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Could You Earn up to $7000/month Selling Your Art on eBay?

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Image courtesy of cytech

eBay is the world’s biggest online marketplace, with over 100 million global users (as of Q4 2011), where (they claim) practically anyone can buy and sell practically anything.

So what about artists? Is it possible to successfully sell your artwork on eBay, or is there just too much competition to make it a viable solution?

eBay offer their own art selling guide, which claims that it’s easy to earn extra cash selling your art on eBay. But what’s the real story?

Will it Sell?

In 2006, Dan from Empty Easel wrote an article suggesting that it was almost impossible for relatively unknown artists to sell their work on eBay for over $50.

Having studied the completed listings of original oil paintings listed by the artists themselves, he found that only around 20% of the paintings had sold at all, and those that did sell rarely fetched more than $100.

I performed the same search today, and found very similar results. 5 or 6 paintings had sold for between $500 – $1500, but many more at that price range had not sold at all. Again, roughly 80% of all paintings listed had failed to sell and the majority that had sold fetched less than $100.

Of course, this is just a general overview of the results, and there were exceptions where certain artists had consistently sold a number of paintings for $100 – $200 and occasionally more.

Interestingly, the results on eBay.co.uk were more favourable, with less paintings listed, and a higher percentage sold, many for between £100 – £200, suggesting that perhaps the market is less competitive in the UK.

A Story From the Inside

To get a better idea of the real state of the art market on eBay today, I spoke to an artist who has been selling her original art on eBay for the last 8 years.

Soniei creates contemporary Japanese paintings, the majority of which she sells through eBay auctions. I asked her a few questions about the eBay art market:

How long have you been selling your art on eBay? Have your sales been fairly consistent during that period?

Soniei: I’ve been selling my art on eBay since 2004, but I only started working as a full-time artist since 2006.  Sales were amazing, anywhere from $2000 to $7000 a month… until 2008, when the economy collapsed.  I haven’t worked as a full-time artist in the past 2 years, but fortunately I’ve been reinventing my life in the past month (after my boyfriend of 9 years and I broke up)… and I’ve returned to really focusing on my art career full-time.  Sales seem to be back to what they were when I first started in 2004, so I’m extremely excited about that!

Ebay is one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world. How do you get noticed among the competition?

Soniei: It’s important to get noticed as an artist.  eBay really helps me find new customers.  The most important tip I can give any artist, especially those selling on eBay, is find your niche!  I focus on contemporary Japanese art, so if a potential art buyer searches ‘Japanese Art’, for example, I’m one of only a few artists that show up in the search results.

Do you get a lot of buyers finding you through eBay search, or do more people find come to your eBay store via your website?

Soniei: I get a lot of buyers find me through eBay searches – that’s why I’ve kept my paintings on eBay for all these years.  I get some buyers from my website as well, but nothing compares to eBay at the moment.  I also market my paintings on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and sell prints on Imagekind and RedBubble.

How much importance do you place on writing a good listing, with the right keywords, tags etc?

Soniei: I focus on keywords for the title of the item, and I focus on smooth reading and good quality images for the item descriptions.  Get good search results with the title, and wow them when they look at your item’s listing.

Are you ever unhappy with the price a painting sells for?

Soniei: Most of my art is sold by auction, and even though my auctions might end at half the price I would like to sell a painting, I know that I’ll still be making money from that same painting from the prints I sell, the Google ads from the YouTube videos I recorded while making that painting, etc.  So, the money from that painting doesn’t stop at the end of the auction. – So, I’m never unhappy with any of the selling prices for that reason.

Have there been any particular challenges you’ve faced with selling your art on eBay?

Soniei: The only real big challenge with selling art on eBay (for me) is that everyone and their dog has an opinion on how I should do my job (it gets old after a while)… even though I’m quite content with my career choices.  That’s the only BIG challenge I face. It’s so annoying. I don’t go to other people’s jobs and tell them how to do it better.  However, as an artist… a lot of people think that it’s a ‘simple’ job (or hobby) and they know exactly what it entails, which is absolutely not true.

Are there any tips or advice you’ve learnt from experience, that might help someone who is considering trying to sell their art on eBay?

Soniei: I have written a blog post with eBay selling tips and another blog post on how to package and ship paintings.

Have you ever tried any alternative methods of selling your art? If so, what was your experience?

