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12 tips for promoting your portrait drawing business

Updated on June 5, 2012


Most artists rather create art than do marketing. Being our own worst critics, it is easy to shy away from the limelight. But, if you would like more commission work, here are some enjoyable ways to promote your business.

1. Samples of Your Work. Chances are your first pieces will be of family members. Be sure you can take back on loan original samples of your work for art shows or community events. Always ask permission from your clients to use photographs of finished work in promotional pieces. For best results take photos of your work in full daylight and become proficient in some type of photo editing program.

2. Draw in Public. Locking yourself away in your studio is not only a meager existence it’s not good for business. One of the things I love about working in pencil is how easy it is to travel with your materials. But, even if you work in oil, you can do your preliminary sketches on the go. Some of my favorite places to draw are coffee shops (because I’m seriously addicted to caffeine), the library and public parks. If you are going to work in public, leave the head phones at home. This will encourage people to talk to you about your work.

3. Be Prepared. Take your business cards with you – EVERYWHERE. When that potential client peeks over your shoulder at the coffee shop to admire your work, you want to have something on hand that lets them know how to get in touch with you. Inevitably they will want to know what you charge for your work. That is why I also carry my rate card explaining sizes and any additional charges.

4. Social Media. The bulk of my business comes from friends and family. How do most people keep in touch with those people these days? Facebook of course. I like to post work in progress photos of whatever I’m working on. I hate shameless promotion but most people are fascinated by the process of making art particularly if they are not artists themselves.

5. Teach. Teaching is a great way to make extra money and share what you love. I teach at a local craft store. I receive a 100% of the class fee. The store is happy to have people buy the materials needed to participate in the class. The key to a successful class is conducting demonstrations. The store sets up a table and I sit and draw and talk to potential class participants. The vast majority of people who stop and chat never take the class but a number of them will take my card and rate sheet and call to have a portrait done in the future.

6. Charitable Events. Nearly every charity has a silent auction at some event throughout the year. A custom portrait makes a great addition to a silent action that any event organizer would be pleased to receive. Create a card with samples of your work and what the work is valued at. Be sure to space out your donations so that you are not inundated with freebies.

7. On Display. While most artists dream of displaying their work in galleries, nontraditional venues can be even more profitable. Coffee houses, restaurants and your local library make great places to display your work.

8. Join an Art Group. Joining a local art group will help you build relationships with like minded artists. Your fellow artists can be a wealth of information when it comes to what art shows and fairs are worthwhile and which ones to pass on and most organize at least one show of their own each year.

9. Community events. Home days, craft fairs, art shows, your average community has dozens a year. Special events are a lot like the stock market. You should never invest what you are not willing to lose. Know your numbers. How many commissions would you have to secure to break even on the cost of the exhibitor space?

10. P.R. As a local reporter, I’m always looking for people with interesting hobbies and talents. You may not make the cover of Artist Today but you could be just want your local paper is looking for. Most editors prefer to be contacted by email these days. Publications all have web sites with contact information. Don’t overload them with information. All they want to know up front is that you are local and have an interesting perspective. Briefly identify what makes you unique or wait until you have something to announce like landing an exhibit at the local library or a class you are teaching.

11. Label It. Always place a label on the back of your work with your contact information. That way if your artwork is given as a gift and the recipient wants to refer work to you, they will have your information.

12. The Power of 3. Include 3 business cards with every finished portrait. One for the client to keep and 2 for them to pass along to friends and family. Because I’m big on hand written cards, I always include these business cards in my “thank you for your business” card.


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    • profile image

      Caressa 3 years ago

      Thank you for the advice! Especially the drawing in public.

    • krissalus profile image

      krissalus 6 years ago

      These are all really great tips, especially the one about drawing in public. That's a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 6 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Hi and thanks for the run down on how to promote yourself and your art. I'm not an artist but my partner is into cartooning and these tips are very helpful.

    • Cardia profile image

      Cardia 6 years ago from Barbados.

      Great Hub! I just did my first portrait commission, and I'm seriously considering making it into a small business. This article had lots of good tips and ideas!

    • jamal khaled profile image

      jamal khaled 6 years ago from KSA

      so nice