Selling Art: Tips From An Art Fair Veteran
Selling Art At Art Fairs: Tips From An Art Fair Veteran
I've been selling my art professionally now for nearly 20 years. I turned my hobby into a business which supports us financially. I began by selling my work through art fairs and that is still my primary sales venue, though now we have a strong on-line presence as well as a brick and mortar gallery. This page was created to offer a few of my marketing and sales tips that I have garnered for the past 20 years or so. Some of these have been addressed in my other lenses regarding art fairs and marketing but I brought them all together in one place for easy ready and referral. There is however plenty of all new information regarding selling art.
In order to become successful in any business you must understand a few basics about business and selling. And while it's true that art doesn't sell itself, it's also not the same as selling cars. Marketing and self promotion is one of the hardest things an artist or any business owner has to figure out.
I want to be clear that I'm not trying to tell you that this is the only way do do things to be successful. I'm simply offering you the information for which you can decide for yourselves.
What will be discussed on this page.
No Hard Selling Please
The Importance Of Quality
The "S" Rule
Demonstrating Your Art
Cultivating A Mailing List
Artwork Website A Must
Giving Out Business Cards
Handling the "Be Backs"
All copyrights are retained by the artist,
Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.
The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either
in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.
Are You An Artist Selling Your Work?
No Hard Selling Please
Building A Collector Base For Selling Art
Buyer's Remorse And Hard Selling
Okay this is a personal preference. I've seen plenty of artists "working it" like sideshow hawkers or used car salesmen. And the hard sell technique works. It really does. But in the end customer satisfaction is key. And a huge part of my business are customers who come back for more. In fact I dare say that's what keeps my business successful. Collectors.
People feeling happy while looking at my art on their walls, is what brings them back for more.
You don't get collectors through hard selling. Anyway you don't get oodles of them. Buyer's remorse is when after the glow of purchasing an item has worn off, the buyer regrets the purchase for whatever reason. If you have to talk people into buying your art, there will be some who experience buyer's remorse. The main goal for me is to have it so that whenever someone looks at my art on their walls, they get a good and happy feeling from it. Not guilt over purchasing something they weren't ready for.
So now that I've said what not to do, here's what you should do.
* Be present and attentive. Talk openly and engagingly and focus on them. People like talking about themselves (so again they'll have that good feeling when thinking about spending time with you) but this also gives you an opportunity to learn a little about them, what they like and what they're looking for. Do not spend copious amounts of time talking about your art and process. Even if they ask, keep your answers brief and to the point.
* Give them space. No one likes to be hovered over. Make sure they understand that you're readily available but then back off and let them look. People will leave your booth at this point but many will return.
* Being Agreeable This in a nutshell is simply "listening" to folks and supporting their conversation through smiling, nodding and encouraging banter. Yes, this too goes back to the feeling good experience they get when talking to you.
* Never Argue In a like mind, arguing is always a losing proposition. I've heard people say many thing which were completely wrong about my art or the animals in them. I spend a great deal of time researching my subjects and am actually quite knowledgeable on most of the critters I paint. Not to mention all my artwork is from my own photos. Still there's always someone looking to prove they know something and want to share it. When someone gets something blatantly wrong, I usually don't correct them because as I've said it's a losing proposition. Either you make them feel bad (or worse feel stupid) for being wrong or they think you're wrong and think you an idiot for arguing with them. My best advice is to let it go.Not to mention, you don't need the bad "conflict juju" in your booth anyway.
The Importance Of Quality In Selling Art
Quality And Presentation Are A Great Marketing Tool For Selling Art
I have always offered the best quality in not only art materials used but also framing and display, that I could afford at the time.
Time and again I am surprised by artists who get their framing from garage sales or low-end chain stores and then try to sell their artwork for high prices. Here's the simple truth. No one is going to spend money on your work unless you do.
I know it costs money, and that the point of selling art is to make money. But you really have to understand that presentation is key.
