10 Reasons Why Your Art is Not Selling

10 Reasons Why Your Art is Not Selling

Written by: Courtney Senior

If you’ve spent hours putting your blood, sweat and tears into a new body of work just to see your art collect dust on the studio floor, you’re most likely and with good reason, feeling pretty frustrated. You thought you created masterpieces and yet not a single piece has sold. So, what went wrong? There are a myriad of reasons why your art is not selling and mostly likely it’s a combination of a few things. No matter how great your work is, there are a number of elements inside and outside the studio that impact your art sales. Here are 10 reasons why your art is not selling.

1. You’re Neglecting Social Media Marketing

Social media is the cornerstone of marketing for artists. It’s the easiest way to showcase your work, build your artist brand and reach potential buyers. However, in order for this tactic to be successful it requires consistency, quality and creativity. The frequency of posts, the quality and variety of your photos and videos, the hashtags you use, and the amount of time you spend engaging with other accounts (i.e. liking, commenting, responding to DMs etc.), all have a significant impact on how fast your social media account will grow and how much traffic you’ll generate to your website. Neglecting to put the time into a thoughtful social media plan will actually turn the Instagram algorithm against you – decreasing your visibility and ability to reach your audience.

2. You Don’t Have a Website or Selling Platform

Yes, social media is of critical importance, but trying to sell your art through social media only, is a big mistake. This is a challenge for a few reasons.

  • If you do not have a large social media following, you’re essentially trying to sell your art to an empty audience
  • You’re neglecting an entire group of people who do not have social media and therefore will never know about your business
  • While some people want personalized interactions with artists, there is a larger group of people who do not. In fact, 73% of consumers want self-service technology, which means they want to be able to buy your art without having to send you a DM or participate in back and forth discussions over the course of hours or days just to get more product information.

Having your own e-commerce website or selling on a third-party platform like ArtFinder or ETSY helps increase your visibility, improves the professionalism of your artist brand and gives potential buyers a more convenient and streamlined shopping experience.

3. You’re Not Putting Yourself Out There

Showcasing your art in person can be an intimidating endeavour, but you cannot let that fear stop you from participating in events that will increase your exposure. There are numerous ways to get your work out there (paid and non-paid) while you increase your comfort level. And once you overcome your fear, the world is your oyster. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set up a booth at a weekend market
  • Apply for a group show at a local gallery
  • Host a paint night
  • Participate in a local art event like “Art Battle”
  • Donate your work to a charity auction
  • Participate in an event like “Art and Found Day” (I am bias :), but it’s the perfect way to dip a toe into an art event)

4. Your Photo Quality is Poor

A picture is worth a thousand words. Yes, it’s cliché, but it’s true, nonetheless. Dark, blurry, low-res, bad composition are just a few of the many elements that can produce a poor photograph. When it comes to selling art online, your images are what stand between you and a potential sale. Online buyers make an immediate value judgment based on the look and aesthetic of your art. Regardless of whether your photo is a fair assessment of your work’s quality, it means you need to have clear, high-quality photos that accurately represent your artwork. Likewise, offering a variety of photos that depict the true size, colours and details of your work will help your buyers make an informed decision and ultimately, build trust with your customers.  

5. You Haven’t Built Customer Trust Yet

Lack of trust is another reason why your art is not selling. Imagine visiting an online store for the very first time. You know nothing about the brand, the quality of its products, or commitment to customer satisfaction. Like most shoppers, you’d probably search for reviews from past customers, looking for any proof that the business met their needs. But when you have not made any art sales yet or you don’t have reviews or social proof to leverage, it can create a gap in trust between you and potential customers. This is a dilemma that almost every artist has to face. Here are a few ways to earn trust with or without sales:

  • Build an emotional connection through story telling
  • Publish new content regularly to show your expertise and investment in your art
  • Provide as much detail about the product as possible (see below)
  • Make yourself available for customer inquiries
  • Have an excellent return policy
  • Ask customers to post reviews and/or share on social media
  • Publish a portfolio of sold work

6. You’re Not Providing Enough Product Information

The more details you share about your work, the less guess work there is for your buyers. Would you buy a product based on photos and dimensions alone? The best product descriptions build trust with buyers and make your business look polished and legitimate and enable customers to shop with ease. It’s also a critical component of a strong SEO strategy (more on this later). The information you share should span the physical details of your artwork right down to shipping, packaging and payment. Not all of this information needs to be in the product description, but it should be included in a clearly visible FAQ section. Here are things you should include:

  • Artwork title
  • Story / inspiration behind the artwork
  • Size
  • Mediums
  • Framed or unframed
  • Colours
  • Packaging details
  • Shipping courier, costs and estimated time and delivery
  • Return policy
  • Payment options and information

7. Your Prices Are Too High

Pricing art is a challenge. There are numerous factors to consider when working through a pricing strategy. However, the numbers you settle on aren’t necessarily the ones that are going to make you the most successful. It’s important to put your ego aside and reflect on whether your prices are actually inhibiting you from making more sales. Granted, your art might not be selling because of lack of exposure, but if do have an online following or are participating in physical events and your work still isn’t selling, it could be a reflection of your prices. If you’ve received a couple of sales, then your price point is validated, but if you haven’t you might want to reassess. You should also decide if you would rather sell a single painting for $1000 or 5 paintings for $500.

8. You’re Not Targeting the Right Audience

It doesn’t matter how great your work is, if you are showing your artwork in the wrong places and to the wrong people, your art won’t sell. This is important for planning both online and offline marketing strategies. For example, my very first art show was at a high-end gallery. In comparison to the other artists, my work was not as polished, my style was not refined and my price point was too low. At that time in my career, it was the wrong place to show my work. Likewise, my second show was at a night market. The audience was there to eat and drink food not to shop for art.

Think critically about who is most likely to purchase your art and where that art will most likely be placed. For example, do you see it in chic city homes and condos? Then submit an application to show at a big city art event. Do you see it in local coffee shops? Then reach out to coffee shops in your neighborhood. When it comes to online marketing, consider your subject matter. Do you paint horses? Find Instagram hashtags, groups, blogs and publications to engage with that audience.

9. You’re Over Promoting

Another reason why your art is not selling is over promotion. There is nothing more off-putting than constant self-promotion. We know it’s tempting. You have a few followers or subscribers and you just can’t wait to tell them about the amazing pieces that are now available. Unfortunately, this hard selling approach doesn’t work well on social media and will just alienate your audience. Nobody would sign up to receive daily advertisements straight to their inbox so why expect your social audience to follow you on social media to receive ‘salesy’ content that’s of no value to them? The occasional promotional post is encouraged, but the majority of your content should focus on education and entertainment to help build long-term relationships, cultivate trust and nurture the audience. 

10. You’ve Surprised Your Buyers with Additional Costs

Unexpected costs that show up during a checkout can make a customer rethink their purchase. In fact, extra costs are the number one reason shoppers abandon carts. For artists, this is most often related to large shipping fees that accompany your work. Consider giving customers all costs upfront, including any shipping costs, what taxes apply, and any other fees they should expect in your product descriptions. If you want to take this one step further, consider working all or part of your shipping fees into your cost structure to either significantly reduce fees or offer free shipping.