Soniei: I’ve tried selling my art on other websites, such as Etsy, but nothing compares to eBay, for me, anyway.  However, I’ve found success with selling my art prints on Imagekind and RedBubble.  I love the online world, but I might be looking to sell my art in galleries as well, in the near future.

You can check out Soniei’s latest auctions in her eBay store, or follow her on Facebook to watch her paintings being created.

The Verdict

As we have seen, there are artists making a decent income from selling their art on eBay. Soniei’s experience suggests that the market may be on the rise again ($2000 – $7000 per month is not to be sniffed at). But at the same time, there is still a lot of art going unsold.

There are many possible reasons why a lot of artists might find it difficult to sell their work on eBay. It could be that their listings are not appealing enough, or poorly written. It could be that they need to establish more of a following before people will be willing to buy their work. Or perhaps their art simply doesn’t appeal to the people who buy art on eBay.

From what we have seen, it looks like success on eBay could be largely determined (apart from the quality of your work) by the price you are willing to accept for your art.

If you are happy to sell paintings for between $50 – $150 (and occasionally more), then it’s certainly possible for you to use eBay to your advantage. This could work well if you can work quickly and turn out several paintings per week or month.

But if you spend a lot longer on your paintings, perhaps producing only one or two per month, and you’re looking for prices in the thousands, it may be more difficult to sell your work through eBay, at least until you are quite well-known.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible, although judging from recently completed listings, it’s unlikely that you’ll fetch more than $1500 for a single painting. If you’ve sold artwork for more than that on eBay, I’d love to hear from you.

Why not try an experiment and list some of your work for sale on eBay? If you do, come back and leave a comment below to let me know how it goes. You might find that eBay is the perfect solution for you.

If you have experience selling your artwork on eBay, either good or bad, let us know about it in the comments below. If you’d like to offer your own advice on the subject, why not submit a guest post?

30 Comments on Could You Earn up to $7000/month Selling Your Art on eBay?

  1. Phil Hewitt says:

    Dan,
    I have tried selling my work on e-bay a couple of different times. I find e-bay to be more for bargain hunters rather than serious art collectors. I had no luck either time and definitely won’t be trying it again. I refuse to sell my work for nothing. I’d rather give it away.
    Happy trails,
    Phil Hewitt

    • Dan Johnson says:

      Thanks Phil, and fair point. I would never recommend anyone to let their work go if they’re not happy with the price. You’ll only end up resentful of your customers, which is the last thing you want. One solution is to set a minimum price that you’d be happy to sell for, and then anything above that is a bonus, but if you’re not comfortable with that then I would probably steer clear of eBay, as you say.

  2. Great post. I’ll have to look into eBay. Currently I have enlisted with Etsy and fineartamerica.com but I’m not generating anything. Much of that has to do with not putting the energy into marketing my site. That will do it every time.

  3. Dellilah says:

    I sell some on ebay to just to bring collectors to my website. I sell mostly aceos. I know you said , she was sell $7000.00 a month I don’t see that in the sales records. I have had friends who 3 years ago were sell $4000. 00 a month but no longer sell on ebay because of the slow sales.

    I like to keep my work out in front of the public so I put some at auction. Thanks for the great review of ebay.

  4. Jason Dirks says:

    Great post Dan! It all comes down to marketing and exposure and this is exactly what we are solving at Meylah for all artists…we have just launched (still in private beta) the ability for any artist to not only create their own online store, but to now connect those online stores to each other to create online marketplaces so they can sell together with their chosen peers.

    Instead of being lost among the millions on eBay and Etsy, you now have your own niche community marketplace and there is more power in ‘we’ than ‘me’ in terms of marketing and exposure. Our innovative online platform allows artists to work together while still remaining independent sellers which allows for more sales opportunities and increased community support!

    We’re very excited about this new feature would be happy to write a guest post for you addressing the challenges and opportunities of selling with your community, using real case studies once we launch publicly in a few weeks. Here are two great examples of current marketplaces powered by Meylah:

    http://showcaseseattle.meylah.com/
    http://ahodgepodge.meylah.com/

  5. JJ Jacobs says:

    I’ve tried selling on both EBay and ETSY and had been somewhat successful. These past couple of years have been tough for a lot of people economically and I admit getting frustrated as I continue to paint and my standing inventory increases. That said, your article has given me hope to refresh my marketing efforts and try EBay again, and become more involved with ETSY.

