If you are trying to get yourself out there as an artist there is so much information on “Things to do” that you can quickly become overwhelmed with all the things you “should” be doing, when really you just want to hide away and make more art.
As an artist myself and a website designer / marketing consultant, you would think I would easily have all this stuff sorted and SHOULD be smashing it out of the park when it comes to my own marketing and I am here to be 100% transparent to say …
Marketing your artwork & being an artist is hardwork and its different to other sorts of marketing & small businesses. I have worked on many businesses marketing and websites over the years and been able to achieve for them some great successes, but i found this difficult to do for myself. After over 20years running this business and over 15 years being a proefssional artist I am not where I thought i would be. I will say though i have invested alot of money in training different processes and systems and been a student of trying things to see how they work and whether they will work for me. Lately after working through a massive #burnout and talking with other artist friends I realised we all are having the same issues but not necessarily our solutions are all the same. Artists are variable, our art is different, our customers are different, our capabilties are all different. What did discover is that there are a couple of things key things i have missed along the way, perhaps you may have missed them to?
There are 3 things that you have to KNOW inside and out about being an artist & marketing yourself that will help you make decisions for anything else that comes after…
…these things will help you save time, save money & my most important take away will save you the mental headache and overwhelm that comes with thinking that everyone else has it together and the “SHOULDS” of marketing yourself as an artist.
1. Know your difference in your public art & your personal art.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been told that I should do the art I love and the sales and the style will follow, here I am 15 years later, I feel like I could be doing this for another 15 years and still have the same varied range of art styles and not necessarily be any further towards my art business supporting me financially.
Here i am in my 40’s I don’t have time to muck around with this much longer “waiting” “hoping”…. I think this advice is missing something… YES still make the art your love, YES attend workshops, YES is so important to play and nurture your inner artist…. BUT not all of those things have to be put out for “sale” these are your PERSONAL art projects they are your muse, your process these are your PLAY and are so important for doing what you do! But when you come to marketing yourself you are moving into a different arena, just like a curator would curate work for a show, you need to be your own curator and think about the people who come to you for your art.
Your “public art” particularly if you are looking for a gallery or representation in a gallery will be different than the work you do in your studio. It’s so easy just to put a photo up on Instagram or your blog thinking its great but when your collectors or fans see it .. they might become confused if its something completely random or different to the reason they love you in the first place. Knowing how this piece fits into your public presence is important and something I am going to practice on more from here on out. This is though where it gets a bit tricky, don’t be stifled by this be aware of it. You may decide you love a new series and want to release a series of artworks, or you may do an exhibition of particular theme, this will make more sense to your fans that just a random bit here and a random bit here.
The great thing is YOU get to make that decision, not a mysterious curator who knows nothing about you. There technically is no right or wrong but take it from me who has done the random thing for many years KNOW that its ok to have art that’s just for you! Or just for play, this could make to your blog or to your Instagram to test your market but not necessarily for sale or in your gallery on your site or into your next group show.
#TIP…the second you are marketing your art it immediately becomes about the other person (audience and their relationship to the artwork), not about what you want to create, so remember this – how does it serve my fans / buyers?
2. What do you want your art business to do for you. Contact, Selling to existing people, or do you need new people??
Artists create for different reasons, some want to capture, others want to highlight or convey a message. That’s all about what the art does. What does it do for you? After you create your art, then what? Afterall, if its not serving YOU the creator then its not going to last very long – as it doesn’t exist without you!
Are you exhibiting in group show? Or are you wanting to get into a gallery? Or are you installing in a public display to help the community, or are you wanting share with collectors who get you. Perhaps its just a creative outlet then perhaps it doesn’t need to be looked at like a business all its more like a hobby? That’s ok too!! Does this art sell, is it given away? Is it donated / rented … does it need to cover its own costs in materials, in my case help cover my rent and feed my children or are you wanting make a profit (so that you can create more pieces work bigger/ reach a wider audience) ? Think about what reasons resonates for you, it needs to serve you in some way. Write these things down in a list until you feel clear on the goal. If you like me an go blank every time someone asks you to do something like this, just get a little notepad and put it near your desk and add to it overtime, don’t feel like it needs to be churned out in one session.
I find artists often say they want one thing but really want something else ie. (I will just put it up on my website and see what happens) but really they are wanting this artwork to sell but they are just afraid to say it. This can be about fear or something else. If you want it to sell and make a profit there is nothing wrong with that. If you feel there is something wrong with that… then why?
Imagine yourself about it in 5 years time, you still have the same artwork in your cupboard / on your website that you do now… how will you feel ? …KNOWING what your WHY is .. will help you make decisions about what happens for your art business… Click To Tweet
If your not fussed about selling your art online – I question.. Why do you need ALL of it displayed on your website? You may just want people to contact you because they have heard of you, really a couple of photos and an email address basically covers what you need it to, doesn’t it? People skim websites these days if they see 5-6 images of your work they will get gist of what your about yes have more if you like but know why don’t put prices on there if your not trying to sell what would be the point in that?
