I talk a lot about online marketing.
But what about the things that happen away from the computer?
There are so many opportunities to sell your art in person – and they’re often lost to artists because they feel uncomfortable, confused, anxious… or just don’t see the opportunity in the first place.
We’re going to brainstorm some ways to recognize the opportunities first. And then we’re going to talk about taking advantage of them.
Take out a sheet of paper or the notepad on your cell phone and make a list of the places you go most weeks. Think – gym, bank, church, kid’s school, grocery store.
Now think about each location, imagine walking inside… does anyone there recognize your face when you walk in?
Perhaps it’s a favorite bank teller who chats with you about both your dogs. Or maybe it’s the front desk clerk you sign in with at your gym. They don’t have to know your name (but they might)… you just need to be friendly enough that they recognize you as someone who comes in often.
Write all those people down.
Now imagine – seriously, don’t skip this exercise because it feels stupid – the next time they smile and say “hi” to you. What will you say back?
OUR GOAL IS THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO CHAT WITH THEM ENOUGH TO FEEL COMFORTABLE CASUALLY MENTIONING YOUR ART.
You are not asking them to buy from you. That feels aggressive to you, often feels aggressive to them, and is rarely successful.
You are simply making them aware that you’re an artist and what type of art you create. That may turn into something in the future – they buy a piece of art, they tell a friend about you who buys a piece of art, they connect you with a really awesome opportunity like a local business who needs framed prints for every room of their office or a children’s book author looking for the perfect illustrator for their next tale.
So as you imagine this scenario, you may feel a little lost! What comes after “hello”?
What you say next is an art, not a science. But the best thing you can do is feel confident and relaxed, and then ask them something about themselves.
Let me walk you through an example.
You’re at the grocery store and the clerk smiles at you and asks if you found everything alright. They made eye contact and sounded engaged, so you can tell they are ready for a conversation rather than just going through the motions of their job.
So you say, “I did. Thanks! Has it been a busy day here today?”
Maybe they respond with something like, “Oh it wasn’t too bad for a Sunday. But Sundays are always pretty crazy. I’m glad I’m up here at checkout instead of navigating the chaotic aisles.”
You would probably laugh a little and confirm that you can see why they feel like that. At that point, they might take the lead because it feels like their turn in the conversation. But if they don’t, you can ask them what they like to do when they have Sunday off (or “on the weekends” if it’s not Sunday).
Once they’ve told you what they do, you should make some connection to it yourself.
If they say tennis and you’ve never held a racquet in your life, you just say that and then add “I’ll have to put it on my list to try some day!” Right? And if they say they like to go to the brewery downtown and you are into craft brews, start chatting with them about it.
Of course if there’s something art or creativity related that comes up in the brief conversation, you should immediately say “Hey, did you know that I’m an artist? I paint abstracts. Here let me show you real quick.” or some other casual version of that.
To be prepared for that, you need to have an easy way to get to photos of your art on your cell phone (or tablet if you carry it around with you). It should take no more than 4 clicks to get there. The quicker you can pull it up, the less awkward the conversation is going to feel and the more likely they’ll be interested in looking at the photos.
Of course, it may take a few similar conversations before it feels normal to mention your art. That’s ok. You don’t have to do it the first time you try.
But you can also navigate the conversation in that direction.
For example, when you’re ready to ask them a question to get the conversation going, you could ask them “What are you up to this weekend?” if you’ve got a show opening this weekend. Because it’s very natural for them to ask you the same question once they’re done answering.
It’s likely you’ll find the right opening if you’re just aware going into each conversation with strangers and acquaintances that your goal (a stretch goal, but a goal nonetheless) is to show them your art.
The end of the conversation can be the most awkward because you’ve just shown them your artwork, a very personal part of you, and they recognize that but maybe they’re not into art or don’t particularly like your art.
You want to have memorized a sentence to let them off the hook so it feels relaxed without making you look like you lack confidence.
A lot of artists in a conversation like this would just improvise and say, “Well, I didn’t go to art school or anything, but it’s a fun hobby I like to share with people.” as they hurriedly put their phone away.
Instead, I want you to say something like, “Do you know anyone who would like art like this?”
Most of the time they will apologize and tell you that they don’t know anyone. And that’s fine. It dissipates the awkwardness really quickly and everyone can move on. And occasionally, they’ll say they do know someone and you can hand them your business card and thank them profusely for letting the other person know about you and your art.
Better yet if you tell them an action their friend should take, like signing up for your email list or checking out your Instagram account.
IF YOU CAN MEMORIZE A SIMPLE LINE LIKE THAT, YOU’LL GET OUT OF THE AWKWARDNESS IF YOU NEED TO.
And it will really help you keep the courage to start the conversation in the first place, knowing you have a way to get out of any tension you cause.
Try the exercise again. Close your eyes and just imagine the conversation. Do you feel more clarity?
Keep envisioning it until you do.
It will come together in your mind eventually and then you’ll feel confident having that conversation in real life!
So now we’ve talked about recognizing your most common opportunities to tell people in person about your art and how to have that conversation, but we haven’t even touched on your friends & family.
You may have heard the totally overused phrase “people buy from those they know, like, and trust.”
BIT IT’S TRUE. AND WITH ART, IT IS EVEN MORE TRUE!
Your friends & family are actually the most likely people to buy from you right now. Strangers don’t know you yet, so they can’t like you or trust you. And once they meet you, it’s still hard for someone you just met to feel like they trust you enough to buy art.
Most people need time to really get to know you before they’ll feel excited to buy your artwork.
So your current and future friends & family are your best bets because they know you, like you, and trust you the most of anyone (or at least we hope so!).
Do you friends, family, and acquaintances know you’re an artist?
Have they seen your art?
A lot of artists are shy about it. Maybe the people in their life know they’re an artist, but they’ve never looked at their artwork. And that’s so important!
How can they buy your art (or tell other people about your art) if they’ve never seen it to know whether or not they like it?
You should strive for everyone you know, especially your family and friends to be able to describe your art to other people because they know it so well.
So the last exercise I’m going to give you is one I hope will just become part of your routine in your life.
Every week, you should tell someone in person about your art. At least one person.
If this assignment becomes a habit, you are guaranteed to increase your art sales simply because more people will be exposed to your art.