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How to Make a Profit Selling Your Artwork on Ebay as a Self-Representing Artist

Carolyn is a former art student and avid art lover. Her specialty is pencil portaits.

how-to-make-a-profit-selling-your-artwork-on-ebay-self-representing-artist

The information and skills required to go from making a few dollars vs making a substantial profit when selling your artwork on Ebay is not as complex as you might think. I can provide the information you need, you provide the artwork.

Selling your artwork on Ebay is a wonderful way to make a profit if you love to paint, draw or scuplt. It's great because you can do it from home and the cost of your supplies is relatively minimal when you start out. The sale of just one or more pieces of your artwork can recover the cost those expenses.

Unlike selling your art through a dealer or an art gallery where they can keep a good portion of your profit for themselves as part of their commission, the commission you pay to eBay is much, much lower. Having your work online gives you greater exposure as an artist than any local gallery can provide, although I'm not suggesting to forget using traditional methods of selling your artwork. When you're starting out as an artist and only have a few pieces to sell, it's a great place to start and make a profit.

Quick Question for 2019:

Painting by Divya Manian

Painting by Divya Manian

What Supplies Do You Need?

The supplies I'm talking about are not art supplies. If you want to learn how to paint, you're reading the wrong hub! Here is a list of supplies you will need to sell your artwork on Ebay for a profit:

  1. An Ebay account
  2. A PayPal account
  3. Digital camera with an optical zoom of at least 4x
  4. Tripod (highly recommended)
  5. Quality lighting (usually 2 photography lights) or access to ample natural light
  6. Black velvet backdrop for flat artwork and/or grey muslin/paper backdrop for sculptures (optional, but highly recommended)

If you have a larger budget:

  • 3D Modeling Program for your computer
  • A custom designed auction template/Ebay store

Your Ebay account

If you don't have an Ebay account, now is the time to open one. If you already have an Ebay account and have used that account for buying and/or selling items other than your artwork, you need a new one.

Why? It's the kiss of death if you decide to sell your original artwork on Ebay along with your purses, toaster or Grandma's knitted scarves. You will never be taken serious as an artist and you will never be able to sell your artwork for a substantial profit.

Buyers on Ebay who are interested in purchasing original pieces of art consider them to be investments. Most buyers are serious about what they buy and want to know they are purchasing an investment that will appreciate in value over time and is of the highest quality.

If you are new to Ebay, you can follow the instructions given on the Ebay website for registering an account.

If you already have an Ebay account, you should sign up for a new account that will only be used for selling your artwork.  You can sign up for a new one without having to cancel your existing account. Both accounts must have different user ID's and different email addresses. Note: the two accounts can't be used in the same listing.

You must create a seller account. This includes 3 steps:

  1. Verifying your identity
  2. Choosing how you will pay your seller fees ie., PayPal, credit card, pre-authorized debit, etc.
  3. Selecting the payment methods you will accept from buyers

Your PayPal Account

If you don't already have an account with PayPal, now is the time to sign up for one. It's free and it's easy. When you sign up, sign up with a personal account. The Premiere account is for people with their own websites that sell products online. You do not need this type of account to sell on Ebay.

When you sign up you will be able to link to your credit card or bank account. PayPal will require you to verify your account before you can start selling on Ebay.

To link your PayPal and eBay accounts:

  1. Click My eBay at the top of most eBay pages.
  2. Place your pointer over the Account tab, and then click the PayPal Account link.
  3. Click the Link My PayPal Account button.
  4. You'll be asked to log in to PayPal to finish linking your accounts.
how-to-make-a-profit-selling-your-artwork-on-ebay-self-representing-artist

A Picture's Worth a Thousand...Dollars?

One of the most important steps in selling your artwork on Ebay is taking really good pictures. You want your pictures to be focused, clear, and bright. professional looking, in other words. If you don't have a DSLR camera that has a manual setting so you can adjust settings such as the ISO, you need to buy one.

If you don't have a good source of natural light to work in then I suggest looking for some lighting as well. Two lights is all you need and a tripod is essential too because you don't want blurry photos.

For sculptures, you want to have a seamless backdrop of neutral color and for flat works such as paintings, black velvet is recommended because it's non-reflective.

For photographing paintings, the painting should be placed upright and should not be slanting away from the camera. Be sure to remove any glass or matting, and if you have 2 photography lights they should be positioned at 45 degree angles so the lights shine toward the centre of the work. Make sure your camera faces straight onto your work,

A tripod is highly recommended because it ensure your pictures turn out clear and you can position the camera precisely where you want.


