Advice to Artists Who Want to Sell Their Work
This hub is written in answer to a question posted by fellow hubber Robie Benve, who asked, "Any advice for an artist who wants to start selling?" I was intrigued by this question and wanted to provide what advice I can give based on my experience. I must say I am no expert on this subject, but I have had some success in selling my work. I am an artist who has a studio in my home. I sell paintings occasionally, but in no way do I make my living selling paintings. However, my art is a nice supplement to our household income.
My first piece of advice is about attitude. While first and foremost you may consider yourself an artist, you must also adapt your thinking to also see (and accept) yourself as a salesperson. In order to be successful selling your work, you must actively sell your work. As artists we may find the notion of selling difficult or even onerous, but unless you hire someone to market your work, you will have to do it yourself.
Potential Buyers Want to Know...
I have learned that potential art buyers are usually not only interested in the art, but are also very interested in the artist. As an artist who wants to sell work, you must become comfortable talking about your art, your motivation, your message, etc. This conversation with a potential buyer can be crucial to making a sale and possibly finding a collector of your work.
One way to develop this ability to converse about your art is to join a local art group. Here fellow artists share observations about their work, pass on ideas, and learn about places they might be able to display and sell their art. Members of art groups can be supportive of one another, but there is also the potential for jealousies, competitiveness, and cliquishness, so beware!
How to get your Work "Out There"
The only way to make sales of your art is to get your work out into the public eye. There are many ways to do this, but one of the best is to maintain a website for your art. This makes your work accessible for viewing 24 hours a day. A basic website is reasonably affordable and easy to build and maintain. Having a business card with a phone number and your website (and possibly an attractive graphic based on one of your works) is a handy way to get your work "out there."
Art Shows and Competitions
Getting publicity is a good way to drive potential customers to view your work. This publicity can be garnered in a variety of ways. One good way to get free publicity is to win an award for your work in a competition or show. Art societies and groups hold shows usually on an annual basis. An artist can enter these shows for a small entry fee. These competitions give your work exposure. A word of caution about art shows and competitions. Most of these art events are "juried" which means that your work has to be accepted by a judge in order for it to make it into the show and ultimately for it to win a prize. This is a highly subjective process and high quality works of art are rejected regularly simply because they do not fit the judge's aesthetic. You must have a thick skin and secure ego to enter these shows. Resolve to not take rejections in this process personally! If you are fortunate enough to win recognition at one of these shows, there is the potential for mention in the news media.
A word here about using the news media to your advantage. Do not wait around hoping the media will hear about your accomplishments. You must be proactive and contact them with the news about your art. You may likely have to write the press release yourself and submit it to the media outlet. When you submit this release to the local paper, don't forget to include a picture of your artwork. Local, small newspapers are usually hungry for content, so you will have a very good chance of having your press release published. This is a great way to get free publicity for your work.
I can't speak about gallery representation with much authority, as I haven't explored this option in depth. I do know that you must approach galleries requesting they accept your work for display. Of course, the gallery will require a "cut" from sales of your art they display. This commission the gallery requires can be quite significant. If you decide to pursue gallery representation, you will have to balance this "cost of doing business" against the benefits the gallery will bring to marketing your work. Galleries will actively pursue sales of your art. Galleries can afford to advertise (most of the time) and will typically attract clientele who are shopping for art and planning to buy. Of course, all of this assumes that the gallery will accept you as one of the artists they wish to represent. (See my earlier comments about juried art shows and competitions.)
Selling art in today's economy is a great challenge - it has never been easy! As you navigate the process of making sales, remember that commercial success is only part of what makes an artist a satisfied individual. Always remember your work has great value - never compromise on the excellence of your work as you see it. Remain positive and keep trying - you will make sales, and better yet you will add depth and beauty to many people's lives in the process.