Finding an online marketplace


Dear Artist,

Artist Sherry Abramson of Vancouver wrote, “I know I’m hunting for the next key and figure I need someone who can mentor me, to help me set up a simple online format to sell my art. I totally get the virtuous circle concept as I was a high level figure skater, and long time teacher of kids with reading difficulties. Now, at 73, for 5 years I’ve been focussing on and selling nature photography and painting. I love the interaction with prospective buyers and try to cater to their wishes. However, my drive-by selling out of the trunk of my car needs a tuneup. Former buyers return but I’d like a simple online format. I guess it falls in the marketing and distribution category. Any ideas?”

Lemonade Stand, an ad for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1956 10¼ x 13½ inches by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Lemonade Stand, an ad for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1956
10¼ x 13½ inches
by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Every creative person who wishes to make a livelihood from art must, through grit and perseverance, find their personal sweet spot in the marketplace. My brothers and I began by fastening our paintings to an old-growth red cedar at the top of the driveway and offering them to our neighbours for 25 cents. Those days are behind us but the tree still stands, so majestically, in fact that its roots are now pushing up the driveway. In lieu of a driveway art-tree-stand or drive-by trunk sale, and in these days of shelter-in-place, selling your work may begin with setting up a page on an online marketplace. Many artists have discovered outrageous success on sites like Etsy, which specializes in handmade arts and crafts and charges a small fee for listings that connect artists to buyers and manages the transactions. You can direct clients to your Etsy page from social media or your own site, ship from your studio, and collect revenue in one place.

Artists have also praised platforms like Shopify, which helps visitors complete purchases through their online e-commerce platform. This option is suitable for artists who feel they have enough visitors and have all their marketing covered, and want to manage direct sales and interface with their collectors without a middleman. But unlike Etsy, Shopify doesn’t come with its own audience.

Perpetual Motion, (Popular Science cover), 1920 by Norman Rockwell

Perpetual Motion, (Popular Science cover), 1920
by Norman Rockwell

Lastly, you might think about simply posting your art cards on Instagram and inviting visitors to buy them with the help of a mobile payment service like Venmo or Paypal. Instagram is free to create a profile and you can reach an image-junkie audience looking for handmade goods, and get exposure for your paintings, too. Like thousands of artists currently doing business on Instagram, you need only post your latest with pricing — if you like — and write “direct message me for inquiries.” Like a driveway art-stand or drive-by trunk sale, Instagram puts you in the neighbourhood, with the hope of capturing the hearts of passers-by.



PS: “Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief.” (Leo Burnett)

Saturday Evening Post cover, 1924 by Norman Rockwell

Saturday Evening Post cover, 1924
by Norman Rockwell

Esoterica: I invite artists who are using an online marketplace to post a link below to their work, along with any suggestions for Sherry. Amongst artists, information is empowering and sharing our personal and hard-won systems can hopefully invite more creativity onto the dance floor. Thank you for your generosity of ideas. Most importantly, when releasing work for sale, make sure you’ve determined it to be your very best. The greatest marketplace in the world will still struggle to sell substandard work and ideas. “Your premium brand had better be delivering something special,” wrote Warren Buffett, “or it’s not going to get the business.” “Quality,” said my Dad, “is always in style.”

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“The best feedback in the world, the only feedback you can trust, is sales.” (Barbara Corcoran)



  1. I established a Shopify site this summer, replacing my basic WordPress site in favor of Shopify’s ecommerce capabilities. Even though my following is small, I call this a success. Through my email newsletters and my activity on social media, I’ve had 15 sales from 12 collectors, which is so much better than the previous contact-me-if-you’re-interested approach. Our culture is accustomed to online purchases being easy. Anything else gets in the way.

  2. I’m actually looking at revamping my website right now, because I have so many different platforms that my art is sitting on- thought I do primarily sell from my Dailypaintworks gallery~ And I do think the quality matters for sure, and so does consistency. I’ve had great success with three annual “30 in 30” Daily Painting Projects I do- Cats in March, Dogs in July and houses in HOMEvember.
    My blog at is where I post daily, and connecting that to Facebook and Instagram has helped~
    It’s just so satisfying to get your art out and have people want it! I was recently able to invite a couple to my studio where they selected three large otter paintings and wrote me out a lovely check.
    Keep your work going, do your best to make it your best, and tell people about it!