The other thing is that patrons who buy art, know the difference between quality and bargain shopping as well, and respect and respond to a quality product. Whenever discussing the cost of framed art I always promote that my work is museum quality framed using conservation glass and all acid free materials. This has helped sell more than high priced original work.
Variety Is The Spice Of Life And The Key To More Art Sales
For more artwork sales have variety in your products and price points.
Working art fair venues has taught me that different events appeal to different crowds. And these crowds have their own spending practices. In order to be competitive and to make money in both high dollar fine art venues and low dollar craftier kinds of events, I keep diversifying my product line to appeal to all types of spenders.
If your marketing strategy is only one market or the other then perhaps this isn't quite so critical but I like to play the odds in my favor whenever possible. Having products that range from a $3 card to a $4500 original painting mean I can do well in a broader range of venues, including galleries, gift shops and art fairs. Having a good price point variation allows me to pack for and market to certain spending segments appropriately. If all I had were large scale originals my market and sales venues would be greatly different.
My product line consists of:
$3.00 single card
$15.00 mini print or 6 cards
$25 open edition collectible print
$50 Smaller limited edition print and framed open edition print
$85 Larger size limited edition print
$135-$225 Framed Limited edition prints
$300-$4500 Small collectible originals to large scale original art.
I have recently begun some light merchandising via my zazle store which includes magnets and coffee mugs. I don't take these to most art fairs but do for a more crafty event and keep them in the gallery. So far it has been a good choice. Lots of people have a use for magnets and coffee mugs. It makes a good practical and useful way to enjoy art.
Establish who your target market is and then create a price point line that covers both high and low spenders.
Selling Art And Your Art Fair Booth's Appearance
When it comes to selling art appearances really are everything
Whenever doing art fairs it is important to make your booth appear as much like an outdoor gallery as possible. Artists often make the mistake (and yes I've been known to do this from time to time) of overcrowding their booth. Trying to get everything possible on display to appeal to the most buyers. And after reading the last segment that seems logical. But it just doesn't work that way..
Over crowded booths tend to look messy. It gives off the appearance of a jumble sale instead of a gallery. This is not how you attract high dollar buyers. So while it's important to have a good selection and price point variety it's also important to showcase your art to it's best potential.
Art Fair Booth Display Do's and Don'ts
* Do hang artwork with adequate space for viewing
* Keep booth feeling open and spacious. People in general dislike walking into a cave.
* Keep it bright and well lit This may be as simple as only using a white tent or be sure you have adequate lights for your indoor display.
* Keep it free of garbage and litter. This sounds obvious but particularly at outdoor events, people just drop their garbage or set down their drink and forget it. Plus after a few days in the sweltering heat I've been known to get a little sloppy as well.
* Don't set artwork on the ground ever.
Making Your Booth More Gallery LikeThe reason for this is two fold. One it screams quality art and the other is it takes the buyer less time to visualize your art in their home. I don't consider myself a high end artist so my booth appearance is limited to bright and organized. But I've seen some artists who go so far as to put in faux fireplaces just to give it that home like look.
Nice touches to make your booth look more home or gallery like
* Add A rug. We've done this for a few events and it really dresses up a booth. Know that especially in outdoor events there is a good chance that the rug will get trashed. I've also seen a lot of fake wood linoleum rolled out onto the ground or pavement.
* Quality looking display units
* Table cloths
The "S" Rule In Regards To Selling Art
"Shiny Stuff Sells"
Just in case you're thinking that this would be an area where you can cut a few costs, trust me this is not that place. We've done plenty of indoor events where the natural lighting seems adequate, but once you light up your both and all the shiny reflective surfaces give off a bit of sparkle, there is a dramatic difference. A difference that buyers will notice if even on a subconscious level.
I cannot express the importance of good lighting enough. Whenever possible (not all events offer it) purchase electricity to light your booth. Some events charge a nominal cost while others can run rather expensive. Whatever the cost it will be worth it. Because if your neighbor's booth is well lit and your's is not, the average patron will pass you by like moths to a flame and move on to the warm glow of someone else's booth. And your booth will look like a cave by comparison.
