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Graduate Showcase student guidance: sales

woman drawing at a desk
woman drawing at a desk
Helena Cartledge drawing in the studio, Camberwell College of Arts

How to sell your work

Read our top tips on pricing, packing and shipping your work for sale, and discover some suggested online sales platforms.

Making sales

Can I sell my work on the Graduate Showcase?

This year, students will be unable to sell their work directly on the Graduate Showcase platform. However, you can use your profile to link to your personal website or a third-party website, where your work can be sold online. Artquest provides several useful articles on the basics of selling your work.

Where can I sell my work?

You may wish to start selling your work through an online gallery or store. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions before signing up, and ensure you understand their commission rates. Here are some examples of popular online stores for fine art and design products:

Several online website builders, such as Squarespace and Shopify, make it easy for you to build a website that’s able to take sales. Don’t forget to link back to your Graduate Showcase profile from your online store, so that your presentation reaches as wide an audience as possible.

How should I price my work?

When pricing your work, consider your material costs, your time and your annual overheads (including any studio rent, insurance, marketing, admin, packaging and postage costs). Patrician van den Akker from The Design Trust recently created a guide for designer/makers selling their work through UAL’s not just a shop, which contains some helpful tips on costing and pricing your work. Artquest’s guide to pricing your work also provides some useful ideas. When you are starting out, don’t expect to charge as much as well-known artists and designers, but it’s equally important not to under-sell yourself.

geometric sculpture
Geometric sculpture by Vincent Lee

Selling different types of work

Can I sell a performance?

Performance art by its nature is ephemeral and temporary. In general, we don’t recommend that students sell a performance or offer to recreate a performance unless within a gallery or event setting. If you do choose to do so, please seek legal advice and ensure you have Public Liability Insurance for engaging in performance within a public space. This case study from Artquest provides some helpful advice.

Can I sell a film / digital artwork?

  • You can sell digital artwork as a download to the buyer. However, this should always be accompanied by an Artist Licensing Agreement which explains that you are giving the buyer the right to use your artwork in the manner intended in the listing, and that you do not give them the right to reproduce it or use it in any other way.
  • To overcome the infinite reproducibility of moving image work, artists who make film and video usually Edition their work for sale. You can create a limited Edition of a particular work and only sell those Editions to collectors.
  • This case study from Artquest provides some helpful guidance.

Commissions

Some viewers may want to commission you to make something specific for them.

  • Only accept commissions that you feel confident completing from start to finish.
  • Be specific and ensure you have a clear understanding of what your client is expecting. Make sure the terms are written down and agreed to, before you begin any commission.
  • It's also wise to request a deposit payment before you begin. Make it clear in your written agreement that if the commission is cancelled or changed, this deposit is non-refundable.
  • While it’s possible to change the scope of the commission, your written agreement should make it clear that any changes could result in charging the collector extra money to cover your time and additional expenses.
  • Artquest’s guide to commissioning an artist provides some helpful tips.

Editions

If you work in a medium that can be duplicated, such as photography, digital or print work, then learning how to edition and price your work properly could be a useful way to sell.

  • An edition is a number of prints struck from one plate or negative.
  • A limited edition is a fixed number of pieces produced on the understanding that no further copies will be produced later. These are normally signed and numbered by the artist to show the unique number of that impression and the total edition size.
  • Ensure you keep a record of where your work is sold, and which Edition Number each buyer has purchased. Artquest’s guide to editions provides some useful tips.

Artist Proofs (APs)

Where relevant, it's recommended to keep two Artist Proofs - one as your original and one for lending out to exhibitions. You do not need to declare these proofs when you sell your work. You can also sell one of these proofs in the future if you choose.

student performance
EmBODY by Pinar Avanzato

Legal documentation

Documenting your sale

If you make a sale with a buyer directly, you’ll need to generate an invoice that clearly details what was purchased, how much was paid, whether there was a discount, and the terms of the sale. In your invoice, you might also want to include a copyright section or a statement of rights. Always give your invoice a number for reference later, for example 1/2021. It's also helpful to create a catalogue raisonné, to ensure you don’t lose track of where your work is located. This is useful for your CV, for authentication purposes, and so that you can find work again if you have an exhibition many years later. Artquest provides some useful guidance on creating a catalogue raisonné.

