How to Sell Your Art Locally (and Actually Stand Out)

how to sell your art locally

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Let’s say you want to learn how to sell your art locally, but you don’t know many people or have little experience. You’ll be glad to know you can still sell art and make some money.

I’ve been fortunate to visit many art galleries and downtown painting events over the years. I’ve seen firsthand how eager and curious locals are to learn more about the artists in their home city. That includes buying their work!

Don’t count yourself out before you’ve even gotten started. This guide will teach you how to successfully sell art at all kinds of unique venues.

Popular Places to Start Selling Your Art Locally

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when figuring out how to sell your art locally. In fact, there are classic places that people are quick to gravitate to when they’re eager to buy some art or share an experience.

popular places to start selling your art locally

Art Gallery

The classic art gallery is one of the most reliable and trustworthy places for local artists to sell art online and in person. Visitors will already feel confident spending their money here since galleries put in time and effort to vet whoever they’re displaying.

Art galleries, even small ones, are established and have a reputation that spans your local area. Gallery owners and art directors work hard to spread the word, network with artists and ensure there will be a strong turnout. Having professionals working hard on your behalf is a huge relief when you’re just starting out.

An important detail on selling artwork through a gallery is the more suited-up, professional atmosphere. More often than not, these locations are on the quieter side and have a more strict mode of behavior – usually no food, low volume, and limited capacity. However, whether or not this is a downside depends on your personal tastes.

It’s essential you feel comfortable in your environment when selling work locally, so make sure you choose one that fits your disposition. If you clearly don’t want to be there, your buyers will instantly tell and may look elsewhere.

art gallery

Your art gallery will take a small commission on any piece you sell through them. This commission covers labor costs such as transporting, displaying, and promoting your art. You may also earn money through associated events, such as presentations or interviews. Gallery representation is also wonderful for making a professional and authoritative artist CV.

Here’s a handy list of art galleries in the United States alone. Just type in your city and see what pops up!

Art Fair or Festival

If you prefer a more easygoing setting where you can laugh and chat freely, you may be more interested in an art fair. These venues are often a little easier to get into for beginners since the whole point is for people to kick back and have fun.

Local art fairs frequently have locations sectioned off for local artists to display their wares alongside live music, food stands, or shows. People can walk in and out at their leisure, talk to shop owners, and pick out unique creations to take home. This is a setting where extroverts and ambiverts thrive since much of the selling will be done face-to-face.

However, introverts will have a more difficult time here. If you’re not comfortable talking about yourself or upselling your original pieces, it may help to bring a friend or acquaintance. They can help you answer questions or even take over when you need a break. Just make sure to compensate them for their hard work!

art fair
(Image Source)

Art fairs don’t often let you sell art online through their event – they want you to sell in person. However, they usually let you set your own prices. Depending on the fair, you may be able to take home all your earnings or they may keep a small cut.

Need more help? Check out what an art fair page can look like to get an idea of where to get started.

Food Businesses (Like Restaurants or Bars)

Food businesses regularly lean on art to help them create warm and intriguing atmospheres for their guests. I can guarantee you’ll find at least one food business that’d be happy to feature your work.

Not only do original paintings and sculptures add to the decor, they also generate word-of-mouth. In the age of social media, customers love snapping photos of beautiful art and sharing them with their friends – free marketing for that business. In turn, you also get extra exposure through their family, friends, and co-workers.

food businesses

Just a few customer-facing food businesses you can reach out to include:

  • Family restaurants
  • Mom and pop diners
  • Bars
  • Coffee houses
  • Bakeries
  • Delis
  • Breweries
  • Tea shops

Don’t feel limited by this list, though. You may be amazed by local brands who still want your work, such as a specialty marshmallow shop or mobile taco stand. In fact, it’s often the smaller and newer businesses that need the biggest boost from your art business. You’re giving them free decorating and saving them the trouble of sprucing up their on-site location.

Similar to art galleries and some art fairs, businesses will often take a small cut from your work. This cut covers not only displaying your prints and originals but also taking care of them in your absence.

This fascinating article on artists using restaurants as their main vehicle for selling art is a great inspiration. You don’t have to open up your own cafe or bar, of course, but it gives you an idea of exactly how your art enhances these settings.

Open Studio

If you consider an art gallery too stuffy or an art fair too cluttered, using your own studio space could be a solid in-between. If you have a spacious home studio you don’t mind strangers walking around in, you can have a higher level of control over your art shows.

open studio

I’ve been to a few home studio art gallery tours in the past. While it felt a little awkward walking around in the home of someone I didn’t know, it was also a unique approach to the gallery-hopping experience. Not only was I getting to know artists through their art, but through the little touches in their everyday life.

Similar to art fairs, though, you’ll have to do quite a bit of talking and delegating. In fact, you’ll have to do even more since you’re the one in charge! If you don’t feel comfortable telling people not to touch your furniture or giving on-the-spot presentations, you may want to try another option on this list.

You also need studio space large enough to hold several people. If it’s too tiny, people won’t be able to mingle and observe art comfortably.