We have around a dozen lamps for our 10 x 10 booth setup. We use more for double spaces and corners spaces because of lighting both sides of the panel.
Swing Arm Lights For Lighting Your Artwork & Booth - Your Artwork Needs To Be Lit Well In Order For It To Sell Well.
Most professional display units are set up to accommodate these swing arm type lamps. If you've got one that does not or your display is home made then using clip on lights works just as well.
Demonstrating Your Art And Technique
Another Way To Cultivate Collectors And Sell Artwork
Collectors like to feel like they know the artist with whom they collect and demonstrating your craft is just another way to make that happen.
Since cultivating collectors is such an integral part of my business I find it often is extremely beneficial to work on a painting while at an art event. And often when a gallery has a showing of my work I will also do a demo for them as well. This practice has definitely increased my sales and collector base.
Working on my art while at events opens a door for people to ask questions and allows people to feel like they get to know me just a little bit. I am often swarmed with people gathered all around while I work. Some say nothing just peer over my shoulder while others ask multitudes of questions. Because of this I pretty much only demonstrate when I have an assistant along to handle sales while I smooze.
NOTE: If the questions get too detailed about actual technique it is probably another artist. And while I have no problems sharing technique information with fellow artists they will often take up huge amounts of time and you may lose actual sales because they have taken up so much of your attention. This has happened to me and it's frustrating. Just be sure to not let anyone who clearly is not a buyer monopolize too much of your time.
Benefits Of Demonstrating At Art Events
* Opens Communication with people
* Allows people to see how you do what you do. This is good for dispelling any incorrect ideas about your methods.
* People love to see how it's done
* Give you something to do in between sales
* Art Fair personnel and judges love it.
Cultivating A Mailing List For Selling Art
When It Comes To Mailing Lists And Selling Art, It's Not How Many
Creating and maintaining a functioning mailing list is critical for keeping track of your patrons and potential patrons.
I have heard a few artist coaches suggest that you should just add as many names to your mailing list as possible including friends and family. Set a goal like get 2000 names on your list by the end of the year. That more names on your mailing list equals more sales.
I do not subscribe to this idea. I like to qualify all the names on my mailing list. Meaning my list is comprised of people who have either purchased from me or have expressed a serious interest in doing so. And not all purchases qualify to be put on the list. In fact at a typical art event where I may have hundreds of sales only one or two names may get added. The reason for this is I don't like spending money on postage and mailers to folks who aren't really all that interested in investing with me. And no one likes to receive junk mail spam. Which is what sending out notices to everyone who has ever bought a card from me or said they liked my work, would think I was doing to them.
Some artists put out mailing list books for people to sign up for. This works really well and is something I've done a couple of times. A mailing list guestbook is a great marketing tool because essentially the people who commit their names to your book are in essence saying "Sell To Me"
I don't often set out a mailing much anymore for no other reason than my mailing list becomes to large to handle.efficiently. With having a huge mailing list I may in fact get more sales, but for me having a list that I can easily utilize for such things as mailing out fliers that I will be in the area or contacting patrons who collect a specific thing is essential to my actually using it. I need to keep my my list not only relevant but manageable.
The Kind Of People Who I Put On My Mailing Lists Are;
Anyone who has purchased an original painting
Anyone who has expressed an interest in getting original work from
Anyone who has collected multiples of my prints
People who own critters I want to paint or do paint regularly.
The other thing about keeping a mailing list relevant is I try to store as much information that I know about a person on it. You just never know what tidbit of info will come in handy. Whenever I add a new name to my list I try to record everything I can about our conversation that is pertinent. I usually take notes just as soon as they leave the booth because even so little as 24 hours later much will be lost in my memory. I talk to hundreds and sometime thousands of people a day at an event. Be sure to write it down immediately or the conversation do get muddled.
