Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to Sell Art Online Pt 3


This is the final in this series of posts looking at and comparing a few of the ways to sell art online.

I want to say a big thank-you to those people who wrote in after last weeks post and shared valuable “tidbits” from their own experience using Etsy. If you’re thinking of trying Etsy for yourself, I urge you to take a look at the comments as well as last weeks post. There are actually two points that were raised about Etsy where my info was out of date or incomplete, so I’ll be posting an addendum on last week’s post to correct these.

This week I’m writing about RedBubble and the option of adding PayPal to your own blog or website. So here it is!



What is it?

RedBubble works in a very different way to Etsy and BigCartel. It is a print-on-demand site where your artwork is made into a product eg matted or framed print, card, t-shirt, calendar, stickers. It is also the actual shopfront where the item is sold.

So you upload your images onto their site, write up your profile which accompanies the work and they do the rest.


  • Free to join and you don’t actually ever pay them anything
  • Before you get too excited – they are paid by your purchasers. Items have a “base price”, all of which goes to RedBubble for their manufacturing and other costs.
  • You set your prices as a percentage on top of the base price and you receive all of this monthly.



 Art 4 XMVR



  • Low work load: you focus on the artwork, but don't have to produce the actual product or post it off
  • No financial outlay
  • Australian-based
  • Buyers can search by tag word/s, medium, time and popularity.
  • Has a community feel, with groups and challenges etc. I am still to get into this aspect so I can’t comment much further on that, except to say that I have received welcome emails and invitations to introduce myself to the groups I joined.
  • In my experience, manufacture and delivery is fast – about a week from order to arrival at my door. It would of course be slower for items ordered from overseas.
  • For readers of this blog, RedBubble is not a venue for selling artists books. However, it is highly appropriate for selling photos, prints and drawings, which many of you also produce.  Even gorgeous photos of your artists books could look good on cards, calendars or whatever.

For a tiny investment of time and no investment of money, it’s a great avenue to get your images out there, and via your profile you can always entice art lovers to your blog or website, where they might just buy a book.



  • Not as well known as etsy, in my opinion
  • Earnings must reach $20 before they will transfer them to you.
  • You have to drive people to your work within the site from your other web “presences”. Your products are competing with everybody else’s and there is a lot on there to distract them.
  • Lack of control over finished product.

This is obviously the “biggie” in using RedBubble. I know this will bother some of you more than others. Of course, it is the other side of the coin which makes this such a low effort approach. The two are in direct relationship to one another, and only you can decide whether the equation balances for you.

I suggest that you order something to do your own quality assurance. I ordered some greeting cards, which was not a huge outlay and put my fears to rest. If you are really worried, you could also order a small matted or laminated print for a moderate outlay. You do of course get your own items for the base price.



4. PayPal on your own site

What is it?

Paypal is a service which allows you to pay and receive payments from people without setting up a credit card facility. Basically, you join up, link a bank account or debit/credit card to PayPal and off you go. It is considered very safe, with strategies and procedures in place for both Buyer and Seller Protection.

There are three types of accounts. As a sole trader you can use either a Personal or a Premier account. If you already have a Personal account, it’s easy to upgrade to seller status.


From this point on, I will just be discussing the use of PayPal as a mechanism for selling items from your website or blog.



  • No joining fee & no fees until a sale is made.
  • Charges are 2.4% plus AUD 0.30c for each transaction. If your sales total AUD$5000+ in a month, you can apply for the merchant rate, which is 1.1%
  • When items are purchased by an international buyer, the rate increases to 3.4% (less if sales are AUD$5000+)



  • You can be in complete control of the process, from the making of the artwork, the packaging, and the postage.
  • You have your shop on your own space (blog or website) and you won't lose people easily to other sellers.
  • Low fees, especially in comparison to gallery commissions etc.
  • Can be added to your existing blog or website &
    whether or not you use Paypal to pay for items already, its easy to get set up.



  • Features which allow you to easily customize your buyer’s view, as well as assist with processing orders, keeping accounts etc.



