until you can afford not to--which may be years, of course.”

Cracked Nurse 2020 © ​Michael Pybus

But avoid overpricing.

Pricing too low is a potential pitfall, but so is pricing too high--and as many of the artists we interviewed revealed, it’s easier to raise your prices than it is to decrease them. “If you’re a young emerging artist, and someone wants to buy your work, price it low and sell!” the London-based painter ​Michael Pybus​ urges.

“Get your art on other people’s walls so more collectors can see it. Collectors tend to be friends with other collectors, and they like to show one another what they have. Use the money to make more art.

“At the start of your career, you want to be able to be as accessible to as many collectors as possible; that way, as you grow, you have a larger network of people who have a vested interest in supporting you and your work. Going forward, this provides you a much more secure safety net. At the beginning, it’s better to sell ten paintings for £200 each than one painting for £2000. Focus on building and nurturing an audience first and foremost.”

Making Wakes © H​arry Skeggs

Invest in the product.

“Don’t take shortcuts in creating the final product,” the London-based photographer ​Harry Skeggs​ suggests. “Print and frame at the highest quality that you can so that you are presenting a really high-end product. This will be evident, and clients will pay more for this.

“One of the best sources of buyers is previous buyers. They already conceptually like your work. Invest in the product they get, and they may well buy again, or those who know them may see their print and want one themselves. Every time your work is seen, it should be the best it can look.”

One Square Club, performance art piece by ​Tom Pope​, courtesy the artist

Build up your resume.

“The best way to boost sales is to exhibit more,” the UK-based performance artist and educator Tom Pope​ explains. “One mistake is focusing too much of your energy on trying to sell right away. Focus on creating work--not compromising your creative vision, if possible--and put your energy into ​showing​ the work first. If you are exhibiting in relevant shows and reaching your target audience, the sales will come.”

During the pandemic, many exhibitions have continued online; for instance, David Zwirner opened up virtual viewing rooms, and Jack Shainman Gallery offered digital walk-throughs. These are all factors to take into consideration when connecting with gallerists in the near future.

Beneath the big beautiful sky (2020) ©​ M​att Jukes

Find a community.

“I think you should look at boosting sales as a long term goal, and the best way I have found to do this is to be active in a community of artists,” the large-scale printmaker ​Matt Jukes​ urges. “That way, you will not only have support from other artists but will also be able to cross-pollinate your collectors and do open studios, group shows, and collaborations down the road.”

av_671, acrylic on linen, 2020 © A​lex Voinea

Share your process.

“I use social media to share behind-the-scenes moments while working from my studio, including short videos of my process,” the abstract artist ​Alex Voinea​ tells us. “I always try to surprise the public with new content in all sorts of environments: in the studio, at galleries, fairs, etc.

“In many cases, I think artists will post anything, just to post something, but it’s important to curate your content. Create posts and videos that capture people’s attention and interest. We are saturated with images now, so quality is more important than ever. It’s better to post great content less frequently than it is to post less-than-great content multiple times a day.”

Chad Kouri. Made Wet with Dew (Palindromes), 2020. acrylic, hand cut vinyl and foil on raw canvas © ​Chad Kouri

Set different price points.

“Consider a way to create works at a range of prices,” the Chicago-based studio artist ​Chad Kouri​ suggests. “If you make very labor-intensive, expensive sculptures, consider having small material tests, sketches, editions, or other items for sale at a lower price point to balance it out. Donald Judd called these lower price pieces his ‘bread and butter’ works.”

Connect with advisers and designers.

“Working with interior designers and art advisors can be very beneficial,” Kouri continues. “Share your work with as many as possible via email, Instagram, snail mail, or all three. When starting out, I assumed the only way to make a living was for galleries to sell my work. That is not true.

“I make most of my income from private and commercial commissions and sales from art advisors and interior designers. Also, remember that any person you meet may be a possible future supporter or collector of your work. Be kind, and stay in touch.”

“Treasures” 2020. Artist-made watercolour, monoprint, gold leaf and collage on paper. ©Blandine Bardeau

Apply to art fairs.

“I recommend doing art fairs like The Other Art Fair or Roy's Art Fair in the UK,” the French-born, London-based artist ​Blandine Bardeau​ tells us. “These events allow artists to be in direct contact with customers, get feedback on the work, and build an audience. Start a newsletter, and invite people to sign up during the fair. I’ve also gotten invited to join galleries through participating in fairs.”

Like gallery shows, several art fairs have taken place virtually this year, including Art Basel Hong Kong. Online art fairs have the potential to attract younger audiences and democratize the art world, so keep an eye out for opportunities that resonate with you.

Walking the Line​ ​©​ P​aul Brouns

Reach out to a select group of gallerists and agents.

“When you feel you are ready to look for more exposure, look for galleries or agencies that give you a good feeling and that represent other artists you admire,” the Dutch fine art photographer Paul Brouns​ advises. “Be selective. Do not blindly get involved with galleries, publishers, or art fairs without doing research first.

“When considering a new gallery, I always find out the names of other people they have previously promoted, and I contact them directly to find out what their experiences are. Before you approach anyone, first make sure you have a nice (printed or online) portfolio to show.”

Consolidated circle in motion © N​ina Fraser

Keep an open mind.

“We all begin somewhere,” the Lisbon-based artist ​Nina Fraser​ says. “Don't procrastinate too much by trying to imagine the ‘perfect’ customer or gallery, although this will come into play later. In the beginning, take opportunities as they come, and see how they feel.