Since I travel a lot to sell my art, I tend to check my mailing list for a refresher to names of my patrons in any given area that I am heading. We all like to be remembered and by taking this small extra step I can recall peoples names as well as certain important facts.
What I Keep On My Mailing List
* Name, Address Phone Number & Cell Phone
* What they've Bought
* Where I met them
* What if any critters they have
* Anything relevant like if they are an equine veterinarian, or work at a zoo.
I also update my mailing list every year when I send out notices for new work or Christmas cards.
Keeping A Guestbook For Creating A Mailing List - Permissive Marketing is a valuable artist tool.
When someone signs your mailing list guestbook they are in effect yes please continue to contact me I want more of your work. This is one of the easiest ways for an artist to build a mailing list.
Selling Art And The Act Giving Out Business Cards
Sometiumes It's Best Not To Have Them Readily Available
Most of the time I do not set my business cards out for the taking.I keep them tucked away with me behind the tent. I do this for a couple of reasons. One people like to collect business cards and if they don't actually associate you with the card it will most likely wind up as trash. Primarily though this helps me to distinguish the serious from the looky-lou's.
This is one of those things that I consider as qualifying. It falls in line with not adding every name possible to my mailing list. By keeping my cards on my person it forces people to ask for them. And for the most part only serious patrons will go that extra step and ask for a card. The other benefit of having patrons ask for a card is it offers me a chance to talk to them. Ask them if there is a question I can answer and see what if any the issue is for not buying now. By leaving cards sitting out people will pick them and smile at you like "see I took your card I'll just order off the web later." That rarely ever happens.
Is it possible I'm missing sales by doing this? Yes. But I also definitely makes sales that I might not have otherwise because of it.
Counter Top Business Card Holders
Art Marketing Solutions For Dealing With "Be Back" Customers
Providing A Come Back Incentive For Selling Art
So What's A Be Back?A be back is someone who as they are leaving your booth say "I'll be back" with a smile and a wave.
I hear this line dozens of time a day when I'm working an art fair or gallery event. I tell you now when someone says this to you, don't get your hopes up. Because when someone says "I'll be back." Unlike Arnie, once someone utters those three little words there is a 99.9725% chance (not a real statistic) they won't. That's not to say they don't mean well. I've come to the conclusion it is a combination of guilt (over not buying) and wanting to show they really do like what you do without giving you money.
Similarly, Beware of too much praise. The more gushing praise a person gives you is in direct relation to the likelihood of them not buying something.
So what can you do to improve your "Be Back" odds?Well a great trick is to offer some sort of incentive like a flier that offers them some sort of free thing for returning to purchase from you. The incentive doesn't have to be big. Even a free note card or 5-10% off their purchase is often enough to tip them over the edge into buying from you.
Now be careful that there's not other patrons standing around to witness this or you'll be handing out freebies for hours. But if you've got someone who you've done your best marketing skills on on, talking them up and down and they seem really interested but just won't commit, this is a good strategy to employ.
The Importance Of Having A Website For Selling Artwork
Artist Professionalism And An On-line Presence For Marketing Art
A website is one of those "must haves" for any artist.A website is a art business necessity, though probably not for the reasons you're thinking. I don't think any artist gets "discovered" just because they have a website. In fact if anyone has actually "made it" because they built a website I'd love to know. The thing about websites is they require just as much marketing as anything. The "Build it they will come" philosophy does not apply here.
So then why do artists need a website?Because it's the professional thing to. People expect anyone on a professional level to have a site and anyone without one seems odd.
The most important reason to have a website though is so people can find you. Yes they picked up your card but if they lost it somewhere along the way, the first thing they'll do is try to find you on the web. Frankly even one page with contact information will go a long way toward helping your art business. To start off with you need not even mess with credit cards or paypal.
Once you get it going though I would encourage you to make it as personable as you can. This goes back to that people want to feel like they know you thing.
About The Author Of This Selling Art Page
Mona Majorwoicz of Wild Faces gallery
My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.
I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years in ate art and framing industry both as a business owner and as a working artist.
Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.