Skip to content

Sell Your Art Online Using Drop Shipping, Part 1

    Drop shipping for artists

    Did you know there are two types of drop shipping for artists?  More specifically, there there’s one type of drop shipping, but two ways artists use it.

    If you shop online, you’ve likely already been involved in a drop shipping transaction and didn’t even know it. And that’s the point of drop shipping. The idea is that a product is ordered online and the supplier ships the product directly to the customer on behalf of the online storefront.

    In the case of drop shipping, the supplier and the online storefront partner together. The supplier handles product fulfillment and the online storefront handles the marketing and customer support. This division of labor can be very beneficial to both parties.

    If you shop online, you’ve likely already been involved in a drop shipping transaction and didn’t even know it. And that’s the point of drop shipping.

    So how do artists utilize dropshipping partnerships to sell their art online? In part one of this article will examine how artists act as the supplier and utilize online galleries as a storefront to partner with. We’ll look at the pros and cons of this type of partnership, what type of artist it might benefit from, as well as identify a few known online galleries that partner with artists.

    In part two of this article, we will examine how artists act as the storefront and utilize dropshipping suppliers to create passive income. In that article, we will talk about the pros and cons of this type of relationship as well as identify potential drop, shipping partners. More on that later!

    Drop shipping your artwork for online galleries

    Online art galleries work with artists to sell their work. The process works like this: the Gallery markets the work of the artist online. Once one of their customers purchases the artist’s work, a purchase order is sent to the artist. The artist packs and ships the work to the customer directly from the artist’s studio. Once the artwork has been delivered, the Gallery pays the artist commission just as it would have it sold from the brick and mortar store.

    Agreeing to be a dropship supplier for an online gallery can be a win-win situation for both the gallery and the artist. The gallery is able to save the expense and overhead of storing the artists’ work. The artist is able to market the same piece of artwork in several venues until it sells in one of them. The artist also saves the expense of marketing.

    Agreeing to be a drop ship supplier for an online gallery can be a win-win situation for both the gallery and the artist.

    Typically speaking, an online gallery will only work with an artist that has proven to be reliable. The artist must be able to keep their inventory up-to-date on the website so that the artwork currently being marketed is available to be shipped upon ordering. Also, the artist must be willing to pack and ship the artwork on a tight schedule.

    Although the artist will agree to a turnaround time, generally the artwork must be shipped within 5 to 14 days of the order. Of course, the longer the turnaround time, the lower the sales. When buyers purchase art, they want their artwork on the way as soon as possible. This has become even more competitive due to services like Amazon prime training online buyers to expect their merchandise immediately.

    Some benefits artists enjoy when selling their art as a drop ship supplier include:

    1. Drop shipping is an excellent way to sell art if you are an introvert. Introverted artists dread selling art at events like art fairs or attending art gallery openings. If you are an introverted artist, selling your art through drop shipping relieves you of the one-on-one conversations with buyers.

    The online gallery will handle all of the customer service calls, answer customer questions, and serve as the point of contact between you and the buyer. This can be a huge relief to artists who do not care to deal with the public or find it extremely draining.

    2. Drop shipping allows the artist to market a piece of art in more than one venue at the same time. As an example, if your work is represented online on one website, there is no reason it cannot be represented on another similar website so long as the pricing remains the same. Should you choose to do this, keep in mind that collectors will search for your work to compare prices and if they are inconsistent online you may draw the ire of both the collector and the online gallery you are working with. However, if you are careful to keep your pricing consistent, there is no harm in marketing your work to two different audiences at the same time.

    An online gallery can be an excellent option for an artist who is holding down another job or has extensive non-art obligations.

    3. Online galleries must invest an incredible amount of time and energy into marketing their products. They tend to have resources above and beyond what an artist can accomplish on their own. An online gallery must engage in online advertising, email campaigns, and sometimes even printed catalogs. Their reach is likely far greater than that of an artist. Because of this, the artist’s work is reaching a larger audience that is pre-targeted. 

