A lot of artists wonder what it takes to sell art. They wonder what they have to do to become self supporting selling art. Some dream to earn a good living as an artist.
There is nothing wrong about the idea of selling, and selling often. It doesn't have to be some wild and crazy dream to earn a good living from art. But it does have to be a business.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself this: who do you know that makes a good living doing as they please? Is your answer a movie star, sports star, political figure, perhaps business owner? Think for a moment...are these people really free...totally free....to do anything they like and yet will continue to grow their incomes?
Consider these career types a little deeper and you will see the movie star has to play a written role on screen and do it well, the sports star has to practice, produce points, and the business person is expected to add value to the bottom line. If they do not, their income will diminish and probably quite quickly, not grow.
I think the only possible positive answer to this question is someone who is financially independent with a broad portfolio of business interests not reliant on the investor. A wealthy person can earn a living from their money and investments. They do not have to serve others to live comfortably if their investments are well managed.
Artists who are financially independent are indeed fortunate, however in order to sell their art beyond sporadically, they still need to behave as if they are in business. As an artist you may think simply producing art is a valued service. Isn't that enough value add to be paid? Maybe, but only if someone else takes care of the admin and selling. It will take great art marketing.
In short, all thriving businesses must provide products or services to customers that are 1) unique, 2) desired, 3) known, 4) convenient and 5) current. Let me explain these points from the view of the customer, with the example that they are purchasing a cell phone which is selling extremely well, the iPhone 4. Artists can provide these 5 necessities, here is how:
A cell phone has a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). For example, the Apple iPhone 4 offers slimmer phone, better screen viewing, among other features. Apple itself as supplier is also important. Apple is a well known provider of designs that work well. The stronger the USP for a product vs. other similar solutions, the better it will sell.
All works of original art are by nature unique. Uniqueness of art is a major attraction. This does not mean the art must be only the original. Our art marketing customer survey showed that of all potential customers, 65% said they purchase originals and 67% buy copies.
How the customers value their unique personal connection to the work is more the nature of uniqueness in the art world. Artists create a personal brand image that is unique to them. There is only one you. Customers value knowing the artist, and add the uniqueness of the artist to the uniqueness of the work in valuing an individual art work. Build more about yourself into your art marketing.
There are two main desire marketing aspects, product benefits and scarcity. In the example of the iPhone 4, it has sold very well because the USP offered is something customers value. If the USP of the iPhone 4 was that it made random noises, customers would not like that USP, and that product benefit would be not valued!
When Apple launches any new product they follow a set formula to make it seem scarce. The build desire to the point early adopter buyers line up over night to be the first to have one.
Sometimes the uniqueness can turn off a buyer, so just being unique is not enough. A desired work of art is beyond just unique. Customers in our survey (78%) mainly bought on impulse, because they loved the work. Really great quality of the art is the essential element that is required.
Components of quality of art abound, but here is one particular simple view I liked. Artist (or should I say 100 artists in one – click here to understand why I say that ) Shea Hembrey suggests the main aspect of art can be summarized as Head, Hand, and Heart. Does the art and thus the artist stimulate intellectual interest or curiosity? (the head) Does the art illustrate the highest skills of the artist? (the hand) Does the art show the artist's passion? (the heart)
A big part of desire is scarcity, whether real or perceived. When Apple launches any new product they follow a set formula to make it seem scarce. They build desire through pre-launch marketing to the point that buyer's line up over night to be the first to have one.
Original art is very scarce, yet rare is the line up! Creating scarcity is what merchandizing marketing does when the offer is time limited, or available only to the first few in the door, or limited quantity, etc. Artists with better merchandizing use these techniques to boost client's desires. Very few artists market this way, until maybe after they die, and someone else takes up the marketing challenge.
Consider pre- releasing information about the art. Arrange a private showing only for special clients. Consider a website with log-in for those privileged few to view hidden pages.
This element is about people knowing about an available product. Typically advertising whether formal or by word of mouth, are the means. Apple and the iPhone 4 are certainly well known, and are advertised everywhere, just to keep it top of mind.
Artists and their art must be known in many ways. Known as to who they are, recognizable in their art, and known for what they stand. The more you show, and are seen by your customers and potential customers, the more chances you have to be known.
It may sound simple, but it may be the artist's greatest challenge to become known. The good news is that, if uniqueness and desire levels are high, then getting known is much easier, as others will help pave the way. Until that hallowed time when others jump in to do your all your marketing, you need to focus mainly on your art, and building customer base as best you can.
Communicate to your buyers often. Websites, newsletters, emails and social media facebook are great ways. Let them know you are still out there, so you too are top of mind.
Be sure to follow up with your current clients to ensure they are most satisfied. When you are very sure they are, ask if they may want to invite a friend or two to your studio. It would be a way to show your appreciation to the client, and that they may show your works to potential new clients.
Today with the general conveniences offered by stores, shopping centers and the internet, all with carefully crafted displays and customer policies, it is hard to imagine buying an iPhone 4 could be made even more convenient. Notice too, a big part of the convenience is the display is especially set to maximize impulse purchases.
As mentioned earlier, customers reported that art is mainly an impulse buy. One implication is that art must be available to be seen. So just being out there, everywhere, with highly attractive product is best. While this is not practical or easy, the more you do to offer your art, the better. Each year plan your exposure count. How many people will see my work, and will know it is by me, and will come to know me and my work? The more you can be seen by potential customers, the more you will sell, and grow your business.
Offer to hang the buyers purchase.
Offer to help them choose a frame.
Offer great money back or gift exchange policies.
Our art marketing customer survey also found of art buyers that 70% buy for personal use and 58% buy as a gift. Don't miss the gift opportunity! Have a convenient gift exchange policy. Tickle the customer's impulses with the age old suggestion that this makes a great gift.
A product can be all of the above, but if it is perceived as out of date, it will not sell. In the cell phone example, the iPhone 4 is the current rage, for sure. But sales will plummet the day Apple announces the coming of the iPhone 5. The price of the iPhone 4 will drop at that point, to bring more clients in to their customer base.
New art does not necessarily bump out old art, but there is a school of thought that art from living artists should be perceived as recent works. After all, if you are progressing, a customer may perceive your more recent works to be higher on the progression scale. Keep your products and services evolving! You should be showing progress as an artist, you need not however, to be following fads. Stay true to your art AND progress.
All your marketing print and web promotional items should be current and refreshed regularly.
Stay with the times. Reflect what is going on in our world, through your work. Tell us some interesting stories through your work.
Are you in business?
The list above shines more light on the nature of the demands our customers place on all sellers, and in particular artists. Notice the customer perception of how you fulfill the demands is key.
I know you do this already, and can do even more, when you break down what it is you are providing your client.
As you think about these, do you see ways to make this a reality? How are you doing in each of these categories? Which area holds the most promise / opportunity?