The Secrets to Overnight Success – Selling your photographs


Sell Art Online

I spend a lot of time on the Fine Art America forums.  It gets rather addictive bantering back and forth about art, photography, selling techniques, promotion, marketing and the state of fine art photography and the art market.  Typically the regular discussion is interrupted by a new member who, after posting two or three photographs or artwork, wants to know the secrets to successful selling their artwork on a print on demand website such as Fine Art America.  Basically they are impatient and want shortcuts to the top.  Problem is that there is no shortcuts to success.

I’ve offered my own “secret” tips for overnight success.  I started to sell consistently on Fine Art America after having over 1,000 pieces for sale and doing constant marketing over the past few years. Here is the secret to overnight success:

1. Have a large volume of top notch work.

The chances of someone liking a certain piece so much that they are willing to purchase it and hang it in there home are astronomical.  Only by having a wide range of work are you likely to find enough buyers.

2. Have a large volume of work that is different than others i.e. stands out.

So much of the offerings on Fine Art America are overdone and down right boring.  Who really needs another squirrel photograph or another vacation photograph taken at the same spot in the same National Park at the same time?

3. Time

It takes time to build a body of work, become known and for the search engines to find the piece.  Buyers also take time considering artwork.  It might take months for a buyer to actually commit to a purchase.

4. Good keywords and description

If people can’t find your work in the first place, how will it ever sell?

5. Off site marketing

Just uploading a piece and then sitting back and thinking it will sell is not a selling strategy.  Also promoting it only to fellow artists is not going to sell the piece.  Other artists have enough of their own stuff to sell.

6. Time

Yes, more time.  Things don’t happen overnight.  Think career not job.

7. Cross referencing of various social media all pointing to your work.

You need multiple links back to your work in order for it to rank higher in the search engines.  Blog, Facebook, Linkin, newspaper articles.  You need to get the word out, far and wide.

8. Time

More time building your skills, adding to your portfolio, and networking.

9. Offer what people want to purchase

Creating abstract complex artwork is all well and good but is it something the average person would want to hang in their home?  You don’t have to cater to the masses, but it would help if more than just you and your mother can appreciate the artwork.

10. Time

Even more time.  It has been said that it takes three years to build a business and most people quit before one year.  Create a marketing plan that goes out five years.  Don’t view your art career as a short term project.

What does it take to sell on a consistent basis?  Take this advice from Sharon Cummings a very successful online art seller:


“I used to spend a few minutes a day on marketing….I would sell a print here and there…not much….Now I spend about 4 hours a day on marketing and about 4 hours a day on creating…I sell 3 prints per day on average….it may be up to 4 per say this month…..that’s an 8 hour day….do I like to market that much? Heck no!!! But if I had any other job, I guarantee there would be at least 4 hours a day worth of stuff I didn’t want to do….and given the jobs I could get with my skills outside of art….it would be 8 hours a day doing something I didn’t like….so I am more than happy to work that hard to sell my art…its how I make sales, move up in search to be seen and hence make more sales. ” – Sharon Cummings


Art Prints


Secret to overnight success


Looking up at a tall building

This article is a trick, because the secret to becoming an overnight success actually involves many years of preparation.  For every story of “overnight success” the back story really involves years of preparation, dedication to craft and building a foundation for eventual success.

The problem with overnight success is if you don’t have any second act.  If you are simply a one hit wonder who rockets to the top of the charts only to become a trivia question a year later.  To sustain a long term career its much better to build a body of quality work and gradually build a following.  Then when the mainstream, network TV and People magazine types “discover” you, you’ll have a deep inventory of quality product.

You’ll also be better prepared for the spotlight that shines on celebrity.  How many stars seem to crash and burn under the pressure of their success?  Micheal Jackson with his zany Never-land world, Justin Bieber’s career killing antics or people like J.D. Salinger who simple cracked under the public spotlight and end up living like hermits.

Rather than focusing on becoming an overnight sensation, the wise artist seeks to develop a career and it all starts with laying out goals and plans to reach those goals.  Create goals for yourself on a timeline six months, one year, five years and ten years out.

Be very specific about the goals you want to achieve in the short term and make plans on how you mean to achieve these goals.  As you reach the end of each time period, reevaluate the goals and the plans.  Check off the ones you’ve achieved, pat yourself on the back and adjust your timeline, plans and goals.

Here are a couple of goal setting tips:

  1. Make sure the goal you are working for is something you really want, not just something that sounds good.
  2. A goal can not contradict any of your other goals.
  3. Write your goal in the positive instead of the negative.
  4. Write your goal out in complete detail.
  5. By all means, make sure your goal is high enough.
  6. Write down your goals.
  7. Revisit your goals in a timely manner – weekly, monthly, quarterly

Keep in mind that it takes at least three years to get any new business venture off the ground and conversely most people give up and move on to something else within the first year.  Make your goals three years out and stick with it knowing that you will be successful if you stay the course.