Selling work locally through your home studio also means you get complete control over your earnings. However, if you feel like hiring help to showcase or protect your work, you’ll need to dedicate a small portion to compensating assistants.

David M. Kessler, a fine art instructor, shares his thoughts on the benefits of the open studio model to start selling art.

Workshops and Art Classes

workshops

Do you have a little teaching experience and the urge to help other artists grow? Workshops and art classes allow you to promote your work while sharing your wisdom – a win-win.

You don’t necessarily need a degree or a certificate to teach, either. While a college art course will require higher education, you can bypass this step with local art events. These settings often have teachers already spearheading the event, so you’ll act as an assistant of sorts.

In a way, workshops and art classes function as a hybrid classroom and local gallery. While many visitors will come to learn new skills, some will be happy to buy your work to study at home.

As is common, expect the event to take a small cut of your earnings. This cut will depend on the establishment, so be sure to take it into account before pricing your art.

Need some ideas for setting up and promoting a workshop or art event? For example, you could type in ‘art workshop California’ on Viator and get a slew of compelling examples. Type in your own location and see what comes up.

Alternative Ways to Sell Your Art Locally

alternative ways to sell your art locally

Curious about less common, but still very effective ways of selling art locally? Not only are these alternative spaces great ways to network with other artists, but they can also be more effective since they’re less common. They immediately stand out, which is great for grabbing attention in a sea of similar selling methods.

Mobile Pop-Up Gallery

If you have wanderlust and don’t mind a little spontaneity in your art business, the mobile pop-up gallery is a must-try approach. These art shows will crop up in the middle of neighborhoods or downtown areas to save people a trip.

Does that mean you have to show up completely randomly? Not at all – even people with no local presence can still do some marketing for their show. Social media platforms are a reliable way to get the word out on a budget, especially when you use local keywords and local hashtags.

Many fine artists also go for a classic approach of handing out flyers on the street or asking businesses to keep a few flyers on hand at their front desk. If your location has a public billboard for local businesses, consider sticking a few up there with the dates and locations of your mobile gallery to build hype.

mobile pop-up gallery

The downsides of the mobile pop-up gallery are mainly around the costs of renting and your driving ability. If you’re on a very tight budget, you may not be able to afford to rent a truck for a day or two. You also need a current driver’s license (though you can always ask a friend or acquaintance to drive for you).

As with selling art locally without a middleman, you get to keep 100% of your earnings. Just make sure to dedicate a small portion to covering expenses like renting, gas, and food.

If you’ve never seen a mobile art gallery before, check out this awesome news story of Forge, a fine artist who actively prefers the mobile art scene.

Art Party

If you’ve got a talent for hosting an unforgettable party, you can apply this knowledge to selling art in your community. This option is like a stylish blend between an open studio and an art gallery.

The art party is a blast because people are already going to be on the same page – attending for the love of art! The casual atmosphere is especially enjoyable if you already have a few friends and acquaintances you plan on inviting over. You get to set the rules, decorate the place, and create an event that’s truly all your own.

art party

Introverts will have a tougher time organizing and hosting the event, but it’s far from impossible. If you want a starting point, consider just visiting an art party or two before establishing your own. Many artists will even network at these parties to gain exposure and build hype for their own.

I’m as close to a cryptid as you can possibly be and still attended a few chill, friendly art parties back in community college. They were casual set-ups where some food was set out and everyone sat down to do some live painting outside. It gave me a solid idea of all the different flavors an art gathering can take (as well as a few ideas for gatherings of my own someday).

Selling art at an art party is not unlike a home studio. You’ll be responsible for promoting your work, setting prices, and getting people eager to buy. If you utilize social media platforms to build hype for your work beforehand, you may even get people bidding.

Virtual, in-person, hybrid…you can fashion all kinds of get-togethers. Learn more about different types of art parties and how you can run one successfully.

Businesses Outside the Food Industry

It’s not just food-related businesses that may need a little help from your art business. You’d be surprised by how many medical or craft businesses are happy to have their local audience reach out to you.

business outside the food industry

It’s rare when I go into a clinic or dental space and don’t see at least a few paintings on the wall. While some are generic prints sourced from who-knows-where, others are from local and emerging artists with their name on the side. Your potential buyers may not be people who regularly visit galleries, but do need regular tire rotations or teeth cleanings.

It’s important to note that what may fly in online galleries or open studio events may not be accepted in other businesses. In fact, due to being accessible to the general public, art of the following type will likely be rejected:

  • Anything with blood or gore
  • Nudity or partial nudity
  • Surreal, eerie, or spooky art

On the other hand, you have a high chance of selling art through these local businesses if you do the following:

  • Landscapes
  • Portraits
  • Animals
  • Abstract art
  • Floral art

If you’re not sure if your local business will let you use their establishment as a gallery space just ask them through their social media or website’s contact page. However, I highly recommend finding the email or phone number of the owner or director of the establishment to talk with them personally – you’re less likely to look ‘spammy’ that way.

selling my art

The business in question may or may not require a small cut for you to display your work. They may also not be the ones to sell your work to potential buyers and might just contact you directly if someone expresses interest.