Registering with HMRC

If you’re self-employed in the UK, you must register with HMRC as soon as you earn more than £1,000 in a tax year. You will need to register as a sole trader, keep your invoices and receipts, fill in an annual tax return, and pay any required taxes and National Insurance.

Certificate of Authenticity

When selling your work, you may wish to include a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). This proves your work is genuine and helps to prevent counterfeit. Typically, your COA should include your name, title of the work, year of completion, dimensions, medium, edition number (if applicable), any special installation instructions and a statement of authenticity. This is a short, one - two sentence statement declaring the authenticity of your work, as well as a statement that your work is copyrighted by you, and you alone.

Students working on laptops

Intellectual Property

If I sell a piece of my work, do I still retain the Intellectual Property rights?

If you own intellectual property (IP) in something you create, you can decide if you want to sell the IP along with the physical/digital work itself. It will depend on the nature of the sale, and decisions made about ongoing management and representation of your work. If you assign your rights with a sale this means that you are selling your IP to someone. If you licence your rights, this means that you still own the IP but allow others to use your work.

Read our Intellectual Property guidelines for more information.

Can I use my work for exhibitions after I have sold it?

If the work is sold and owned by someone else, then you will need to negotiate its inclusion in future exhibitions with the buyer. You may want to build this right into your sale documents.

student with textiles
Zeynep Agirbas in the studio

Framing, packing and shipping

Framing

If your work is available framed or unframed, provide both prices. It's good practice to frame your work with a professional framer if possible, to ensure the piece is adequately protected. If the buyer is framing the work themselves, you might want to offer some guidelines. For example, black frame 1cm facing 2cm depth, floated or window mount.

Packing 2D work

Be sure to pack your work carefully before shipping to ensure it arrives with the buyer in good condition.

  • You may wish to wrap your work in glassine first (water/grease resistant paper, which won’t stick to your piece), and then bubble wrap.
  • Place the surface of your work against the smooth side of the bubble wrap (not the raised side) and secure it with packing tape.
  • If using a cardboard box, be sure to completely tape up all sides of the box to keep it secure.
  • If your artwork is framed, you might want to protect the corners with extra foam or cardboard.
  • Prints can also be rolled and packaged within a tube. Many art printers will print a copy and post it straight to the buyer for you.
  • Ensure your package is clearly labelled with the address. You might wish to include an artist statement or a business card in the package, to let the buyer know how to follow your work in the future.

Packing 3D work

Be sure to pack your work carefully before shipping to ensure it arrives with the buyer in good condition.

  • Wrap your piece in bubble wrap and secure it with tape. If the surface of the work is delicate, use acid-free artist tape to protect it from tape residue.
  • Your shipping box should be several inches larger than your work on all sides.
  • Fill the bottom of the box with several inches of packing material, such as tightly packed shredded paper. Place the work inside the prepared box, and carefully fill all empty spaces in the box with packing material. Tape the top closed, and ensure your package is clearly labelled with the address.
  • You might wish to include an artist statement or a business card in the package, to let the buyer know how to follow your work in the future. It’s also important to include guidelines on how the work should be displayed.

Shipping your work

There are many different shipping companies available to help transport your work safely. Artquest’s list of recommended shippers is a good place to start. Ensure you can track your shipment by requesting a tracking code.

framed drawings
Frame and drawings by Jack Winthrop

Representing your work

Artwork information

If selling your work on a third-party website, they will require you to input caption information for your piece, such as the size, title and medium. Be sure to input this information accurately. For 4D or XD work which does not have a set size, enter the duration of the piece in hours, minutes and seconds. If your works are untitled, you may wish to number them, e.g. Untitled 1, Untitled 2 etc. If you are selling editions, always include the Edition Number, e.g. 1/5 or 1/20.

Capturing your work digitally

When selling your work on a third-party website, you will need to provide high-resolution photographs or videos. Read our top tips for photography, video and audio best practice.

student sketching
Drawing by Emma Louise Hollaway