The Best Way to Sell Art Online: Vango vs UGallery vs Zatista vs Etsy
NOTICE 8/18/2016: Hey everyone! I just wanted to give a brief overall update regarding this post. I've been getting a lot of messages to do a 2016 post around this subject as the original post was back in February 2015. A lot has changed since then with these services and also with myself (I'm expecting!) and I wanted you all to know I WILL be writing an updated post! Please be patient with me, the post won't come quickly as I do want to collect adequate data on my findings with a couple new services as well as some previous ones listed here. I also get a lot of questions regarding my opinion on Vango now as their support had taken a bit of a dive. I plan to revisit all this in my updated post.
UPDATED 2/10/2016 VANGO SECTION UPDATED
UPDATED 3/6/2015 ETSY ADDED
So, I've been adventuring around the web trying to find the best way to sell some of my fine art. I ran across four sites that look to be the best options. Each of them have their pros and cons, but only one will take the gold! Let's get started!
Started back in 2006 and the oldest of the three, UGallery sells sculpture, paintings, and mixed media. I was really excited to see this as I am a sculptor and I really want to sell my sculptures. It seemed perfect. I'd be able to sell my sculptures and paintings. There was just one thing. They kept 50% of you sales! OUCH! You also have to pay $5 just to apply to sell your artwork on their site. I mean, I understand why they charge to apply. They want to make sure they are getting applications from serious artists, but 50% seems pretty steep. They do pay for shipping, but I still think 50% is unfair. They also don't provide personal embed links for items you list and there's no direction as to how you will be marketed. So, let's break down the pros and cons:
- Options for art submitted: Sculpture, painting, photography, mixed media, etc.
- If your application is accepted you'll be exhibiting your work with a select crowd.
- They pay for shipping.
- You can take more than one photo of your piece for each listing.
- Pay $5 application fee.
- 50% cut from your sale. (This weighs pretty heavily.)
- They don't offer embed codes for your personal website.
- They don't really explain what you're benefits are as an artist if you get accepted, how you are marketed, and their site isn't very user friendly. Once I figured out where the button was to apply to exhibit with them, I found that the application included the $5 fee, but it failed to mention anywhere their 50% cut. It did have a link to their Artist FAQ, but I feel they need to specify that upfront. Pretty sneaky.
- If you sell with UGallery you CAN NOT sell your work with anyone else. They have exclusive rights to sell your work. You are allowed to show your piece, but not sell it anywhere else.
They don't really mention when they started their company. Zatista has the broadest selection of artwork you can submit. They are kinda like a fine art "Etsy". They sell sculpture, jewelry, knitted items, furniture, lighting, pottery, ceramics, clothing, blown glass, and quilts. Hmmm.... now that I think about it, this site does seem an awful lot like Etsy. Let's break down the pros and cons:
- Large Options for art submitted: Sculpture, painting, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, lighting, photography, clothing, blown glass, mixed media, etc.
- In addition to selling with Zatista, you are allowed to sell your artwork on your site and other means.
- If you don't have time to list your work Zatista provides listing agents for you. They do require a fee for this service. You can also apply to become a listing agent.
- Free application to sell your work. They will still need to review your work before selling.
- Zatista takes a 45% cut of each work sold. This is still a little too much for my taste.
- You pay for shipping and insurance.
- Although listing is free once accepted, they don't really explain how your items are marketed or promoted. If they are getting a 45% cut they better be doing a heck of a lot more for me as an artist.
- Their site homepage isn't optimized to sell artwork (This is my personal opinion).
This site truly stands out among its competitors. Started in 2013 and the youngest of the three, Vango takes a unique approach to selling artwork. With the free plan you are able to sell up to five pieces for free with price listings of $250 and $500. Once you sell $1000 worth of work total you are upgraded to higher pricing tiers. This makes total sense based on basic economics (Supply and demand). Keep in mind there is still a review process 24-72hrs. They don't allow careless submissions. They want to make sure high quality work is being listed for their buyers. You also have the potential to be hired on by buyers to create commissioned work. Let me go ahead and jump into the pros and cons and you'll understand why Vango is more about the artist than any other company on the market:
- Vango keeps a max of 30% cut (free plan). If you subscribe to their 'Plus' ($9/month) or 'Awesome' ($20/month) plans they only take a 20% cut and you get extra benefits.
- When your work sells they send you a printable shipping label and they pay for shipping and insurance.
- Their site is gorgeous and VERY user friendly. (This matters to me!)
- Embeddable codes for your website to help promote and sell your artwork.