  3. I chose a hybrid: using the Etsy 360 plugin for my WordPress site my shop is both embedded in my site and part of the Etsy marketplace. The link takes you to the embedded version and you can click from there to Etsy if you prefer.

    There are less expensive ways to have a shop, and I am paying about $280 per year for the Etsy360 plug-in. The advantage? One-stop for someone who starts at my site — they aren’t derailed by other peoples’ work and can stay in my world. Only at checkout do they connect with Etsy, which handles tax (a big thing here, figuring out sales tax for every state is not fun.)

    I used to love to hate Etsy as it became more corporate and more expensive (fees, + their bookkeeping is a nightmare, don’t even try… they send you your net for a sale minus whatever listing fees you have accrued at the moment and you can never get a clear sense of profit per sale.) BUT it is reaching a tipping point, where the dollars they are investing in marketing are leading to more sales, and far more visibility for my work than if my shop was standing alone.

    That said the price point skews low. Very hard to sell photographs and limited edition prints above $150. (You will have better luck in other media like ceramics, painting and jewelry.) As I am a gallery artist primarily and my prices reflect that this is where having a shop on my own site where collectors and designers can see the work at higher price points is really important. Everything listed is priced. Nobody likes to ask how much a piece of art costs: make it easy.

  4. I like what your dad said Sara and I agree “quality is always in style”. I agree Etsy is a great platform for small handmade object such as art cards. And Instagram, with careful hashtags, might be useful as well. I have another idea to add into the conversation because Sherry also has a Facebook audience where she shares daily inspiration photographs, this is also an attentive audience (though I cannot see how large because of privacy settings). If Sherry was to set up a business FaceBook page she could do one post that could go to both FaceBook and Instagram as an online shop.

    Another idea is to choose a platform that specializes in products and reproduction using art images and that also now uses an algorithm to market to its (and your) customers. Select just the most stellar images of work and be prepared for a learning curve to “design” each product and set the profit margins. Then since Sherry is already marketing her original handmade cards she could also market the other products and prints at the same time using the platform images of the products. I use Redbubble because I have been with them for over ten years but it would be worth checking out similar platforms, like Fine Art America. If I was going to market these products (which I seldom do except in the late fall for Christmas shopping sometimes) I would do it in advance of seasonal themes such as Easter that is coming up. I would select say 10-12 images that fit that theme (the ones on Sherry’s website collection “longing for spring” would be a good place to start for an Easter theme) and market packages of products. One tip for these online image shops is to set your profit margins high enough to actually make some money for your efforts (not less than 60% markup and much higher for decorative prints and reproductions (between 100-200 %). In addition, it is important to watermark all images in a sensitive but clear way with your website URL every time you share them online – anywhere! I know there is a whole debate about doing this but the issue is not someone stealing them but someone being able to find you and order prints, products or purchase original work. For example a couple of weeks ago, someone I had never met and didn’t know from another country was helping a family member decorate a holiday accommodation. They found one of my photographs that was perfect for their needs, went to my website, sent me an email with the image attached. It wasn’t in my online shop but I was able to find the original and upload it in short order. The exchange resulted in a $48 profit margin for 10 minutes of my time and I have another fan of my work. Without the watermark they likely would never have found me.

    The market for reproduction prints, tote bags, aprons, journals, mugs, greeting cards and so on is not the same market generally as for my original work. Yet, it is an important audience to be able to serve because they often carry the products with them and then share my work with others in conversation who MIGHT be interested in original paintings. I call these audience members “my serious fans”. These individuals regularly purchase products for gifts, read and share my newsletter and social media posts and often engage in conversation and add a significant amount of joy to my daily work, as well as, enhancing the all important bottom line through passive income, though passive is a seductive and deceptive word in this equation. The audience is international and orders come in from all over the North America, Austria and Europe. One of my painting sketches from Paris has been ordered as a reproduction many times. The down side is, I don’t ever know who many of these buyers are unless they tell me about their purchases. This I just accept. In the link attached to my name I have included my Redbubble Storefront so it is easy to check out. Hope this helps and with our collective ideas, Sherry discovers a plan forward to grow her art business.

  5. In 2020 I sold thirty-nine paintings through Facebook. One through my Website on none through Instagram. In 2021 I have sold three paintings throughFacebook. Most of my advertising is through word of mouth. Friends tell friends who tell friends. More and more people join my Facebook page and either buy a painting that is posted there or commission me to paint a painting.