The correct way to photograph art

Notice where the lights are positioned in relation to the painting

Notice where the lights are positioned in relation to the painting

Sample Picture of Painting in Poor Lighting

Notice the uneven lighting of the painting?

Notice the uneven lighting of the painting?

Sample of a Good Close-up Picture

In this close up you can see the textures and colors clearly in the painting

In this close up you can see the textures and colors clearly in the painting

The Most Important Thing You Can Buy Right Now:

Your Asking Price

Never list your artwork in an auction with the starting price at $0.99 EVER!

That said, your best bet is to search on Ebay for artists selling work in the same category as yours with regard to subject, medium and style of work.

What price do their auctions start at? Who is getting bids on their work? This will help you get a general idea of what a reasonable asking price should be.

It's common practice to list at a price that is significantly lower than what you feel your piece is worth and have a reserve price listed. This sends the message to the prospective buyer that your piece has value to it and that you're not willing to accept just any price for it. Perceived value is very important.

Some pricing factors to consider are:

  • The size of your work (larger paintings tend to sell for a higher price)
  • The subject matter
  • Medium (oil paintings have a higher price than watercolor)
  • Artistic value
  • The amount of exposure your work has received
  • The state of the economy

 

The About Me Page

Making the most of the Ebay "About Me" page is the smartest thing you can do. You don't need an Ebay store to capitalize on this feature. It's free.

Be sure to include a full description of yourself in your profile too. You are selling yourself to the world after all.

Include a photo of yourself and talk about your background in art, courses you've taken, and anything else you think would demonstrate to everyone that your artwork is a worthwhile investment.

This is the page that sells you to other people.

Copyright and Certificates of Authenticity

Copyright in Canada regarding works of art:

  • In Canada, the creator automatically owns the copyright to their "artistic work"
  • Copyright registration for artworks is not required. If you still wish to register, you can at the Canadian Intellectual Property office website.
  • The online fee for registering your artwork is $50

Copyright in the United States regarding works of art:

  • Visual artists MUST register a copyright of their artworks and install the copyright symbol on all their works.
  • The website to register a copyright in the United States is here.
  • There is a $35 fee to file

Certificates of Authenticity

Every reputable artist on Ebay includes one of these with every piece of artwork they sell. It's a bit of a pain in the neck if you have a large amount of artwork for sale, but it's worth every penny.

A website that offers art registration is http://www.fineartstitle.com
The price to register each piece of art is $15 US and they offer a variety of other benefits as well.

UPS is just one option for shipping your precious artwork

UPS is just one option for shipping your precious artwork

Shipping Your Artwork

If you are selling paintings that are not stretched on a frame, you can easily do the packing on your own with cardboard tubes available at any post office. Use glassine (a water and grease-resistant paper) or clear cellophane sleeves to protect prints within the packaging.

For any other type of art it's best to have it professionally packaged and shipped. If you take a look at successful artists on Ebay, they have their artwork professionally packed and shipped.

Be sure to charge the proper amount for shipping. It has been shown that offering free shipping may actually make your work less appealing to prospective buyers as it cheapens your work.

When customers require an expert customized packing service, they have the
art work packed by a Specialized Professional Art Gallery.

Check into what kind of packing and shipping services for artwork are available in your area.

Why have your artwork expertly packed and shipped?

  • Because you want to have your artwork arrive when you say it will and in perfect condition
  • It ensures that you will receive positive feedback
  • It saves you time from having to do it all yourself when you could be making more artwork to sell


Example of using 3D modeling software for art

Example of using 3D modeling software for art

Beyond Basics for Your Listing

Ebay Store:

If you have numerous pieces of art to sell and by numerous I mean a dozen or more, you may want to consider opening your own ebay store.

It's not free to have an eBay store. To have a basic store you're looking at a monthly fee, so it's more beneficial if you have plenty of artwork to sell. You may still be better off waiting until you have sold some of your artwork before opening one so that you're not paying that monthly fee with no income coming in.

Your Own Website:

If you want to establish your presence on the web, the best way to go about that is to have your own e-commerce web site that links to your site on eBay.

3D Modeling Software:

If you have the know-how or know someone who uses 3D modeling software, you can use it to show how your art would look with different colored backgrounds and settings.

Not all successful self-representing artists use 3D modeling, but many of them do. It's helpful for potential buyers to see what your art will look like with different backgrounds. This can be done for both paintings and sculptures.

Patience is Key

 Many artists who sell on Ebay will tell you the same thing when you start out; be patient. 

Because your feedback score will be zero when you start out (you're using an Ebay account just for your artwork, remember?) people will be hesitant to place a bid in your auction.  Eventually someone will bite, just keep creating art and putting it up on Ebay. 

