UK Artist: Where to sell my art online?

frustrated and overwhelmed stick figure
Even less accomplished stick figure than usual…

This is actually a fairly complex question but comes down to a brief summary of

1. Print to order sites
2. General sales sites – eBay, Amazon, etsy, Folksy
3. Specialist art sales sites (some included in 1)


All three have pros and cons

Print to Order Sites
The first is Print to Order sites. They tend to be low profit (around 10-20% depending on site) but with the potential for massive volume and there is zero outlay for most of them – you just upload and tweak your designs to their printable products and you’re set.
I see them very much as a ‘nothing to lose’ platform
There are probably lots more out there, but this is the list of sites I thought best for me (in particular, sites that are very popular culture oriented haven’t been included because that’s not what I do).

Its also worth remembering that the vast majority will also charge a UK buyer VAT on the products you ‘buy’ (technically when a customer buys something from them, you then buy that product from the site – the difference between what you pay and what your customer pays is your profit). This applies even when the company is based elsewhere as having a distribution centre in the EU makes them eligible for UK VAT

SiteLinkWhat site sellsTarget audienceCommission level
deviantArthttps://shop.deviantart.com/Art PrintsWorldwide20%
Society 6https://society6.com/Varied itemsWorlwide10%
King & McGawhttps://www.kingandmcgaw.com/help/artist-submissionsArt PrintsUK?
Teespringhttps://teespring.com/how-it-works#how-it-worksVaried ItemsWorldwideProbably around 20-30%
Zazzlehttps://www.zazzle.co.uk/sell/designersVaried ItemsworldwideSet your own from 5%
Redbubblehttps://www.redbubble.com/Varied ItemsWorldwide15%
Fine Art Americahttps://fineartamerica.com/sell-art-online.htmlArt PrintsWorldwideSet your price
Sun Frog Shirtshttps://manager.sunfrogshirts.com/pages/sellers.cfmApparelWorldwide10%
Design by Humanshttps://www.designbyhumans.com/store-signup/artist/Varied ItemsWorldwide10%
Bags of Lovehttps://www.bagsoflove.co.uk/Varied ItemsUK20%

I haven’t tried any in earnest yet but do plan on setting up sales IDs on every last one of them. It won’t make me rich, but having a small stream of income from each one would make a difference

General Sales Sites
Number 2 is general sales sites. These can be done in one of two ways
1. You buy stock of your products with your art on and sell what you physically have
2. You use Print to Order sites specifically designed for you to sell and them to fulfil the orders

I’ve had success in the past selling handmade on the three biggies for the UK – eBay, etsy, Amazon and currently have a small but steady eBay income from my other handmade ventures (leather goods mostly) and a reasonably large income for the same on etsy. Amazon I’ve not used for a while but made a lot of money selling handmade jewellery through them in the past. I don’t know what it is like now but I am happy to try. Folksy – I’m aware that it exists but have never tried it, and notonthehighstreet seems to be still going strong and may also be worth investigating

I’ve broken down the remaining sites into purely printers (that print your goods and ship them to you so you can sell them) and dropshippers (on whose sites you can generate images of what your product will look like and sell using those images – when you make a sale then get the details to ship to and you never handle the product yourself. Dropshippers will also generally print your products and send them to you direct if desired.

Dropshippers
First is Inkthreadable https://www.inkthreadable.co.uk/ . They are a UK company and anxious to be helpful. I have yet to use them but the site is user friendly and there;s a good range of products to have your art printed on. They definitely integrate fully with etsy and shopify (which are the two I am most interested in selling through) and are apparently working on an Amazon integration.

Second is Printful
https://www.printful.com/?utm_source=mofluid.com&utm_medium=link&utm_content=affId-463328&utm_campaign=affiliate
They are a US company selling prints on a wide range of items and I mostly intend seeing if I can sell to the USA on a separate etsy ID exclusively using Printful. The margins aren’t going to be great but beyond setup it requires very little input from me. However it will involve etsy fees too. I feel it is worth a 3 month experiment. Due to the high cost of shipping the the UK, I wouldn’t specifically target UK buyers with products from this company.

Printers
The printing-only sites I liked the look of most are all UK sites (because shipping cost from anywhere else would be too high). For printed art products, these are the sites with the highest potential income, but also the highest initial costs (because you need to physically have stock before you sell it)
1 Artist Gift Printing
https://www.artistgiftprinting.co.uk/our-product-range.aspx
As the name suggests, this company specifically caters for artists wanting their art on stuff and it offers a reasonable range of products. Definitely on to consider (do check prices of specific products against other printers though!)