  6. I wish I had a success story for this artist. Mine is one of trying everything, but trying to not sell myself short. That said, there are too many paintings in my memory that I gave away for little profit, not even covering the framing when building my career. “Donate! It will give you exposure” was one of those memories. I donated my very best paintings over and over again. Never did I get another client from those so -called art-auctions. (they were for bargain hunters only) Lesson learned. Now I have a website. That has helped me. Also, I have Facebook, Instagram, and Linked-in. All these sites have value if you are willing to put in the time necessary. Galleries are any artist’s best friend. They love my work, pay me, and share me everywhere they go. Thank heavens for those people! Find one if you can, people still go to galleries.

  7. I have wondered over the years how artists sell online via Paypal or other ways to purchase. I admire those who are good at the business side of selling art on top of the creative side of making art. Often we don’t have both of those identities in our personal make up, I know I don’t. I’ve been approached to take part in studio tours where our home would be open to strangers to walk through and take a look, maybe buy. I cringe at that whole idea. I’ve been asked by friends to come and see what I have at home for sale, I cringe at that as well, thank goodness I paint so slowly I can barely keep my profile current with new works at a gallery. Being in a gallery is the dream come true for this artist. I tell people to go to the gallery that represents me if they are interested in my work. I wonder also how the new ways of artist exposure via online shopping has effected galleries. I suppose the online ways of selling artwork has helped galleries, too. The message in the quote by your dad is most important. Focus on making quality work first, quality is always in style… amen to that, Robert.

  8. Erdmute Gottschling on

    Dear Sara,
    I do look forward to your emails. You always come up with something interesting and informative like this newsletter. Thank you!
    I too enjoy the comments and replays. It gives me a feeling of connectivity. Painting is such a solitary occupation, it’s nice to know I have company.

    Quality is paramount for sure… The on-line world is always changing so I gave up trying to keep up and doing my own website. has been perfect for me.

  10. Sherry……I listened to my an inner chiding angel in January 2020 and got to work with my web designer to set up a new website (including my archived work from my old website..2011…my business has been large scale murals). It took 8 tedious back and forthing months setting up the proper files. LISTENING to the suggestions of my excellent web designer, Kevan Rayne, who lives in Orcas Island in the San Juan’s while I live in West Seattle. Keven is a fabulous designer and knows me well. He helped me set up my first Mac in 1994, and with this huge job he was OK with me paying him in increments as we went along…and it was all done long distance online via TeamViewer and phone calls, and WeTransfer for big file folders, He also taught me the basics of uploading new files and comments (and a blog…haven’t started that yet) so I could be more independent. My website also has a store where I utilize WooCommerce and customers can pay via PayPal or credit card. It also computes taxes and shipping to add to the cost. Since August, 2020, I have made over $4000 gross on my cards alone. I have also sold several paintings…one 6×10 feet.
    I have fostered many FaceBook relationships (I love to write as well and know 3/4 of my Facebook friends personally from my travels and teaching.) I post my card images and my paintings, online, and Poof! People go to my site and buy (Secret…only sell in sets of 5 or 10 and print your own cards on nice paper)

    I asked my graphic designer friend Karen Johnson (and I always pay friends for professional work…sometimes in dribs and drabs until we are even) to help me set up business cards and a template for my greeting cards, so the images, which I get from past murals and present work, look their best. I trim them all, use a nice envelope, slip them in cello sleeves and tie the sets with a pretty ribbon. I use USPS flat priority envelopes for mailing and boxes for big orders. I pay for this on my computer and print out and tape the address on the envelope. The Postman picks them up…I can quarantine safely.

    If this sounds daunting, I have to tell you I went back to community college to learn computers when I was 52.
    I didn’t even know how to turn the damn thing on! I also learned Pagemaker and Quark and was able to slowly transfer that knowledge into the use of PhotoShop and InDesign as the years went by. Early on, I learned to write and file sequences down, so I could refer back to them. Also ask friends, and Google! if I get in a corner.

    I’ll be 79 in a month. I am not that smart, but I am stubborn. Sherry, I do hope that you will find a way that works for you. Don’t get discouraged! Good luck and get going! Jennifer Carrasco

  11. I have a Squarspace site and I’d really recommend it. It is also handy to have someone that can build the site for you in Squarespace.

    I sell a lot off my Instagram too so that’s a route I’d suggest.

