When you break it down as simply as possible there are two stages of business, aside from before you actually start the business (we could call that the Planning Stage I suppose).
The first stage I’m going to call the Experimentation Stage and the second stage, the Market Clarity Stage.
When you’re in the Experimentation Stage, you’re getting more skilled at your medium of choice (which is allowing you to get better at providing what people want) and you’re figuring out how to express what you are selling. The latter part is typically focused on copywriting, branding, and marketing strategy.
During this Experimentation Stage, you’re also discovering who likes your work. You might make an educated guess that your target market is more likely to read Martha Stewart Living than Cosmopolitan Magazine, or more likely to spend time on Facebook than Instagram, or more likely to live in San Francisco than New York.
These sorts of educated guesses can lead to good decisions about where and how to market. But ultimately, it’s all an experiment.
Each thing you try is going to inform you more about who buys your art and how to communicate clearly with them.
In the Market Clarity Stage, you’ve solidified a strong concept of who your target market is. You know the demographic information (maybe gender or age or socio-economic class) that applies to the majority of your market, you know how to brand yourself to appeal to your market, and you know how and where to reach your market for promotion.
The bulk of your success, of course, will be found in the Market Clarity Stage because you can make confident decisions that are very likely to result in resounding success. You’re no longer experimenting.
And in this stage you can focus not on testing and assessing, but on actually scaling your business to make more money and optimizing the way you run the business so you’re more efficient.
You can relax because money is flowing and it just takes a little work to make more flow or make it flow more easily.
But before you can move from the Experimentation Stage to the Market Clarity Stage, you have to cut away the clutter and figure out who your market is and if those people are going to want your art.
This is the key.
If the people you’re trying to market to don’t want your art, then even perfect pricing and customer service and all the marketing in the world just isn’t going to work. You have to a) make something that people want and b) figure out which people want it.
I’m a firm believer that any art has a target market who wants it. People will even buy art made by a five-year-old if it’s marketed the right way and curated well. You’ll have a better chance if your art is “good” probably (though sometimes really “bad” art is extremely successful in the mass market – not everyone has the same taste), but ultimately someone’s going to like it no matter what it looks like.
It’s your job as the artist to figure out who that person is.
No one can do this for you. It’s up to you to research, test, ask questions, and ultimately figure out who wants to buy your art. And only then will it become clear how to price it, brand it, talk about it, even photograph it!
Until then, you’re just playing a guessing game.