Once you have generated a few sales and received feedback, the chances of more people placing bids greatly increases.  It's the snowball effect.  You will also have regular customers who will purchase your artwork.

Stay positive and believe in yourslef.  You can do it!

Questions & Answers

Question: Can one sell inherited artworks like paintings, sketches, drawings etc?

Answer: Of course, but you would be selling it under a category other than a self-representing artist.

Question: Does eBay offer an exhibition space for artists who want to sell their work on the website?

Answer: No, I don't think eBay offers an exhibition space for artists.

© 2010 Carolyn Dahl

Comments

John Morrison on August 08, 2020:

How do you list different sizes and prices of a piece of art on ebay at the same listing site.

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on November 01, 2019:

Yes, thank you for pointing that out. I will clarify that point!

rkartstudio on October 31, 2019:

I noticed in the beginning of the article, you said that the seller gets to keep all the profit, but that's not accurate. Ebay takes 10% of sales.

Judybrowncaro@aol.com on March 05, 2019:

Will the buyer

Come to the studio

To pick up the painting

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on December 01, 2017:

It depends... are you an established artist with some name recognition? Is it an original or a print? What are the materials? On average, most new artists have the most success selling their work for less than $50. Again, do your research, see what has sold and for how much on eBay (select the "sold" box on the left side of the menu as you scroll down) to give you a better idea.

Sandy Sereno on October 28, 2016:

Thank you so much that is very helpful information for I was using my ebay account for different items plus my art... I appreciate all your wonderful insights...

Thanks

Sandy

Rebecca Smith on December 18, 2013:

This is one of the meaningful articles about selling anything. Great Job. Thanks for providing us such kinds of information. It will definitively help during the process of selling products on sales channel.

albertboudin from China on May 28, 2012:

Hi again, seems that you are not only a good artist, but also a good artworks marketer, really need a help if possible.

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on August 24, 2011:

PegCole,

You'd be surprised at how improving on a few little things on your ebay ads can make such a big difference in your sales!

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 24, 2011:

This is a great way to start of marketing art creations, or at least bring in some sales while the art galleries are lining up. Thanks for the good instructions. I sold quite a few vintage items on eBay a couple of years ago and was pleased at the results.

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on March 20, 2011:

Evan and Treasure, I wish you all the best in your artistic pursuits, I hope this Hub helps!

Treasure Tweet from United Kingdom on March 19, 2011:

A cracking hub here.Great job.I like the way you laid it all out.A good artist,I am...I think I'll give it a try-out.

Evan Zerhusen on January 18, 2011:

R., thanks for the info, this was actually pretty interesting. I started painting last year but have set it aside to concentrate on more practical ventures. This makes me think it's still worth pursuing as a hobby and, who knows, maybe more!

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 15, 2011:

I'm not entirely sure... you would have to look into your copyright laws.

Mike King on January 15, 2011:

You know I do a lot of Pen and papper work and spend a lot of time on it . I even posted it on ebay had a lot of bids and sold a couple things. Then noticed it on some tattoo flash page, which really was frustrating. So how do You stop reselling?

Eclectic Mix from UK on January 15, 2011:

Excellent advice, I especially like the picture example of how to set up a shoot. Personally I agree with one of the comments, whereby this type of business seems more suited to Etsy, as they do have a support system for this market.

Nevertheless, your follow-up comment makes sense in terms of having multiple online stores, although I think Ebay would work, if you are having an auction/sale and can market it to an existing client base,(consumers or galleries) who are familiar with or own your work. If they maybe were unable to attend a gallery exhibition or are based, nationally/internationally, therefore visiting the artists studio would be impractical.

networkandy from Connecticut on January 14, 2011:

selling paintings is really hard but hey I guess there is a way to succeed at something. The internet is an awesome place to sell your stuff because well everyone in the world has access to it

Awesome hub I vote this up

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 14, 2011:

You're very welcome vox! Thanks for sharing!

Jasmine on January 14, 2011:

This is an excellent hub! I really found useful information for myself. I have got so many acrylic paintings (two of us in the family paint) and have always wanted to try selling them on ebay. Thanks for the motivation!

Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on January 14, 2011:

Heya Tory, boy, eBay, long time since I've considered selling there. I once tried it for about a year, and sold maybe a half dozen pieces. Mostly very large, 2x2' up to 4x8'. I often had to ship via Greyhound Bus as that was the only cost effective way to ship. I don't think I ever sold a painting for more than it cost to ship it, it was disappointing, but on the other hand, it was stock I was really trying to get rid of. Since my paintings are usually large, I thought of selling signed prints, but it's not the same.