  • You have to attract people to your website/blog in order to sell, but presumably that is what you are  trying to do with or without a PayPal facility. You still need to be active in some other online forums so that people will see your work and your name when you comment, and decide to click on that link and check you out.
  • It seems to me that, if you make work and you would like to sell it, even if you sell in shops “in the real world”, I can’t see any disadvantage to using this PayPal facility on your site.
  • Despite the customization options, this facility won’t have the slick finished appearance of “your own online shop” unless you have HTML skills at your fingertips.


Well, that’s all that I have to say on this subject for the time being. During the course of publishing these posts, I discovered yet more options for selling art online. I’ll list them here with links, but I haven’t checked them out myself.

  1. Artfire.com
  2. DaWanda.com
  3. Folksy.com

I really hope that these posts have provided you with some valuable information and I encourage you to get in touch via the comments. Your thoughts and experiences with selling art online would be most appreciated.


  1. gosh what a lot to think about!

    I had no idea that redbubble worked the way you've described - hmmmm - I think I'm one of those that would not find the redbulbble and ronnie would be a good marriage! (I'm far too much of a control freak!)

    indeed I am still having trouble imagining selling anything online... but maybe that mostly because of WHAT I'm presently making and thinking about in my practice .... heck I have enough drama even thinking about traditional selling models (you will see this in action in about two weeks time - I will be meeting with a lot of 'industry' folk - you'll see what I mean by this shortly.....)

    well - I now look forward to hearing how things go for you

  2. I can see why you use RedBubble, Amanda. I haven't used it yet myself but it looks good... I was interested to read Jill Timm's comments on your post to the Book Arts Listserve: there are so many different approaches to selling work online and it's great that you've been so generous with the results of your research. Thank you! Sara x

  3. I can only say that I have been an Etsy customer for a while and have always been happy with the service. However, I recently bought from Red Bubble and was very impressed with the contact they made, keeping me up with what was happening. The parcel when it arrived was beautifully packed and presented - so I was impressed. Thank you, Amanda, for all this excellent advice.

  4. I am looking into what I want for online transactions while writing a business plan for an art-based business. I have been concerned about paypal because I've heard they can hold your payments for any reason. So I am looking into a merchant account for online business. With a merchant account, purchases go through within 48 hours directly to your account, according to the literature. The fees may be smaller than paypal. Overall, I think there could be a big advantage to having your own merchant account. Users do not need to set up a paypal account. On the other hand, users who like paypal may wish they had the convenience. Some sellers actually use both for this reason.
    I will put a few links here from merchant accounts:
    And from a seller

    I may comment back with more findings on this alternative to paypal.

  5. Hi Amanda - lots to think thru and you have given a really good sense of the differences, pluses and minuses of them each. I think I probably need to work thru the WHY do I want to sell online, and the WHAT do I want to sell online in order to work out the best HOW to sell online for me! But you've got me thinking and pondering - thank you!

  6. lots of info to take in. as i said before I have had a paypal button on my website for a few years. it was fairly easy to follow their instructions to plonk it into my website even though I know nothing of HTML. I was using software like Dreamweaver to build my website, it allows you to see the HTML but also the reality of what you are doing; useful for me who has no clue! Still, I would say my "shop" is by no means nice to look at but it does fit into the rest of my website as it is indeed part of my website. I can control it and I have sold stuff through it and it works. At the moment my "shop" is empty as I just sold out of the book I was selling. When I have time and something else to sell I will update it and the page it is on. Slowly I will update my website but as with all things it takes time. Here is the link if you are interested in how the buttons look: http://www.abigailthomas.co.uk/Shop/Shop.htm

  7. As far as Selling prints of your work, there is etsy, cafepress, zazzle, and deviantart. Etsy for me is too much of a hassle b/c I need to actually handle the shipping and printing and everything. Personally I use SMugmug.com as a printer and shipper of my work. they give you a whole gallery option and pricing plans. They have their bare minimum prices, and you keep anything over that amount. Say it costs them $2.30 to print out and ship an 8x10 print. if you price it for $12, you get 10 bucks.

    Here is an example of my smugmug gallery.


    Also, you want to get all of your social media networks on par with one another, make it easy for people to be connected with you. on my homepage http://Obilex.com you can see that I have links to all of my different outlets (twitter, facebook, instagram ebay etc.)

    Hope this helps, and keep up the hard work!