This is the Introduction to the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy. You can read the rest of the articles here: part 1 Get Personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email, part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, part 8 Sales Conversations, part 9 Commissions, part 10 Licensing, part 11 Wholesale, part 12 Referrals, and part 13 Speaking.
I’ve been seeing a lot of experts out there teaching very traditional methods for selling art. It’s not that those methods are wrong, but that for most artists they’re less likely to work than more modern strategies.
Some of the changes in the art world are the result of the internet, but a lot of it is just the way Western society has changed their buying habits for this sort of thing.
I feel it’s necessary before I get too deep into this conversation to point out that I’m talking about selling fine art. Your instincts on buying are probably based on buying lots of other things in your life – a carton of eggs at the grocery store, a new book, or a new refrigerator. But people buy those with a very different mindset. The eggs and the fridge are utilitarian. We need them and our primary concern is their function. The book isn’t really a need, but you buy it almost solely because you think the story will be interesting.
None of those are big reasons for buying art.
You buy art primarily because of the emotional connection you have to it. And that brings me to the first point in selling your art in the modern economy.
The most important part of selling your art these days is being able to connect with your potential customers. Most people won’t buy art unless they feel like they know who the artist is and feel connected to them and their story.
Once you’ve got that strategy down, the second thing you absolutely have to have is a website. People will Google you to find your art and you need one place you can send everyone to so your marketing efforts are all directed to the same place, making that marketing more effective instead of distilling it across a lot of different places.
This is probably the most important marketing technique for a modern art business. If you want to build that personal relationship with your potential customers (and you do), the most-effective way is to email them fairly often with tidbits about your studio practice, your new pieces, and your upcoming art events.
If you speak to a specific type of person, everyone will be more attracted to you. If you think about what big retailers do, like Urban Outfitters or Gap, they have a clear personality as a store and they are marketing to a particular type of person. Other people shop at their store too, but everyone feels more attracted to the store because it’s professional and you know what you’re going to find when you walk in the door.
A lot of artists are afraid of this step, but it’s absolutely crucial. People can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist. So you have to publicize your art and make sure plenty of eyeballs see it.
LAUNCH YOUR ART
If you want people to buy your art, you usually have to give them a reason to do it now. Otherwise they may wait forever because it never feels like something that has to get done.
You can generate a lot of buzz and energy around your art – which means new fans and more sales – with a carefully designed giveaway.
You’ll find yourself talking to a potential customer more often than you might think, either online or in person. It’s essential that you know how to discuss the purchase with them so that if they really do want to own the art, they feel comfortable buying, but you are never convincing them to purchase something they don’t really want.
Offering something special and exclusive for your most-discerning fans and for special occasions is a great way to bring in extra income and make your customers feel cared for.
Most artists can find opportunities where their art would be good on other companies’ products. If you can set up some art licensing deals for work you’ve already created, they will bring in some consistent income and help leverage your time since you don’t have to create new art for each sale and they do all the marketing for you.
Similarly, if you can sell a lot of prints (or even a few originals at a time) to a boutique, they are then responsible for selling the art and you can both pocket a chunk of cash at once and establish a relationship where the shop buys from you on a regular basis.
Since so many art sales are made because the customer felt close to the artist, it can be helpful to start a relationship with a new fan by making a personal connection. Get friends, family, and previous customers to tell others about you and you’ll increase your fan base and your sales exponentially.
While not every artist will find something they can speak about on stage or feel comfortable doing so, if you’re an artist who has a topic idea and enough confidence to take the stage it’s going to be one of your most effective marketing methods because it puts you in-person in front of real people talking about art as an expert in the field. There’s no better reputation-builder and you’ll often find people buy your art right after the event.
For a crash course in art business, you can read more about each of these in much more detail here: part 1 get personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email, part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, part 8 Sales Conversations, part 9 Commissions, part 10 Licensing, part 11 Wholesale, part 12 Referrals, and part 13 Speaking.
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