- With the $9/month plan on up you get premium insights that show you views, duration someone viewed your work on the site, and favorites. You are also occasionally featured in their emails to buyers (They strive to market YOU!).
- You can offer your fans personalized discount coupon codes for your work.
- Here is the GRAND DADDY PRO: Vango has an app that allows buyers to see what your artwork will look like in their space before you even buy it. This is HUGE. I used to work for a company that sold paintings and I can't tell you how many times customers would ask if they could bring it back if they didn't like how it looked on their wall. This is a brilliant marketing strategy that truly brings selling art into the 21st century. Not only is this extremely beneficial to artists, but even more so to buyers. This just goes to show that Vango really cares about their artists and making sure buyers are 100% happy with their purchase.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimized) listings. Every time you submit a new work of art Vango uses tags and content from your work's description to create search engine optimized pages. Don't believe me? Type in 'contoured strings painting' on Google or Bing. As of now it's the very first listing on Google!
- Every time you list a new piece of artwork on their site you are temporarily featured on their homepage under 'Latest Art'! This happens regardless of what plan you are on.
- Vango is sharing all the time! If you tag them in social media, they notice. I've personally (As well as tons of other artists) had work retweeted and favorited on Twitter. Again, Vango REALLY wants other people to view the high quality original artwork being posted. They are honestly proud of the artists that choose to work with them.
- Vango only sells paintings and hangable mixed media art. They do however mention that they hope to sell additional media in the future. I'm definitely willing to hold out for them in hopes to one day sell my sculptures with them.
- At this time they only ship to the US (This doesn't bother me)
- Vango support was rough/slow for a couple months (However, they have since hired additional help in their support department)
So, if you're looking to sell some fine art paintings online, I highly recommend signing up with Vango. I've added my first set of pieces and I encourage you to check them out! If you do decide to sell your work with Vango, I'd love to see your art! Comment below with any artwork you submit!
Ah yes, Etsy, the 'Hipster's Ebay'. This is probably the most popular and well known of all. Etsy is the conglomeration of every artist, crafter, knitter, seamstress, woodworker, and everyone else under the sun. There's no limit to what you can buy or sell on Etsy. Yet, if you are just starting out is this the best option to go with? Let's take a look at the pros and cons:
- Etsy only charges 20 cents per listing and after your listing sells they only collect 3.5% of the sale. So, you get the most profit through Etsy.
- You can sell anything under the sun.
- Etsy uses excellent SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices.
- Easily share your listings on social media platforms built into Etsy
- You can promote your shop with listing embeds and badge embeds. You can also pay to have your listings promoted in Etsy's search results. This works kind of like Facebook Ads where you pay based on clicks and views, etc.
- Etsy provides statistics on shop and listing views.
- If your item doesn't sell in 4 months you are charged 20 cents again. (Not a huge deal).
- You are 1 shop in a sea of "30 million buyers and creative businesses". Yes, Etsy may be more popular and the largest, but that doesn't mean anything if your work isn't getting views. Although Etsy uses SEO practices, there are SO many other listings that it's extremely difficult to stand out or get page views. I recently conducted an experiment with both Etsy and Vango regarding page views (See below).
- You have to write out your store's policies. Personally, all I want to do is create. I don't want to have to worry about return policies, shipping policies, payment policies, etc and not everyone knows the best ways to write these.
- While I mentioned Etsy's SEO is a Pro, it's also a Con. While Etsy does practice excellent SEO it's SEO is also hindered by the VAST amount of items it sells. When searching for an item on Etsy sellers end up having to cram as much SEO information into their item title instead of simply listing the title of the piece of work. Why? Because sellers desperately need to be seen. This makes listing titles look clunky and commercial. I want my work to be displayed with some meaning please!
- You have to pay extra to promote your items on Etsy. These work similar to Facebook Ads.
- Etsy has proven to be very difficult to sell paintings and artwork. I'm not saying it can't be done, but you have to put in A LOT of elbow grease to get your work to be simply SEEN. I've read many threads on this. I think we all need to market ourselves to some degree, but does it really need to be this difficult? Here are some threads I found on the subject:
- UX/UI (User friendliness for sellers) could be much better.
I did an experiment. I listed one of my paintings on both Etsy and Vango at the same time. I also promoted each on social media. Here are my results after only 6 days:
Etsy is great if you want to sell a variety of things, but if you are looking to sell only original fine art paintings, I'd still personally choose Vango. Your work is going to get better SEO, better views, better representation, and more! I still say Vango is simply the best option for artists looking to sell their work online.