Building a business is exciting and scary for anyone who undertakes the task.
Building an art business is even scarier because your artwork is so personal. It’s not like you’re making widgets. You’re baring your soul to the world.
You’d be crazy not to be a little scared.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve coached clients with the following fears:
- Fear of setting boundaries with a spouse. (It ended up that the spouse wanted the same thing. What a relief to have the conversation!)
- Fear of public speaking, and knowing that it is necessary when you get to a certain level with your art.
- Fear of the next step when you’ve reached what you always thought would be the pinnacle of your career.
- Fear of too much success and being overwhelmed.
The fears I have in my business:
Today we take time out to honor the humble, under-utilized, centuries-old, low-tech postcard.
Why spend virtual ink on such an old-fashioned method of communication? Because postcards can do what email cannot do.
Postcards can’t be targeted as spam by an aggressive filter.
Postcards can’t be accidentally (or purposefully) deleted by recipients.
Postcards are likely to be tacked to a refrigerator or kept as a memento.
Postcards are tactile. We can hold them in our hands and ponder them. They have the potential to delight, which is something we rarely say about email these days.
You, like the private clients I advise, would benefit from sending three or four postcards a year.
Postcards are most often used to invite people to an upcoming exhibition or open studio.
Some artists design a single postcard with a schedule of all upcoming shows they’re participating in.
But if you don’t have an upcoming exhibition, you might wonder what you’d say on a postcard or why you’d send one in the first place.
Here are 8 other occasions for using postcards to promote your art and build relationships with your list.
Many artists I encounter are pinning all of their hopes on getting into a gallery. Most of them are adopting this outlook prematurely. In other words, they aren’t even close to ready for galleries.
This leads to unhealthy expectations, which only results in disappointment and a sense of failure.
Don’t get me wrong. I think galleries are a great way to go for some artists, but you must be realistic about the process. You have to understand what’s required for getting and keeping gallery representation.
With that in mind, here’s a checklist of what you’ll need before you start approaching galleries.
This isn’t a guide for actively approaching galleries, only for your preparedness.
1. Learn patience.
Gallery representation is earned. It happens after years of hard work in the studio and schmoozing at openings and events.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Practice resilience.
How much time do the lessons take? How much time should I spend on social media? How much time on marketing vs. making art?
©2013 John Salvest, Forever. Secondhand romance novels on metal armature. Courtesy of the artist and Morgan Lehman Gallery.
These are questions I’m often asked to which there are no easy answers (except maybe the last one, and I take a stab at that below).
Everyone wants to know “how much time?” because time is sacred, and we should be choosy with how we spend our time.
There is a better question than “How much time?” Ask yourself: How much time and effort am I willing to invest?
The key word is “willing.”
When you’re committed, you don’t care how much time something takes. [Tweet this] You’ll find a way to get it done because it
There comes a point in every artist’s (every entrepreneur’s) business where you can’t grow without hiring someone.
It might be a paid intern, your kid, a website helper, or a bookkeeper, but you need the extra hands if you want to expand.
Who do you hire?
What will they do?
Your primary focus as an artist is on making art. That’s when you are in what Gay Hendricks calls your “Zone of Genius.” In his book, The Big Leap, Hendricks writes:
In your Zone of Genius, though the time you spend there produces great financial abundance, you do not feel that you are expending effort to produce it. In your Zone of Genius, work doesn’t feel like work.
I’m certain you know what that feels like. Bliss.
Your goal is to take those tasks off your plate that aren’t in your Zone of Genius – the tasks that keep you from making your best work. It’s the art you produce in the studio that nobody else could do.
For example, you might be competent at updating your WordPress template, but it’s not your best work. It takes you away from your best work.
Consider how lovely life would be if you could dwell in your Zone of Genius most of the time. How would that feel?
Not all artists’ websites are created with sales in mind.
For many artists, a website is a digital portfolio – an introduction for gallerists, curators, and other opportunities. If this is you, some of what I share here doesn’t apply. However, you could still benefit from heeding much of this advice.
There are numerous factors as to why some art sells better online than others: the work is more “popular” or more affordable, or some artists use their lists and social media more effectively.
On the other hand, here are four errors you should look at correcting immediately if you’re trying to make sales from your site. Each is a step toward making it easier for people to buy.
1. You make people click multiple times to see the art.
If your website hasn’t been updated in years, you might have an old template that makes people click numerous links to see your art. It’s time for a major overhaul.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about blogging, so I thought it was time to share some thoughts I’ve had and revisit some past ideas on the topic.
Let’s dive right in.
The Benefits of Blogs for Artists
There are three clear benefits to blogging.
1. More content attracts more eyeballs for your art.
It’s tempting to forego a blog for social media: “Who needs a blog when I have Facebook?” The danger in building up all of your content on Facebook is that you can’t control Facebook. They’ll do whatever earns their shareholders the most money.
But you can control a blog. Blogging allows you to build content on your own site, which attracts traffic. You’ll benefit from posting on a blog and then sharing to social media, rather than posting only on social media.
2. The more you write about your art, the more you will discover about its meaning and your purpose and the better you will be able to articulate your work to collectors, curators, and writers.
This is the #1 reason to blog.
Marketing isn’t something you do when you are done with the work.
You can’t afford to wait until everything else is in its place to promote your art. You must be marketing consistently.
Marketing is more than taking out an ad or sending an email. Marketing is a combination of everything you do to sell or to gain recognition for your art. Everything.
There will be times when you must focus on the work in the studio, which means there is no room in your life for marketing tasks. But something is amiss if this drags on for weeks without attention to your business.
Don’t wait until you’re finished with a body of work before you start marketing it. Think about marketing daily. Actually, do more than think. DO your marketing daily – as you go.
You don’t want to wake up one day with the realization, Not again! I forgot to market my art! By this point, it’s probably too late to get the results you want.
Don’t think of marketing as separate from your art. Marketing is the final step of making: sharing your art with others.
But it’s more than that.
Meeting new people is essential to growing your art business.
The more people you know, the more people there are to appreciate, buy, and tell people about your art.
The best tip I can give is just to get out! Online relationships are valuable, but in-person meetings can make an artist’s career.
Everyone you run into is a:
- Potential buyer. You never know where people are coming from.
- Potential connector. If everyone you meet knows 150 people (the average), imagine the possibilities. When you meet someone who is great at making connections between people, WOW!
- Potential friend or fan. Who can’t use more of these?
Become involved with an artist organization if it’s the right speed for you. If you are serious about selling your art, don’t waste your time in a group of hobbyists. You’ll quickly get frustrated in groups where you’re always a step ahead of everyone else.