2 Awesome Merchandise
http://www.awesomemerchandise.com
Another printer of your designs on Stuff based in the UK. For most products, I’ll simply be seeing which of the two sites offer them cheapest and use accordingly

3 Redcliffe Print http://www.redcliffe-print.co.uk/
Good range of art prints plus a photography / art scanning service. This one is on the list because it is local to me and I like the idea of a local place that I can a) collect from and b) can scan or photograph my art for me

4 Room 212 https://www.room212.co.uk/printing-service
Again a fine art printer local to me and the logic is the same (plus they run a communal gallery which sounds awesome). If you’re not in the south west, it is worth looking up similar services close to you.

Fine Art Sites
My final category is fine art sites on which you fulfil orders yourself. It is something I am less interested in and so haven’t included a huge amount but still potentially worth a look at. Commission level tends to be less than you would get selling on a general site, but rather more than you would get on a print to order site (even after you have taken away your cost of getting the product in and shipping it to your customer).

SiteWhat is soldTarget AudienceCommission level
Artgallery.co.ukOriginal art and art printsUK65%
Saatchi ArtOriginal art and art printsWorldwide65%
ArtfinderOriginal art onlyUK65%

Hopefully you will find this useful!

Artist signature

The ULTIMATE Goal

Badly drawn picture of a house and dog
My house (which will have enough space to work from and will be within walking distance of my kids) and my dog (which will be social enough to cope with my work and will also have back legs)

Goals are important. I spent quite a lot of time googling achievement, success and the like. And there’s an awful lot of bollocks out there coating the actual answers (and an awful lot of e-books to avoid buying!).

But it comes down to goals. Setting them isn’t enough, although it is better than nothing. Setting them, planning and regularly reviewing seems to be the critical components. Now I am flat broke and soon to be homeless so I am most definitely not an online how to succeed guru (and also kinda antsy about the key component of how-to-succeed gurus being getting other people to buy their ‘how to succeed’ books). I also have no interest in being rich for the sake of being rich. My bank balance is not a measure of my self worth. What I am interested in is being happy and removing things that detract from that.

Stick figure image of a happy me
Happy Phoenix, excitedly skipping towards Wonderful Things

So I started with a list of goals that would contribute to my ongoing happiness. The first was the ULTIMATE goal which is to buy a house. It needs parking, it needs to be close to my kids, it needs enough space for me to work from and it needs a garden. And I need about £250,000 to do it. The smaller goals all fit into the Be Happy need in one way or another, and with the exception of #5 have all been incorporated into achieving the ULTIMATE goal

Because I am an obsessive listmaker…

Next step was breaking down my ultimate goal. What needs to happen? What can I do to make things happen?

That came down to two categories
The first was Reduce outgoings and covered the following.

  1. Live in my van
  2. Stop unnecessary spending

The second was Make more money and covered these.

  1. Market consistently
  2. Look at local sale options
  3. Develop new products
  4. Work smarter and analyse sales
  5. Network
  6. Develop new skills

These all got broken down further into ‘how do I do this’ steps which gave me the beginning of the Plan, and also smaller checkpoint goals. ‘How do I know I am achieving this’ is important and they’re always going to be personal to ones individual circumstances but I had things like.

  1. Hand in notice on my house by a given date
  2. Have annual turnovers of £x, £y, £z for 2019, 2020, 2021
  3. Have products available through x number of outlets by end of 2019
  4. Increase product range by x% by June, September, December

Boring but measurable things. This stuff is not especially exciting, but I do think it is essential to getting where I want to be. But there was most definitely exciting stuff to consider

Image of a swordsman following another figure in misty darkness, lit by an old fashioned street lamp
Pencil drawing of two of my favourite humans

One of my initial goals was ‘create a thriving art business’. Part of me still thinks this is hilarious. When I was a kid I enjoyed arty stuff. And was most definitely laughed at and told ‘not to give up the day job’. Me being me with a decidedly non-typical brain, this was pretty much responsible for my not doing art education past the age of 13, which was when I could choose to not. My formal art education stopped in year 9 of secondary school (Middle school, I think, for those of you in the US!). It took me a very long time and the patience and encouragement of some amazing partners before I started feeling I was remotely able to be creative in that sense. And even now at 43 I’m very much yes, I can MAKE things. But….. art? No way.

I choose to ignore that bit of my head. It’s a little girl who was really proud of her half-cyborg self portrait at 12 years old and got laughed at by someone she respected. Its basically a 30 year old bug in my system but it can only cause issues if I let it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am never going to be the best out there or anything remotely close. But I don’t need to be, I’m not after international art acclaim, I’m after producing art that is cute enough, interesting enough or pretty enough that people want to buy things with it on. And that I think I can do.

