Artists sometimes have trouble finding a cult following when they’re starting out, which is one of the only ways to gain traction early on and start making money quickly.
One trick for building your audience is to actually borrow other people’s audiences. Others have already built up an audience and, with a little effort, you can get in front of them and make sure they know about your art.
The key here is to not go for other artists. It’s tempting because it’s so easy to figure out. “I paint portraits, so I should try to borrow another portrait artist’s audience.”
But most people don’t feel comfortable with competition. While one customer could buy art from multiple artists, most people don’t buy a lot of pieces of art at once. For many, it would feel like you were trying to steal a sale from them.
So the goal is to look outside your art world bubble and go for other businesses who might sell completely different things, but have a similar target market to you.
Bloggers and the Media
The first group of people to go to are the press. Traditional public relations is alive and well and one of the greatest marketing tools you have in your business because it’s effective and free!
Check out my free video, The Art of Getting Press, to learn more about approaching the media the right way.
Meet a few interior designers and get on their good side by being polite, succinct, and helpful. Let them see your work and keep your info for future projects. You typically won’t get a lot of sales from any one designer, but if you have relationships with several of them it can be a nice way to reach new collectors who would have never found you if not through their decorator.
You can become a sponsor for anyone with a following that matches your target market and a brand that goes well with your art style. For instance, if you sell to a lot of people who health-conscious you might hook up with a personal trainer and hang your art on the wall behind them in their YouTube workout videos. Or you could design the flyers for an event for a local animal shelter if you create a lot of pet portraits. Anything that you give a business for free can be considered a sponsorship; and in exchange they will market your business to their clientele.
Selling to Businesses
This is often overlooked, but brick-and-mortar businesses need decor for their offices. They want clients to come in and feel comfortable, which art can really help with. If you sell your art to a local business then you reap the side benefit of exposure to all their clients. Consider giving the business owner a small discount in exchange for putting a small label with your name and website next to the art or keeping a stack of business cards at the front desk for anyone who asks about the art.
Live Event Painting
Similarly, you can have a business pay for you to create at a live event and at the same time get exposure to the people at the event. So you still need to pick a business that has either a similar target market or similar people they work with.
Not all artists have things they can give a talk about, but if your art has a conceptual nature to it or you have an inspirational story or experience, you’ve got a great speaking topic. Ask organizations who already regularly get speakers if they are looking for someone to speak on your topic. A lot of them will even pay you for your talk and you can pass out promotional materials at the end of your talk to encourage the attendees to stay in touch with you through your email list.
No matter what methods you pick, make sure you have somewhere to send your new fans! The best place to direct them is to your email list so you can talk to them over time and be there when they have a reason to buy art.