Art is a labor of love that can add a lot to our own lives and the lives of others. That’s fantastic, but what about making a few extra dollars at the same time? That’s SUPER fantastic, in my opinion. Many artists think about selling their art. It’s a natural step. The moment we start thinking about those dollar signs, we start to wonder if our art is even good enough. Will anyone even be interested in buying it? The answer to whether your art is good enough to sell is more complicated than filling out a checklist and winding up with a “yes” or “no.” When it comes to making money, there are actually quite a few factors that determine whether your art is good or not. Here are the top questions to ask yourself.
- Do I feel confident about my art, personally?
- Are you willing to jump into marketing?
- Who would your art appeal to?
- Is your art unique?
- Do you want money issues to be intermixed with your art?
I’m a believer in the idea that all art is good, it just needs to find the right audience. That said, selling your art can be a challenge if you don’t put in the work to find that audience. If you aren’t Thomas Kinkade with an obvious talent, it might be a little bit harder. It’s still doable, but you need to be willing to put in the work. Let’s dive into the questions you need to ask yourself before selling your art and find out if you’re ready.
Do I feel confident about my art, personally?
It’s time to stroke your ego, serve yourself a big helping of self-confidence, and stand in a power stance in front of your bathroom mirror. While you don’t need to believe that your art is best thing to ever grace the planet (please don’t. That’s annoying), you need to feel confident about your art before you sell it.
If YOU don’t even think your own art is good, you could have a hard time convincing other people that it’s good.
Once you put a piece of art up for sale, you are subjecting it to judgment and criticism. Every buyer looks at things with a critical eye.
We all do it and there’s no way around it.
Whether we’re buying a $1,000 painting or choosing a candy bar at the convenience store, we are forced to make a choice between one thing or another. Even with easy purchases, our brains naturally go through a judging process to make sure the purchase is worth it.
Are you ready for your art to be judged and criticized? Mind you, this isn’t always bad. It’s totally possible that you only ever get glowing reviews of your work and develop an adoring fan base that would give you a standing ovation for a coffee stain. It could happen.
But, it’s possible you’ll have a fair share of negative feedback. In those moments, you can’t crumble and close down your shop. In those moments, you need to believe in your art enough to push aside the haters and keep going. You need to be your art’s cheerleader. If you don’t have confidence in your work, dealing with criticism can be really hard to do.
If your art isn’t traditionally “good,” you might be setting yourself up for more criticism than you’d like. Remember that “good” is a relative term and we’re more often talking about appealing to someone’s tastes. If your art doesn’t have appeal to a lot of people, that’s ok, but if you need to find a way to at least have confidence in your art yourself.
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that you’ll never be able to sell your art because you’re chronically insecure.
Yep, I get it.
Just like other situations in life where insecurity might get the best of you, you just have to fake it until you make it. Eventually, you’ll grow a genuine sense of confidence in your work, but it’s okay to take a slow start.
If you need to fake the confidence, be sure to prepare yourself first. Put on your mental body armor and take that leap.
I know this sounds a little dramatic.
Honestly, you won’t get a ton of negative criticism of your art. It’s not like books, for example. When someone is shopping for art, they can see everything that they’re getting right there on the sales page.
What you see is what you get.
With a book on the other hand, someone has to purchase the book before knowing if they like it or not. With art, if they don’t like it, they’ll just move on and look at something else. With books, buyers have already invested time and money into the experience, which usually leads to more impassioned negative reviews.
So, don’t be too worried. I’ve published both books and art. I’ve never gotten awful reviews on my books, but I get far more raving reviews of my art. They’re getting what they saw on the sales page, so people are usually pretty happy.
But, know that criticism is an option whenever you put your art up for sale. Just be ready for your art to be open for judgement by the general public, which can be crazy at times. Just say hello to the peanut gallery and keep making great art!
Are you willing to jump into marketing?
Even art that wide swaths of people would label as “good” has a hard time getting noticed, let alone art that wouldn’t carry that label. Art that isn’t traditionally “good” might need a bigger marketing push than art that is more widely accepted.
When thinking about whether your art is good enough to sell, think about how much of an investment you’d be willing to put into marketing it. This can give you an idea of how you truly feel about your work and whether it’s valuable to you.
If it’s not valuable to you, it probably won’t be valuable to someone else.
If you realize that your art isn’t valuable enough to you to justify marketing effort around it, it probably isn’t good enough to sell. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad art, per say (remember, it’s all relative), but if you aren’t even invested in your own work, you need to keep working until you come up with something that’s worth the marketing push you’ll need to do to sell it.
Are you willing to learn SEO and spend a few hours digging for the right keywords to match your piece of art?
What’s your commitment to spending money on ads and learning social media marketing?
How many platforms are you going to learn and host your art on?
Once you dive into selling your art, a LOT of your attention is going to be diverted from creating art towards learning the business side of things.
As artists, the business stuff won’t ever be as fun as creating art, but it needs to feel worth it. If your art isn’t at a place where you feel like an investment of time and money is worth it, your art probably isn’t where you want it to be.
Like I said, the business stuff is never oodles of fun, but once you create art that’s “good enough,” you’ll feel excited to set up your store and start selling you art. You’ll be nervous, excited, and anxious to get it out into the world.
