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We’ve done a lot of interviews here on TAA. We’ve also done a fair number of Guest Posts. One of the themes that runs strongly throughout all of these posts is that there are a lot of artists out there who are making a good living doing what they love doing. Painters. Glass Bottle Jewelry Makers. Print Makers. Photographers. You get the idea. They all make a living creating beautiful, inspirational things for people, and they’re thrilled to be able to do it.
I’ve had extensive conversations with many artists who are “doing it right” and here’s what they all tell me – there is no “right way” to sell art. You can be a gallery artist, a sell-it-online artist, or a sell it out of your trunk artist – as long as you just go out there and do it.
You know. Nike style.
Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working
You may rather be in the studio, but you work isn’t going to dance out the front door and shout itself from the roof tops. Despite my well-received post on creative hiding, merely pondering the inspirational nature of your art isn’t going to sell anything. You need to eat in order to stay inspired – and that means getting the work done. One of the hardest working artists I know is also one of the most successful. Matt Richards spends enormous amounts of time both creating his art and marketing himself. He works all of the time – and he’s build something pretty amazing.
You’re Not Having Any Fun
Artists are interesting. Be yourself on the internet, just like you are in real life.
I swear, if I see one more artist website or blog with a plain black background and teeny tiny unreadable font, I’m going to unplug the internet. Argh.
In all seriousness though – ya’all put SO. MUCH. WORK. into your art, your mailers, your artist statements, and then you have a website that says, “uh, I don’t know what I’m doing so I just flipped the on switch on this here template and called it good. Will that work?” No. No it will not. You will fail. Some 25 year old with a better website will come along and everyone will pay attention to them. And you will cry.
You Don’t Know What You’re Doing
The Thriving Artist survey results revealed that most artists think that the biggest obstacle to selling their art is learning how to market. Thank goodness, because that’s an easy one to fix. There’s only about a dozen really great courses on the Internet to choose from. Plus a handful of books. Hint: ArtEmpowers is re-opening soon. The single best investment that an entrepreneur can make is in educating themselves.
You’re Not Talking to the Right People
Marketing fails when you send the right message to the wrong person. Your post-apocalyptic glass bead jewelry probably isn’t going to appeal to motorcycle racing aficionados. Or something like that.
So – who are you trying to reach? Why responds well to your work? Where do they hang out? What are their hobbies? Got it? Good. The rest should flow from there if you join my mailing list.
You’re Not Telling Them What to Do
You might have 5 people on your site right now who think your art is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They might even be thinking, “I wonder where I can get something like this.” No joke. It happens.
Does your website make it painfully obvious to a 3rd grader what people should do to get their hands on your art? Don’t overestimate your audience. The average American’s reading level is 9th grade. MAKE. IT. OBVIOUS and tell them exactly what you want them to do. Simply.
You’re Not Being Consistent
So much of marketing is timing. The right message to the right person at the right time. Michael Whitlark explained in his interview that he talks to people at fairs, then at trade shows, then at galleries, then he goes home and emails them. Usually one of those gets people to buy.
Talk to people about your work. All of the time. Don’t be obnoxious, but do it slightly more than you are comfortable with and that’ll probably be about the right amount.
You’re Not Planning
Put some thought into your marketing. Why are you doing it? Who are you talking to? When will you do it? In order to do it right, how long will it take you? Start with where you want to end up and work backwards from there. How many days will it take? How many hours per day? What specifically will you need to do? Where are your knowledge or ability gaps? See this post on creating a business plan for your art business.
You’re Not Testing and Moving On
One of the most important things about marketing on the Web is that you can easily measure whether something’s working. Are you using analytics tools like Google Analytics? Are you measuring the right thing? Here are your important stats: sales, unique visitors, which pages they’re visiting, and where they’re coming from. Those few stats will get you pretty far. The point here is to test lots of things (blogging, email marketing, Facebook ads, etc), see which ones get traction, and dump the ones that aren’t.
What do you think? Are there other reasons that your art marketing isn’t working?
“I swear, if I see one more artist website or blog with a plain black background and teeny tiny unreadable font, I’m going to unplug the internet. Argh.” You are describing my site. I’m sorry, please don’t unplug the internet! I just need to figure out how to tweak my existing WordPress template. I don’t know CSS. Shame. *headdesk*
my marketing strategies are no longer as effective as they use to be…don’t know if it’s the economy or i need to reassess them. i’m going to go over some of those questions you threw out in “you’re not planning” and see if i can figure it out!! thanks!
Great checklist! For me, the planning part is where I seem to have the biggest gap at the moment. Thanks for posting the link for the business plan example there. Finally this part is starting to come to life for me, usually it always seemed so boring. Thanks!
#1 your art is lousy.
Good art doesn’t need to be marketed…ever. It just needs to be seen by people. The rest takes care of itself. Tip for aspiring artists: if you aren’t working 8 hours a day at the easel 5 days a week, you can pack it in and forget making a living at art. Hard work and financial support while you are starting out learning are the keys to success in this business.
Yeah but if you aren’t marketing it, people aren’t seeing it. The best art in the world that’s under a pile of dirty clothes in a closet somewhere isn’t going get get a sale in the same way that mediocre art that people see and know about will.
Linda Ursin says
I may not be talking to the right people and I may have to up the fun even more 🙂
I haven’t been able to figure out who the right people are either. I have a clue but there’s obviously something missing.
One thing I plan to do on the website, specifically, is to switch the photos for some that are more fun and more ‘me’