If you want inspiration for your art career, Franklin Arts specializes in curating art for clinical settings such as dental offices and hospitals.

Local Filmmakers and Indie Musicians

Your potential buyers are sometimes other artists. If you’ve got a love for filmmaking or music, you may just have a niche in featuring your art in people’s films and music videos.

If this sounds like a bit of a stretch, let me assure you it’s not – I actually see quite a few shows and movies that display artists’ work in the background. Grey’s Anatomy, a show set in Seattle, frequently showcases local artists in their hospital and clinic settings.

Selling art doesn’t always look like figuring out prices or promoting yourself online. It also looks like helping other artists get their foothold. Take a moment to consider your portfolio and all the fresh, new ways it could be used.

local filmmakers

Could your art make for a lovely backdrop in a music video? How about helping tell the story of the main character of a drama? Doing a little research on the filmmakers you reach out to will ensure your art lines up with their tastes and vision.

You can also hash out the details on whether or not they’ll take a cut of any profits. You may decide on other methods of mutual compensation, such as promoting one another online.

To find artists to collaborate with, you can look artists up at local film festivals – like Oregon Independent Film Fest – or contact them directly on their social media.

Online Sales Using Local SEO

Future sales depend on your actions now. Local SEO ensures people in your area are seeing your work where it’s most convenient, which is usually their smartphone or tablet.

SEO is short for search engine optimization, a digital marketing technique that helps your art appear in search engine results. Local SEO ensures your work is only found by people who live in your area, such as in the same city or the same state.

online sales using local seo

Local SEO can look like running an art blog where you post behind-the-scene sneak peeks, event dates, or finished pieces. You can fill each post with local keywords such as ‘Seattle painters’, ‘Seattle painters near me’, or ‘Seattle art events’. Just make sure they’re actually relevant – using random keywords will make it harder for Google to promote your work.

Another way of using local SEO to sell your art is maintaining a social media profile. Use relevant keywords and local hashtags in each of your posts so your work appears to the right people. You should also look up other local art accounts and reach out to them – they may want to feature your work!

Selling art online is easier when you add a few tools to your toolkit. Free SEO tools you can start out with are SEMRush’s limited free plan or SurferSEO’s free Chrome extension. I use both of these regularly in my line of work and they’re a great supplement to general industry research.

Use these to look up which local keywords are trending in your area and get ideas for blog posts or social media posts. When done effectively, people will easily find your work in person or on online marketplaces like Saatchi Art.

3 Tips for Selling Your Art Locally

If you’re still worried you won’t sell your art to art enthusiasts, I have a few more tips that’ll make things easier for you. As the saying goes – knowing is half the battle.

tips for selling your art locally

Have a Diverse Range of Price Points to Meet More People Halfway

Every visitor at your event will have a unique budget. Meet them halfway with a diverse range of price points that still honor the hard work you put into your original pieces.

For example, you can sell smaller limited edition prints for less than larger pieces. This is one of the most common ways to reduce prices without unfairly whittling down the price. The smaller size is lighter to transport and easier to hang up, so it’s a price reduction that makes sense.

You can apply the same logic to original pieces. A clay sculpture you spent two hours on won’t have to cost as much as a large sculpture you spent twenty hours making.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking people will only buy your art if it’s a very low price, though. There are quite a few art enthusiasts who are all too happy to pay your prices and support you.

Have an Equally Diverse Range of Payment Methods to Match

Just like everyone doesn’t have the same budget, not everyone uses the same payment methods. Save yourself the headache and add a few payment portals to help out potential buyers.

payment methods

It’d be pretty disheartening to have a gallery owner swing by to make a purchase only to find out they don’t use PayPal, right? Fortunately, today’s web builders make it easy to attach multiple payment methods so you can sell art online and in person. Potential buyers can use these payment portals through their mobile devices, and then walk away with their new purchase.

Work on Your Comfort Level in Casual Interactions

Selling art online can sometimes weaken your in-person skills. Running an effective art business means sharpening your comfort levels in casual interactions. People aren’t just buying your work for its aesthetic, but they’re supporting you as a creator.

When you sell your art, you’re also selling your perspective, values, and history. Do you want people to feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck? Become comfortable with initiating conversation, talking about your work, and creating a positive experience for your buyers.

While it can sound a little detached, successfully selling art means selling yourself.

Selling Your Art Locally is Easier Than Ever With Today’s Tools

sell your art locally

Today’s online tools and interconnected art community make it easier than ever to set up your business and attract potential buyers. You can sell online, and then go to an in-person art event on your schedule.

Potential buyers are all around you. So many people could be thrilled to buy your art online or in person but simply don’t know who you are or where to find you. When you make it easy for them with determined marketing efforts and word-of-mouth recommendations, sales are bound to happen.

Want to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward for your buyers? Sign up for some online art classes to update your portfolio with dazzling new pieces.

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