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Tutorial: How to Sell Art Online Using Shopify
Updated: Mar 08, 2021 / Article by: Timothy Shim
Shopify at its heart is an eCommerce platform. This means that you can make use of it to create your very own online store, no matter what you decide to sell. This makes it an ideal platform for artists to work with to reduce the time needed for them to manage to share their creations with the world.
The beauty of an online store is that it’s something you can set up once and update whenever new products come in. This reduces the need for artists to spend the time finding display areas for the items they have created as well.
Best of all, since online stores are part of the digital world, creating one on Shopify can allow you to access many other channels of sales with the click of a button.
If your concern with setting up an online store is simply the technology, don’t worry. I’ll guide you through an experience with Shopify to let you see how you can own your own cyber art store without knowing a single line of code.
The first thing you need to understand about Shopify is that it’s a service. You aren’t buying a product, nor are you paying for a piece of software. Shopify is all about helping business owners establish their digital stores as efficiently as possible.
This means that the company understands that its customers aren’t necessarily the most tech-savvy people on earth. Shopify offers everyone the means to piece together an online store using a simple system of templates and building blocks – sort of how Lego works.
Shopify also doesn’t charge customers a huge amount to use the service, but affordable rates starting from just $29 per month. As your business grows, the price may increase if you need to use more features. It’s a win-win proposition.
The first thing you need to do is to sign up for a Shopify account. This is as simple as visiting their website and clicking on the ‘Start Free Trial’ button. Shopify offers all users a 14-day free trial account. All you will need to enter is an email address, password, and store name.
During the free trial period you can experience the entire process of setting up your online store but won’t be able to launch your site or start selling products with it yet.
As soon as you complete the registration process, Shopify will start your experience with a short question and answer session. This is intended for Shopify to learn a little more about what you want your store to be like.
Once you get past that short questionnaire, the next area you need to focus on is what is right in the middle of the screen. There will be a section with three main areas that lets you add products to your store, customize what it looks like, and then link a domain name.
The domain name is the public address that customers will need to visit your online store. Think of it as a digital address that allows people to locate you online.
This is a part that you should be excited about – adding the first of your art to the store! Click on the ‘Add Product’ button and you’ll be brought to a form that will let you key in detail on what you will be selling.
In the screenshot above, I’ve filled in sample text to show what you might add for the product detail fields. The information you enter here is not only for display purposes. Fields such as product type, collections and tags can help you organize your artwork. It also helps your customers to find art more easily on your online store.
Once you’ve filled out all the necessary details on the page, click save and you will have a record of your very first item for sale!
3. Choosing a Theme for Your Online Store
From the home page of your Shopify account, click on ‘Customize Theme’ to start the process. Themes are pre-designed templates that you can use for your online store. If you don’t want to spend time on this, you can simply choose one and start using it.
I do recommend you customize yours so that you can give your online store that personal touch. To choose a template, click on ‘Explore free themes’. This will display a pop-up gallery of themes you can choose from.
Scroll through them and click on the one you like to view more details about it. If you like the theme, click on ‘Add to theme library’.
Back at the home page, click on ‘Customize’ next to the theme that you want to use. The themes you’ve selected earlier will be available in the section labelled ‘Theme Library’. Doing so will bring up the theme editor.
This is an online application that works on a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) principle. Like applications such as Microsoft Word, the design screen will show you exactly what your site will look like as you edit it.
You can choose where to place mages, text, how to arrange sections, and even adjust detail right down to font size and color. Remember though that it is easy to get lost in the design process, so spend your time wisely and finish adding products to your inventory first before designing your store.
Once you are done with the design, click on ‘Save’.
5. Exploring Shopify Features
So far, what I have shown you are just the basics of how to create an online store and add products to it, with minor adjustments. Shopify is a full eCommerce platform, which means that it’s designed to help you sell.
The sales process involves a lot more than simply creating a store. For example, you can make use of analytics to learn about your customers, handle marketing campaigns to attract more visitors to your site, and even generate discounts.
These are just basic Shopify functions and if you need more, you can always add on other applications to enhance the features your store offers.
To see what extra apps are available, from the left navigation menu, click on ‘Apps’ and then ‘Visit the Shopify App Store'. The Apps here are small programs or scripts designed to add specific functions to Shopify stores.
Because of its popularity, Shopify has a huge ecosystem of users and application developers who work together to extend the capabilities of Shopify. As an example, you might be able to find an app such as Spocket that helps you handle the shipping of your art and add that to your Shopify store. You can even expand to become a dropshipping business.
Do keep in mind though that some of the apps may require you to pay additional fees for use. The prices depend on what the developer charges for those apps. The Shopify App Market is extensive and has almost anything an online retailer could want or need. You will find applications to help you with marketing activities, shipping, or more.
7. Extending Sales to Social Channels
One of the most powerful features of Shopify is that it lets you extend the capabilities of your online store beyond the site itself. This means that you can make use of other channels to boost sales – popular avenues like Facebook, Instagram, or even Amazon.