    I have noticed several new sites like the one Jason mentioned above that are geared more towards fine art (ie paintings) being promoted but I find they don’t really advertise the results. The artists are paying fees to join/submit their listings but how can we know whether or not it’s worth our money?? EBay and ETSY have huge followings — not so sure about the other art sites though FineArt America does come close.

  6. Pingback: Artist Guide: To eBay or Not to eBay | Fresh Gloss

  7. Jalai Lama says:

    JJ,

    My first week on fineartamerica and I have already had 500 visitors so the traffic is pretty good. I use twitter,facebook page and google + to promote however I’m finding target keywords and good titles/descriptions are equally as important. To get an idea of what an FAA store looks like you can check out my FAA site here: http://jalai-lama.artistwebsites.com/ Hope that helps! Enjoy!

    ~ Jalai Lama
    http://awakeningvisions.com
    Awakening Visions – Love Art of Jalai Lama

  8. As an aspiring artist, I recently made the decision to set up a website to hopefully make money from my work.
    I have been very disappointed however with the experience as I don’t sell or get many visitors to my site, http://www.paulcavanaghart.com and I have come to the conclusion that I am either not good enough or that the subject matter is not appealing.
    Unfortunately the idea of making money from art online isn’t working for me.

    • Christina Anderson says:

      Paul, your paintings are good, but your website does not do them justice. Instead of looking professional your site looks like a school project. Look at other artists sites to get some ideas. The typeface is childish and unprofessional and the orange color is distracting, instead of enhancing the color in your paintings it makes them look dull. If you want your work to look mature you need your site to look mature. Also do some research on writing a proper Biography and Artist Statement. Good luck. :)

  9. Ryan says:

    DO NOT sell art on ebay. The only ones who can appreciate the time and effort put into artwork are the artists and collectors themselves. Ebay is the worst way to promote artwork. People don’t know who you are and they frankly don’t care how long it took to make your work…and Why…because they have no idea what it’s all about. They want stuff cheap! Because most people today wouldn’t consider paying big dollar for a drawing or a painting they hang on their wall. Just like every business. Whatever you do for work…It has to take aim at a certain clientele. The ones that actually know what it’s worth.

  10. Kai says:

    A complete waste of time, people are not willing to pay good money on that site, the site is full of cheapskates who want everything for nothing, not worth the trouble believe me

  11. Lester says:

    I sell my art on Ebay occassionally, and they usually sell for $50+. It all comes down to how you photograph the painting, creators and artists can visualize how a painting will look in a room, but general audiences won’t be able to or just plain don’t want to (and why should they? They have a lot to choose from). Good photos, and tell your story or the story of the painting.

    When the auction ends sell prints of the painting, that will generate more income from the same work. A lot of people only look at prints rather than the “direct from artist” area because let’s face it, there is a plethora of junk that people are trying to sell. Not everyone is going to want what you offer just because you spent 12+ hours on a painting if it just isn’t a good painting… and sometimes work you don’t think anyone will like ends up selling for way more than the ones you do. Auctions are just wierd like that.

  12. Edward says:

    About a year ago I tried to sell high end art on eBay and it was barely even looked at. I then sold it in an auction and made $500 profit. With my experiences I found that there are many other things that are better worth your time selling on eBay.

    According to the Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, on average, eBay consumers are younger than are the consumers not utilizing eBay. Being of a younger generation, most of the people I know have no interest in art whatsoever. Additionally, eBay consumers have more of a tendency to engage in impulse buying than do consumers who do not utilize eBay and it seems more likely that one would impulse buy a DVD or book and not artwork.

  13. jacqueline says:

    I sell art on ebay. Mostly ACEOs. So, yeah, I sell art for less, but it’s not just about money and I am not resentful. When I am done with a painting, I want it gone, and I am thrilled to send little paintings all over the world.
    Do I undervalue my work? That would depend on why I paint. I paint all the time for fun. When I take my income, subtract fees and shipping, and divide it by my time, I can make twice as much as a job at Walmart and I don’t have to leave my house. I would rather paint any day than work as a fast food manager or other retail, which is about the best I could do right now if I tried.

