A couple of weeks ago we posted a piece about the things to consider if you are thinking about selling your photography online. Our guest contributor, Sarah Brown, has done a bang-up job highlighting some available options should you decided to go down that road.
By Sarah Brown
If you have decided selling your work online is something you want to do, you should know there is a range of ecommerce marketplaces for artists. Seize this moment to write down some of your (realistic) sales goals and budget, which will influence which marketplace is best suited for you. Ask yourself what you want to earn from the sale? How many print sales a month? Will you commit time to marketing yourself? Is your audience large enough to bring in traffic, or do you need to rely on the traffic from a host platform?
With the myriad of marketplaces for online sales, the number of choices can be overwhelming. Most of the sites have trials to give you time to try the storefront and see if it works for you, so it may be helpful to sign up for multiple sites and give yourself time to play around and compare them. That said, let’s look at three types of marketplaces, each of which offer different services for selling your work.
Zatista.com is great example of sales with support. For both wholesale and retail buyers, Zatista sells the gamut of mediums, including photography. The support services and promotion allow you to focus on just selling your work. You can register and set up at no cost, but when you sell be ready to share a 45% commission with Zatista. Zatista really caters to the buyer, including a newsletter, guest curators that design rooms with art, and objects viewable in a virtual room, which allows buyers to visualize the piece on a wall. They also guarantee a hassle-free return. Be sure to be aware of these types of guarantees and how they may effect your sales.
Once you register, you can set up shop with your artist statement and PayPal account info. If you have a CV, pull it out to fill in your profile information. Shoppers can search for styles and mediums they like, and they can connect to your work at all hours of the day or night. The site also promotes their sales to corporate buyers, which gives you the potential for a heavier volume of sales. You are required to give them non-exclusive rights until the end of time to your content and images. This is great for exposure, which may outweigh the usage clause that gives them rights for media yet to be invented. Again, be sure to read over the policy agreement before clicking agree. Once you set up your site and start selling work, you receive an email with the buyer’s information. You are responsible for shipping, which must include an approved shipper like UPS or FedEx. Zatista requires a tracking number in order to process the order. Again, be sure to know your responsibilities and shipping details. Take shipping into consideration when setting your pricing.
Another site that offers similar services is UGallery, a site that started up in 2006 and represents 450 artists. Like Zatista they ask for an initial application before becoming part of their team, which also carries a reasonable $5 fee. A few details to note: you live in North America and use archival printing methods. UGallery takes a 50% commission on the sale, but they also cover the packaging and shipping cost. Once you receive notification of a sale, you will receive a custom art box and prepaid FedEx shipping label.
The work you choose to sell through UGallery cannot be sold elsewhere. Although you retain the copyright, UGallery has exclusive rights for the listed works’ sales. Their return policy includes a 7 days money back guarantee and includes the shipping to return the piece. Two drawbacks of exhibiting with UGallery are waiting the 14 day period to receive a payment check and not being able to link your website from your UGallery page. On the flip side, waiting for a check may be a prudent means to saving the money, and with all the social media these days, you have a myriad of ways to link your webpage into your marketing.
Uncomfortable sharing a chunk of your sales with the marketplace? The next websites offer a different way to sell online. Etsy and Big Cartel do have fees, but reasonable rates that won’t break your budget. These virtual storefronts require a little more work on your part. You will have to wear a marketing and PR hat to drive traffic to your storefront page. Both Etsy and Big Cartel offer a similar platform, but there are some significant differences that can influence your decision of how to sell online. You should verse yourself with the best keywords for your photography and understand how buyers are looking for the type of work you choose to sell.
Etsy is a global marketplace and well-known for business activism and environmental consciousness as a certified B corporation. They had $1.35 billion total merchandise sales in 2013. Yes, I said billion, and they have only been operating since 2005. There is no fee to sign up and no monthly fee. You do pay $.20 per item (or photograph) for 4 months or until it sells, and Etsy takes a 3.5% transaction fee when you sell. They do offer customer support and are easy to navigate both during your set up and maintenance. You can build an in-depth profile or keep it short. Etsy is a great general marketplace and seems to only be growing. This is the site for you if you enjoy the marketing and promotion to drive buyers to your storefront, and it also has the advantage of having a large and loyal customer base and a “search” option.
Big Cartel may be a smaller e-commerce site compared to Etsy, but don’t let that fool you. Big Cartel has carved a niche by providing templates to help you design your page and the technical opportunity to refine it with code,as well as the ability to integrate the shop into your own website (with certain hosts like Squarespace). They offer promotional help as well as domain name purchasing for a URL. This all goes for a monthly fee plan that corresponds with number of products, webpage customizations, iPhone orders, discount codes, and URL names you require. No percentage of sales is taken; you keep the money except for any PayPal fees. They do have a limit to the number of items you can sell (300), but listing five items is free, which is a great way to test the waters. The monthly fee plans top out at $29.99. You will likely have to do more work promoting for shoppers to find your storefront than on Etsy, but both of these platforms offer a professional-looking and consumer-trusted way to sell your own work online.
Then, there is Saatchiart.com. They offer great benefits to their artists, including support and promotional assistance. Opening in 2006, the Saatchi Gallery started a website for contemporary artists to sell their work. This step into the virtual ecommerce market has been successful for both artists and collectors. Saatchi has a genuine interest in contributing to the greater cultural community and supporting artists to find success in selling their work. To begin, it is free to register and set up your profile. You have the option to connect your profile with your Facebook page. For those that have a following on Facebook, this is a great way to connect your followers and potential collectors to a space to buy your work, as well as to update them on upcoming exhibits, new work and news. You can add social media badges to your personal webpage.
But how much does this all cost you? 30% of your sale price. You also have the option to have Saatchi provide the print fulfillment. They do ask that you make clear if you are selling original work or reproductions. By agreeing to Saatchi’s terms and policies when you enroll, you give the website non-exclusive rights. Saatchi Art does have the right to use your image for both promotion, discount, and a royalty free usage with rights to sublicense your image. You are allowed to sell the work elsewhere, they just ask you to be sure of your contractual obligation to the gallery and be sure you are in compliance.
If you are making your our own prints for Saatchi, you are responsible for shipping within 7 days of the purchase or the transaction is voided. Be sure to follow their recommended parameters for packaging and shipping. You are only reimbursed if you use a preferred shipper account with a preferred shipper. You are paid into your Saatchi Art account that is termed Artist Revenue Share visible on your sales dashboard, which can take 14 days to pay out. They will send a check or transfer funds to bank accounts or through PayPal. When it comes to taxes (the ones we pay in April), they offer a W9 right on their site. Saatchi is well-organized and supportive while maintaining high standards. This site takes some more time to explore the ins and outs. Be sure you are ready to interact with other artists and build a network. This is a supportive site that does require some work on your part to be presentable and some self-promotion. Art Advisory, a service to help collectors buy, and the Showdown, Saatchi’s online competition judged by other artists and curators, are two program examples that set them apart from other sites.
These are only a few of the available choices for artists to sell online. Look around and find which best suits your goals. Remember to treat your work and your virtual storefront like you would any business. Keep records, stay organized, and connect with your potential buyers. After all, you are investing in yourself and your photography.