I tried to sell Art directly on instagram and here's what happened


Confession time:

I took a LONG time to get into instagram.

I posted a full-frontal of Max at the end of 2013 and I pretty much left it on its own until August 2014.

But as I made a point of using it as an accountability tool for my daily practice, I got hooked. I found a community of fellow creatives that were engaged and we were exchanging conversations around our work. Genuine interactions. I was pleasently surprised, for some reason I had found a lot of my encounters on social media lacking in depth, or intention. What's more, my numbers were growing, slowly but consistently.

Then, one day, something happened.

Somebody asked: do you sell these?

And my heart skipped a beat. My daily painting practice was meant to keep me supple creative and intellectually, I wasn't doing it for anyone else.

But this is what entrepreneur stories are made of, isn't it? "I knitted these booties for my baby and all mums were stopping me to ask em where I go them" or "I just built this thing for myself, and when people came home they wanted me to build one for them". You've heard these stories, I am sure.

So my entrepreneur-dar went off, and I quickly upgraded my site with a shop.

And then it dawned on me, selling on instagram wasn't going to be that easy. The linking system is just not good enough. And with today's attention spans, well-meaning peeps are quickly somewhere else before they make it into your site.

So I started investigating. There are a few very clever startups trying to help people like me, but...


Signed up, got following email:

We are currently working on a completely new suite of solutions designed specifically for businesses of your size! I’ll be getting in touch with you as soon as our new product launches later this year.


Signed up, got following email:

Thanks for your request to sell! We noticed that you're currently based outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, we don't support payouts to non-U.S. bank accounts. However, supporting international sellers is a very high priority for us--we will let you know as soon as we can get you selling with Penny!

I even considered signing up for a portuguese-speaking service that worked like Soldsie and Paywithpenny, but didn't want my English-speaking audience to have to translate everything (can't find the name of that one, email me if you know what's called and I'll update the article!).


Felt a bit like many steps for the buyer.


Seemed intresting but a bit too clunky, not many people know about it for it to work right away.

It was clear: I had to DIY this.


I picked 4 new pieces to use as guinea pigs. The idea is simple: from Tuesday to Friday, a new piece would come up for sale at an experimental price: 50 USD + 10 USD shipping anywhere in the world. 36 people liked the pieces/ suggestion that they were going to be sold. Good.

Why 50 USD? I had a theory: the "I'd buy these" commenters were impulse buyers. They didn't want to go find their life partner, show the painting to them and ask how it'd look on top of the sofa. They had it right there, under their thumb, on their iphone screens, and they were ready to go if the price suited them.

So I had this all planned, I'd imitate Soldsie or Paywithpenny and just require their email and a "#sold" comment.

Next up: preparing the potential customers.

This is where I SUCK and always will. I was jocking with my mastermind ladies that I never had to seduce anyone, and I am the "what you see is what you get" type. I can't help it. So I tried a little video tease. It has some of the lowest likes in my instagram history.


Keep swimming. I had at least one person interested so far.

One out of four paintings could find a new home. Good enough.

So on Tuesday, I do my leopard move and publish the first painting up, the one I knew was being watched:

25 likes. Fingers crossed. Except... this was the first time the full painting was on display, and it's potential taker preferred the cropped version. It was a no-go.

Fair enough. So I took a more complete picture and posted it:

10 likes less. Crickets.

Moving on, then. On Wednesday, I posted this guy:

I lost followers (not only the usual busty babes that promise me thousands of followers). The image didn't make it to 10 likes. I freaked out but decided it was all worth it in the name of experimentation. I repeated what i had done before: I posted it with more of a context.

Unlike the last time, this one fared better in this setting. Somebody offered a positive comment. Nobody bought.

So, what's the conclusion?

Well, it's Thursday. I haven't put up today's (I'm going to try putting it up a bit later than usual to catch other time zones). So this isn't over yet. In the meanwhile, I venture some reasons for the lack of success:

The paintings are fugly.

I hope not. I like them. My audience grows. They say nice things about them and they aren't my mum.

The price isn't right.

Art and prices. What a drama. The paintings are very, very affordable. The price, if anything, is too low. Peeps could be wondering why they are cheap, but they got a reason (the experiment).

Lack of trust.

Who am I? Is my dog real? Is Belgium really as grey as I say? This could be the case. But loads of my instagram buddies know me from elsewhere, too; and have seen imags and reflections of me doing other things like speaking engagments or creative workshops.

Not enough audience.

If 1% of my audience was ready to buy, these should have sold. Maybe the prcentage is less than that?


I didn't pick the magical hashtag that would have put my work right in front of the right people. Maybe, but some successful artists I follow don't even use hashtags (I know, they are "somebody"). But i really don't think this is why.

The silver lining

Me being so forward about the pieces being for sale, brought other pieces unto the spotlight and I got solid leads on another painting. No experimental price, style is not too dissimilar, the buyer knows me from before, most interaction happened on facebook.

Will keep you posted...



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