How to make the online art service work for you
By Susan Washington
Saatchi Art, which bills itself as a free “online art advisory,” is perhaps the most successful site on the Internet for online art sales, with Rebecca Wilson (formerly a director of Saatchi Gallery in London) as its chief curator. This is an enormous free-for-all marketplace, promoting work of varying quality and appeal, but if you have a good eye you can pick out some real winners, generally at reasonable prices.
For artists, it’s how you use the site that counts. When I went trolling for information to pull together a story on how well online sales work for members, Susan Washington reported that she’d had great success with Saatchi Art. Another, Dudley Zopp, was having a hard time gaining any traction at all. And so I put the two together. Susan’s advice was so sensible and detailed that I asked to share it with other readers. Below is a slightly edited version of her letter to Zopp, and a short list of tips for making Saatchi work for you. A.L.
Dear Dudley: First, I think it may be helpful if you can photograph your work in a setting, perhaps even on your studio wall. Saatchi Art gives you the option of adding five additional photos after you have uploaded your first work. I feel that potential buyers like to see the painting from several views. Perhaps a close-up of the surface, a shot from the side, or something like that. I often try to put myself in the buyer’s place and think about what I would like to see and what would make me more confident about buying art online.
I notice you are not following anyone on Saatchi Art. I believe there is a ratio, or a “cool factor,” and as on Instagram, you shouldn’t follow more people than are following you. However, to start, I think it could be beneficial if you follow some other artists whose work you truly like. There is some connectivity that shows up when you “like” other artists’ works. Also I notice that “liking” generates more listings on Google with your name. I enjoy looking through the features and the “In the Studio” section, both to discover more artists and see new work.
Find the Saatchi Art assistant curators–like Jessica McQueen and Kat Henning, to name a couple–and follow them. They are on top of the new work coming in.
Put up new work consistently–once a week, if possible. I see you do a variety of work and you are keeping Saatchi Art’s profile to a similar medium, which is great and consistent. If you have more of the same or similar, start posting on a weekly basis. The reasons for this: you give the curators an opportunity to see new work being uploaded and they may include you in the “New This Week” feature. Also, I know that the new work being uploaded to the site is looked at by at least one of the curators. You are giving yourself more opportunity to be seen.
If you have not done so already, look on the “Features” page and you will find names of the assistant curators who are building the collections. Follow them also and take a look at the new collections.
Participate in the Site
Comment on the “New Feature” sections that come out Monday afternoon. I think it’s important to show you are participating in the site. Look at the collections. Perhaps you have a favorite work in the collection or you think the curator did a good job pulling it together or there is something else that resonates with you—say so! There are tons of people that go on and post such negative things and complain that they never get featured. Stay positive and make an educated, insightful comment. It may help get you get noticed, by collectors and curators.
One of the reasons I love Saatchi Art is because there are real curators at work. They also do several online shows a year on behalf of their artists (which again is the few they select but still they are getting your name out). If you have any opportunity at all of connecting with them at any of these shows, do so. Last April, Rebecca Wilson was at the Affordable Art Fair New York, representing Saatchi Art. When I was at the fair I made a point to introduce myself to her. It was nice after interacting for some time via email to connect face-to-face. She was lovely, and I even got a photograph with her and sent it out on Instagram.
If/when you get featured, it couldn’t hurt to write a quick thank you email to the curator who featured you. I believe we have to work on these relationships and though Saatchi art is not a bricks-and-mortar gallery I think it’s important. I know a lot of times I will get an email from one and I like to be prompt in responding. If they have a question about a commission for a potential client or want to see if a work is available, it’s important to make their job easier by having clear and prompt communication with them.
Share on Social Media
When my work is featured, I get a letter telling me so and encouraging me to share my work with my followers on social media. This tells me the curators are encouraging us to promote ourselves. Whenever I put up a new work, I Instagram and tweet and put it on Facebook as new work now available on Saatchi Art. I make sure I tag it with #Saatchiart as well as other relevant hashtags.
Also, about Instagram, I notice you don’t use many, if any, hashtags. I think it’s good at some point if you do a little research and find the ones best for you and use them often. Perhaps find other artists who are further along in their careers with similar works—check out their hashtags. I think it’s important. I have sold from Instagram, but you do have to work at it.
Follow Saatchi Art on Facebook, “like” posts, and comment and be active.
Someone on Facebook recently posted that they have joined the other “shameless self-promoting artists” on Saatchi Art. People were chiming in to say how Saatchi Art is a “pain in the ass” or “too much work” It made me laugh, but I did say to him it’s obvious you want to try selling online as you created your profile and uploaded art. You should be happy that you have a reputable platform for doing that. And unless you are lucky enough to have a gallerist who is going to work for you, then you really have to take marketing your work into your own hands. It’s time-consuming, and I would much rather spend my time in my studio. But I want to sell my work and I have to take the business side just as seriously as the art side.
I have pushed myself so hard (but I love it and the results). I paint every single day. I critique my work, really analyze it and then take on the good elements to the next work, so that it has been growing. So much so that less than a year ago I had a collector in Brussels purchase 21 large pieces through Saatchi Art; a collector in Houston bought 12 large pieces; another commissioned four new works for her penthouse. It’s been crazy good. But I definitely have down times (I think all artists do) where you question and doubt. Two years ago I started a journal suggested by a good friend and artist, Ian Summers. When I have those fabulous moments, I note them down. When I have those days where I am pulling my hair out and about ready to dump everything in the garbage, I read about my successes and it pushes me to push through everything.
Susan Washington’s Short List of Tips
- Use high-quality, accurate images on Saatchi Art. Potential collectors are relying on what the site shares to make a decision about which work to purchase. With high-quality photos, a possible client can expand and see details of the images. (I imagine it would be really disappointing for a collector to receive a piece and have it be completely different from what was seen online.)
- Take advantage of the multiple-image feature on Saatchi Art’s artist profiles. Again, for the same reason as above. You are giving potential buyers more information and they will feel confident that what they see is what they get.
- Add new work. It shows the artist moving forward and gives the curators more opportunity to feature work in the “New This Week” collections.
- Keep “sold” work in your portfolio, but just make sure it’s marked that way. I think collectors like to see that an artist is actively selling work. It also shows an expanded portfolio, and if someone comes along and likes a piece that’s no longer available, he or she can always put in for a commission.
- Keep your about/events/bio current. I add in exhibitions events, etc., as they happen. That helps give the whole story on an artist. From time to time, I’ve uploaded images of my exhibitions or studio shots. And that helps contribute to the overall picture potential collectors have of the artist.
Susan Washington is a native New Yorker who currently lives and works in the Poconos. Her work has been exhibited internationally, with representation through the Artspace Warehouse in Los Angeles and Susan Calloway Fine Art in Washington D.C. She is working on a series of new works titled “Deconstructed,” which will be exhibited at the Affordable Art Fair in Chelsea through Artspace Warehouse as well as at LaChaise Gallery at Cedar Crest University in Allentown, PA. More about her can be found at www.susanwashingtonfineart.com
Top image: Susan Washington, It Could Be Sweet (2016), acrylic, textile, and paper on canvas, 36 by 48 inches