As an artist, one of the most common questions I get is “how did you start selling your art?”
This is not really a how-to guide but I do plan to let this background be the foundation for when I make one. For now, here is a general timeline of how my art business came into existence:
I’d been thinking about selling prints of my artwork since 2015. Other than lack of money, I was hesitant due to the typical self-doubt artists feel about if their work is “good enough.”
Two years later I finally took the leap of faith and started “Morgan Cerese Art” in July of 2017. I “created” my website with Shopify using one of the templates. I also made a store on Etsy.
My selection was VERY small. I only had 8”x10” prints of about 3 finished pieces. I kept working on more pieces because I knew I needed to get the number up.
In just one month, I had my first sale via my Etsy shop. I remember staring at my screen in disbelief because I was surprised that someone liked my work enough to actually buy it. With that I’d officially started selling my work!
I continued to draw and paint which expanded my selection of available work. I also started to offer 5”x7” and 11”x14” prints. Sales were very slow, but each one served as encouragement to keep pushing.
By December, I participated in my first art showcase called the “Creative Canvas Tour” (also known as Cr8Can). My first show was such a wild ride with so many complications that it needs its own dedicated post! Anyway I had my original work as well as prints in my section. I was excited for my first opportunity to sell in person.
Awkward venue lighting aside, there was this big problem: I’m very reserved/shy by nature. I had anxiety about selling in person and about interacting with people.
Some relatives who came to support me purchased prints, however exactly one complete stranger bought my work. I still remember that moment vividly because it meant so much me. She purchased a 5”x7” print of the Cosmic Witch.
In February 2018 I participated in my first craft show. For me this is distinctively different from art showcases because the people are there to actually purchase. At art shows, people are usually just there to look at/enjoy the art. I didn’t even break even at this craft show most likely due to my booth’s awkward placement and my lack of people skills. But like with any experience, I learned from it. That time around I made sure to observe how people reacted to my art and my booth display.
Based on my observations, I made a lot of changes. Some of these changes were offering smaller more functional items with my artwork on it. I noticed that people don’t really buy art prints unless they’re specifically looking for an art-related gift or for something to hang up in their home. I spent weeks coming up with product ideas and figuring out how to implement them.
I participated in the same show again in April and experienced my first success with selling in person. I was still awkward, but now I had more to talk about.
As time went on I got better at talking to people about my art. By no means am I considered "outgoing" now but I'm definitely less anxious. I participated in more shows and I even vended in the Artist Alley at Florida Supercon! (I will be there again for the 2019 convention.)
Currently, in-person shows account for over 90% of my gross sales across all selling platforms.
I don’t have clout/thousands followers on social media...and I can’t afford to shell out thousands on Instagram and Facebook ads, so this statistic makes a lot of sense for me.
The most important thing I’ve learned about selling art is that it tends to sell better in person.
I don’t stare people down while they’re checking out my art, but I am aware of their reactions and how they interact with the items.
People pick up a print and eye every detail. They touch the sample compact mirror and comment on how the finish feels luxurious and professional. Children often pick up the pin-back buttons and beg their parents for it because “she looks like me!”
There’s nothing like seeing a piece in person and falling in love with it. I’ve seen this happen at my booth countless times and it makes me happy every time.
My journey for the past year and a half has already been so eventful that I’m excited to see my art continue to grow and touch the hearts of others.