How to Scare Off Potential Buyers

Art buyers might seem intimidating and self-assured, but they often have as many insecurities about the process as you do. They are sensitive to signals and opinions from you and from others.

It’s your job to reassure them that they are making the right decisions. Without that positive signal from you, they might think they are being tricked instead of treated.

Here are a few things that will scare off your audience and potential fans this Halloween.

©Jean Weiner, Clarissa’s Critters. Watercolor, 15 x 11 inches. Used with permission.

©Jean Weiner, Clarissa’s Critters. Watercolor, 15 x 11 inches. Used with permission.

Being indecisive about prices.

Indecision makes you appear less confident.

Set your prices after you’ve done your homework and be ready to share them in person and online.

If you’re ever pushed for a price that you aren’t certain about, say, “Let me check my list and get back to you. I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong price.”

Apologizing for your art.

The apologetic artist who brushes aside compliments about her art is not market-attractive.

I am not in any way condoning arrogance. I’m saying that you need to hold your head up and say “Thank You” when you are given a compliment.

As Julia Child said in Julie & Julia, “Never apologize. No excuses. No explanations!” Along the same lines . . .

Playing down the fact that you’re an artist.

Heart surgeons don’t look at the ground and say, “I’m kind of a heart surgeon.” When someone asks what you do, you shouldn’t respond meekly with, “Well, I’m kind of an artist.”

You’re an artist or you’re not. There’s no “kind of” about it when you’re trying to sell your work.

Embrace it. Practice it. Live it.

Stammering when someone asks you about your work.

Artist Talk Program for ArtistsNo one knows your art better than you. When you are given the chance to tell someone about your work, you must be able to speak intelligently. After all, who else would they turn to?

You don’t have to be well versed in all of art history, but you’ve got to know about your work. You should be able to address your materials, subjects, style, and how you fit in your art market.

To gain some vocabulary, read what other artists say about their art and watch them on video. Check out Your Artist Talk, an audio program and transcript with Gigi Rosenberg.

Building a website yourself, even though you don’t know anything about code or web usability.

Your website is often the first place people will see your art. It shouldn’t be left to amateurs, and it shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Your site must be a priority.

If people can’t find things easily or encounter slow-loading images, they will leave.

Neglecting your blog for six months.

Your blog is a place for you to gain new followers, but you won’t be attracting anyone if your most recent post was long ago.

A deserted blog is a sad site and no one will return to it. More importantly, it looks as if you have given up and not done a thing since the last post.

Set up a plan to write posts on a consistent basis or ditch the lonely blog.

Continuing to send people to your Twitter account that was last used in 2011.

It’s okay not to use Twitter. You don’t need to tweet. Really.

But please don’t waste people’s time with a link to an inactive account.

Just delete the link.

Likewise, be sure people can find your social media link if you have a strong presence there.

Maintaining a Facebook page that doesn’t have any of your art on it.

Your business page on Facebook is for your business. It’s a place for you to informally engage people who are interested in your art.

If people take the time to click on your business page, they want to see your art – and plenty of it.

Sending a bulk email after not being in touch with your list for over a year.

As I have shared before, the main purpose of an artist’s newsletter is to keep the list warm.

People signed up for your list because they want to hear from you.

If you don’t send regular(ish) updates, you can’t suddenly expect action from your connections.


Happy Halloween!

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14 comments to How to Scare Off Potential Buyers

  • Thank you Alyson for the most helpful blog an artist could ever find. Every post is a gem.
    Do you think artists should add clickable social media buttons to their email signatures, websites, etc.? If so, could you instruct us on how to do this in a future blog.

    • Linda: Thanks for being here! I tend to think there should only be one link in an email signature (for spam reasons and just to funnel people) and that it shouldn’t be your home page. If you have done your job well linking all of your sites, everything should be easy to find no matter where you send people.

  • hi Alyson-
    I would suggest that it is good for an artist to build their own website. This gives complete control over adding and changing any elements. It is very easy to do, no code necessary, just a basic understanding of cut and paste. The worst is to have an out dated website- which if you are an artist creating will happen very quickly.

    • Kara: We have another opinion coming up November 1 from an artist who spent 100 hours making her own site.

      I have seen SO many artist-built sites that are horrible, that I can’t agree with this 100%.

      • hi Alyson-
        In all honesty 100 hours is not much time at all, especially if You want to be good at something or want to create something worthwhile. It has never been easier to utilize all the tech tools available to us. I have seen far many more badly designed and out of date websites built by someone else, who is not the artist.

  • M

    Yesterday I asked my college art professor what he charges for his pieces (he is represented by 2 fine art galleries and he will be in SOFA for the first time this year.) He responded with the question, “Why do you want to know?” I said because I may want to buy a piece. He finally admitted the gallery sells his pieces for $1000-$5000. I was seriously considering buying a piece and could have afforded one in the the lower end of the range. I was offended about the fact that he didn’t want to reveal his prices even AFTER I said that I might want to buy one, like I was trying to find out some kind of proprietary information. There were a few other students there during this conversation, as well, and I could tell they were curious also.

    Needless to say, his responses to that and other questions offended me so much that I no longer want to buy one of his pieces, which is too bad for both of us and the gallery. He seriously came across to me like I wasn’t good enough to buy his art. And I’ve also lost respect for him as a teacher.

  • Here’s another one…make sure when you click “contact” on your website that it actually gives or takes you to an address. When I couldn’t contact the artist that way, I went on FB and wrote her an email…never heard back! Oh well…lost sale!

  • Last Summer when I could have sold one more painting, I talked my potential collector out of a piece by presenting her my honest opinion that it was not the kind of piece that should be hung in her house or any house for that matter. The painting she was interested in purchasing was on some dark subjects (depicting 9/11 event, tombstone of a little girl killed by a pedophile and family that was killed in an automobile accident). I told her that it was a better fit for a museum but not for a warm cozy home. I usually paint cheerful and uplifting conceptual paintings and even though my painting looked bright and colorful on surface, I just did not feel right selling her something morbid that emanated negative vibes. She excused herself and spoke to her partner about it and they both approached me few minutes later, thanked me for being honest and promised that they will definitely purchase a painting out of my new batch at my next show. They still keep in touch with me quite regularly and even though I lost $250 worth of sale, it just felt right to educate them what the painting was about. I may have lost a sale, but I believe I have gained a friend and a collector who feels confidant that I am not out to make a quick buck.

    • Roopa: You clearly did the right thing. I suppose you would preface the conversation with, “I’m so happy you like my work enough to buy it. Would you mind if I share a little about this piece – just to make sure it’s right for you?”

      • Yes, I will do that next time if the need arises. I usually do not create paintings that evoke negative emotions so that is usually not an issue. However, now I know how to word it right. Thank you Alyson!

  • I found your site to be very helpful. None of my teachers ever mentioned this sort of thing, even though they knew I was doing art shows. Perhaps they didn’t know. I will no longer apologize, I will have my pricing readily available and will try not to be afraid of pricing. I do need to read more about my “list”. Since I don’t really have one,