To add other sales channels, click on the ‘+’ sign next to ‘Sales Channels’ and choose from the list there. This will be helpful in reaching out to a much larger audience than just your online store by itself.
You CAN Make Money Selling Art Online
If you’ve come to this article through a search engine you’ll likely already know this fact – yes, you can make money selling art online. This can easily be seen by the large number of digital art galleries and individuals already doing so.
In fact, selling art online is a great way for new artists to start out as well. The advantages that this channel brings can be very impressive. For example:
Levelling the playing field – If you haven’t grown up through the “art system” it can be challenging to do so without having made the right contacts. Selling art online can help you more readily place and showcase your work to potential buyers.
Freedom – Instead of being bound to the rules and restrictions of a particular gallery, selling your art online can give you greater freedom. As this tutorial shows, you can easily build your own online art gallery to loosen the shackles binding you.
Widen your reach – Berlin is known as the art capital of the world, but does that matter when you have access to a global audience? Reach past Berlin and hit Paris, New York, or even Asia if you want – it’s all about how you build and market your digital art gallery.
These are just a few of the advantages to selling art online, but there are easily a ton more.
Things You Need to Know When Selling Art Online
What Art to Sell Online
Since there are so many forms of art, you may be wondering: “So what kind of art should I sell?” While you can sell both originals or reproductions, think beyond your core medium and expand the scope a little.
The Internet is a massive consumer base with extremely diverse needs and wants. You’ll find that there are people willing to buy anything from fine art on canvas to printed reproductions on coffee mugs.
Some examples of the art you can sell online:
Original hand-painted works
Reproductions on merchandise
How to Price Your Art Online
In our hearts, we always assign value of some form or other to our work. This value can vary significantly between individuals or even different works. The value of art is often in the eyes of the beholder. That said, buyers will often consider other factors such as:
The artist’s reputation
Sales record (if the piece is being resold)
Niche of the artwork
Think of pricing artwork in a similar way to property – the price isn’t fixed, but elastic and can rise or fall depending on various factors.
Packing Art for Shipping
No matter the value of your art, it’s likely that it will be fragile to some degree. Take precautions before shipping to ensure that buyers get the best form of your work. You’ll often need to pay attention to how the products are packed for shipping.
Works of art on canvas or otherwise in print can simply be rolled up and packed in cardboard tubes. Smaller pieces such as photos can be mailed like letters. However, for larger pieces like framed works, you may need special packing materials.
These can include bubble wrap, styrofoam corner protectors, special order boxes, and more. It really depends on what kind of art you’re shipping. Last but not least, never forget to insure what you’re shipping out!
Dealing With Art Copycats
Much like in the real world, cyberspace is full of leeches and copycats. These bums will not hesitate to not just rip off your work but even in some cases have the gall to hotlink images on your site, eating up bandwidth too.
Make sure you use tools that can help watermark the images on your site to prevent them from being reused. Shopify sites can benefit from some apps that protect images – just check out the Shopify App Store to see which will work for you.
Some copycats will also try to rip off nice images to print or otherwise re-create. While having great images is a plus for an online art store, keep the sizes down a little to prevent them from being reprinted.
Tips for Selling Art Online With Shopify
If this is the first time you’re considering selling art online you may not be aware of the beauty of the digital channel yet. There are many ways you can expand the reach of your Shopify art store, for example:
Add a Blog
The most valuable internet traffic tends to come from search engines. It’s free and organic, but you need to have the content that will draw them there. Search engines like Google depend on the content of your site to assess if it’s worth sending visitors your way – that’s where the blog comes in handy.
By writing about art – not necessarily your specific pieces – you can indicate to search engines the value of your site.
Your online art store can’t live in a vacuum. There are many other websites around, all competing for attention. Make use of social media channels to promote your site, or even individual pieces being sold.
Art is generally attractive and can do well on some social media platforms such as Pinterest. Choose one or two social media platforms and post regular updates to build followings on those channels.
Shopify works well with many third-party services and applications, which is great news for you. You can make use of digital marketing tools to expand your reach. Email marketing platforms like MailChimp can be customized and automated easily.
Keep in close contact with fans and buyers this way. When you have new stuff, you can reach out to a massive audience base at the click of a button.
Conclusion: Is Shopify the Right Choice for Your Online Store?
If you haven’t noticed by now, Shopify is very similar to many website builders like Wix and Weebly. It works on the principle of an easy-to-use drag-and-drop system that is intuitive and stress-free. The key difference is that Shopify is designed from the ground up with eCommerce in mind.
Because of that, you may notice that the pricing structure is a little higher than the basic website builders. What you gain in return though is worth much more than the monthly fees you’re putting in.
Basic Shopify accounts start from $20 per month. This allows you to list and sell an unlimited number of products. What you’re paying for on higher-tier accounts are more features like the ability to add more staff to your Shopify account as your business grows.
One thing to note though is that Shopify will take a cut of your sales in the form of transaction fees for online purchases made via credit card. This way, it makes sense to upgrade your Shopify plan as your sales increase, since their rates are lower for higher plan tiers.
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.