How to Sell Art on Instagram

Tips and Pointers for Artists

Opportunities to show and sell art at physical venues have pretty much dried up. By default, selling online is now the number one way for artists and galleries to keep doing business, and may be for some time to come. Of all the online selling options available, Instagram is number one by far. The platform is so perfectly suited for showing and selling art that it's almost like it was designed precisely for that purpose. So in the interest of helping artists to present, promote and sell their art in ways people can understand, appreciate and hopefully want to buy, here's how to do this right:

* Make sure people can find you. Use your artist name (the one people know you by) for your username, not nicknames that only your inner circle know or names you made up that have nothing to do with your actual name. If your username is not your real artist name, then put your real artist name in the "Name" field on your profile page. You can have the best feed in the world, but it won't do you a bit good if people can't find you.

* Link your Instagram page on your website, all of your social media pages, and any other places where it is appropriate. Making your Instagram page easy to find is key to increasing your post views, followers, and chances of making sales.

* Regularly post new work. That way, visitors to your page can quickly see that you're serious about being an artist. People will visit your page about as often as you post. And more visits is always better than less.

* ALWAYS include essential information like size, medium, title, and any other critical details. Don't make people have to ask because many times they won't.

* Post occasional images that relate to your artistic life like studio shots, objects or subject matters that inspire you, places you visit to get ideas for your art, and so on. These types of images give people insight into who you are as a person, your creative process, and how you see the world.

* Avoid posting images that have no relation whatsoever to your art. Images like this confuse viewers. First-time visitors who look at your feed and can't figure out what's going on don't stay long and rarely come back.

* Make sure your images visually relate to one-another. First-time visitors as well as your most ardent fans are more inclined to stick around when there's a consistency to your overall presentation. Confused visitors never stay long.

* Keep your narrative or storyline consistent. The more unified and related your posts and captions, the easier it is for people to understand and get interested in you and your art. With contemporary art, the story is really important-- what you believe in, what you stand for, why you make art, why people should care about the art that you make. People who feel like they can identify with you in some way are more likely to buy your art than those who don't.

* Caption your art in informative, entertaining or engaging ways. Good captions give insight into the work, deepen our connections, and make us want to reach out and know more. Avoid repetitive captions like "My latest art," "New art," and so on. People respond more often to good captions than boring ones or ones that say nothing.

* Keep captions brief. Get your point across in as few words as possible. You'd be surprised how little it takes to get your fans involved.

* Price individual pieces of your art from time to time. Don't price everything; too many dollar signs can be distracting. Price just enough of your work for people to have some idea of what price range you sell in and whether they can afford it. Many people are reluctant to ask prices, including some who might buy if only they knew. People who know what price range you sell in are more likely to inquire about buying than people who don't.

* Reply to DMs or messages about your art sooner than later. Be accessible and available, and don't make people wait. Keep in mind that art is often an impulse buy, so be prompt in your responses and don't wait so long that they begin to lose interest.

* Organize your art into galleries with personalized hashtags, like #(yourname)landscapeart or #(yourname)abstractsculpture. That way, someone who likes a certain subject matter, type, or series of your work can see all similar pieces at once by clicking the hashtag rather than sifting through all of your posts to find them.

* Don't overuse hashtags, especially common ones that have millions or more images like #art, #artist, #painting, #abstractart and so on. Your images almost instantly vanish into the vast morass of continual posts on hashtags like that. General hashtags only take up space and get you nowhere.

* Do hashtag research. Find out which hashtags show art similar to yours and tag art with those. People who like certain kinds of art often follow specific hashtags relating to that art, so make sure they're following yours. Simply type in various hashtags, see what comes up, and see how well your art fits into the posts.

* Use hashtags that accurately describe key aspects or characteristics of your art. Make sure they're specific rather than general. For example, #sailboatpainting is more focused and descriptive than #boatart.

* Use hashtags where your images stand a chance of getting into the top posts for that tag. These tags generally have anywhere from hundreds to maybe some tens of thousands of posts, not millions. More people see "top" posts than "recent" posts. The more followers you have and likes you get, the better your chances of getting to the top. The closer your post is to the top, the more viewers you impress.

* "Scale" your art so people can get a sense of its physical characteristics like size or depth of detail. For example, show it hanging in an interior. That way, people can easily see how looks in real life and whether it would fit in their homes or offices. If you show detail shots as part of your presentation, include a recognizable object like a pencil point or brush tip so they can appreciate the intricacy of the work.

* Use multiple images in individual posts (you can have as many as ten) to show your art as if viewers are right there with you. For example, start with an image of the whole piece, maybe displayed in an interior, and then progressively move closer with each image, ending with pics of details to complete the viewing experience. Or do the opposite. Start with a detail shot and gradually move back, ending with the artwork on display in an interior. You don't have to do this with every piece, but enough for people to get an idea of what your art generally looks like on display, close up, and everywhere in between.

* People like watching "stories." Stories are a good way to share daily life inspirations or behind-the-scenes studio or other art-related activities without confusing the look or feel of your feed's overall appearance. Stories can be either stills or videos and last as long as 15 seconds. Stories automatically disappear after 24 hours, but you can keep them as long as you want by adding them to your page's "highlights." Highlights show up as circles just under your profile for quick access. Examples of highlights might be "About Me," "Studio," "Customer Appreciation," "Reviews", or whatever else you think people might click on to get to know more about you and your art.

* Post new work at least once every week or two, preferably more. Productivity is key to people believing in you and your art, seeing that you're spending serious time in the studio, are dedicated to being an artist, are not taking your responsibilities lightly, and are committed to getting your art out in front of the public.

* If your major works take a long time to create, fill the void with smaller less complex work like pencil drawings, watercolors, small sculptures, or other types of work that don't take that much time to produce.

* Another benefit of posting smaller works is that you can sell them for less, and sell more of them. Many people who like an artist's art prefer to start small. Others have limited budgets. Provide affordable options for them.

* Have your shipping act together. Be able to tell anyone interested in your art how to pay, how it's packed, how it's shipped, how soon they'll get it, and any other information they need to know. This instills confidence in potential buyers.

* Post images anytime your art is on display at physical locations like galleries, alternative venues, coffee shops, etc. That way, your fans will see that you're actively getting your art out into the public.

* When appropriate, post images of satisfied buyers with their newly acquired purchases, or installed and on display in their homes or businesses. People like to see that your art is selling. If other people are buying it, that makes it more OK for them to buy too.


(art by Richard Serra)

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