Before selling your art, ask yourself if you feel like it’s good enough to justify your time, attention, and money. If not, spend some more time working on your art skills until you feel excited about investing in marketing efforts.
Who would your art appeal to?
Think about the audience that would enjoy your art. I’m a believer that all art has an audience if you search for it hard enough, but if you’re wracking your brain and can’t think of any obvious audience that would enjoy your art, you probably aren’t ready to sell it.
If no one is going to buy your art, it’s hard to sell it.
This question sounds like it should be enveloped into the last question about marketing, but this question is far more basic and fundamental than that. We’re not talking about setting up social media profiles and spending money on ads, we’re talking about the basic idea of whether you can envision the person who would enjoy buying your art or not.
The inability to envision your buyers could be a confidence issue or it could be a research issue. Either way, it doesn’t bring buyers in. You need to figure that out before you start selling your art.
You might be asking, “ok, I see why having an audience is important, but can’t I just figure it out as I go?”
You can, but it can be really hard to stay motivated after months and months of no sales.
It can be really demoralizing to sell your art and have no one there to buy it.
At the end of the day, you might lose your passion for selling art, close up shop, and never try to sell again.
That would be a huge shame!
Figure out who your audience is, where they live online or in your community, and get amped up about selling your art to them. Selling will ALWAYS be a struggle, but if you can identify your audience and understand what they’re looking for, you’ll be in a MUCH better place to get some sales.
Is your art unique?
If your art is unique, you’ll have an easier time standing out from the crowd and attracting buyers.
There is SO much noise on the internet today and there are so many artists pitching their work to galleries, publishers, and local coffee shops.
Artists that take a unique spin on their art will stand out and be seen.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a quick exercise to show you what I mean. Head to Amazon and type in “thank you cards.” At the time of this writing, there are over 10,000 results that pop up for you to choose from. 10,000. No biggie to scroll through all of those, right?
Most of us only scroll through the first few product pages when doing a search on a platform like Amazon. And, most of us scroll quickly while doing other things like watching TV, waiting in line at the store, or wrangling our kids. Not a lot of time for critical evaluation of every option.
Notice which options stand out as you scroll through. Most likely, the ones you notice are the ones that are colorful and the ones that are different.
Being unique doesn’t mean that you need to change your style. No. It’s important to be yourself.
Being unique DOES mean that you need to be aware of what makes your art special and be sure to capitalize on it.
If you aren’t sure, here are some questions that can help:
- what is the most common compliment you get about your work?
- what piece(s) of art in your portfolio have you never seen before anywhere else?
- what do you enjoy creating the most?
- if you ask friends and family to describe your art in one sentence, what would they say?
Be unique; be different; stand out.
It will be MUCH easier to sell your work if you have a unique catching point that your audience can latch onto and appreciate.
Do you want money issues to be intermixed with your art?
As soon as you post your first product listing, you’ve entered into a world where your passion for art is intermixed with an ability to make money. This is HUGE.
For some people, it’s easy to create art and monetize it without a lot of stress. For others, it’s really hard to keep the money side of things from tainting the passion for art. If your art isn’t good enough and you don’t have a lot of confidence in your abilities, it could squash your artistic life.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you painted a picture that you absolutely love. You’re really excited to list it on your store and can’t wait for a sale to roll in.
Well, that’s disappointing. Soon, you’re starting to question where you’re painting is any good after all. You wonder if you weren’t cut out to be an artist.
As time goes by without a sale, you start to look at your painting with bitterness. Stupid, darn painting!
When you sit down to do your next painting, you get the worst case of artist’s block you’ve ever had. You spiral into thoughts about how to create paintings that appease buyers instead of your own passions. You doubt that anything you create will ever be good enough. You decide that you’ll create anything, as long as it sells.
This sounds dramatic, but it happens. When you put your heart and soul into a painting and then get a wave of disappointment when it doesn’t sell, it can change your whole outlook on your art.
It can be really easy to lose yourself and start creating art solely based on the market and what you think will sell. If your art isn’t good enough and you aren’t confident in your work, you’ll be easily persuaded to simply follow the dollar signs.
This can quickly kill your passion for your work.
When you start selling your art, it’s important to have a clear head and to resist getting emotional about the business side of things.
If something doesn’t sell, shake it off and move on.
Understand the market, but don’t let it change who you are as an artist.
Set aside some time to make art that you purposely DON’T sell. Make art just for the love of it.
Every artist struggles with managing their mindset once they jump into the business side of selling their art. It’s completely normal. But, if you’re prepared, you can keep a healthy outlook and preserve the passion for your art that justified opening the business to begin with.
If your art isn’t good enough, you’ll feel yourself getting swallowed up by the business side of things much faster than someone who shows more skill. It’s harder to stand your ground and market your work for the amazing work that it is when it isn’t up to snuff.
Ultimately, the answer to whether your art is good enough to sell can only come from you. Confidence is a HUGE piece of the puzzle and that can only come from growing your artistic and emotional skills. Hopefully these questions have helped you think deeply about whether now is the right time to start selling your work or not.
Diana has been an artist for over 26 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana’s latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.