You offer good advice, especially with the purses comment (made me smile***) but unfortunately eBay always felt like a wholesalers market not a retail market to me. I didn't have very good luck for all the effort that went in to it. They never had Auctiva either, still not sure what that is? Maybe an auction marketing tool? Either way, interesting article, caught my attention.

Ben Zoltak

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 13, 2011:

Thank you for the comments and for the support!! I appreciate all the feedback! In all my hubs I attempt to write as best I can.

PWalker281 on January 13, 2011:

This is one of the most comprehensive articles about selling ANYTHING, much less artwork, on eBay that I've ever seen. Thanks so much for all the detail. Definitely book marking this hub and rating it up! Congrats on your nomination as well.

Manna in the wild from Australia on January 13, 2011:

I liked this article. Maybe one day I will put my art on ebay.

Mary Gaines from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington on January 13, 2011:

This is an excellent hub and you certainly did your research, but I have to agree with some of the above comments who stated this is not a very good idea. Ebay buyers want a "deal" or to "steal" anything on ebay, so as an artist this is very difficult for me. Hope others have better success and cheers!

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 13, 2011:

David,

You make very good points, and I appreciate your comment!

I don't think that selling your artwork on ebay is the necessarily the best way to make money, but if a person was considering to seriously sell their work, I wanted to provide the best information I could. Sometimes just the smallest adjustments here and there can make a big difference when selling on eBay.

From a personal perspective as an artist, I think it's best to try a variety of methods to get your work out there whether it's in local art galleries, your own website, or juries.

David Stone from New York City on January 13, 2011:

I'm with Justom on this, although this hub is exceptionally well-written, and if anyone is going to sell on eBay, this is how they'd do it.

That said, all the statistics show that artists are fleeing eBay in droves. The prices are too low, and art is a very hard sell online anyway. Buyers want to actually see the art, not just a great picture of it, before paying a price acceptable to the artist. The best way to do this is to present the work with a link to a contact for discussion. eBay does not make that easy to do.

So, good luck, anyone who wants to try, but Etsy seems like the choice of late, and if your work really qualifies as "handmade," Etsy is an exceptionally supportive community with increasing sales in all kinds of arts and crafts.

justom from 41042 on January 13, 2011:

Well, I guess we'll just agree to disagree. I think the word "artist" is subjective anyway. There are many folks who call themselves that and it just dilutes what good art is, in my opinion. I wish everyone luck with selling art or photography on Ebay but I think that's exactly what it would be, luck. Peace!! Tom

Christy Zutautas on January 13, 2011:

This is an excellent hub! Thanks for sharing this fantastic advice:)

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 13, 2011:

Justom,

I agree that it's hard starting out on eBay as an artist. You'll most likely list things over and over again before you may get a bite, however, that's how many of the artists started on eBay.

It could be that prints weren't selling on eBay for some reason. Just because something gets listed on eBay doesn't mean it will get lot's of bids and sell for a good price. I think this disappoints lot's of people when we hear in the news how something silly like a bun that looks like Justin Bieber sold for $5,000.

How an artist can make a good profit on eBay is when their art works sell, they get to have all the money, they don't have to pay an art gallery's commission or any other middle man for showcasing their work.

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on January 13, 2011:

Okay, now this is an excellent hub, I am adding to my favorites so when my big computer is back running I can print it out follow it step by step. I love you diagram of the layout work space it's really awesome and useful and of course I will rate up up up....love & peace your new fan, darski

justom from 41042 on January 12, 2011:

I've sold things on Ebay for about 10 years and I don't think selling art or photography is a good idea at all. Almost no one is going to pay you a fair price, even if you have quality stuff. I've actually tried to sell a photographic print (and yes it is a good one) of Bruce Springsteen that I shot at a show back when he was just starting and that got 0 bids. Just my opinion. Peace!! Tom

chspublish from Ireland on January 12, 2011:

Really good advice here. Thanks.

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 11, 2011:

Thank you for your comment Suzie, I appreciate your feedback!

suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on January 11, 2011:

This is an excellent and detailed Hub. Good job.

Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on January 07, 2011:

Thanks elayne, and thanks for the nomination! I appreciate it!

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on January 07, 2011:

You have really laid it out for us artists. I really appreciate your sharing this information. Congratulations on your nomination and I hope you win.

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on January 07, 2011:

Joyful Announcement: This hub is a Hubnuggets nominee!

To vote for the Hubnuggets: http://bit.ly/hkjeoO

Participate in the Hubnuggets Forum to celebrate your nomination: https://hubpages.com/forum/topic/64125

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