Finding details on what equipment, software and hardware artists use to successfully run an online art business seems to be a highly protected trade secret.
I’m hoping to change that in this article, giving you insight into what I use day-to-day in my art business.
My early days of navigating the passive income route for selling my art was fraught with many unanswered questions, leaving me frustrated and time-wasted figuring stuff out.
Looking at other successful online artists I would often wonder “What app does she use to create her work?”, or “Is he using Wix, Shopify or WordPress to run his online shop?”.
All these important details seem to be missing from the many articles on how to start your online art business. Although they cover critical topics like what you should sell and where you should sell it, most don’t include the actual equipment or software artists use in their business on a daily basis.
Many of the listed items below will be obvious – I haven’t listed the super obvious ones like Mail software and Zoom for example.
But there might be items you didn’t think of, or get answers to a question you’ve always had. It’s by no means the only way to run an art business online, but it’s what I use and found to work.
- Pinterest: I limit browsing to about 10 minutes so I don’t get sucked in or influenced too much by what I see. The purpose is to inspire and “get in the mood” for creating art.
- Animation books: These are great for studying how animators approach poses and movement in their characters.
- Disney masters: Looking at how these great artists approach character design, from research to character development is inspirational.
- Children’s books: A quick flip through or read for reigniting playful, magical world imagination.
- My older work: Looking back at older work can often spark an idea or remind me of a technique or colour palette I haven’t used in ages.
I usually upgrade my hardware every few years where possible, and donate my old one.
- iPad Pro 12.9 (4th Gen) with an Apple Pencil (2nd Gen)
- iPad Screen protector: Paperlike Screen Protector
- MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
- Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II
- iPhone: For filming videos
- Sit/stand desk Tekdesk: If you sit for many hours a day, I highly recommend investing in a sit-stand arrangement for the health of your hips and back, trust me!
- Logi Webcam: I find the built in Macbook camera isn’t good enough for video recording or live streaming.
- Yeti Blue microphone: Audio quality is important when making videos.
Software used for my business and product creation
- Procreate: For creating art and digital brushes.
- Digital brushes: For creating most of my artwork. I still use analogue mediums for some work but I mainly work digitally these days. I pretty much only use my own digital brushes. I know that sounds like a cheesy sales pitch! 😬 But in all seriousness, the brushes I create are brushes I specifically want to use in my own work.
- Adobe Illustrator: For creating my product preview images; social media posts; video stills like text slides etc; website and newsletter images.
- Adobe Photoshop: For image touch-up, resize and product testing.
- Adobe Indesign: For designing lengthy documents for my products like instructions.
- Adobe Audition: For recording the audio of videos.
- Adobe Premiere Pro: Editing and final compilation of all my videos.
- OBS: For live streaming, I use my iPhone to record the video and link it to my laptop to stream in live sessions.
- Numbers: For accounting.
- Pages: For writing.
- Airtable: For organising and planning, although not very good at that!
- Trello: For organising bits and bobs of info, like website code I use a lot, or keywords I came across that I might use in the future for product descriptions, for example.
- iGlasses: Webcam software to help adjust lighting in my studio when recording.
Online website shop
I have spent countless hours researching this topic. The amount of time I’ve spent going back and forth with the pros and cons for each platform is honestly quite embarrassing! I was always so scared I made the wrong choice.
But after years of analysing cost and flexibility, my current platform is best suited for selling my art products online and how I prefer to run my business.
This is a huge topic as there are so many options out there. From Shopify, Etsy, Wix, WordPress, other marketplaces and everything in between! I don’t think there’s a “right” or “wrong” platform generally speaking, it depends entirely on your preferences.
There is however absolutely no doubt in my mind that you need your own website. Period.
You can debate which platform is best, but having your own website is a must – I’m working on an article to explain why and what to consider when choosing your platform, coming soon!
- WordPress: I don’t use a pre-built platform like Shopify, although that could work for you. The independence and flexibility of having my own platform which WordPress gives me, outweighs the effort of running the site myself which can be time consuming. But having full control of my own little space on the world wide web is very satisfying.
- Theme: Divi with a completely bespoke design, mostly designed and executed myself (more on that in a later article).
- Woo-Commerce: e-Commerce plugin to sell products.
- Helpscout: For customer service – it took me a while to move to a professional online help desk service, but since doing so I can’t stress how much it has positively impacted my business, both for my customers and my time management.
- Vimeo and Youtube: To host my videos.
- Other online shops: Design Cuts, Etsy and Creative Market.
For obvious reasons, promoting your work and products is essential to the success of your online business.
There’s ample advice out there on how to use social media to promote your work. But honestly, I believe building a subscriber email list is far more beneficial than spending time creating Instagram posts.
Being at the mercy of social media algorithms is not the best way to leverage your time. Rather spend your energy in putting together a quality offer for your subscribers.
Sending newsletters to potential customers is a fantastic way to build a relationship with your audience. You’ll be targeting the right person – there’s no guarantee your ideal customer will see your social posts, but they will see your latest offering if they sign up to your list.
It’s worth a reminder to respect your subscribers – for someone to give you permission to communicate with them directly in their inbox is truly a privilege you shouldn’t take lightly.
- MailerLite: For hosting my email list.
- Instagram: I don’t post that often but I do use Stories to show off the beautiful work of my customers which I love doing!
- Pinterest: I pin products and blogs posts that link back to my store and website.
I don’t have particular brands that I’m loyal to, I’ve tried almost every brand out there! But it goes without saying that you pay for what you get. If you want good watercolour paints, it’s worth investing in the quality brands. But if you’re using paint to create texture, for example, any brand will do. I even use cheap children’s poster paint for some of my textures.
- Pencils: Both colour and graphite.
- Charcoal: Various types for making textures, brushes, artwork etc.
- Paint: Various types for making textures, brushes, artwork etc.
- Ink: For texture and brush making.
- Various paint brushes, sponges and other “weird” objects to create texture and shapes for brushes.
- Various paper: For both finished art, texture and brush making.
Services I outsource
- Accountant: I have an accountant on a retainer who deals with my income tax and VAT returns.
- Designer: I use the services of a freelance designer from time to time to help with social media and design related tasks like Etsy listing images etc.
The above lists might feel overwhelming, but remember a lot of the items you don’t need now if you’re just at the beginning stages of running your online art business.
If I had to put the items in order of importance, I’d recommend focusing on streamlining your art-making process so that you can speed up your creative workflow. Focus on the hardware and software that’s going to help you do that.
And at the same time, start building your own website and get it out there! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be live so people can start finding you.
Finally, if you can’t afford an accountant then you need to be organised when it comes to your bookkeeping. You don’t want to miss out on tax breaks, like legitimate expenses you can put through your business. And you definitely don’t want to leave your tax affairs to once a year when it’s time to submit a return. Chip away at it each month and file it properly so you don’t waste time later when the info is needed.
Hope you found this helpful! I wish you all the best with your online business, I have no doubt you’ll build a beautiful and successful online art business!