Follow up, be patient, then follow up
Last June a new follower on Instagram had responded to one of my pet portrait posts. They had reached out inquiring about having a commission painted. I responded immediately with my quick details on the process of having a custom pet portrait painted. Then I received the response all artists dread. Silence. Nothing. Nada. I thought nothing of it at the time as I was working on other commissions. A month passed and I decided to follow up with the potential client. I messaged a nice “Hi, hope you are doing well. I just wanted to check to see if you were still interested, etc.” They responded immediately stating they were definitely still interested and were sorry they hadn’t gotten back with me. They even sent some photos this time. I then responded enthusiastically about the awesome photos and with the link to my website to book the portrait.
Guess what happened next? Yep. Nothing. Nada. Again! I started to feel I was getting bamboozled, but I looked at their profile and we had mutual local friends, etc. I stepped back realizing all the things everyone is dealing with, especially with the pandemic. So I waited a few weeks and followed up nicely again, but this time I mentioned that my commission window was going to be closing as the holiday orders were starting to roll in. They apologized again, but this time booked soon after our messaging. Success!
If you are keeping track, you will notice that this sale took four months to complete. And even though I truly do not believe the client was being flaky, I am pretty confident that had I not consistently followed up, it would have taken a year or even more for them to follow through. When I hand delivered the portrait, they were thrown back by it and told me they wanted to get another one in the future of their other dog to match this one. This is just one of the countless sales I have finalized simply by circling around. Which reminds me, I need to send them a follow-up message about the second portrait!
It sounds simple, but being present whether it be at an opening, online, or at an artist market is crucial to consistent sales. In the past, I have been guilty of ghosting my own art markets and opening receptions while curiously walking away wondering why I hadn’t made a single sale (what in the world was I thinking?). They say collectors buy the artist, not the art. They want to know your story and in your own words, from you. In order to provide this, you must be present. Even in the current atmosphere where art shows and markets are virtual, you have to be available any way you can.
Being present encompasses many forms. It’s about making a connection. When posting online, I almost always include my audience. I ask questions, run polls, talk about interesting facts, and always respond to comments. A note on responding to comments: Keep the “thanks” at a minimum. I fell hard into replying to comments with just a simple “Thank you!”. The problem is, this is where the conversation almost always ends. There is nothing for the other party to follow up on. You want to keep the conversation going. Think about what you can ask them as if you were in a conversation at one of your openings.
Hashtags and Alt Text
Late last year, a first-time client found my artwork directly from the alt text I had entered in my images. They had initially sent me an inquiry via the contact form on my website. After making a connection and conversing about what they were wanting for their commission, I asked how they came across my work. They said they did a google image search for “contemporary lion painting” and they loved my work immediately. I was floored in amazement that had I not diligently added alt text into my images, I would not have popped up in their search. No commission for me!
So, I load those puppies up with niche and relevant words. I included everything from style, to locale, to my own name. Here’s an example: “bat portrait animal art painting blue outsider contemporary funny impasto contemporary texture bright bold vibrant wildlife artist Athens Georgia Will Eskridge”.
On a related note, hashtags on social media are important for reaching your ideal audience who will purchase from you. Part of my weekly task includes researching, tweaking, editing, and adding to all of my hashtag lists. Social media is constantly changing their algorithm so I attempt to adapt along with it. I have gained followers and collectors through carefully curated hashtags on social media. The commissioned pet portrait I mentioned above? That’s right. They found me through one of my hashtags on Instagram.
About the author:
Will Eskridge is an innovative artist who specializes in contemporary animal art for passionate collectors who want to amplify their living and workspace with unconventional, thought-provoking art. Over the last few years, Will has transformed his business, quickly transitioning from 0 buyers to turning clients away because of the overwhelming number of inquiries. You can find him at www.willeskridge.com.
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