    4. An online gallery can be an excellent option for an artist who is holding down another job or has extensive non-art obligations. When the order comes in, the artist does not need to be there to accept it, confirm or respond.

    The artist has several days in which to pack up and ship out the artwork. This is very helpful if you are managing other obligations that don’t allow you to accept and make phone calls during regular business hours. It also means that you can create and upload new works on your own schedule. There’s no need for an appointment to deliver work like you would for a brick-and-mortar gallery. 

    Some of the drawbacks to drop shipping your work as a supplier include:

    1. Online galleries typically charge a 50% commission to market your work to their collectors. On the one hand, this may sound expensive, but just like a brick-and-mortar gallery, an online gallery has extensive expenses from which you will benefit. These include marketing professionals that bring attention to your artwork.

    The cost of getting the same exposure on your own would be cost-prohibitive. Because the online gallery charges a 50% commission, your artwork must be priced at a retail rate that is high enough so that you still make a profit. This can make pricing very tricky, especially if your work is also represented in smaller local galleries.

    2. Dropshipping your work means you will have to become an expert at packing and shipping your own artwork. Although you can use pack and ship services, oftentimes they are unreliable. Nobody cares about the safety of your work as much as you do, so it is necessary to learn exactly what the shipping carriers require for packing in order to ensure your work properly. If you fall below the standards that they set, and your work is damaged, your insurance claim will be denied. Your artwork will be a loss and your online gallery may not compensate you. 

    3. Some online galleries have copywriters that will assist with creating an excellent listing for your artwork. However, many of them will issue you a password and you will log on to their website and upload your work and descriptions.

    You will have to create your own high-quality photos, as well as your own product listing to best sell your work. This requires a certain amount of computer savvy, photography skills, and an ability to write copy that sells.

    You will have to create your own high quality photos, as well as your own product listing to best sell your work.

    4. Just like brick-and-mortar galleries, many online galleries have return policies if the customer is not satisfied with the art. Some of the galleries offer a no-questions-asked policy which means if the art arrives and the customer decides that it just simply does not fit in the space as they thought it would, that piece of art will be packed up and returned to you.

    The artwork will be out of your inventory during the time that it is shipped to and from the collector. Although this can be annoying, and even somewhat offensive to the artist, there is just a certain percentage of pieces that get returned for one reason or another. 

    5. Top online art galleries that utilize artist drop shippers tend to serve the decor and interior design market. Although this is still a very wide variety of two and three-dimensional artworks, some artists’ works will not fit this genre. This is important to consider if you decide to pursue this market.

    How to Enter the Artist Drop Shipping Market

    Some online galleries have an online application process in which an artist can upload items from their portfolio including photographs of their work, information about their background as well as their price points. However, many online galleries prefer to discover the artists that they work with on their own. Although it can be difficult to be discovered, it is possible to be found through your social media efforts, Etsy, or high-end art fairs. 

    The following is a list of online vendors that partner with artists to market and dropship their artwork. Use these websites as a starting point for your research. Find additional drop shipping opportunities by searching for these websites’ competitors. If you find an online vendor whose aesthetic and price point is a fit for your work, search the site map to find out if they accept applications directly from artists.

    The Art & Prosper resource directory has several online galleries listed that are great dropshipping partners.

    Key Take Aways

    These four leads can get you well on your way to dropshipping from your own studio. A few more pointers before we sign off:

    The online galleries listed in the resource directory are a great place to start. However, this is not an exhaustive list. You can (and should) continue to find additional vendors who work directly with artists through additional online research. In fact, if you know of one you’d like to share, drop it in the comments below!

    Keep in mind that it takes time to build up any new venue, including online and catalog vendors.

    Keep in mind that it takes time to build up any new venue, including online and catalog vendors. You can help by linking your website and social media to your work on their sites, tagging them in your social media posts, and spreading the word about where your art can be found. If your work begins to sell well, vendors will promote it to their catalogs and email marketing campaigns.

    If you have researched and applied to several dropshipping vendors directly without success, consider adding a notation to your website, Etsy and social media outlets that you are available for wholesale drop shipping. New catalogs are always looking!