If marketing is everything you do to build your reputation and sell your art, there are a lot of areas in which you could improve. In which we could all improve.
I share this list with some hesitation. It’s intended as a checklist to work through, not to tackle at once.
Remember, our businesses and careers are works in progress.
1. Decide on a single professional artist name and use it consistently for your art business – if you want to be remembered. I don’t care what it is and it doesn’t have to be the same name you sign to your art.
It’s critical that people can easily find you by your name and associate your name with your art.
2. Meet more people! The more people you know, the more opportunities you will create.
3. Show other people you care about them. Focus on building trust and relationships rather than selling to everyone who crosses your path. Along similar lines …
4. Keep notes on people on their business cards and add to your database so you can personalize your relationships.
5. Send “It was nice to meet you” cards or emails after connecting with someone (unless it wasn’t nice to meet them and you don’t care if you ever see them again).
Branding & Image
6. Use the same font and colors for all of your marketing material. And please! Stay away from
A catalog can be a snapshot of your career at a moment in time or a retrospective documenting your entire life’s work.
With the advent of on-demand, inexpensive publishing, every artist should be using catalogs to promote their art.
And, yes, I recommend print catalogs above electronic versions.
A printed catalog is tactile. It can be placed in a gallery setting and held in one’s hands. It can be sent through the mail with a handwritten note as a gift to a VIP.
I also recommend a physical catalog because there’s nothing like seeing your art in print.
Printed catalogs can also be sold. However, catalogs are rarely money-making ventures. Incourage you to think of them as marketing pieces and documentation rather than products you might sell for profit.
Use this checklist to ensure that your catalog has all of the components to make it a lasting document of your art – one that you are proud of.
Before you begin, you must determine the focus of your catalog. Just as you curate an exhibition of your art, you curate the content of your catalog.
Unless your catalog is
I am writing this draft in Evernote on my iPad while taking the light rail train into Denver to see a few art shows.
When I want a document that I will reuse and share with students, clients, or my team, I create it in Word, Pages, or Google Docs.
When I want to save drafts of documents or to store something to remember, it goes straight to Evernote where I can access it across devices.
Evernote is an app that organizes information into digital notes and notebooks. It would be impossible for me to keep track of all the information I need to without it.
Here’s a peek at how I use Evernote in my life and business along with suggestions for how you might use it in your art career.
Keep Your Travel Information in One Place
This might be my favorite use of Evernote. In your Travel notebook you might store:
- Hotel arrangements
- Flight details
- Car rentals
- Contact names and information
- Things you want to do and see when you arrive
- Local restaurants
You might also store travel information for your family or for friends who are visiting.
Capture Content Ideas
One of the problems I hear most often from artists is that they don’t have anything to say. And this is a problem when so much of your marketing is based on the written word.
No more worries! The minute you have a bright idea, you can start a note in Evernote. Save drafts for:
You only get one chance to make a first impression. True? True!
Competition is fierce in today’s art market, and you must distinguish yourself.
How will people come to know you? More importantly, how will they remember you?
Consider this advice when you want to be memorable in the right way.
There is no excuse to go into a meeting or situation blindly when you have the virtual world readily available. A simple check with search engines or a social media account might lead you to a treasure of information.
Conduct your research in advance to show people that you’ve heard of them – this always impresses.
You might also discover facts in your research that will help you skillfully navigate any conversation.
Be on time.
The little computer we all carry around in our purses and pockets has made it far too easy for us to be tardy to appointments. All we have to do is text someone to tell her we’re running late.
This is usually fine when you know the other person well. It’s not fine if it’s your first meeting or if you make it a habit.
People will think
A gentle warning before you read this. This was supposed to be a celebration article, but things happened that led me in a different direction. You might find it sad.
Stick with me because there is a message here that you might need. Maybe not now, but someday. And I promise that there is a happy ending.
Thank you in advance for allowing me to share this story with you.
Let’s start with the celebration. This week I celebrate 15 years of writing a weekly email to artists, which I mark as the anniversary of Art Biz Coach. The newsletter is now posted here on the blog where you’re reading it.
It was on March 25, 2002 that I sent my first private email as a sample to artists I found on the Internet.
