Art and illustration are amazing forms of creative expression. There are some very talented artists out there, and while some manage to do quite well, others often struggle to monetize their work. The contradiction is that art and design-based products are actually incredibly popular with online consumers. Selling your art online can be potentially very lucrative – if you do it right.
Dropshipping is one of the best ways to make money from your art online. It allows you to get the highest profit margin from your sales, without ever having to print or deliver the products yourself. Many artists spend valuable time seeking out printers and managing inventory and delivery, which could be spent producing more beautiful artwork.
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a service where your artwork is produced, packaged and delivered by an external agency or company. It is sometimes also called ‘order fulfilment’. Essentially, it removes all of the boring maintenance work of getting your artwork produced and delivered to your customers, so you can focus instead on making art, marketing yourself and getting more sales through.
The beauty of dropshipping is that some suppliers allow you to have prints and products sent directly to your customer with your own branding applied, so it looks like it has come directly from you and feels more personal.
Choose the right dropshipping supplier
Not all dropshipping suppliers are born equal. You want to find someone with whom you can build an ongoing rapport, who offers good customer service and will fulfil your requirements in terms of presentation, delivery and cost. Shop around your local dropshipping companies, and endeavor to find one with competitive rates, reliable shipping and the option to apply your own branding and personal touches to the products.
For more tips, read our previous post on finding good dropship wholesalers.
Always order proofs
This is very important, and you should do this regardless of how confident you feel in your new dropshipping supplier. Before any sales are made, order proofs and samples of each product so you can assess their quality. Look closely – how is the print quality? Are the colours true to the colour on your monitor? Are the materials and paper stock good quality? Having physical copies of your work is also useful for taking product photos for your online store.
Once you’ve checked all of your samples and offered any feedback or adjustments necessary, you’re almost ready to start making sales.
Price your work appropriately
Pricing your artwork correctly is very important for the success of your online sales. It’s a good idea to do some research – take a look at what similar artists are charging for their work on sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy and gauge your own prices accordingly.
The retail cost of original artwork can vary considerably, from just a few dollars to several million. This is usually down to the individual artist’s reputation – if you’re just starting out then naturally you shouldn’t expect to be selling original canvases for lofty sums. When it comes to dropshipping and selling art-based products, most of your art will likely be reproduced rather than original, which makes everything much more standardized in terms of pricing.
Factor shipping costs
Be aware when choosing your dropshipping supplier that the most important factor for success when selling your art online is profit margin. You should aim to have a good idea of the retail value of your products before approaching suppliers, as this is will help you calculate your expected profit margin based on the quote your supplier provides. Use your research of other artists and any likes and shares you’ve received on your own work to determine which pieces you think will sell, and consider whether the dropshipping supplier’s prices are cheap enough to offer you a better profit margin than a print-on-demand site like Redbubble or Society6.
Set up shop
There are hundreds of places and platforms for selling your art online. Three very popular sites for selling artwork are eBay, Amazon and Etsy. They have an existing customer base and make it easy for vendors like yourself to create and list products for sale. Dropshipping can be set up from any of these three stores – Etsy was the most recent to jump on this train with The Art of Where.
But if this is a serious venture for you, then the best option is to build your own, targeted website. It will help you come across as a more professional outfit than simply selling through eBay, and you will also avoid the associated listing fees and schemes. It’s never been easier to build your own ecommerce store online, and with dropshipping taking care of the order fulfilment side, you have full control of the user experience for your customers – without any of the donkey work.
As an artist, be aware of your audience and get to know them. How much would they reasonably expect to pay for your art products? What kind of user experience do you want them to have when they buy from you? Remember that employing other people doesn’t mean you will lose control of that aspect of your business or branding – it will simply streamline the process and free up your time for more gratifying tasks.
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.
I’m currently writing on EcommerceTips.org where I share engaging ecommerce content for entrepreneurs and business owners. You can follow me on Twitter here, or add me on LinkedIn.