How Do I Sell My Paintings?
I have been selling my paintings for over 5 years but, as any artist can assure you, this is not an easy thing. The art of selling paintings is one that needs to be learned and you will keep learning as I am doing as you go along.
There are so many artists out there whether they are amateurs or professional artists and that means there is a lot of competition in selling your art. The principle that you should start with and also keep in your mind is that your art should be original and come from your own thoughts and experiences. I'm not saying don't take inspiration from others but make sure that you come up with the original ideas so that you can promote your own art in the knowledge that you are the one that thought of the concept and you are essentially selling that concept to your customers.
Unfortunately for us artists, we are often not great salespeople. I have often fought with the idea of having a salesperson to sell my art for me, and sometimes I have done this, particularly where I am not available to sell it myself. However, unless you have a salesperson who knows a lot about your art and is also passionate about it, you could be wasting your money. A lot of the joy of buying original art for some people, is to buy it straight from the artist. Then the client can chat with you about your thoughts and methods behind the work and find out a bit about you. This all adds to the buying experience for them. So my advice is, if you can, to sell the art yourself. Obviously this is not always feasible and the more popular your work gets, the more you are likely to need salespeople, but if you are at that stage then good for you!
What to Sell
If you are painting with the aim of selling your art, then sometimes you need to compromise on what you might paint. As a professional artist who needs to constantly make sales to eat and pay the rent, I find that I am limited in my ability to experiment with different styles of painting. For example, I have a very popular series of paintings that is a camel walking into a sunset. When I first did this kind of painting I didn't realise that it would sell so well and now I have to make sure that I have this style of painting in various different sizes so that I optimise the opportunities to sell as many as I can. Although I enjoy doing these paintings still, I know that I need to do them to keep this income stream. I have also expanded the theme to bookmarks, fridge magnets and mugs, which all sell reasonably well.
So, the message here is to find something that sells and go with it - perhaps do a series of those paintings, or do them in different sizes or colours. Whatever you chose, try to make each one a little different so that everyone who buys one is getting a unique piece of art.
If you haven't yet found a niche painting that you can expand on and broaden, then look around and see what others are selling and who they are selling to and see if you can come up with an idea for the niche market you are selling to. For example - are there a lot of tourists where you sell? If so then something representing the area you are in would be a good option.
Who To Sell To
With any sort of marketing you need to find out who your target audience are and market to them. For me, although I sell my art in Dubai and the UK, when I am in Dubai most of my clients are Western expats, with the majority being British. I am not sure why that is but I guess that we are all brought up appreciating similar art and so they like my style!
Anyway, the fact that I know that means that I will mostly only go to markets where I know most of the clientele will be western. It just makes sense for me to concentrate my efforts in that area.
So find out who your target market are (and this will include taking into account the cost of the paintings compared to your target market) and concentrate your efforts in that area.
Tips For Selling
I for one never try and sell something to someone, which might be my downfall! I will hope that they want to buy something from me instead! But there are things that you can do to help your chances of gaining a sale.
Firstly, always tell people about yourself and about the artwork. If it is a one-off then tell them that they will have an original work of art that no-one else will own. The problem I find about people buying art is that if they see it and love it and don't buy it on the spot then the chances of them coming back are slim.
Although you must make sure that you give out business cards to people who show interest in your work, if there is a particular item that they love then you really need to talk to them about it at that time - in 95% of cases if they go away they will not come back and buy it (well that is my experience anyway). I have also had people regret that they didn't buy a piece that they saw at the time after they found out that someone else bought it!
However, there is the other type of buyer who may not be ready to buy right then or loves your work and may consider buying in the future. In this case you should make sure you have a database of actual and potential clients so that you can advise them when and where you are next exhibiting.
Also make sure you have a facebook page and/or a website where you have all the images of your art so that they can be kept up to date with what you are doing.
Selling your own art is not easy but once you know your market you can target your art towards what you know sells and to whom. Make sure you have plenty of promotional material, market yourself online with facebook and maybe some google advertising. Get to the places where your typical clients go and do paintings that fit in with their lifestyle.
Selling art doesn't always mean that you can paint what you want to but it does allow you to make a living doing something you love :-)