I can’t promise this newsletter and corresponding blog post will go on forever. I can’t even promise they will happen next week. But I’m pretty proud that I have never missed a weekly issue. That’s 780 newsletters if you’re counting.
This week’s newsletter – the very one you’re reading now on the blog – was a close call. Here’s what happened.
Sales are slow.
You’ve been with the gallery for a short time (let’s say just over a year) and you expected them to sell more art for you, but it’s just not happening.
Or maybe you’ve been with them longer. They sold a lot of your work at one point, but sales have dropped off significantly in the past couple of years.
So what now – do you ask for your work to be returned? Not yet.
Opening a dialogue is your first course of action. Regardless of the outcome, you will be admired for your professionalism.
Bringing Up Slow Sales with Your Gallery
The conversation you have with your gallerist about slow sales depends on a number of factors, including:
- How long they have represented you.
- The terms of your agreement with them.
- The nature of your past relationship.
- The demand for your work outside of their venue.
How do you begin a conversation considering these factors? Here are three options.
Our first grade classroom photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day. I was the only one who wasn’t decked out in green that day. Mom had just made me a beautiful red and white dress, and I guess that seemed like a better choice for such a formal photo.
Guess who got pinched that day? Guess who stood out in the photo?
Maybe this was an early hint of rebellion.
Or maybe I didn’t believe that I would really have bad luck if I didn’t wear green. After all, I had been pretty darned lucky to that point.
I was lucky to have been born into a healthy, loving family that always had plenty of food on the table. I was lucky to be in a safe school where parents cared about a decent education for their children – an education that eludes so much of the world’s population.
Later, I would be lucky to have a higher education and the continued support of my parents along the way.
What I did with that luck was up to me.
Luck had little to do with the success of my business, and it has little to do with the success of your art career regardless of whether you feel lucky, were born into luck, or are convinced you are unlucky.
I’m fond of quoting what our third president had to say about luck:
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
― Thomas Jefferson
When you work hard and take action toward your goals, you put yourself in a better position for luck to find you.
Why Some Artists Seem Luckier Than You
Have you ever observed that many artists whose work is on par with your own seem to have luck on their side? Chances are good that they worked for that luck.
I’ve included here a few of the reasons for their good fortune so you can emulate their success and duplicate their luck.
It’s not unusual for artists to be concerned about protecting their copyright, but what I can’t seem to reconcile is when artists aren’t taking precautionary steps to claim copyright in the first place.
I’m not talking about officially registering for copyright. Whether or not you choose to do this is up to you.
I’m talking about giving yourself credit whenever and wherever you show your art.
You may be thinking, Of course I do this. I would never show my art without credit.
Here’s a little challenge: If you think you have all of your bases covered, I invite you to use the checklist below to do a quick review.
First, Tell Us Who The Heck You Are
If I came across this once, I’d only be amused, but I run into it several times a month.
I visit a website, social media page, or open an email where the artist’s full name is nowhere to be found! I can’t make this up.
I can see how this happens. After all, you know who you are. Your brain is filling in the blanks because you’re too close to see what isn’t there.
If you want to be known in the history books, pick a single format for your name and use it consistently. For example:
That’s our topic for this Art Biz Podcast.
Listen in as Claudia McClain, founder of HomeBusinessInsurance.com, addresses the various levels of an artist’s career and the kinds of insurance you need at each point.
You never think about business insurance until someone asks to see your certificate of insurance or, more likely, until it’s too late. Until something bad has happened.
If you are an artist selling your art and you don’t have a specific policy for your business, this episode is for you. Refrain from clicking the Play button at your peril …
Level 1: Homeowners Insurance Only
This is the earliest phase in an artist’s career and is for hobbyists only. You’re making art just for yourself, not to sell.
At the point when you start selling, you are considered a business by the IRS and must take additional steps to protect your business.
Level 2: Incidental Business Occupancy Endorsement
This is a very affordable option for your home studio, which is tacked onto your homeowners’ policy.
It doesn’t cover the instances when you take your art outside of your home, and it might not cover liability when you have visitors to your home studio. That’s when you need …
Start local, and then expand.
This is a piece of advice I offer clients who are trying to build an audience for their art.
The problem is that this solution doesn’t always work for artists who live in rural areas.
When you live in a rural area, is your best bet to expand your online following?
I’d love to hear from rural artists who have faced this dilemma.