Commissioned art can be the most lucrative aspect of your art business if you design it that way. But if you’ve yet to get a custom order and want to test the waters first (highly recommended to make sure you like creating with someone else leading your way), I’ve got a few tips for you.
1. Get noticed.
This is all about making yourself visible. So in the online realm, you want to have your work on every website you can. Set up accounts on Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, DeviantArt, Etsy, etc etc. Put your best work up in as many places as possible. While no one site will bring you lots of attention (probably), adding them all together can.
Offline, you want to be telling everyone what you do. Get out of your shell and just suck it up and say, “Hi there, I like your scarf.” And see if you can turn the conversation to your careers and let them know what you do. You’d be surprised how many people are excited about it. That being said, some people are going to ask if you teach or if you can paint their cat (when actually you paint abstract landscapes). And that’s okay. Either say yes if it sounds fun or gently explain to them what you actually do and pop up a picture of your work on your cell phone.
2. Keep things fresh.
You need to keep creating and adding new work to your portfolio (and all the sites you’re on!). This is how your work evolves into something actually good. And this is what excites people who show an interest in your work. They want to be seeing a steady stream of new pieces until they find the one that’s perfect or realize you can create something just for them. And as you add new pieces, go ahead and curate out things that no longer fit. It might feel harsh, but part of being an artist is letting go of work that doesn’t truly express your vision (or even work that just doesn’t fit your brand).
3. Make contact easy.
Don’t let someone be stopped by something as simple as not being able to get in touch with you. Have your email, and ideally your phone number too, readily available on your website and any social media accounts you have. If you can set up a contact form, do that too so people who want to just send it straight from your site don’t have to open up their email account. And carry business cards with you so people can followup if they decide they are interested later. Make it super-duper easy.
This is the part most people totally forget about. Or maybe they’re scared. But just start asking people. If you’re showing someone your art and they say they like it but they don’t seem like they’re ready to buy, casually mention that you also do custom pieces and ask if there’s an empty spot on their wall they’d like to fill. Or tell your most gossipy friend that you’re on the lookout for custom work and let her share it with anyone she thinks might be interested. Asking is surprisingly effective. Sometimes people just don’t know that you can make something especially for them. And some people know in the back of their mind, but it takes suggesting it to make them consider the idea for themselves.
If you’ve already had custom orders before, I’d love to hear your tips. How did you score your first commissioned piece?