How to be Prepared to Deal with an Art Collector

By Guest Blogger, Lori McNee -Today more than ever artists like you are taking charge of their own art careers. Understanding how to deal with an art collector is becoming a much-needed skill.

With the vast decline of store-front art galleries, the art market has changed. The rise of online art galleries, artists’ websites, and the popularity of social media have made the artist easily accessible to the art collector and vice versa. Because of this, the majority of artists are dealing directly with art collectors in some capacity.

Yet, dealing directly with an art collector can be a bit intimidating for artists. Not all artists are business-minded, nor are they sales-minded individuals. Nevertheless, it is vital for the modern-day artist to understand the entrepreneurial aspects of making a living as an artist.

The following tips will help you be prepared to deal directly with an art collector:

Oftentimes, you will need to open your studio to potential clients and art collectors. Remember, your studio is more than your creative working environment, it is a reflection of your business and professionalism. Make sure to tidy up your studio beforehand. Like any good salesroom, you’ll want to have your business cards, brochures with your bio and artist’s statement on display. Have an up-to-date portfolio or catalog handy and a binder filled with articles, reviews and tear sheets ready.

Potential art collectors love to tour working studios. Be sure to show them paintings or other artwork in progress and explain the artistic process. This gives the art collector a better appreciation and understanding of Art, and it personalizes the experience. This unique experience will help to create a bond between the artist and collector which will make it easier to close the sale.

Each time you sell a piece of your artwork be sure to capture your art collector’s email, phone number and mailing address. This is how you will build your collector base. Be sure and give the art collector your art brochure, business card, and any promotional material with the sale of your artwork. Many artists also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee with the sale of their art. Follow up the sale with a handwritten “thank you” note.

Collectors want to stay connected to the artist. This is your chance to teach them about YOU! It is easy to stay connected through social media, newsletters, and blogging. Use your blog to post images of your latest work. Share interesting stories about your process. Share YouTube videos of your painting process or finished works.  Use your newsletter to keep your art collectors informed. Keep your collectors apprised of your latest achievements. Send them career updates and show announcements. Holiday cards or a postcard from a painting trip are always a nice touch. Or pick up the phone! I’ve heard it once said that if you just called 5 people a week, you would see your sales grow by 40%!

In the case of a commissioned work of art, a contract is advisable but many deals have been made with just a handshake. Be sure and agree upon the subject matter. Also brainstorm about color, time of day, mood and the size of the painting beforehand.

Montana based artist, John Potter explains, “I always make sure the art collector and I decide upon a subject that we both enjoy and I feel passionate about painting.”

It is customary to ask for a 50% non-refundable deposit to be used as an advance with the remainder due upon completion of the painting. In the event that the collector does not wish to purchase the commissioned artwork, the collector may refuse.  In that case, the artist will retain the refused artwork and the non-refundable deposit.

The artist should always retain the copyright  to all original artworks, and those commissioned by the art collector including all reproduction rights. No artwork may be reproduced or altered without the written consent of the Artist.

Once you have built your collector base, it is important to nurture that relationship. “Nurture, nurture, nurture the art collector/artist relationship. Your art collector is special, they keep you alive.” Landscape artist, Shanna Kunz  explains.

Yes, the connection between you and your art collector is valuable. But, it is your responsibility (as a small business owner) to stay in touch with your collectors!

Keep in mind, you have a much better chance at selling to repeat customers than new customers. Nurturing the repeat customer (aka collector) relationship is very important. It is a known fact in sales, in every industry, that your past buyers are 10x more likely to buy from you again and again that a complete stranger. If you nourish the relationship you have with your past art collectors, you will continue to sell to them again.

Keep your prices consistent when selling within your art galleries or directly to collectors. Although offering up to a 20% discount to repeat collectors is common, lowering your prices beyond that is frowned upon within the industry. Pricing your art consistently protects your collector’s investment as well as the market value of your art.

There are artists such as myself who still prefer the security offered by art gallery representation. It is extremely important for gallery represented artists to establish, nurture and respect their gallery/artist relationships which should be a trustworthy partnership.

Here are a few important tips relating to gallery represented artists to keep in mind:

  • If one of your gallery’s customers contacts you and wants to buy from you directly, be sure and direct the client back to the gallery for any sales. This is the ethical thing to do.
  • If a prospective collector wants to buy a painting from an image on your website, but that painting is available through the art gallery, you must give a percentage of the sale to the gallery. Negotiate this % with your gallery.
  • If a prospective collector wants to purchase a painting directly from you and the available work IS NOT in the gallery, then you may sell to this person directly as long as this person is NOT a client of your gallery.

Being prepared to sell directly to an art collector can be a very rewarding experience which may lead to an unspoken bond between the art, the artist, and the art collector for many years to come.


Lori McNee is a professional artist and an internationally followed art blogger, art-marketing expert, and the owner of Lori shares her online success secrets to artists, businesses, and organizations around the world. Lori’s North Light Book entitled, “Fine Art Tips with Lori McNee: Painting Techniques & Professional Advice” is available on Amazon.  


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