One of the hardest things for me as an artist, is promoting myself. I have spent years of my career somehow ashamed or embarrassed to put my work out there and talk about it.It seemed vain, or selfish or like bragging in someway. The salesman side of an art business is something I have always preferred to leave to someone else, a friend, word of mouth, a gallery, because this let me focus on the parts I enjoy, the creating.
Unfortunately, this is not the road to success. I have learned the hard way, that there is NO one else on the planet who cares more about your art, or your success or failure than you. If you want to be successful as an artist on a greater level, you need to look at it as an art business, and unless you have the money for a full staff, which most of don't when we start out, you need to wear many hats. One of the hats is the salesman. This means you need to learn all you can about sales, marketing and promoting.
Here are someways I have found success in promoting my art business. It is not all the ways, but a few good ones you can try. It is hard when you start, and you will learn what works and what doesn't for your personality. I can say it gets easier and you will get more comfortable with it once you think of this as a business, with a product, and try to remove the emotional attachment you have with your art. Sincerity about what you do is wonderful, but if it is hindering you from getting your work out in front of people, or taking full responsibility for your sales then you need to re-evaluate your goals. To sell, you need to be proactive, learn all you can and be willing to put in the hard work of selling.
1) Talk about your art and what you do. Often we don't want to come across as bragging, or we feel insecurities rise up talking about our work. The more you practice the easier it becomes. Going to live shows, where you paint at an event, gallery, or booth is a great way to begin. People will pass through and WANT to discuss your art so you don't often have to start the conversation. Answer their questions, be friendly, you are the face that now goes with the art and people are very curious about artists and the way we think and create. Share insights to your process or what inspires you, you can be general or specific, but engage with a smile and be kind. Gauge what your audience is enjoying and adjust as you go. I often try to ask them questions, so it's not all about me and that maintains the conversation from being all one sided. A good first impression can make a long lasting new friend, a new business contact or even an eventual sale.
2)Social Media. I have had great success with social media sites. It is time consuming and you need to be consistent and follow up with leads, engage with people and put the time in. You can not just post a pic and expect a sale to happen.Get to know people on your media sites, answer questions, connect with other artists so you can learn more about what has been successful for them. There are SO many many resources out there that you can educate yourself on any topic you desire. Social media is a direct way to connect with buyers, and is incredibly effective if you are willing to put in the time to marketing your brand, being real, and being consistent.
3)Newsletters.Contacting people by email ( with their permission) is a great way to keep your art relevant and in the mind of people you connect with.Build a email list of people who want to stay in touch, and want to learn more about what you do. Keep in contact by occasionally sending out a newsletter to update them on your latest works, a show, or whatever else you feel would be great to share. This is a subtle way to stay connected and get return sales from previous clients.Building an email list is very important, so also have a place on your website where they can sign up.If you do a live event, you can have a sign up list there, or a bowl they can drop in a business card for a chance to win something like a smaller piece of work, or a discount off an existing piece, or commission. Be creative, you ARE an artist so I know you have it in you.
4) Business cards. I have made this mistake TOO many times where I was asked for my card and did not have one, or ran out. It seems old fashioned but people still ask for them. Have a tangible card that is sharp looking and allows people to check out your website later. It is a inexpensive way to easily share your contact info and can lead to sales.
5)Think outside the box! There is a lot of competition in the art world, and now more than ever artists as individuals can take control of their businesses. Make contact with all the local sources of artist promotions, groups, and event calendars and see what fits for you. Join artist "meet-up" groups, go to promoted Artwalk events, and get to know local galleries, visit art shows and see if that's a good fit for you. You won't be able to go far just depending on a sale here or there so networking is going to be crucial for your success.
Make yourself known on a local level so you are the "go-to" person for what you specialize in.Networking is extremely valuable for an artist so always make sure every contact is professional and represents your art and business in the best light.
Bonus..You have more avenues to success now than ever have been possible before.If you are behind in marketing skills, or want to make You Tube videos, or learn how to improve an art skill everything is out there now. There are quality resources on the internet to help you glean the skills you are lacking to make your business thrive and grow. Take a hard look at where you feel you are lacking in your business and take the steps to improve in that area. Get organized, and turn your hobby into what you dream it can be. Maybe you will come up with something no one else is doing and your business will take off! Creating art is just the beginning of what it takes to be truly successful, but there is nothing stopping you... you can do this!
I would love to hear any other ideas you may have that have worked for you and your art career. Feel free to comment on this post and share your suggestions as well.