Appraise an online gallery

There are some fantastic art galleries on the Internet, which are run by people who genuinely care about their artists and want to help them succeed. Then there are Web galleries that are in it for the big bucks. They’re more than happy to take your money. They don’t advertise and don’t care much whether or not you make sales because they make their money through subscriptions.

Every day there are new opportunities to show your art online. Every day you have to make decisions about what is a real opportunity, and what is a waste of your time and money. How do you know which ones are legitimate? As with everything in your art business, the onus is on you to trust but verify the source. You can’t blame anyone but yourself if you don’t seek all the facts. Here are some things to look for when starting a relationship with an online gallery.

Diane Evans
Diane Evans, Pieces of Dreams.
Quilt, 57 x 57 inches.
©The Artist

ASK ABOUT EXPERIENCE
Create a mutual level of respect with the owners, but establish yourself as a professional looking out for your interests. Ask the owners how long they have been in business and what their experience is with art, sales, and online marketing. Ask the Web gallery for references or contact their other artists directly. Don’t trust any business that can’t or won’t give you a list of references–even if it’s for a previous business they operated. I’d want to speak with both a site user (e.g. an art buyer) and an artist.

Ask the buyers or users if they had a good experience with the Web gallery, and if they’d do business there again.

Ask the artists on the Web gallery how long they’ve been there. What are their sales like? If the gallery processes sales, have the artists been paid in a timely manner? Is billing done in a professional way? If the artists upload images and information to the site, do they find the interface easy to use? How often do the owners communicate with their artist-clients? How do the owners help the artists increase sales?

GET THE FACTS
How many visits is the site getting each month? How do they advertise and attract visitors? Ask for specific examples so that you can see the ads for yourself. How many people are on their mailing list (collectors, not artists!), and how did they go about acquiring that list?

AESTHETICS & EASE OF USE
Is the art displayed appropriately and handsomely on the site? Is the art prominent or is it hidden behind a bunch of words and poor design?

Do you like the work? Would you be proud to have yours shown next to the art on the site? What is the quality of the photography? Are all works credited with the artist’s name and title?

What’s the process for buying art? If you were an art buyer looking for a particular type of art, would it be easy to find? I’d caution against getting involved with a Web gallery that lists artists only in alphabetical order. After all, if I’m a buyer, how do I know if I want to select artists whose names begin with “M” or “T”? I don’t! I want to look at something I like, and I probably don’t care what letter their last name begins with. Take time to go through the ordering process to experience it from the buyer’s perspective.

AGREEMENTS
Read the agreement or contract carefully. What is the duration of your commitment? What is the payment schedule? What is your financial commitment? Are they charging you a monthly fee? Or a commission on sales? Think twice before entering into a contract with a site that is double charging you.

GOOGLE
Conduct an online search of the Web gallery’s name as well as those of the owners. Finding nothing is almost worse than finding bad news.

WEIGH YOUR OPTIONS
Consider your financial commitment and compare it to other possibilities. For instance, would it be wiser to invest in your own website or blog? Is your mailing list solid enough that you could do better by focusing on your current contacts?

Getting clear on your priorities and establishing boundaries is part of the Summer Blast Off class, which begins June 3. Join us for motivation, inspiration, and courage to move forward.

KNOW THIS———-~> The onus is on you to verify the credibility of and claims made by an online gallery.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~> Are you seeking all the answers needed to make an informed decision?

DO THIS————~> Appraise an online gallery by asking questions and assessing its components. Don’t leave money out of the equation! Participation in an online gallery almost always requires a financial commitment. You must weigh the opportunity with your goals and your resources. Asking questions is not a sign of distrust, but a hallmark of a responsible professional. Seeking answers is empowering. Turn down anyone who balks at your questions.

Share your thoughts about online galleries and listen to the podcast on the Art Biz Blog.

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