a few things to consider before selling your art
If you’re at the stage where you’re hoping to earn some dosh from what you create, you might be contemplating how to make your art more accessible and affordable. Art prints, clothing, accessories, stationery and other merch are all excellent options, though there isn’t only one path to success (even if you’re certain everyone on the IG discovery page knows the secret recipe). Being creative is challenging enough without throwing business into the mix, so to get some expert advice, we turned to designer and illustrator Beci Orpin (she kickstarted her freelance career by running a clothing label with her husband), and fellow illustrator Peo Michie.
Avoid making products for products’ sake
Living in a material world makes it tempting to sell stuff for the sake of it. But with finite resources and more than enough crap out there, taking a slow approach is important. The key? Apply as much integrity and uniqueness as you would to your best art, trust your intuition and make things you’re proud of. “We didn’t start our label from a commercial point of view,” Beci says. “When I thought: ‘Oh this style will sell’ – it tended not to. It’s your singular vision that will garner the best results.”
Meet your customers IRL
It’s hard to know what people might respond to when you’re just starting out. Do they want to own a piece of your art in the form of prints, zines, pins, t-shirts or something else entirely? One way to find out is by asking them directly: run polls on your social media account, then put together a small run of product and meet your potential customers directly. Whether you join a market or other artist event in your city, building a rapport with your audience will give you heaps of insight into what works.
Peo started by selling her zines at markets and local fairs, establishing her most popular genre: lesbian vampires. “The first time I sold my art was at the Melbourne Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair in 2018,” she says. “My first zine ever – Word of a Black Teenage Lesbian – unbelievably sold out.”
Find the platform that works for you
Just because every other artist you know is on Society6, doesn’t mean you need to be. There are plenty of online services that make it easier for you to sell your art these days (some handle production, printing and shipping), but it’s important to read the fine print, understand what fees and charges apply, and figure out what suits your needs.
“When it was popular, I used Redbubble,” Peo says. “But the site is for recognisable pop-culture products, not for original art. I find Society6 convenient as paying for printing and shipping is expensive if you aren’t buying in bulk. Now I prefer sites like Etsy because I enjoy handling and shipping the products myself. I also make a huge portion of my income from Patreon [a subscription-based platform where customers pay small monthly fees to access art, products and content].”
Making prints isn’t the only option, either. If you’re a photographer or videographer, don’t forget about stock image sites such as Stocksy and Adobe Stock – these allow you to license your content and get paid royalties.
Figure out your pricing
When it comes to deciding prices, Beci uses a standard base formula of doubling the price of what it costs to make. Depending on what you’re making and how you’re selling it, however, you’ll also want to factor in overheads such as website fees and packaging costs. For an in-depth breakdown on pricing your goods, check out our guide over here.
Set up your packing station
OK, so you’ve gone and made a whole bunch of prints and merch – go you! But before you set up your online store, make sure you have a system in place for packing orders. This stuff can get stressful pretty quick, so you’ll want to have all your packaging material, cute personalised cards and preferred shipping methods sorted to save yourself future headaches. To avoid getting overwhelmed, it’s also worth setting aside a couple of days in the week to pack orders.
Just keep going
At the end of the day, it’s all about pushing your art forward. If you keep experimenting with new ideas and make work that you’re proud of, your audience will grow naturally. “Starting out, I was just making art for myself and sharing it online,” Peo says. “All I wanted was to draw people who were like me: queer people of colour. It really resonated with people online who saw themselves represented and wanted to see more gay art. When I wanted to monetise my work later on, I already had an audience who wanted to support me.”