There are 1 of 3 reasons why you are not selling your art
1) They do not like you
2) They cannot find you
3) They do not know you exist
Notice that none of the reasons above say: they have no money. If you are an artist and you are struggling to sell your art you may want to really look at some of these reasons above and see if any apply to you.
What if they do not like me?
This is actually the worst reason (it takes courage to admit it), but it can be solved. The fact that your current target audience does not like you is not the end of the world and it does not mean that you have to change who you are completely to get love. But like most relationships in life, you have 2 options:
1) go out and find the people who do like you for you
2) change yourself (re-brand) so that they can identify with you and your work.
Why brand yourself?
Whether or not you go look for a new market, you should still brand yourself. Why should any artist be interested in questions about branding and marketing?
It is a fallacy to believe that a brand is something that only Coca Cola and Pepsi should worry about. As an artist you are your own brand. Whether or not you know it or acknowledge it, you are already a brand.
How many times have you heard people go on and about Picasso only to learn that they have never heard of Cubism? They are clearly not interested in Picasso for his art but they are interested in the air they exude when they talk about Picasso. To talk about Picasso in some circles may give some people an air of intellect or sophistication.
Every brand has a story and you have a choice – let someone write your story for you (because they will eventually) or write your own story. Be sure to tie the story of your brand to your values and ethics.
What if they cannot find me?
Most times we complain that we are not selling anything but the question we should be asking is: can people find what we are selling? Are you underground? Can they find what you are selling really easy or do they really have to search for you?
Does your website tell people in 3 foot letters where and how to find you? Are you posting up posters and handing out flyers when you exhibit or go to a fair? Is your artwork easy to buy online or at fairs? Do you have a way of keeping in touch with customers that bought your most recent work?
What if they do not know I exist?
So maybe your market likes you, some know where to find you but the other half does not know you exist. You need to start thinking about how you reach this half and let them know what makes you unique.
Are you exhibiting at galleries or performing at shows? Have you let gallery owners, performance venues etc know you exist and are looking to exhibit or perform? Do you carry around business cards?
If you are selling your art online is your bio and website easy to find? Are you on twitter or facebook? Is your website the first thing that comes up when someone searches for your name? Are you collaborating with other artists to get your name out there? Are you linking to other artists and doing guest posts?
If you can solve any of the 3 problems, you will have a viable marketing strategy and a plan to sell your art.
Vangile Makwakwa contributed to this post. She is a poet and writer with an MBA and an entrepreneurship certificate from the Simmons School of Management in Boston, MA and a finance honors degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Vangile is the founder of Speak 2B Free, a company that promotes poets and storytellers globally by providing them with the tools and resources to market themselves.