I have had several young artists just starting out ask me how to sell their art. These are talented artists, and their work appeals to a varied audience. They can’t understand why their art isn’t selling. I gave them a summary of how I began selling my art. The steps I outline below serve as guideposts to helping them figure out how to jump-start their art sales.
Hone Your Skills
For years I painted solely to hone my skills long before I started selling my art. I am primarily self-taught. My formal training has come in the form of watching videos online by artists who shared their tips and techniques for painting using various mediums, varied subject matter, and techniques. I spent years trying to determine my artistic style, trying different techniques until I settled in on the ones the worked best for me. Spending those years honing my skills has been invaluable in making my art skills stronger .
Develop Your Niche
There are so many artists out there. There is so much art to choose from, especially if you are an art collector. So as an artist, how do you make your art stand out from the crowd? Find a niche market that isn’t overly saturated. If you love animals, consider painting horses, cats, or some other kind of pet. If you live on the beach, painting boats or coastal scenes might be to your liking. If you paint people well, consider portrait painting. That is what I did. For years, I shied away from portraits for a long time because I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to paint them well enough that people would be willing to pay for them. I watched tons of videos on how to paint eyes, faces, and hair, and I used the techniques given in the videos to improve my skills. Over time, I got better at making the portraits look like the person. Then I focused on developing my unique style when painting portraits so that there was a consistency in my paintings. When people began buying my portraits, I realized I had found my niche.
Determine Your Target Market
Knowing your target audience is important for any artist because if you don’t know who you are painting for, you will never get your sales off the ground. I decided to focus on painting portraits, so I needed to figure out who would most likely purchase a portrait painting. I did a little research to see who tends to buy for the household–women primarily. To reach these women, I needed to know their demographics–age, economic status, education, buying habits, etc. Once I narrowed my focus, I developed strategies to seek out these women, locally and online.
Produce Great Art
When we sit down and put a brush to canvas, we intend for the work to be our best work. Sometimes things don’t always work out that way. That is why we practice. Practice makes perfect, right? When showing your artwork online, at an art show, or in a gallery, you always want it to be your best work. When you approach a prospective buyer, you definitely want to show your best work. This will increase your chances of having the prospective buyer become a customer of your art.
Set Up a Website and a Blog
A website and a blog are necessary for reaching your audience. They serve as a sales portal that is available to visitors twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Your website and your blog should be a calling card for your customer or potential buyer. The website should contain images of your best work. It will allow the visitor to your website to see what you do. This is where your best artwork should be posted. Your website and your blog should also be easy to navigate. You want your visitors to stay a while and see what you have to offer. Before the visitors leave, you want to have a way of connecting with them so that they will return to see what new artwork you have available. Create a newsletter or offer a freebie in return for subscribing to your website or blog. You will be able to capture their email addresses so that you have a way of corresponding with them after they have left your website or blog.
Make a Business Plan
If you want to make money from your art, you need to understand that your art is a business. Therefore, you need to have a business plan. The business plan helps you identify the goals for your art business. You need to establish short-term and long-term goals for your art business. What do you want to achieve in one year? Three years? Five years? You may want to participate in a certain number of art shows for the first year to bring awareness to your artwork, or you may want to approach art galleries to sell your art. You may even want to sell your art online to reduce overhead costs. The business plan allows you to set goals and objectives for your art business and to develop strategies that will help you meet those goals.
Register Your Business
Once you are ready to go into business, you will need to make sure you’re in compliance with all local, state and federal registration regulations. You will need to register your business name and determine where you plan to house your business. For many artists, including myself, I began by working out of my home. If you operate your business out of your home, find out if there are any zoning restrictions for your state, city, and/or county. Contact your city’s or county’s zoning department if you plan to have a home-based business. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not your residence is zoned for a home-based business. You may be required to have a business license for your city and/or county. Check with your city to find out what is required for your area. Also you may need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), if you have at least one employee. If you plan to operate as a sole proprietorship and have no employees, you can use your social security number instead of the EIN.
Devise a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is the detailed blueprint on how you will achieve the goals for your art business. You begin by developing a set of strategies that will be used to execute your marketing plan. The strategies specify which steps to take, how those steps will be implemented, and how long it will take to accomplish the steps in the marketing plan. An example of a marketing strategy would be hosting a drawing or a giveaway on your website or blog. You would need to determine the rules of entry for the drawing or giveaway. You also would need to decide on the prize for the winner or winners. How you will promote the drawing would also need to be determined. By addressing all of these strategies, you will ensure a successful marketing campaign.