If your wanting to make a bit of money to cover your costs you might need to put a bit more work in contacting your friends and collectors about new work you have done, you have to let them know about your next exhibition. Selling every week might not be your jam but if your vision is to grow your business in that you need new people who don’t have your art already to be able to find you, follow you and perhaps one day buy or come to your exhibition then that takes a different mindset and action to the first artist who doesn’t really care about selling their art or not. If this second option is you then you need to think about ways in your marketing to get in front of these people there needs to be a strategy this isn’t just going to happen if you just post a couple of times on your facebook page and hope for the best you need to actively be behind your business, but you also need time to create your art right? No one said being an artist was easy.. but deciding what you want is the first step. Crossing your fingers and just hoping won’t get you there.. believe me I have been there.
3. What is your commitment level? How much time and what resources & budget do you have?
It’s no good thinking that you want a big shop on your website with 50 artworks for sale if you have no idea how to build a website shop and you don’t want to pay anyone to set this up for you. Then once the work is done and the website is up there is whole bunch of time in getting people to your website and then building their trust enough to actually buy something. Do you have the time to do that or will you be out in your studio making more are? Another part of that, I see often is people thinking oh i don’t want to spend all that money on a professional developer so I will just get my son, neighbour, etc to do it – YES you can use a cheap / free website shop system with a bunch of ads all over it but ask yourself this…
Would YOU feel comfortable parting with your $500-$2000 of your money to buy something from a shop that looks unprofessional?
I often think about a local fish and chip or chicken takeaway shop… if you had 2 side by side one nice and clean beautiful salads and the one looking a bit dated, floor is a bit dirty with old paint on the walls and dirty tiles, which one would you go into or recommend to your friends for your meal? I don’t think it would be dingy one. Art is a luxury good it is not a necessity, so you are connecting with people who have money to spend on something they love it, not because they need it to survive! Looks, presentation and catering to customers needs are much more important in this business than they are if you are providing a necessity that someone has to buy.
If you have resources and the desire to do things yourself then great. Go right ahead, but before you get too far ahead of yourself and getting those artworks on the site with all the bells and whistles because you can. Please go back to point 1 & 2… What do you really need? … Do you need all your artworks on your website, if your not really fused about selling online? No? Then why waste time and energy going there?
Just get a nice contact page with a couple of images, I guarantee it will take you a lot less time and without the headaches and you will likely have the same result as if you build something that you will never update and don’t have the inclination of promoting 😊.
What about social media?
Do you detest facebook and have no inclination of being on there and talking to people?
Then why have a facebook page? Marketing people will say well its super important to be on Facebook to reach the people who may want to buy your art… Yes I agree.. BUT if you are never going to go on there yourself and you don’t have the budget or want to pay someone to do this for you .. then its never going to work. People may message you ask you questions but if you never go in there you will never see them. Your page will be outdated and you will miss opportunities because you haven’t bothered to answer someone’s question rather than because you chose not to be on there. (Replace facebook with any other social media platform in the above statement 😊
If you have no idea about how to upload images from your phone/camera to your website, then you will need to decide whether to pay or get someone to do this for you –or just not have photos of your work on your site updated regularly… see there is a pattern here? Why set yourself up for something you will never do… Life’s too short, and I am sure you would just rather be painting.
If you have stuck with me so far I hope so of these things will have at least triggered some thoughts and will help you avoid some of the regular pitfalls I see happening with artist colleagues and that I have also made myself – don’t wait 10years to work these out like I did!
Knowing YOUR 3 things will help you let go of the overwhelm, have a system and concentrate one what matters to you.. making art… it will be different for every single person reading this post… but once you are clear write them out pin them on your wall in your studio.
- Know your WHY.
- Know HOW does your art serve YOU.
- Know WHAT you have available to you or WHAT you are prepared to do.
Pretty soon you will be presented with options that will challenge one of these that’s right for you … they may come from friends, from family members, from other artists, you hear what they are doing and think maybe you should do that too?… you will look at an artist website and think “maybe I should do that”? … you will visit and exhibition and see what they are doing… or check someone new out on Instagram and see how many followers they have and wonder if maybe they have the secret to a better systems than you..you will question yourself…
WHEN THIS HAPPENS remember to GO back to YOUR list you wrote out and ASK…
How does this thing relate to me and my work? How does it relate to what I want my art to do ? Does it serve me? Will this get me further to achieving my goal ? OR will it cost you in terms of time, money and taking you away from your art and your family! … Remember, we are all different we all have different reasons for making art and different outcomes we want.. taking on someone else’s reason wont get you to where you want to go it will just take you further away.
You make the decisions and when it comes to marketing its crossing the invisible line that now it’s about your art in the world it’s no longer just about you and the art!