    Best of luck to you :)

  12. Here’s my current site:

    My wife rebuilding my old Weebly site when she found Artspan, which can print, frame and ship art with no commission, as well as take sales for originals that I then fulfill. We’re just getting going with the new site and promoting it. This answer in fact is one way, and we’re working through suggestions from Artspan as well as a competition of theirs. Right after I finish this answer I need to hit the pile of responses on Instagram and Facebook, generated from our recent emails and posts on my site.

    Did I mention the upcoming online auction from my local artists group?!

    It’s a weird, hybrid, brave new world

  13. HI All,
    I have two sites that are up and running.



    The first one I have had some success with where as the second one I have to do my own marketing exclusively. I am a bit behind in that department. I am going to try to give Etsy a go once again as I gave up on it years ago in the earlier days of online art marketing. These days it seems a better go. I enjoyed this (and all the articles here) and will put more energy into the marketing . Thank you Sara, and all very much for your input.
    Eric Suchman

  14. Although i set up a shop on my Squarespace site last year most of my sales are still word of mouth/social media or through my gallery. I would love to learn how to properly sell through an online shop. Even if the shop looks nice there is that personal element that always feels missing for me.
    To me it always feels like people purchase as a result of our intraction.
    good luck to you!

  15. I am using Fine Art Studios Online (FASO) as well. I absolutely love their service and highly recommend it. You can sell through your own website and they support that through PayPal.

  16. Hey Sara,

    The issue you’ve noted is one that I’ve actually heard from creators and artists that I interface with on a daily basis. That’s why a few close friends of mine and I created Its an all in one Marketplace and content sharing site (Like a mix of Instructabes and Etsy).

    We wanted to create a platform where you could share content to a broad audience, easily manage a marketplace and integrate your product links into your posts for better engagement, and share you products and posts to your other platforms through the click of a button.

    Not to mention, the platform is absolutely FREE to use.

    Check it out, hopefully this helps meet your needs and if you have any feedback as to features you’d like to see don’t hesitate to reach out to us at!

  17. I hear good things about FASO because artists are those they serve. I’ve not tried to sell anything yet. I’m not good enough a painter yet. But, I have been playing with the different technologies (and I have an IS degree) in order to find the easiest, least time consuming, and least costly methods. I hear a lot of artists are selling on Etsy. Many use a gallery site such as Saatchi Online. I’ve played with Square for credit card processing. And that’s if you want to go it alone. Their online site is Alot of people use Square because their credit card scanner is free and they charge a little less per transaction processed for credit cards. We have a number of art fairs. Well, we used to have a number of fairs and many use Square because the scanner can hook to a mobile phone and process cards easily and on site. They have an online store that is free. It’s easy to add items and then create a link to the item to post in a website or on Instagram, etc.. So they handle the cart and credit card processing. I’m guessing Pay Pal may have something similar. Since it seems most artists need a website, I find that Google Sites is as easy as Word, although somewhat limited in features. And you can easily register a domain name with them at Just search help to find how to link the name to your site.
    From working in sales and utilizing digital marketing techniques, I find that Google Blogger is easy to use. And I put a link to it on my website. However, I’ve learned that fresh and regularly changing information on the site helps it register higher in the search results for whatever search term. So linking to Blogger may not drive more to your site. However, you can put links for sales in the blogger posts which may come up. Good luck with all that and someday I hope to join you in this quest.

    • I should have mentioned that the Google Site is free. I think the Domain name is $15 a year or something. To find Sites, just click the little grid of 9 dots and look for it. Once you have a Google login for email, you also have many, many of their tools, free. I use Google Drive and put art photos in a folder there. I linked to that folder with images of art. I’m sure that will have to change,and I’m working with their version of power point, I think it’s slides, to put images in a auto playing, revolving slide show, where if you click on an image, it goes to the Square store.

  18. I’ve been selling my art and prints through Storenvy. It is free to setup and they take a commission only when you sell something. Unlike Etsy, listing do not expire either!

    They also have what’s called ‘Marketplace’ where they curate (most likely through algorithms) a shopping arena, like Etsy, to promote their sellers. So while not as big as Etsy, there is a built-in audience on this platform as well.

    The only downside is that Storenvy only supports USD. But unlike Etsy, which forced sellers to use their proprietary payment gateway, Storenvy supports Paypal and Stripe!

    Here is my online store:

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