    If I constantly list, the auction prices go up. If I skip weeks or months of listing, the auctions are not as high for a while.

    I had an account on ebay for almost two years before I began listing art. I think I have been selling for about 3 years now. It starts slowly and builds as people come back again and again. I love my regular customers, but i am excited when I see a bid from someone new, because if they like my art, they may be back as many are repeat customers.

    The ACEOs I sell are part of a collecting phenomenon that can be addicting, so that is a niche in itself. I just started listing non-ACEO art. I sold a painting to someone who has bought my ACEOs. I don’t know how well it will go, time will tell.

    I absolutely agree that no one should ever sell their art for less than they are comfortable with, but make up your own mind about what you want for it instead of listening to what anyone else says. You may find you like turning over more pieces for less money.

    Just a note: I used to sell bigger painting for more at art shows, but I sold few with long periods of time between sales. I must say that the ebay situation of selling more pieces for less money is a much bigger thrill, for me, but then again, I am not so attached to finished paintings.

  14. Interesting read. I started out on Ebay in 2002 and the fact is, Ebay wrecked art sales. There are still groups with postings, now defunkt but you can read around 2005/2006 how Ebay changed the way they listed art, changed it and changed it again. They decimated the sales of individuals, favouring the “car boot sale” mentality. I could sell artwork on there for hundreds of pounds but now it is a waste of time.

    As an experiment a year or so ago, I listed one of my originals with a start price of 70 pounds. As I didn’t have an Ebay shop, it got very few views. It ended with no bids and one watcher.

    The very same painting sold in a gallery a week later for almost ten times the amount.

    It’s all about perception. I f you are serious about your artwork DON’T PUT IT ON EBAY!

  15. Luc says:

    thanks everybody, very interesting stuff!

    ‘FeeBay’ is by nature of their fee structure more interested in sales in exactly the range that was mentioned here, that people now seem to reach: 50-100 give or take a few dollars/euros. That in combination with high volume is where they make the most money out of the rest of us. So no surprise that this seems to be the general trend.

    Then it’s also not only the materials and time spent creating the artwork you need to count when calculating your income, but also the time you spend dealing with the transaction, packaging, shipping, emailing potential customers, lost or damaged shipments, etc. This can be quite substantial, and will be the same no matter how expensive or cheap the individual piece is.
    So instead of making art you will partially turn into something we in Germany call “Kleinkrämer”, steadily dealing with a whole bunch of customers. Not really comparable to mixing-in with the crowd at your occasional art-opening, is it :)

    As an example: If you do sell something for 50, ebay and paypal might pay out roughly 40-45 (auction plus seller fees plus their paypal fee, which is a scandalous +/- 4% internationally / 2% locally – both of which would be free with any other bank, at least within Europe).

    I then usually spend at least 60 minutes taking pictures, posting (re-post is quicker), calculating shipping costs. Then packing and shipping (waiting in line…) might be another 60 minutes.

    so if you say 10/hour for that, you only make 20-25 on the piece. You basically have a 50% cost of sale. and that is if you value your own time at only 10/hour.

    Will you still earn more then if working at bad employers like Walmart?

    Hope I didn’t turn off people to try it out. Just a heads up and a very personal ‘finger sign’ from me to ebay & paypal, who are really mean corporate gangsters in my view.

  16. Bob Jones says:

    I sold more before holiday this year, but I enjoy listing and modifying. The listing ins and outs keep me busy, and it isn’t so much about the money for me. I keep prices pretty low, but some pieces i know are worth lots more – if the buyer sees the value. I also can look up my paintings beyond my other listings by typing in the search ACRYLIC SIGNED JONES and this helps me and others locate my work. It s all fun, but i do wish i coud drive more traffic without getting a store, etc. Overall, i am having a ball -esp. when the listings are free.