“Be yourself, and be open-minded. For example, making work at different price points can help to entice customers, and also help you to understand different markets. Offering a service like a workshop can also be a great way to meet people who eventually want to own your work. There is no ‘one way’ to get started, and we all do it differently.”

SRFC-4, 3’x4’, mixed media on canvas © ​Eric Mack

Host a limited sale online.

“I think the most effective social media marketing I’ve tried has been the use of limited-time-only sales,” the Atlanta-based artist ​Eric Mack​ tells us. “These types of offers create a sense of urgency, and those who love your work do not want to miss out.”

Forever If Just For Now © ​Taylor White

Hold a studio event.

“My favorite way to sell my stuff is to host events at my studio, which I’ll do at least once a year,” the Raleigh-based artist ​Taylor White​ tells us. “It works well when you’re developing a local fan base in your community, and it makes people feel like they are a part of something special. They’re more likely to feel inclined to buy in the long term, even if they don’t walk away with anything on that day.”

If in-person events are off the table, get creative with online studio tours and happenings; in March, the Whitney Museum had contemporary artists host virtual studio visits, and artists around the globe have since used Zoom and FaceTime to create their own events.

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love © ​Christy Lee Rogers

Learn how to discuss your work.

“The first thing I confronted when I was ready to sell my work was selling it to myself: ‘Why was it worth money; why did I have to have it, and what was so special about it?’” the visual artist ​Christy Lee Rogers​ tells us. “It was a terribly difficult process, but when I made it though, I

had a clear purpose as an artist, which turned into an unbreakable courage to let the works be seen and sold.”

Head I © ​Emily Kirby

Keep the lines of communication open.

“I think communication is so important here,” the figurative painter ​Emily Kirby​ explains. “You are often talking to people interested in your work but also in you. Take time to respond thoughtfully. It's easy to be rushed and not answer people with the energy they deserve.

“They are maybe going to spend a lot of money on something you've made. It's good to be humble, answer questions, and take time to make people feel comfortable. Many of us creatives like to think the work speaks for itself, but the more information you give, the more people tend to respond.”

©​ D​elano Dunn

Participate in group shows.

“Don’t worry too much in the beginning about reaching out to galleries directly,” the Chicago-based mixed-media artist ​Delano Dunn​ advises. “The best thing you can do is keep making work and showing work. Try to participate in as many group shows as you can. It will broaden your audience and will put you in a better position to meet a gallerist.

“My favorite way to boost sales is to show my work in galleries as well as DIY spaces. Set up group shows with your peers. The more eyes that see your work, the better. I wish this was something I knew when I first started out. We as artists tend to think we should go for the big fish right out the gate. It wasn’t until I started to focus on the little victories that more patrons were able to see the work and my sales increased.”

During this time of social distancing, you can team up with other artists to create a DIY space for your work online, whether it’s through a dedicated website, a livestream, a limited print sale, or something else.

Left: Anita, Lady Fen, Welney, 1993. Right: Nicely's Cafe, Mono Lake, California, 2003. ©Richard Heeps

Do it yourself.

“Don’t always wait for someone else to create an opportunity for you; take control of it yourself,” the UK-based photographer ​Richard Heeps​ suggests. “I started my own gallery because I wanted to connect with my audience, and I didn’t want to rely on other people for my income. I wanted to present my work as a collection, and I passionately wanted to promote analogue photography.

“Try not to copy people or get obsessed with trends. Keep making; although the work might not be relevant at the time, it might find its place further down the road. Generally, one thing leads to another, so take risks and try things out.”

Field Full of Wildflowers​ ​© S​amantha McCubbin

Join #ArtistSupportPledge

The artist Matthew Burrows started the ​Artist Support Pledge​ earlier this year amid the coronavirus crisis, as a way to connect creatives worldwide. Artists can tag their images #artistsupportpledge on Instagram, with details on the artwork, including the price (no more than

£200 or the equivalent). Anyone can then DM the artist to buy the work. If an artist reaches £1,000 in sales, they pledge to spend £200 on the work of another artist or artists.

“I began participating in the Artist Support Pledge, which started at the beginning of the pandemic,” the Scottish artist ​Samantha McCubbin​ remembers. “This resulted in a plethora of sales for me, and then I also started getting emails from other customers asking for commissions and more work.”

Los Angeles © E​mma Loizides

Maintain an organized inventory.

“I'd say not being prepared is the most common mistake emerging artists make,” the London-based oil painter ​Emma Loizides​ admits. “It's useful to have a document where you store details such as the measurements, medium, price, etc. of all your work and have photos of each so that you're ready to answer any questions.

“My biggest mistake was when I sold a painting at an exhibition and had forgotten to take a photo of it so I have no record of it. ​Always​ take a good quality photo of your work before it goes into a competition or exhibition.”

High Net Worth © ​SJ Fuerst

Be patient.

“I think it’s important to know that it could take some time for your work to start being noticed and selling, but that you can’t let a slow start discourage you,” the figurative painter ​SJ Fuerst​, who is now based in Malta, tells us.

“Seek out as many exhibition opportunities as you can. Apply to open calls, enter competitions, etc. This not only increases your visibility to prospective buyers, but also builds your exhibition resume to demonstrate that you take your work and career seriously.

“Confidence in your work is key; if you are passionate and persistent, then you will find the people who connect with your art as well.”


Of course one of the most important ways to show and sell your work in the new art market is to create and maintain an attractive website. Artspan has been the leading artist website provider for over 20 years. Created by artists with an artist's needs in mind, Artspan websites offer the complete package: a unique branded website; inclusion in our art marketplace; an extensive e-commerce suite; prints-on-demand; Live Preview Augmented Reality and more. Go to Artspan.com to find out more.

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