Promote Your Art Locally
Most artists begin to reach their target audience locally. The easiest way to get your art noticed is to share it with your family and friends. They are great for feedback and oftentimes are your first customers. Utilize this resource because they are great for getting your artwork noticed through word of mouth. When they tell a friend about your artwork and that person tells a friend about your artwork, the word gets around, and you may get referrals from their communications. The workplace is also a great place to reach your target audience. You have direct access to your coworkers, and you are able to get their contact information for future communications about your artwork. Also check out other avenues for getting your artwork in front of potential customers. Consider hosting an art show at your studio, at a local restaurant, or at some other business that would be willing to host a show for you. Enter some local art contests or participate in festivals and fairs in your community. Contact local galleries that may be interested in the type of artwork you produce. There is a lot of opportunities available locally. You just have to search them out to get your artwork seen.
Create an Online Presence
In this day and age, you must have a online social presence. It can be difficult putting yourself and your artwork out there if you are not sure how it will be received. But if you are confident in your artwork, don’t be afraid to share it online. Choose the social sharing site that works for you–Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram. There are others out there, but choose the few that you can use successfully on a regular basis. They can be time-consuming, especially when you need to be painting your art, so set aside a certain amount of time each day or week to share your work on social media sites. That way the rest of the time can be spent doing what you love, painting.
Communicate with Potential Customers
Communicating with people who could become your customers is paramount to making your art business a success. Who are your potential customers? Begin with your family, your friends, and your co-workers. Think about the people you see on a daily or weekly basis–the people in the grocery store, at the laundromat, at the doctor’s office, or even at your favorite restaurant. Your potential customers are all around you and are just waiting for you to share your artwork with them. They are also online, so make sure to communicate with them through your social networks. Take advantage of what is right in front of you and use your potential customers to get the word out about your work. Make sure you have a way to communicate with them. Get their email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses so that you can let them know when you have new artwork available.
Build a Mailing List
An email list is probably the most important piece of your marketing plan because it is a direct way to reach your potential customer. When someone gives you their email address, it is a huge sign that they trust you and want to interact with you. They get a ton of junk mail as it is, so when they give you their email address, that is a sign that they want to hear from you. Treat that email like gold! People won’t check your website or your Facebook or Twitter posts every day, but they will check their emails many times a day. It is so easy for people to miss your Facebook status update or your Twitter post, but they rarely overlook a new email in their inbox. It is up to you to make sure you are are not taking the email for granted Send your customers quality content that they want to receive. Use the email to inform them of new artwork you have available, upcoming art shows, specials or discounts on artwork, or other quality content that you feel they would want to know about.
Follow Up with Your Customer
After you have made contact with a customer–it could be a first encounter, it could be an inquiry from the customer, or it could be a sale–follow up with him or her. If it is the first time meeting the customer, make sure to let him or her know about your artwork. Provide a sample of your artwork on a business card or postcard. These are items potential customers will not be so quick to throw away. You want them to think about you whenever they decide they want to purchase a piece of artwork. If it is an inquiry from a customer about your artwork, you want to be able to tell them everything they need to know to make an informed purchase of your artwork–price, size, availability, shipping rates, etc. Make sure you provide everything the potential customer needs to make the sale. If, by chance, you do make a sale, then congrats to you! This is a cherished customer. Why? Because if a customer buys from you, that tells you they like your work. They may also be willing to buy from you again if the buying experience was a good one. So follow up with this cherished customer. Offer a freebie or a discount on their next purchase of some of your artwork. Building this relationship with your customers is paramount to helping your art business grow. Nurture these relationships. If you have a handful of dedicated customers who repeatedly buy your artwork, you are well on your way to getting your business off the ground.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Review the steps listed in this blog post each and every day. Then repeat, repeat, repeat. Decide what works for you and what doesn’t. If you find techniques that help your business take off, then continue to improve on them. If you find something doesn’t work, discard it and try something new. It is all about trial and error in many cases. There is no one right way to run your art business. Do what works for you and enjoy the ride!
I am an artist and author of southern and historical fiction and short stories.
Visit my art website: http://katrinaparkerwilliams.weebly.com/
Read my blog: https://katrinaparkerwilliams.wordpress.com/
Like my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KPWmsArtStudio
View my artwork on my artist page at Daily Paintworks.