Old piece in encaustic wax

What this whole thing is is pretty exciting. I am moving well out of my comfort zone (I have never been homeless, nor did I ever thing I would be). And art has always been…. something I did when there was nothing important to do. It is still secondary to my more established business (I make leather goods and clothing for LARPers) but in time I want to see both parts of my business grow into ventures that will help equally in my goal achievement.

Next time I want to go into detail on the processes and research I’m using to plan the art side of the business. There’s a lot of info, a lot of sites and a lot of things to consider starting up and I am still wrapping my head around it and coming up with a plan that works for me.

Take care and dream big!

'Phoenix' signature

A single step….

Stick figure me reaching for a shining star and tripping
Reach for the…. Arghhh!

As the saying goes, a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Which sounds a little sedate and calm and full of quietly determined purpose. With me it tends to be more a gleeful, terrified leap, with eyes closed and a 50/50 chance of splatting off the pavement. But I do it anyway.

My blog title reflects how I was feeling when I created the blog. But I guess it also sounds like I am potentially a 40 something mum with bored husband, ungrateful kids and a job I hate. None of this is true. Well except the 40-something mum bit… and the (wonderful, if lazy) kids live with their dad.

I am very single and very likely to remain so. I don’t have time in my life for a relationship, I’m not sure I want to share my time to the extent a significant other deserves and I sure as hell don’t want to live with anyone. Plus I am most definitely living with borderline personality disorder and still a bit too emotionally hung up on my last two exes. One of whom is a) my employee and b) my best friend. So it’s a been a bit of a complicated shitstorm on that front.

Colourful drawing of a human brain and heart stitched together
Borderline brain – a self portrait.
Click through for some pretty Redbubble products with this on

I have, however, been significantly unhappy for a long time. Financially I survive…. but it is very much day to day with no opportunity to save. It has taken me a very long time to get to the stage of feeling OK about being single (if you’re not familiar with BPD, attachment and a need to be loved, combined with an inability to regulate emotions, are generally considered the defining features. There’s others – an entire list of which you need to exhibit 5 of 9 symptoms – but those to me are the biggies)

Work… I love what I do. I am…. we’ll go with professional creative. Mostly I make hand carved and painted leather items. And sew stuff. And I want to add artist to that list, and indeed it is on my plan for the year. Slightly hindered by an inability to draw but not going to let that stop me (seriously, the ability to draw is overrated. Its an awesome thing to be able to do, but not necessary to make a living creating.) And technically I can draw, although I find it much easier digitally. What I can’t do is sketch. It’s kind of hilarious… but also, I think, demonstrates that the ability to sit with a pencil and produce something vaguely recognisable is not actually essential to being artistic.

Finished book cover and initial concept sketch
Book sketch verses final product image
I always use a crappy bird sketch for tooled products…
Finished mini flask verses concept sketch
Quick plug – I make these (and lots of other leather items) to order. With my hands. Starting with blank, dead cow. Click through image to visit my leather site.

I hit rock bottom over Christmas 2018. Suicidal, self harming, unable to see any path forward. And as any sensible, 43 year old woman would. I…. decided I’d be better off a) giving up prescribed SSRIs and b) homeless.

OK that’s perhaps not sensible (and I don’t recommend anyone else does it, in the case of the SSRIs at least not without medical consultation) but for me, it was the only way I was ever going to be able to make myself have a permanent home without the insecurity of not being able to pay for it the next month. However there was logic behind it. The healthcare system refused to treat me last time I turned up saying I couldn’t cope and was likely to harm myself. I’ve been me a very long time, I know when I get to a stage of needing help. SSRIs only have a positive effect on me short term. After a couple of months they stop keeping me stable and just make me tired all the time. And I had been on them for YEARS. The mental health assessment people told me to a) make more friends and b) pay for private therapy. I’m pretty broke, I don’t have excess funds for therapy. And making friends is pretty much impossible when you’re suffering from major depression. So I needed an alternative and something to focus on.

Colourful drawing of my hand

Have a pretty picture of my hand that I drew a year ago

On Christmas day 2018, sitting alone in my house, banned from seeing my kids on Christmas day for the first time ever…. I was out of options. It was either start planning something potentially unwise or do something definitely unsafe.

So I threw myself into researching things like van living, increasing productivity, looking at other avenues of potential creative income, goal setting, and throwing number around to work out how long it would take me to pay off my debts and save enough for my house. Mostly I came to the conclusion that I needed to make changes to my life.

So I made a decision to become homeless for as long as it takes to pay off my debts and save up enough money to buy a house.

Really poor drawing of a house and dog.
My future house and future dog will probably be better constructed that this drawing

More on that in my next post

Signoff reading 'Phoenix xxx'