  17. I am on Fine Art America I have a page Incessant Memories on facebook and I am on Google and I am on twitter. I have have been a artist all my life and I found word of mouth sold my work faster in the old days then this does. I was raising my kids for a time and I am coming back in. I put a painting on eBay and it did not sell but you have made me want to try again. I am thinking about doing like Dellilah said and put my aceos on and see what happens with that. I find it strange to sell aceo cards we called them trading cards because I am from a time we artist made them to give to each other and to show a small scale of art work for a commission job. But I think to sell them on eBay is a good way to bring in costumers to your other web sites. I have enjoyed how I no longer feel alone as a artist because of how we now can all come together on the internet in this way its a beautiful thing for artist all over. Take a look at my work enjoy and be happy.:)

  18. Instead of all the inane speculation and fantasy science just go to ebay and study a field with some parameters, such as, oil landscape paintings direct from artist original US from 2000 until present auction, then observe the results until you can recognize the work of individual artists on sight. You will note a very few but consistently successful individuals and their work is usually quite good. An artist who is doing well might start the bidding at anywhere from 0.99 to 35.00 or so. Often these receive 20 to 50 views and some number of bids, say five to ten and maybe sell for 50.00 to 85.00 or so. Occasionally someone particularly good will start a painting at 100.00 for a 5 x 7 and they might sell some 60% to 75% of those listed and rarely they might get a couple of bids and sell for a little more than one hundred dollars. This is ebay. Very inexpensive ACEOs will sell with some regularity for around five dollars. A twenty dollar painting will set there until the crack of doom unsold listed time after time after time. That people sell well on ebay or have some formula for success is highly spurious or in the vernacular, just plain bullshit. Ebay can be a great place to give away artwork to the needy.

  19. michael fitzgerald says:

    the problem with the audience
    is the audience is the problem
    the problem with the (artist )
    is he ain’t got one

    I just put some (art) on ebay sept 2013
    I also have lots on show at Saatchi online

    no one’s interested

    on the bright side

    I aint never gonna be hungry and homeless in Africa

    .

  20. Nadira Akter says:

    Hi.I am Nadira Akter an freelance painter from Bangladesh want to sell some of my painting’s original copy at very low prices but with in 3-4 days because I need money ad soon as possible to do something betyer in life.I am trying to do something. …Please help me. ..Please help me because without your help I can do anything
    ..
    I need money insteafly.help me.

  21. Helen says:

    I love selling on e-bay. I am a self taught artist from a family of professional, schooled artists who thought art was only for a certain “class” of people. I enjoy selling the art I create while I am learning, It gives me confidence and happiness, and I’ve gotten only positive comments and relationships from my buyers. Sure I would like to get a lot more money, but its the “high class ” people who don’t get my work and don’t like it much. I also love to look at the art displayed on ebay. I’m so glad e bay offers this service, I never would have known how many talented people there were in the world. The good art far outweighs the bad.

  22. Chad says:

    Ebay is now heavily manipulating search results. They only want to promote listings that they know will sell. They have removed any paid methods to promote your listings. The end results… you list a painting for 1 cent and free shipping, it’s a guaranteed sale and Ebay knows it. They will push a listing like that and you’ll see it easily get over 100 hits any many many bids before your listing ends.

    You list something for 10 dollars opening bid…. Ebay won’t bother. You aren’t guaranteeing them a commission so they don’t bother. That same listing will see a few hits at most and no bids.

  23. Bill Jones III says:

    I’ve been selling art on eBay for many years – all paper or canvas prints – $20 – 75. Sales are generally slow bc people do want only inexpensive things there. Occasionaly I will have high sales for a while and then back to slow sales. The attack of 2001 killed art sales for more than a year. They started to come back by 2008, then the economic crash knocked them down again. Sales have been recovering, but overall not good enough to live on. The artist in the post above does not sell anywhere near $7000 a year, much less a month. Check the completed sales and you’ll see what she made – early 2014 about $75 a month. Check art sales overall and you’ll see most goes unsold. Buyers on eBay are looking for bargains and/or art not interested in art. Those people who are interested in art are not really looking to eBay or anywhere online for their art. They go to a gallery where someone will smooze them and give a sales job so the client can have a story to tell their friends when the see the art in the house. No knock intended here, just that buying art is a social act and buyers want to show off what they have – pretty hard to do when you buy it on eBay for $20.

  24. Pingback: Selling your art to a global market | aboutartists

  25. The title of the above article is posed as a question, Can you earn up to $7,000 per month selling on ebay?

    The answer is no.

    Whereas the $7,000 figure might lure people to the site such flights of fantasy serve no purpose. Occasionally works of art do sell on ebay for thousands of dollars for whatever odd reasons, but these are anomalies and signify nothing of use. In general a large majority of sellers will not garner more than $10 for a painting.

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